Did you know that the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) has an Aldine book? Neither did I! Till last week! I was reviewing the Library’s rare book collection for items published prior to 1700, when I spotted the word “Aldine” in the library catalog.

The Aldine Press was founded in Venice in 1494 by Aldus Manutius. He was a noted scholar and Renaissance humanist. Specifically, he focused on the publication of classical Greek texts because he believed that reading Aristotle and Aristophanes first-hand provided an elevated reading experience. Today, Aldus is remembered for making Venice a center of Greek printing and scholarship, and for commissioning the typeface we know today as italic.

After his death, the press passed to other family members before his youngest son Paulus took over the press. The book below was printed under the aegis of Paulus Manutius. The book at the NSLM, Poetae tres egregii nunc primum in lucem editi [Three Distinguished Poets Published for the First Time], published in 1534, was the first time these ancient poems on hunting and fishing were printed using a press. The book opens with De Venatione by the first-century writer Faliscus Gratius. The second poem is a fragment of Ovid’s Halieuticon [Treatise on Fishing, a fragment], and the third poem is Cynegeticon [Hunting with Dogs] by the third-century writer Nemesanius. The book concludes with Ecologues by the first-century writer Calpurnius Siculus.

In the photos above, you can see Aldus’s printer’s device, the anchor and dolphin, which are printed on the title page and on the verso of the last leaf. The book appears to have been restored in 19th-century cloth with red morocco spine labels. We are proud that this classic book found a home in Middleburg! It reminds us that the love of hunting and angling has thrived for only not hundreds but thousands of years.

Gratius, Faliscus; Nemesanius; and Siculus, Calpurnius. Poetae tres egregii nunc primum in lucem editi [Three distinguished poets published for the first time]. Venice: Aldine Press, 1534.

In the fall of 2018, the NSLM received a donation of several works of art, including a small canvas comprising several lion heads in various positions, paws, even a floating eye. It is small, measuring 9 1/8 x 12 1/2 inches. This, ladies and gentlemen, is a study by French artist Rosa Bonheur (1822–1899).

Marie-Rosalie “Rosa” Bonheur (1822-1899), Lion Studies, n.d.,
oil on canvas, 13 1/4 x 16 1/2 inches,
Gift of the Estate of Milton Ritzenberg, 2018.

As a student, and now instructor, of art history, I was rather excited to see this. To further set the scene, I had just started at NSLM and was still getting acquainted with sporting art and artists. So here was a familiar name. It was like traveling away from home and then, miles and states away, meeting a friend randomly at a restaurant.

Recently, I read an article in Smithsonian magazine entitled The Redemption of Rosa Bonheur. This threw me off – does she need to be redeemed? It sounded as if she had fallen from grace. Not so. It was more about bringing her back out into the forefront. I was rather shocked because, to me, she is in that pantheon of well-known, top tier 19th-century artists. I thought she was already in the forefront, but according to this article, in her home country, she has been relatively forgotten.

In the event you are unfamiliar with her, please let me introduce you.

André-Alphonse-Eugène Disdéri (French, 1819-1889), Rosa Bonheur, 1861-1864, albumen print on cardboard, 3 5/16 x 2 1/16 inches. Getty Center, 84.XD.1157.2203

Marie-Rosalie “Rosa” Bonheur was born into an artistic family. Her father, Oscar-Raymond, was an occasional art teacher and her brother (one of three artistic siblings), Isidore, became a sculptor (One of his sculptures is in the NSLM’s collection). Like most artists, the tomboy Rosa loved to sketch from a young age. According to The Art Story, her mother, Sophie, suggested her daughter learn the alphabet by having her draw an animal whose name began with each letter. Bonheur “always credited her, and this moment in life for her enduring love and deep understanding of animals.” Her father believed in the socialist ideas of theorist Henri de Saint-Simon, which promoted, amongst many things, equality of the sexes, including in education. Since women were not generally admitted to official art schools (sketching the nude models was considered improper for women), training was often conducted with an acquaintance, family friend, or, as in Bonheur’s case, her father. She clearly had talent and he encouraged her to go to the Louvre and copy the Old Masters, as was traditional. However, as they both shared a passion for animals, he also recommended drawing from life and the local assortment of livestock and horses. This all created a solid artistic foundation for someone who would become one of the great Realist and animalier artists.

I do want to point out that even though all the above sounds very cheerful, her upbringing was far from it. Her father left his family at times to live with other Saint-Simonian members in, ironically, a utopian society. The family was quite poor and struggled to make ends meet and then her mother died when Bonheur was 11. They were so poor that Sophie was buried in a pauper’s grave.

In 1841, at the age of 19, Bonheur exhibited at the Paris Salon with two paintings: Goats and Sheep and Rabbits Nibbling Carrots. At the Salon of 1849, Bonheur showed Ploughing in the Nivernais, a commission from the state. It does not get much more Realist than this, this is one of those paintings that is a sensorial experience. You can hear the cowherders and the oxen as they trudge along, you can feel the dirt beneath your feet, and you can smell the earth and the livestock.

Rosa Bonheur (1822-1899), Labourage nivernais (Ploughing in Nevers), 1849, oil on canvas,
52 3/4 x 102 1/4 inches, © RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d’Orsay) / DR

Perhaps her most well-known painting is The Horse Fair. This enormous (8 x 16 ½ feet) painting was completed in 1853 and was called “the world’s greatest animal picture.” It actually went on tour throughout England, seen by no less than the Queen herself. Smaller versions were created and sold, as were prints. The original went to auction in 1887 and was purchased by Cornelius Vanderbilt for $53,000 (over $1.3 million today), which he then donated to the Metropolitan Museum of Art where it still resides (Gallery 816 if you are interested). This reaction is remarkable for an animalier artist as the subject matter was not treated with the same regard as historical or portrait painting, considered the loftier genres.

Rosa Bonheur (1822-1899), The Horse Fair, 1852-55, oil on canvas, 96 1/4 x 199 1/2 inches,
Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Cornelius Vanderbilt, 1887

Bonheur took the idea that her father gave her, to paint from life, and ran with it. She attended horse and livestock markets, animal fairs, and slaughterhouses. She wore men’s clothes to these events, as it allowed (in every sense of the word) more freedom. To do so, Bonheur had to apply for special permission from the police.

Permit allowing her to wear men’s clothing. Her doctor completed it, citing “for reason of health.” Copied from Smithsonian Magazine’s article, The Redemption of Rosa Bonheur, November 2020 (Claudine Doury)

At home on the outskirts of Paris, in her chateau that she purchased from the sale of her paintings, she kept a small menagerie she would use as models. This included sheep, monkeys, dogs, birds, horses, and the occasional tiger and lion, which brings us back to our small study. We do not know when or what it was created for, perhaps it was simply an exercise or maybe it was preparation for one of her many lion paintings, like The Lions at Home (1881) below?

Rosa Bonheur (1822-1899), The Lions at Home, 1881, oil on canvas, 64 x 103 inches,
Ferens Art Gallery, KINCM:2005.4763

Regardless, it is fascinating to see an artist’s process. The sketches seem to hint at what is to come: if the study is this good (I particularly like the fur on the paws), imagine what the final product will look like. It is interesting to think that the quick sketches that she probably thought little of upon completion is now something very special.

Her abilities emanate from her paintings: the shadows on the backside of a horse, the clumps of dirt, the furrowed brow of a lion – we come for the subject and stay for the Realism. Even in the sketches, the different shades of the lion manes, the curve of the mouth, the whiskers, all attest to her skill.

Lion Studies

In 1865, Bonheur became the first woman to receive the Légion d’Honneur. Twenty-nine years later, she was raised from a Chevalier to an Officier. In these later years, even though she and her art were well respected, Realism was no longer popular. Representational art is cyclical and it was, once again, falling out of fashion. Claude Monet’s revolutionary Impression: Sunrise had debuted at the Paris Salon in 1874 marking the rise of a new movement. 

On the surface, Lion Studies gives insight into an artist’s process – I see Bonheur flicking her brush over the canvas, muttering edits to herself. More broadly, though, it represents an artist reclaiming her due. Whenever a museum shows one of her works, whether a small study or a large oil painting, more of her reemerges.

Sources:

The Art Story, Rosa Bonheur

Britannica, Rosa Bonheur, Kathleen Kuiper

Smithsonian Magazine, The Redemption of Rosa Bonheur, November 2020

Lauren Kraut is the Collections Manager at the National Sporting Library & Museum. Her primary focus is to maintain and preserve the works of art in the collection and on loan. Email her at lkraut@NationalSporting.org

I’ve been keen to try fishing for a while, especially since starting at NSLM over two years ago.

A close friend of mine, who has been diligently quarantining, asked me, another diligent quarantiner, if I would like to join her for a long weekend in Cassadaga, NY for her birthday at the end of October. I jumped at such an opportunity. Knowing we’d be together, even though we are fairly isolated anyway, we upped being diligent, and monitored our health daily for the preceding two weeks and off we went. Per state regulations, we couldn’t leave the house, which, frankly, was fine with us.

Our little Airbnb cabin was on its own island with a dock on one side and bridge to the main road on the other.

Isn’t this the sweetest?
All photos, except the one of her (of course), courtesy of Rebecca Hagen.

My friend, Rebecca, is an experienced fisher. She initially just accompanied her father when he went fishing, but now it has become a favorite hobby of hers. She has been to a variety of places, like the South Holston River near Bristol, TN and the Youghiogheny in western PA. I have been exactly one time in college (which is in the rearview mirror farther than I would like to admit) and I don’t even know if I would call it “fishing.” Rebecca knew I had been eager to try it and this was part of the lure (too early for fishing puns?), although I really would have gone anyway. Our first day there, she took a walk around the house and noticed that there were absolutely no fish. Something we noticed over the next few days – we saw zero fish. Am I setting this up to have an excuse for later? Possibly.

On Halloween, our designated Fishing Day, the weather was beautiful. Freezing, but beautiful. Freezing and windy, but beautiful. Rebecca gave me a tutorial on flies, the difference between dry flies and wet flies, what nymphs are, and when and where they should be used. 

I donned waders (completely unnecessarily) and, along with a fishing vest that would have made my father proud and some trusty boots, I was ready to go. Suitably overdressed, Rebecca started from scratch and made me practice hand and arm movements, essentially casting with the rod on dry land to get the feel of what exactly I’ve be doing. This took some time. I was a terrible pupil, who just wanted to get that line in the water! But it was helpful just to get an idea of how my arm should move and how to flick the wrist. Even though I felt I was following Rebecca’s example of wide arms and hands, I wasn’t actually doing that. Perhaps it was all the layers that made me feel like I was, but I most definitely was not.

This is the pose of a woman, who knows what she’s doing.

When she deemed me somewhat passable, she set up the rod and picked out a dry fly. The first one she chose had some spikes on it that would sit on top of the water (also please notice Rebecca’s amazing shirt). 

Shirt purchased from Orvis, for anyone interested.

Making sure I had my eyes protected and that Rebecca was safely to my left, I cast my line and…it dropped right in front of me.

One of many efforts.

I should mention that right behind us, at about 4 o’clock, was a tree taunting us with the casualties of lures past. Rebecca guided me in how to avoid it, by casting more to the side rather than straight back. Once the line was in the water, I moved it around a little to make the fly dance and then I’d cast again. Rebecca said this was right, but she could simply have been humoring me. In my enthusiasm, I cast too far back and sure enough, like so many before me, got the lure caught in the tree. There was no way to retrieve it. The branches extended over the water and climbing the tree was not an option. Rebecca made sure we were both looking away and then tugged it to break the line.

Round 2 – Rebecca had a good feeling about one lure in particular. she was excited to try it.

I let her take over with the new lure, that was a lot of pressure for me. I had just lost one, I didn’t want to lose another, especially one clearly so special. Rebecca had the slack in one hand, the rod in the other, she started making the swift arcs and…snag. The lucky lure didn’t even make it in the water. She was devastated.

I decided to give it one more go. My hands were red and freezing (as seen in the picture) and, as much as I was enjoying myself, the thought of a hot chocolate waiting for me was too much of a siren’s song. I did a lovely rookie cast, out it went, we waited for a few minutes, and then there was a tug! Both Rebecca and I got excited as she instructed to me to pull the line, pull some more, and WHAM! Coming quickly towards me was something green and shiny.

See below for my catch.

That’s right. I caught seaweed. But you know what, it was a personal trial, and I was proud of my morning’s accomplishments. It is now hanging above my mantle.

But I had Been Fishing! And I really enjoyed it! Something I always try to do when speaking with NSLM visitors, whether it is with first-time guests or with our board members, is find a way to make a connection. Now having this shared experience, despite my clumsiness, is a way to do just that.

Truthfully though, it was a lot of fun, and I can’t wait to try it again. Maybe in less chilly temperatures so my fingers work a little better and I can tolerate the weather more. Thank you, Rebecca, for being a wonderful instructor and somehow putting up with my ineptness. We’re already making tentative plans for something next summer (vaccines willing). I just hope it’s to a place I can wear my waders!

BFFs – Best Fishers Forever

Lauren Kraut is the Collections Manager at the National Sporting Library & Museum. Her primary focus is to maintain and preserve the works of art in the collection and on loan. Email her at lkraut@NationalSporting.org

Full disclosure: not everyone at the NSLM rides, hunts, plays polo, wingshoots, or fishes. We currently have nine full-time staff members. Of that nine, two are regular riders and sportswomen, and one is a part-time rider, having been much more active in her younger years (which, should be stated, was not too long ago). The remaining six of us enjoy learning about the various sports our mission encompasses and listening to others tell their stories and experiences but are not active participants.

Recently, a few NSLM staff tried some of the sports we “preserve, promote, and share” and with that, we created a series entitled “Never Have I Ever.” We want to tell you about our adventures, what we thought of them, and, most importantly, would we do them again? This is the second post in the series, by Michelle Guzman, George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Head Librarian.

The road to the shooting grounds

Last October, I had the opportunity to spend an afternoon shooting for the first time. For an especially appropriate team building activity, Executive Director Elizabeth von Hassell invited the staff to an afternoon of clay shooting. Elizabeth, Director of Development Reid O’Connor, Senior Collections Manager and Registrar Lauren Kraut, and I drove over to the shooting grounds owned by Isobel Ziluca, who would be our clay instructor for the afternoon.

I had never shot a gun before. I was very excited, but can’t lie, I was also quite anxious about the upcoming lesson. The day of the shoot was an exceptionally beautiful afternoon. Not only was the sky the perfect tone of blue, it was also comfortably warm! The Californian in me rejoiced.

We arrived at Crockett’s Shooting Club and met our instructor, Isobel Ziluca. I made the mistake of reading her profile on her website prior to the lesson: Isobel is a lifetime member and certified instructor with National Sporting Clays Association. She is also an AA Class competitive shooter and current 2020 All-American 12 gauge team (and 20, 28 and 410 gauge teams). She currently sits in the top 5 shooters of the North East. I was worried that my total novice status would irritate her to no end!

Isobel with Reid and Elizabeth

Isobel brought the shotguns over using a shooting cart, which looks like a very chic baby jogger. We took turns shooting round robin style. As Isobel handed me a Beretta, the shooting lesson began with gun safety first! As I held the shotgun, I immediately realized that the gun was much, much heavier than I thought it would be. After a couple of minutes on learning how to position my feet and keep balance, I held the shotgun up at an angle to target the clay, my arms withered, and with the butt of the gun against my face, I pulled the trigger. Miss!

Throughout the lesson, Isobel patiently taught me how to track the clay target, how I should be moving the gun (slightly!) in sync with its trajectory, to conclude with pulling the trigger. I have to confess; shooting was a lot more athletic than I thought it would be. The tension created from the proper stance, holding the gun properly, raising the arm, monitoring the target, taking aim, to the pulling of the trigger is a lot of muscle and mind work. I was completely fascinated by the process!

Lauren and Reid were pros compared to my poor showing! Isobel raised the stakes metaphorically by having Elizabeth shoot at two targets, which Elizabeth managed with a breeze! As we progressed through the lesson, we found it hilarious how we each had our own distinct shooting styles. Mine stood out the most. I literally wait a ludicrous amount of time before I pull the trigger! For one reason or the other, I kept waiting before shooting! I am generally a very patient person, however that afternoon patience was no virtue. Luckily, I managed to hit two targets that afternoon.

The real treat was watching Isobel demonstrate her amazing shooting skills. Now I understand why people lined up to watch Annie Oakley. It’s been a long time since I’ve let out a gasp, but that afternoon, watching Isobel take out multiple targets, one right after the other, was incredible. The accuracy was unbelievable!

Lauren, Isobel, and I

In all, I would definitely go shooting again! The afternoon was laid-back fun, the scenery was gorgeous and inspiring, and the instruction from Isobel was a lot of fun! The afternoon also allowed me to appreciate the sporting literature from the 19th century that I often flip through from the NSLM’s collections. I often thought that the writing was tedious, boring, and slow. However, having experienced an afternoon of shooting, I have come to realize that the authors, though not very successfully, were trying to convey the excitement and rush that come with the sport. A big thank you to Elizabeth for the fun afternoon out!

Spring 2019 feels like a lifetime ago, but it was in March of last year that I started a collections management project at NSLM as part of my graduate museum & gallery studies program requirements for the University of St Andrews in Scotland. Lauren Kraut, NSLM’s Sr. Collections Manager & Registrar asked me to organize and inventory a box of Paul Brown’s works on paper.  The contents of Box 11 were part of a 2011 gift to the museum from Brown’s daughter, Nancy Brown Searles. Details about the internship were first published in an August 13, 2019 blog post A Lifetime of Drawing: Paul Brown and the Searles Collection. Here I am, more than a year later, wrapping up a project that included many twists and turns. Paul Brown has been good company all along the way.  

Photograph of Paul Brown, Paul Brown Archive, Gift from the artist’s daughter, Nancy Searles, 2011

Paul Desmond Brown (American, 1893-1958) was an artist, illustrator, and chronicler of sporting life in the first half of the 20th century. He was well known for his drawings of horses, dogs, and their human companions. His drawings and sketches of animals, especially horses, at work and play, were published in sporting magazines, Brooks Brothers catalogs, and numerous books for children and adults. His career spanned more than fifty years. The National Sporting Library & Museum holds the largest collection Paul Brown art, books, and archival material in the world. The Searles Collection and other gifts have helped preserve the work and reputation of a talented and beloved artist who might otherwise fall into obscurity.

For example, Crazy Quilt: The Story of a Piebald Pony and Piper’s Pony: The Story of Patchwork, the first two in a series of children’s books about the Perkins family, were published in the early 1930s. The books are well remembered by their generation. The NSLM library has first editions in its collection and The Searles Collection archive includes preliminary pen and ink drawings for the books and other prepublication working sketches. The Perkins family series and most of Brown’s books, if not all, are out of print and rare finds on antiquarian websites.

Paul Brown, Crazy Quilt: The Story of a Piebald Pony and Piper’s Pony: The Story of Patchwork. New York and London:
Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1934, 1935
[untitled], 1935, illustration, pen and ink, Paul Brown Archive, Box 11, Searles Collection, 2011

The Searles Collection Box 11 is filled with Paul Brown’s childhood drawings, watercolors inscribed to family members, working sketches for books, and etching plates from portfolios. This personal collection brings him to life. Cataloging the contents, I imagined Mr. Brown as a hard-working artist with a quick hand and a delightful sense of humor. His ability to use a variety of techniques also shines through. Pencil drawings, watercolors, ink washes, etchings and drypoints are diverse, but they express an overarching mastery of multiple techniques. These works on paper also reveal the public and private Paul Brown.

Paul Brown Archive, Box 11, Searles Collection, 2011

During the Covid-19 era, the world continues to come in and out of lockdown and museum-going has gone virtual. I notice that museums are sharing, digitally, more archival material on website tours and talks.  It makes sense since there is no danger of overexposure to fragile objects. I welcome this adaptation. It increases my appreciation for an internship that prepares Paul Brown’s archive for further use.

The National Sporting Library & Museum is dedicated to the preservation of the sporting life and its cultural context. The staff embraces the history and the artists who recorded it. I am happy to have been a part of making Mr. Brown’s work more available to be shared in person and online. NSLM has been a wonderful host to me, and I know that Paul Brown’s legacy will be well cared for in the years to come. I have no doubt that his fans and future generations will continue to enjoy his timeless appeal.

Grace Pierce is pursuing a Master of Museum and Gallery Studies at University of St Andrews in Scotland. These days she may be found at home in Rappahannock County, Virginia visiting museums all over the world, virtually.

The inspiration for my blog post this week stems from the unfortunate fact that for the past few months, my horse Taco has been experiencing a plethora of medical issues. No matter what I do, I cannot seem to keep him sound. As soon as I solve one problem, another one pops up. It has been a depressing and expensive cycle of chiropractic work, creams, lotions, supplements, and vet visits. I know that fellow horse owners out there (especially Thoroughbred owners) can relate.

One day, while doing research for another project, I stumbled upon a book called Every Horse Owner’s Cyclopedia. Written by John Henry Walsh, Ellwood Harvey, and John Elderken and published in 1871, it claimed to be “the most complete work on the horse ever published” and had an entire section on treatments for various diseases, ailments, and vices. Considering the desperate situation I had found myself in, it piqued my interest. Maybe there were some helpful ideas in there that had been lost in the sands of time?

Every Horse Owner’s Cyclopedia, written John Henry Walsh, Ellwood Harvey, and John Elderken, published in 1871 by Porter & Coates, National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of John H. and Martha Daniels

Once I started reading, I could not pull myself away – the information was fascinating. On one hand, it demonstrated how much veterinary medicine had changed over the past century. However, I could not help but be surprised at how much continuity was revealed as well – some of the treatments that I use on my horse today were already being recommended over a century ago. Listed below are some of the most interesting and unique entries from the book. Just a heads up, some of them are not for the faint of heart!

Crib-Biting

Known in modern times as cribbing, this is an issue near and dear to my heart. Taco is a voracious cribber and it has caused many problems over the past four years. When horses crib, they latch onto an object with their front teeth, arch their neck, and draw air into their esophagus. It is a learned behavior that can be brought on by stressful environments and digestive issues. It can cause many long term issues including dental problems and colic if left untreated, and is highly addictive once horses start. The Cyclopedia says that there “has never yet been a cure discovered, except on the principle of restraint” (202). There are several recommended deterrents for cribbing that exist today including sprays, muzzles, and cribbing straps. I have found the cribbing strap to be most effective – it goes around the neck of the horse and applies pressure when they attempt to suck in air. However, according to the Cyclopedia, these impede the blood of the brain from returning back to the heart (so I might have to reevaluate my choice). Instead, the book proposes the use of an invention by Mr. Cook, Saddler of Long Acre, called a bar muzzle. Unlike the muzzles used today that go around the horse’s entire mouth, it consists of a halter with a set of two prongs placed just in front of the lips. The author espouses this method as “entirely harmless, perfectly effectual” with “the sole objection to it being the fact that it proclaims the wearer to everyone who looks into the stable as a cribber” (203). The horse can still eat and drink but is unable to latch its teeth onto anything. Perhaps this is something I need to look into?

The author espouses this method as “entirely harmless, perfectly effectual” with “the sole objection to it being the fact that it proclaims the wearer to everyone who looks into the stable as a cribber.”

Dyspepsia

Known today as indigestion, dyspepsia in horses can be caused for a variety of reasons and there are many different treatments. However, the Cyclopedia proposes that indigestion stems from the fact that horses are forced to eat the same thing every day with no variation. The author states that “Every domestic animal suffers in health if he is constantly fed on the same articles, and man himself, perhaps, more than they do. Partridges are relished by him early in September, but toujours perdrix would disgust the most inveterate lover of that article of food” (354). The entry goes on to suggest that a complete change of food should be implemented if the horses starts to suffer from indigestion and a lack of appetite. It recommends green food of some kind if it can be obtained, or if not, carrots or even steamed potatoes (355). It also suggests that a handful of malt dust be added to the food once or twice a week to alter the flavor. At the end of the entry, it adds that “the use of ‘fashionable horse feeds’ of the present day will serve the same purpose” such as Thorley’s food or Henri’s food, which is promoted in the advertisement below (355).

Keep your hunters in condition by using Henri’s horse condition powders…/manufactured by Henri’s Patent Cattle Feed Co. Public Domain Mark

Tearing the clothes off

Under the section on stable vices, this amusing entry describes a solution for horses that cannot seem to keep their blankets on in the winter. This is by no means an uncommon problem, even by today’s standards. However, the contraption that the Cyclopedia recommends is something truly unique. It consists of “a pole of ash about three quarters of an inch in diameter, with an iron eye attached to each end. One of these is fastened, by means of a short leather strap and buckle, to the right side of the roller pad while the other has a strap or chain about a foot long, which attaches it to the head collar” (204-205). According to the author, “it is a very simple and cheap apparatus, and any village blacksmith can make and apply it” (205). The next time you wake up to blankets on the stable floor covered in manure, consider showing the diagram below to your local blacksmith in order to solve your pesky blanket problem!

It consists of “a pole of ash about three quarters of an inch in diameter, with an iron eye attached to each end. One of these is fastened, by means of a short leather strap and buckle, to the right side of the roller pad while the other has a strap or chain about a foot long, which attaches it to the head collar” (204-205).

Thrush

Thrush is a problem that afflicts many horses in this area, especially during the muddiest parts of the spring. Essentially, it is an infection of the frog (a part of the horse’s hoof) caused by dirty and damp conditions. The Cyclopedia characterizes it as “an offensive discharge from the frog” (401). The recommended treatment it proposes is a dose of physic, food of a less stimulating quality, and regular exercise, in addition to maintaining a cleanly environment (401). If the condition persists, it says that a bran poultice should be applied for a few days and then tar ointment should be put directly on the frog. It also recommends a solution of chloride of zinc. Today, treatments for thrush vary, but include applying iodine, diluted bleach, and trimming the dead tissue from the affected area. One thing that I would like to make note of in this entry is the line about administering “a dose of physic” to the horse. I found this part especially confusing because there seems to be no clear definition of what goes into a physic. However, upon further research, I discovered that it is most likely a being used as a term to describe the administration of medicine in general. There is an entire section of the Cyclopedia dedicated to the creation of various types of physics and their administration. The two main ways of giving a horse internal medicine during the time period were through balls or drenches. Balls are solid mixtures which were put directly into the mouth of the horse, and drenches were poured down their throat using a type of funnel.

Scratches

One of the first things that I searched for in the Cyclopedia was scratches, because it is a problem that has afflicted Taco for months now. I found it under an entry labelled “grease.” Today, it is sometimes still referred to as “greasy heel,” although “scratches” and “pastern dermatitis” are more common. The Cyclopedia defines scratches as a “slight swelling of the skin of the heels and adjacent parts which soon cracks, and from the fissures there exudes an offensive discharge which looks greasy but is really watery” (395). Pretty disgusting stuff in my experience. However, I was struck by the similarities in the treatments recommended for scratches by the Cyclopedia and by my veterinarian. Both advised applying glycerin to the area and trying to keep it clean and dry. However, the Cyclopedia suggested applying chloride of zinc, while I was instructed to use zinc oxide. In addition, the Cyclopedia stated that if the growths were bad enough, they could be sliced off and cauterized. This is not exactly something that I ever want to attempt at home. In a serious case of scratches, the text suggested that other organs could be damaged “unless the unhealthy state of the blood is attended to” (396). Supposedly, the fluid secreted through the scratches is drawn from the blood and pulled from the digestive organs, thereby weakening them. In order to counteract this effect, the author recommends feeding the horse arsenic with its food. He admits that “how it (the arsenic) acts has never been made out” but assures that in small doses it will produce no injurious effect. Nonetheless, I think I am probably going to keep the arsenic out of Taco’s daily feed regimen for now.

The Cyclopedia is full of interesting information, and provides a valuable window into what equine medicine was like in the 19th century. However, it left me feeling extremely glad that as a horse owner in the 21st century, my vet is only a phone call away!

Sources Cited

Walsh, John Henry, et al. Every Horse Owner’s Cyclopedia. Porter and Coates, 1871.

Victoria Peace is the summer 2020 Curatorial Intern at the National Sporting Library and Museum. A junior at Georgetown University, she is double majoring in Art History and French. Outside of work, she enjoys spending time with her OTTB Taco, trail riding, and playing polo. Email her at museumintern@nationalsporting.org.

Title page from, The Sportsman’s Companion

A key component of sporting life is the outdoors. Whether you are viewing the angling scenes depicted in the newly acquired Benson and Pleissner paintings on view at the Museum, or reading a bit of Frank Forester, the textual descriptions and painted, drawn, or sculpted manifestations of nature, the countryside, fauna, and wildlife are prominent in the paintings and books at the NSLM. I think sporting life enthusiasts often forget that sport and nature are the two distinct concepts that have evolved so that our minds associate them. Yet, that association is a fairly recent cultural development that can be traced to the late 1800s in the United States.

The discussions that took place in the late 1800s, in periodicals such as “Spirt of the Times” and in guidebooks for hunters and anglers began to highlight conservation as one of the core duties of a true sportsman. That new identity was reflected in new books detailing hunting and fishing etiquette and made distinctions between gentlemanly hunting and market hunting. Additionally, during this period, a key subgroup of hunters and fishermen became convinced that they were the only group capable of saving the country’s game from uncontrolled hunting and fishing.

Two books at the NSLM that document this trend are: American Waterfowl: Their Present Situation and the Outlook for their Future and Fish and Game, Now or Never: A challenge to American Sportsmen on wild-life restoration. One aspect that these two books illustrate is the growing need for nationwide legislation for the protection of wildlife.

American Waterfowl, written by John C. Philips and Frederick C. Lincoln, and published in 1930, urge sportsmen to give “immediate and urgent” attention to the conservation of wetlands, and chastise the amount of time focused on gear and equipment versus restoration :

 In spite of all the work of conservationists and all the clamor on the subject of a decreasing game supply, the average sportsman to-day spends at least twenty or thirty times as much on his equipment and hunting trips as he does on game restoration.

With regards to legislation:

We need to have sportsmen grasp the problems discussed herein in a national way rather than in terms of States or Counties. The well-to-do sportsman must be made aware of his responsibility before it is too late to check the unfavorable trend which we see to-day in nearly all our wild-fowl resorts.

Fish and Game, Now or Never, by Harry Bartow Hawes, published in 1935, has a friendlier tone, and appeals to the fisherman’s patriotic spirit to preserve the American landscape, which makes sense, as he served on the U.S. House and Senate representing Missouri. An active conservationist, Hawes was appointed to the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission in 1929 and was author of the Duck Stamp Law!

 The fight to conserve our big outdoors and its wild-life is a patriotic duty. Increasing its area is an achievement for health and better citizenship.

Like earlier texts, Hawes highlights how the hunter and fishermen are well-suited for the conservation and intelligent management of wildlife and open spaces. He links the avocations with the responsibility to act as a steward of the natural bounty:

Usually the hunter is also a fisherman. He uses his rod in summer, but, on the coming of frost and snow, he takes up his shotgun or rifle. Fishermen and the hunters, then, should combine for their mutual benefit and for the protection of their sport. But this is not their only duty. They must appreciate the ethics of sport; the necessity for limiting the game bag and the sanctity of the breeding season.

These books written by sportsmen played a key role in motiving the American public toward a greater awareness of the environment and concern for preserving it. These calls provide a foundation for future conservation action, that continues even to the present day. The link between sportsmen and conservation efforts became explicit and widely acknowledged by the 1930s. These books, as well as other early documents of conservation can be viewed at the Library at the NSLM.

By Reid O’Connor

Full disclosure: not everyone at the NSLM rides, hunts, plays polo, wingshoots, or fishes. We currently have nine full-time staff members. Of that nine, two are regular riders and sportswomen, and one is a part-time rider, having been much more active in her younger years (which, should be stated, was not too long ago). The remaining six of us enjoy learning about the various sports our mission encompasses and listening to others tell their stories and experiences but are not active participants.

Recently, a few NSLM staff tried some of the sports we “preserve, promote, and share” and with that, we created a series entitled “Never Have I Ever.” We want to tell you about our adventures, what we thought of them, and, most importantly, would we do them again? The inaugural entry below is from our Director of Development, Reid O’Connor. She is one of the two previously mentioned sporting regulars and last month, tried her hand at fly fishing. Take it away, Reid.


A friend of mine recently invited me to stay at her family home in Vermont to see the fall foliage, and naturally I jumped at the chance! After the blur of 2020, this seemed like the perfect opportunity to mark the start of my favorite season. So when the third week of October came around, I packed my bags with flannels, took a COVID-19 test, and made the 7 hour drive to the town of Manchester, Vermont.

Admittedly, after the whirlwind of our Polo Classic and September Board Meeting, I had not done any preparation for the trip or research about the town of Manchester. So as I followed my GPS into town, gaping at the reds, yellows, and oranges or the trees, I unwittingly discovered that I would be staying in the home of the Orvis Flagship Store and the Orvis Fly Fishing School, as well as the American Museum of Fly Fishing (a wonderful place to visit and perhaps the subject of a later blog). In our realm of equestrian, angling, and field sports, becoming an angler was a gap I had yet to fill. It seemed to me the fishing gods had drawn me here for a purpose, and I should not let this opportunity go to waste.

The folks at the flagship store had very enthusiastically given me the contact information for Kyle Leard, Orvis Adventures Instruction Lead at the Orvis Fly Fishing School. I gave him a call and signed my friend and I up for an hour casting lesson for beginners. We met Kyle at the school where he enthusiastically introduced himself and handed us our rods. We then marched across the road to pond of the flagship store, where our lesson would be taking place.

Here I am at the Orvis Fly Fishing School before my lesson.

Kyle showed us how to put our rods together and then demonstrated a beautiful and effortless cast. He said the trick was a smooth and quick acceleration, followed by a stop, and then the cast forward – all in one line. Like all good instructors, Kyle had made the cast look easy. I will master this in no time at all, I thought, but discovered quite the contrary. Being a short 5’ 2”, I struggled clumsily with the long rod. I was having trouble putting the different parts of the cast together into one easy motion. After patiently observing my robotic arm-movements, Kyle suggested that maybe I should maybe not try so hard. This was, of course, sage advice. Like in most sports, overthinking is a sure path to disappointment.

Struggling with the fact the rod is taller than I am.

Once I began following Kyle’s advice to relax my grip and we were no longer embarrassing ourselves with our initial casts, he decided we could progress. Next, we learned the false cast, apparently a particularly useful tool to change direction or add length to the cast, and to dry out the fly. And then we learned the roll cast – this Kyle said was very helpful if you are in a tree-heavy or bush-heavy area and there is not much room behind you for your back cast.

Kyle showing us the ropes outside the Orvis Flagship Store in Manchester.

I had been so preoccupied with my cast in the first part of the lesson that I had failed to notice what was moving beneath the surface of the water. About halfway through, I saw a bright flash of color – a huge rainbow trout! I soon realized the pond was full of massive trout and I thought I might just have a chance to catch one. But when I vocalized my hopes, Kyle told me I would probably have no such luck. The trout in the pond are fed by visitors, and so have rather wisely discovered that they don’t need to work for their supper. They swum by fat and happy, not the slightest bit bothered by my efforts.

Trying my best to imitate my instructor.

Thanks to Kyle’s enthusiasm and good humor, the hour came and went much faster than I had expected. As we neared the end, I mentioned that I was starting to feel the casting in my hand – another sign of trying too hard and holding too tightly, Kyle said.  Although I had by no means mastered my casts, I realized that in that past hour I had been so focused on it that I could think of nothing else. Despite the fact my hand was a little sore, and my ego slightly damaged by the fat fish who had deemed me beneath their notice, I left happy. I had that same familiar feeling that I get after a long ride, that feeling which draws sportsmen and women back to fields and streams time and time again, the feeling of inner peace.

So, would I do it again? Absolutely. I told Kyle that my friend and I would be back next summer, this time to take on some real trout…

A final note: As you have gathered, this was my first lesson, and so if I described or remembered anything improperly or incorrectly, I apologize. It is my error and not that of my instructor. 


Reid joined the NSLM in November 2017 and currently serves as Director of Development. She oversees the NSLM’s Membership program; annual giving; special events, including the Polo Classic and Open Late summer concert series; and facility rentals for outside groups. She is a graduate of The Madeira School and serves on the Board of The Hill School Alumni Association and as Secretary of the Loudoun County Equine Alliance. In her free time, she is an avid rider and polo player, and enjoys skiing and tennis. 

Horse racing, polo, and coaching are just a few examples of exhilarating competitive equestrian sports. Get ready though to add another fascinating equestrian pursuit to your repertoire – horseback pushball!

Pushball, Fort Meyer horseshow, 1920.Retrieved from: Library of Congress: LC-DIG-npcc-02112

To play horseback pushball you need a few things: horses, riders, a field, and a huge ball. The origins of horseback pushball lie in the initial invention of pushball itself in 1894. The man credited with inventing pushball is Moses G. Crane, an electrical engineer and inventor of the original fire alarm system. We can also give credit to Crane’s sons for helping their father invent pushball, mainly because they played football and Crane hated football. His annoyance with football was due to his opinion that the ball was too small to be seen by spectators. His solution was to create a sport where the ball could not be missed. And he was successful, you can never miss a six foot tall leather ball. The original pushball was made and paid for by Crane and cost a staggering $175, which is around $4,800 in today’s currency.

American Sports Publishing Company, 1903. Push ball: history and description of the game, with the official playing rules. Retrieved from https://archive.org/details/pushballhistoryd00newy/page/n1/mode/2up

The rules for pushball can be found in the “Official Play Rules” book of 1903. According to the rule book, the Spalding Official Pushball must be six feet in diameter and weigh between 48 and 50 pounds. The teams have eleven men consisting of five forwards, two left wings, two right wings, and two goal keepers. The scoring was unique as well with eight points for hefting it over the goal, five for rolling it through the goal posts, and two for getting it over the goal line. Pushball was played locally and made its official debut in 1885 during as halftime entertainment during the Harvard versus Brown football game.

An Equine “Bonny” Campbell, October 13, 1928. Mirror, Retrieved from:https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/76416017.

By the early 1900s pushball began to see new iterations of the game including; skate pushball, horseback pushball, and in the 1920s the incredibly dangerous auto pushball. In horseback pushball there were no restrictions on the style of riding. Excellent horsemanship was necessary to control the horse, navigate through the field in close contact with other players, and to propel the ball down field using the horse’s knees and chest.

American Sports Publishing Company, 1903. Push ball: history and description of the game, with the official playing rules. Retrieved from https://archive.org/details/pushballhistoryd00newy/page/n1/mode/2up

The first game of horseback pushball in America was at the Durland Riding Academy on December 30th, 1902 in New York. The first game of “Red” versus “Blue” was described in the official guide as “interesting” as the giant ball was placed in the center of the arena and at the sound of a whistle each team, 50 yards apart, raced toward the ball. Horseback pushball is a game of horsemanship as the command of a horse in tight spaces was necessary especially when both teams have the ball pinned against each other. The final score of the game was 1 to 0 with the “Red” team being victorious. According to the official guide this was not the first game of horseback pushball being played. Berlin held the first ever game and Baron Paul Vietinghoff, a referee during the Durland Riding Academy’s game, introduced the sport to the Academy.

American Sports Publishing Company, 1903. Push ball: history and description of the game, with the official playing rules. Retrieved from https://archive.org/details/pushballhistoryd00newy/page/n1/mode/2up

Horseback pushball crossed the pond and arrived in Britain by 1904 where a game was played during a Military Tournament. It was noted in The Guardian that King Edward VII watched the game with “great enthusiasm” and even rose from his chair to watch the proceeding match. The Times magazine spoke of the same event saying that the Military Tournament showed that horseback pushball was not only a success at that event, but would no doubt enjoy widespread popularity.

Artillerymen enjoy a game of push ball on horseback, 1927, Leek Carnival In Staffordshire.Retrieved from: eguardian.com/sport/blog/2017/jun/01/the-forgotten-story-of-pushball-a-game-for-giants-that-bewitched-britain

For a time, the Times article was correct. Horseback pushball became a staple in English Military Tournaments, and enjoyed popularity in the United States, Britain, Europe, and Australia. Its popularity peaked in 1923, but over the next 30 years enthusiasm for the sport waned. Several circumstances led to the decrease in the its popularity, the ball itself was expensive to make and was not practical to create commercially for general play, and the rate of injury for both horseback pushball and standard pushball was high.

While the sport of horseback pushball might not be as popular as it once was, there are still some variations of it being played today. Check out a video of horseback pushball being played today, here.

Finding detailed information about the sport proved difficult, but it has sparked an interest here at the NSLM! If you have any information about horseback pushball, pictures, or even experience let us know at info@nationalsporting.org.

For me, this is the “Slow” Period. My colleagues and I always put air quotes around that because there really is no “Slow” Period for us. There’s the Really, Really Busy Period and Slightly Less Busy Period. With exhibitions now open, I’m able to catch up on projects, including the annual location inventory. Literally just ensuring things are where they’re supposed to be, according to our records (a more in-depth comprehensive inventory is completed every two years).

This gives me time in storage, where I crank up the tunes and just plug away at verifying the Register. As a Collections Manager (and Virgo), I find this very therapeutic and satisfying. It aligns with the mantra of my father (and fellow Virgo), a place for everything and everything in its place.

As I was doing inventory, and with Thrill of the ‘Chace: Steeplechase in Art on the brain, the below two prints caught my eye: A Country Horse Race after artist William Mason (British, 1725—1797). They aren’t steeplechase scenes. Rather, they depict a flat race.

In the first, chaos ensues as two jockeys make their way to the starting line. As explained in Thrill of the ‘Chace, steeplechase and flat races were attended across classes. Many sat in the grandstands whilst others on horseback or in carriages lined the rail or positioned themselves along the course.

(after) William Mason (English, 1724-1797) A Country Race Course with Horses Preparing to Start, 1786 aquatint, 16 1/2 x 25 inches
National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of Mrs. Parker Poe, 1978

As an introvert, I get anxiety just looking at these. There are people literally everywhere getting into all manner of trouble. There is so much to see and something new each time you look at it, it reminds me of a Pieter Brueghel the Elder painting, or a Mel Brooks movie.

In the right foreground, the jockey in blue vertical stripes looks like he’s being harassed but look closer and look towards the hands. Money is being exchanged between the two men. The man on the right doesn’t even look like a real person, he looks more like a gargoyle, almost personifying his wickedness. The horse, who seems to look at us with pleading eyes, is about to be given wine.[1] Looks like someone is about to throw a race.

A Country Horse Race, Preparing to Start (detail)

The left foreground shows a woman in a post-chaise carriage, but no one seems to care that she is of the upper class because they’ve commandeered her accommodations for themselves. A sailor, in wonderfully blue pants, catches a ride as the man above him has thrown his leg over a brazen woman’s shoulder, which seems like one of many accidents getting ready to happen.

A Country Horse Race, Preparing to Start (detail)

The center right shows another carriage with a man hanging out the window and two figures on top getting into an altercation. It says something that it’s hard to tell if it’s playful or not.

A Country Race Course, Preparing to Start (detail)

Figures crowd the middle, the grandstands, and the rail giving me heart palpitations. I find the three figures in the announcer’s box particularly comical. Facing different directions, observing this mess of an event from the relative safety of their perch, it’s as if they just don’t know what to do. The man with the horn (and furrowed brow), trying to start the race, and with it, perhaps, bring some semblance of order. Sorry, sir, that ship has sailed.

A Country Race Course, Horses Preparing to Start (detail)

The atmospheric perspective provides a sense of depth, emphasizing the extent of the countryside, and in the back right, we see a church steeple. A study of this print is currently in the collection of The British Museum. Click here to see it. When you’re there, click on Related Objects to see other works of art by Mason, including another race scene.

The second print shows the course as the jockeys race towards the finish line on a flat dirt track. The grandstands can be seen in the background. At this point, my heart rate has only increased, and my palms are sweaty. Crowds of figures ride along, pacing the action, as others watch on the sidelines, cheering them on. 

(after) William Mason (English, 1724-1797) A Country Race Course with Horses Running, 1786 aquatint, 16 1/2 x 25 inches National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of Mrs. Parker Poe, 1978

In the lower right-hand corner, a man and woman, and basket of pies, have been knocked over. How did they not hear thundering hooves behind them? To be fair, it seems completely possible the riders went off course. Regardless, this has set off a chain reaction, scaring the dog and boy, who startle the horses. We see a different type of carriage in the foreground, a high phaeton. In the middle, a couple are sharing a horse. Next to them on the left is a woman sitting sidesaddle.

A Country Horse Race with Horses Running (detail)

The “rocking horse pose” of the galloping horses is typical of the time, thanks to prolific British sporting artist George Stubbs (British, 1724—1806), who popularized the erroneous portrayal. This pose would endure for at least another century until the birth of photography and Eadweard Muybridge’s famous stop-motion photographs.

A Country Horse Race, Horses Running (detail)

An interesting question I posed to our George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Head Curator Claudia Pfeiffer is whether these figures on horseback directly behind the jockeys are spectators trying to keep up or amateur gentlemen riders. She replied that they were probably both, and likely foxhunters, as well.

What these two prints show best are the crowds. The range of classes, as exemplified by the different modes of transportation and attire, are out to enjoy (or “enjoy”) the day of sport and socializing. But as is typical of satire, it’s been turned into a caricature. Or has it? Satire is a mirror that shows us for who we are, maybe it’s not that off base?

I’ve about had my fill of A Country Horse Race. But if anyone is interested in seeing them, they are currently hanging in the Founders’ Room. Make sure to call the Library first to arrange a time to see them. If you are interested in a history of jump racing, click here for a link to the virtual exhibition of Thrill of the ‘Chace

[1] https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/P_2011-7084-51

Lauren Kraut is the Collections Manager at the National Sporting Library & Museum. Her primary focus is to maintain and preserve the works of art in the collection and on loan. Email her at lkraut@NationalSporting.org