This week I’d like to highlight a section of the Library collection that really surprised me.  Recently, I’ve been working with the big game hunting books.  I’m not a hunter and I don’t come from a hunting family.  While I have no problem with the sport in general, the idea of trophy hunting is disagreeable to me.  As such I began work on the big game books with trepidation.  I expected to encounter long lists of trophies taken or photos of white men posing with their foot on the corpse of a lion or elephant.  While there is a fair bit of this sort of thing, there is also a great deal more to be discovered if one takes the time to read more closely.

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The Dark Continent. Edouard Foa, After Big Game in Central Africa (1899).  The gift of John and Martha Daniels.

The books that caught my attention were originally published between 1850 and 1950 and are accounts of expeditions, not simply butcher’s bills of the local fauna.  First things first, these books can in no way be considered politically correct.  In addition to the sometimes graphic descriptions of hunting scenes, there are also some comments and attitudes about anyone non-white or non-Christian that many modern day readers would find objectionable.  However, if you try to view the writing through the lens of what was considered acceptable behavior in the late 19th or early 20th century, an extremely interesting account of travel and exploration emerges.

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Dwarfed by the environment.  Edouard Foa, After Big Game in Central Africa (1899).  The gift of John and Martha Daniels.

In addition to being skilled hunters, these men, and sometimes women, were also geographers, naturalists, anthropologists, and writers.  They journeyed throughout Africa, India, Asia, and North America in a time when travel was still a challenge in and of itself.  And as they trekked, they analyzed and described the behavior of the local animals, sometimes collecting specimens for museums.  They recorded the topography of their routes, and they interacted with the indigenous populations.

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Local shopping. P. H. G. Powell-Cotton, A Sporting Trip through Abyssinia (1902).  The gift of John and Martha Daniels.

Returning home, they published their experiences, recounting not only the hunting, but also the traveling, and their impressions of the lands and people that they encountered.  These accounts allowed the armchair adventurer of the time to experience exotic locales without risking the dangers of injury or disease, and they allow modern day readers to experience a world that in a very real sense no longer exists.

In Two Dianas in Alaska (1909), Agnes Herbert recounts her shooting trip to Alaska with her cousin Cecily.  The account begins with a description of their trip from New York City to Butte City, Montana.

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Agnes Herbert in native parka.  Agnes Herbert, Two Dianas in Alaska (1909).  The gift of John and Martha Daniels.

While it is interesting to read about the traveling conditions in the United States at that time, what is even more entertaining is her charming and engaging tone.  It reads like a letter from a good friend, with comical remarks, and candid comments.

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Edouard Foa. Edouard Foa, After Big Game in Central Africa (1899).  The gift of John and Martha Daniels.

 

Edouard Foa’s book, After Big Game in Central Africa (1899), describes his experiences during a three year expedition in Africa from 1894 to 1897.  In it he carefully describes the behavior of many African game animals and includes frank advice for operating in that environment.  For example, when encountering rainy conditions while hunting or marching in the bush, he removes his clothing, places it in a waterproof bag, and walks about in a loincloth, shoes, and hat.  “Not that I can say I have a very elegant appearance in this dress, but I have found it is the most practicable during the rainy season.  Immediately the rain stops the skin dries, and you have not the inconvenience of keeping on your wet clothes, which brings on fever and rheumatism” (p. 51).

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P. H. G. Powell-Cotton.  P. H. G. Powell-Cotton, A Sporting Trip through Abyssinia (1902).  The gift of John and Martha Daniels.

A Sporting Trip through Abyssinia (1902), by P. H. G. Powell-Cotton includes a wonderful appendix that meticulously lists the food, equipment, armaments and munitions, and personnel required for a successful journey.

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Don’t forget the egg cup and dessert spoons!  P. H. G. Powell-Cotton, A Sporting Trip through Abyssinia (1902).  The gift of John and Martha Daniels.

Although a prolific hunter, he also furnishes a great deal of information on the local culture, politics, and sites of interest.  The subtitle of his books says it all, “A Narrative of a Nine Months’ Journey from the Plains of the Hawash to the Snows of Simien, with a Description of the Game, from Elephant to Ibex, and Notes on the Manners and Customs of the Natives.”  Here he gives us a photo of the resting place of the true Arc of the Covenant.

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P. H. G. Powell-Cotton, A Sporting Trip through Abyssinia (1902). The gift of John and Martha Daniels.

Many of the library’s big game volumes are reprints of much earlier works and include forewords that provide a useful historical and biographical context for the book.  By being mindful of this context, modern readers can still enjoy these intriguing books despite the fact that they have not aged particularly well.


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Erica Libhart has served as the Mars Librarian at the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) since early 2016. The focus of her position is collection services, working to increase accessibility to NSLM’s collection of books, periodicals, and archival materials. The NSLM collections span over 350 years of the history of equestrian sport, as well as fly fishing, wing shooting, and other field sports. Have a question? Contact Erica by e-mail

In a world dominated by word processors and digital publication, the treasures of the past can be uncovered in handwritten materials. The NSLM collections have many handwritten manuscripts in the F. Ambrose Clark Rare Book Room. We do our best to ensure these materials get some regular appreciation, so here is a list of five great handwritten pieces in the NSLM collection.

5. Robert Burns, The Bonie Moorhen

This poem by Robert Burns (1759-1796) was never published during the poet’s lifetime. The poem details the difficulty of tracking the “moorhen” (grouse), but in reality it’s a romantic ode to Nancy McLehose, who exchanged letters with Burns in the 1780s. McLehose was married, but estranged from her husband, and she urged Burns not to publish a poem that would surely cause social scandal for everybody involved.

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The Bonie Moorhen, Robert Burns, 1788. National Sporting Library & Museum, John H. Daniels Collection, F. Ambrose Clark Rare Book Room.

4. R. S. Surtees, Account Book

One of the most prolific and classic sporting authors, R. S. Surtees (1805-1864) helped pioneer the sporting novel while creating comedic characters that have stood the test of time. This pocket-sized cash book was printed in 1853 and belonged to Surtees. It details both his daily expenditures and serves as a brief diary outlining weather or activities of the day.

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Account Book, R. S. Surtees, 1853. National Sporting Library & Museum, John H. Daniels Collection, F. Ambrose Clark Rare Book Room.

 

3. Samuel Howitt, Presentation Inscription

Samuel Howitt (1756-1822) was a prolific engraver of animals and sporting subjects during his lifetime. Financially independent as a young man, he devoted his time to riding and field sports before financial difficulties forced him into trade as an artist. His time on horseback served him well — much of his work draws upon his country experiences to depict shooting and equestrian scenes. The two volumes of etchings in the NSLM collection were presentation copies, and include a brief dedication by Howitt to the recipient, William Edkins.

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Presentation Inscription, Samuel Howitt, 1811. National Sporting Library & Museum, F. Ambrose Clark Rare Book Room.

 

2. George Osbaldeston, Trotting Letter

“Squire” George Osbaldeston (1786-1866) was the prototype of the early sporting gentleman: rash, dashing, and eminently capable in the saddle and with a gun. Osbaldeston wagered thousands of pounds on his abilities, winning huge bets through his ability to ride for speed or endurance. Unfortunately, much of this money went to outrageous gambling debts that eventually forced him to sell his lands and die penniless. This letter is directed to Osbaldeston’s friend, Harry England, asking his opinion about two trotting matches to be races against time. The races would cover 31 miles in two hours, the other could cover 30 miles in two hours.

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Trotting Letter, George Osbaldeston, 1831. National Sporting Library & Museum, John H. Daniels Collection, F. Ambrose Clark Rare Book Room.

 

1. Theodore Roosevelt, Riding to Hounds on Long Island

Anybody who has been on our Library tour at NSLM has seen this piece. We’re very happy that John Daniels donated it to NSLM in 1999. The manuscript is an editorial piece for the Century Illustrated Magazine, and Roosevelt (1858-1919) wrote about the culture of foxhunting, and how Americans practice it. It’s the only manuscript in our collection from a U. S. President. The manuscript includes corrections and is signed on the final page.

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Riding to Hounds on Long Island, Theodore Roosevelt, 1886. National Sporting Library & Museum, John H. Daniels Collection, F. Ambrose Clark Rare Book Room.

It was difficult to pick just five, so we’ll have to highlight more in the coming weeks! Our blog is beginning a new Tuesday posting schedule for 2017. You can subscribe to the blog by clicking on the “Follow” button on our sidebar. We hope you’ll come back to read more about our collections (handwritten or printed) this year!


Wedding Photography by Spiering Photography

John Connolly has served as the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Librarian at the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) since early 2014. He is responsible for the care of the Library collections, including books, magazines, photographs, diaries, letters, and much more. The NSLM collections span over 350 years of the history of equestrian sport, as well as fly fishing, wing shooting, and other field sports. Have a question? Contact John by e-mail

Summer is fading, and that means two things. First, we’re trading summer sports (like polo) for our autumn sports (like foxhunting). Second, we’re set to launch our Annual Auction, which takes place in September and October of each year. The Auction is our main Library fundraiser each year, and we make available purchases of  duplicate sporting books to fund the maintenance of our collections.

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Hunting Pie, 1931. Available for purchase through the NSLM Annual Auction.

In the spirit of both these points, it seemed like a good time to highlight one of our 2016 Annual Auction offerings: Hunting Pie by Frederick Watson. The book is a humorous summary of “The Whole Art & Craft of Foxhunting,” and was illustrated by Paul Brown and published by the Derrydale Press in 1931.

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“Let us consider some of the highly technical and ingenious explanations of that vexed question ‘Why Foxhunting goes on.'”

Jonathan Swift once described satire as “a sort of glass wherein beholders do generally discover everybody’s face but their own; which is the chief reason for that kind reception it meets with in the world, and that so very few are offended with it.” Watson instead draws on a self-deprecating tradition of hunting humor, choosing instead to leave no figure unscathed.

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“In the best conducted Kennels the hounds all recognise the huntsman almost instantly. They know him by his coat and the bits of biscuit he throws them in advance, and because he has learned some of their names from the whipper-in. But principally because hounds are the same to everyone. The best huntsmen are rather aloof.”
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“During a quick dart across country [the Hunt Secretary] must shout a cheery word to a farmer shaking — through sheer excitement — a gleaming pitchfork, collect a couple of guineas from a stranger who has turned up discreetly late, and yet arrive in time to register his official guffaw when the Master is reminded of a favourite anecdote at the kill.”
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“Every Hunt has a Field more or less. The press correspondents are fond of calling the m’followers’ but they don’t really or not very far or much. If you go to the Meet you will observe a concourse of cars blocking up the highway for about half a mile.”

It’s a delightful read, full of observational humor based on the timeless complaints of “modern foxhunting.” Paul Brown is in his element, as well. It’s a fun addition to a sporting book collection, if nothing else for the illustrations. You can read more about participation in the Annual Auction by viewing the catalog.


Wedding Photography by Spiering Photography

John Connolly has served as the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Librarian at the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) since early 2014. He is responsible for the care of the Library collections, including books, magazines, photographs, diaries, letters, and much more. The NSLM collections span over 350 years of the history of equestrian sport, as well as fly fishing, wing shooting, and other field sports. Have a question? Contact John by e-mail

 

At the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) we discuss topics relating to equestrian sports as well as turf and field sports—which covers everything from coaching and polo to fly fishing and wing shooting! We represent it all in art and in books. Let’s just say if the Brntes wrote about it, we have it here. And last weekend, more than a dozen carriages and hundreds of people (including staff from Colonial Williamsburg) came to celebrate our first ever “Carriage Day.”

My goal as an Educator for NSLM is to bring these subjects to life. So when I had an opportunity to highlight coaching, I drew my inspiration from two groups that already live and breathe carriages: Colonial Williamsburg and the Piedmont Driving Club.

We were originally set on having Carriage Day in late May. Now, I don’t know if you all remember, but this spring took a long time to warm up. And on May 21 (our initial date), we had to cancel because somehow it was 50 degrees and raining! You know what they say about Virginia weather. If you don’t like it, just wait five minutes!

After a washout, we changed the date to late July, when we were pretty confident we’d have warmer weather. It turns out “warm” was an understatement. If you really want to have a successful Carriage Day, I recommend baking it at 100 degrees for seven hours. It sure worked for us!

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Despite temperatures nearing triple digits, folks came pouring in from Middleburg, the D.C. area, and out of state to see the carriages, and for good reason. Of the 16 vehicles present, we covered almost every kind of carriage spanning nearly two centuries! You could see everything from a racing gig and sleigh to a governess cart and an authentic English beer dray. Some of these vehicles rarely make it out of their carriage houses. Others go on dozens of picnic drives a year with the very active Piedmont Driving Club. These owners, drivers, and grooms love what they do, and you can tell in the quality of their sets of wheels.

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We also had visitors in our Museum galleries to see some of our carriage-centric artifacts, including our famous silver coach and original coach horn. Hey, it’s not every day you can be serenaded by a curator!

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Carriage Day was also a singular opportunity to visit Colonial Williamsburg here in Middleburg! Paul Bennett, CW’s Director of Coach & Livestock, came with two footmen and a pair of refurbished carriages. The trio was a well-oiled machine of precision, knowledge, and humor. Whether our visitors were first-time carriage viewers or drivers with more than 30 years’ experience, anyone talking to them walked away discussing a new tidbit they had learned.

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And our lecture hall was filled to capacity for Paul’s talk on the history of carriages dating all the way back to the advent of the wheel. Fortunately for him, wheels no longer have to be carved from stone by hand.

With a small organization like the National Sporting Library & Museum, it took an ‘all hands on deck’ effort with staff, partners, and volunteers to execute an event like this. But even with a rescheduled date and crazy heat, Carriage day turned out to be our biggest educational program to date.

Thanks to Colonial Williamsburg, the Piedmont Driving Club, and all the other partners, volunteers, and members who made it such a success. Drive on!

This weekend the Piedmont Driving Club invited me to a picnic drive at Ayrshire Farm in Upperville, Virginia. Fortunately, I had some previous experience riding in a carriage. When my colleagues and I went to Colonial Williamsburg for the Virginia Association of Museums Conference earlier this year we were treated to a private drive through town. Historically, only certain members of society would use vehicles like these refurbished carriages. This is no longer the case, and people of all walks of life participate in driving events across the nation.

I was surprised at how different a drive was in the country versus in town. During the colonial era carriages were often used in town  or for short journeys. The American colonies and early nation had notoriously bad roads. Travel was much smoother by water (ever notice that most colonial capitals were on navigable waterways?). There were few exceptions to this, one of which was our own Loudoun County. Loudouners built – and preserved – over 300 miles of country roads, most of which date to the 18th and 19th centuries. These provide an ideal setting for today’s picnic drives.

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Driving on a private road near Upperville, VA

A few different kinds of carriages were represented during the drive. Carl and Caroline Cox, my generous hosts, drove a wagonette. Wagonettes sport four wheels and seat four, not counting the driver, and can be pulled by two or four horses. Carts have two wheels, one or two occupants, and are usually pulled by one horse. Coaches, which can seat 12, 16, or more, are very heavy and are pulled by larger teams of horses. Coaches were the public transportation of their era and are not taken on picnic drives in the countryside.

Each of the carriages on this drive were a work of art in their own right. And with the exception of cleverly disguised champagne coolers, these vehicles are using the same technology as their 18th century counterparts, including braking systems, building materials, and driving techniques.

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I had a wonderful time learning about these carriages and the people who drive them. If you want to know more about wagonettes, carts, coaches, and more, don’t miss Carriage Day at NSLM. We are partnering with the Piedmont Driving Club and Colonial Williamsburg to bring these carriages to you! Over twenty carriages will be displayed (without horses) across our grounds on May 21 from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. The day will include walking tours, kids activities, an afternoon drive-by, and a keynote talk with Paul Bennett, Colonial Williamsburg’s Director of Coach and Livestock. Yes, it’s all free of charge – Don’t Miss It!

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Anne Marie Barnes is the Educational Programs Manager and Fellowship Advisor at the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM). Her passion for museum work began shortly after graduation with a Bachelor’s degree in History from James Madison University. Between her expeience working at the Fredericksburg Area Museum & Cultural Center and the Washington Heritage Museums, she has done everything from designing summer camps to formulating major fundraisers. Have a question? Contact Anne Marie by e-mail

Winter has finally come to Virginia. As I write this, a frigid fog surrounds the Museum and Library, making the air seem much colder than the reported forty degrees. There’s a certain comfort in this weather, especially if you are able to enjoy it from a warm, well-lit office accompanied by a mug of tea. This is also the kind of weather that begs for a hot meal plucked straight from your childhood- or perhaps plucked straight from the fields outside.2013-01-23 23.17.13

On this particular day I am tempted to join the meal of artist Arthur Fitzwilliam Tait in A Good Time Coming. In it, a gentleman pours port into a camp mug while a guide cooks something awfully tasty over the campfire. Another guide in the background approaches with a fresh catch of fish, but it is left to the viewer to imagine what might be sizzling in the cast-iron skillet, or boiling in the large stock pot.

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Detail: Arthur Fitzwilliam Tait (American, 1819-1905) A Good Time Coming, 1862, oil on canvas 20 x 30 inches, Adirondack Museum

Alas, I have no campfire to keep me cozy. I do, however, have a cookbook to direct me in making my own field dinner at home. Field Feast: the Remington Cookbook by Jim and Ann Casada is a newer addition to the Library’s collection. Recipes include chicken-fried venison steak, creamed squirrel, and pheasant paprikash.

Pheasant Paprikash

  • 2tb canola oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 large green pepper, sliced (optional)
  • Paprika – 1 ts or more (use amount you prefer)
  • 1 large fresh tomato (or 1 can tomatoes)
  • Few dashes red pepper
  • Few dashes black pepper
  • 2 pheasants, cut up
  • Salt to taste
  • 2tb flour
  • 1 cup milk

Place oil in Dutch oven and heat. Add onions and saute until tender. Add green pepper slices and cook a few minutes. Add enough paprika to make a deep red color and stir constantly for about 1 minute. Add tomato, a few dashes each of red pepper and black pepper. Place pheasant pieces in Dutch oven and add enough water to cover pheasant. Add salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 2 hours or until pheasant is tender. Mix flour with cup of milk and add to mixture. Adjust seasonings. Let come to a simmer; do not boil after adding milk. Serve in bowls over noodles of your choice, such as ziti, macaroni, or shells. 

Any takers on trying this recipe? As I understand you can substitute a small chicken or cornish game hens for the pheasant. This could be a new cold weather favorite! For more information on Jim Casada, or to purchase one of his books, follow this link.