It’s that time of year when things slow down, ever so slightly.  The spring exhibitions are open and there’s a little breathing room before we need to start devoting all of our energy to the fall exhibition.  This is a great time to catch up on the tasks that have accumulated on my desk.  One of the most important responsibilities in Collections is inventorying: to verify locations and assess the condition of all the works of art in all of our collections.  It sounds daunting, doesn’t it? 

The tools: measuring tape, condition report, flashlight, pencil (always a pencil!), dusting cloth, and the ever-present nitrile gloves. (after) Samuel Howitt (English, 1756-1822), Fox Hunting No. 3, hand-colored aquatint, 18 x 22 3/4 inches, National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of George and Susan Matelich and Family, 2016

There are two different types of inventory that we utilize: comprehensive and location.  A comprehensive inventory is just that, an inventory of the permanent, study, and loan collections, complete with thorough condition reports and photographs.  Depending on the size of the museum or gallery and staff resources, this should (ideally) be completed annually.  A location inventory has a smaller scope; it verifies that the accession number on the object matches the record, is in the correct location, and if the condition has changed. This is not as time intensive as a comprehensive inventory and should be completed if a comprehensive inventory isn’t possible.  Because of our staff size, we like to alternate annually between the two.

Recall the condition reports from my February 19, 2019 blog entry on the installation of the Sidesaddle exhibition. The inventory process requires that a condition report is filled out for each object and retained in the object folder. Along with the basic information, like title, artist, medium, and date, I also record a brief description of the object, including any defects, like warping of a canvas or scratches on a frame.  Visuals are always helpful when documenting changes.  I try to take as thorough a reference as possible, highlighting any potential issues that should be tracked.

The oldest work of art in our art collection is A Horse in a Landscape, an oil on panel by Abraham van Calreat (c. 1690).  That’s over three centuries of exposure and changing hands and an expansive time frame for it to be dropped, hung above a fireplace, or placed in direct sunlight.  Part of an inventory is to make note of chipped frames and discoloration which are just two possibilities of the previous three scenarios. Despite its age, A Horse in a Landscape is in very good condition.

Works on paper have other potential concerns such as being susceptible to foxing.  Those are the small brownish spots you might see speckled about in old books or prints. The print below has evidence of foxing on the right border. 

Foxing can be seen most noticeably on the right-side border. Edward Troye (American, 1808-1874), Kentucky, 1867, colored engraving, 24 1/2 x 32 inches, National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of Peter Winants, 2004

Another example of a noteable paper condition issue is seen in the image on the left below of the 1923 wedding invitation of the artist Paul Desmond Brown (American, 1893-1958) to his wife, Harriet.  The discoloration is easily noticed.  What would have caused this?  Perhaps it was displayed in a frame where, over time, the light caused it to change. 

Invitation to the wedding of Paul Desmond Brown to Harriet Smith, November 12, 1923, National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of Nancy Searles, the artist’s daughter, 2011

The backside of the paper below has several issues including discoloration, missing elements, accretions, tears, buckling, and flaking.

Verso of paper with envelope affixed to the front, addressed to Harriet Smith, National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of Nancy Searles, the artist’s daughter, 2011

A comprehensive inventory also serves another purpose. Do the works of art under scrutiny still meet the mission of the organization?  As museums and galleries evolve, their mission statements and policies may need to evolve too.  This could include adjusting the scope of the collection plan, meaning that objects in the collection may be better suited for interpretation at a different institution.  If that is the case, further evaluation is warranted.

An inventory can be a long process, but it serves an important purpose; it is one of the principal aspects of Collections Management.  For now, if you need me, I’ll be in storage, listening to big band music, and plugging away at this year’s inventory.

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

All good things must come to an end. When we first posted to this blog in December of 2014, I had relatively little experience with the NSLM collection. We had a collection of fantastic sporting materials, but much of it wasn’t in usable condition. Books were shelved in a disorganized fashion, it was easy to lose track of things in the Rare Book Room, and we had a huge backlog of archival materials waiting to be processed into the collection.

As the work of improving the organization of the collection proceeded, I was afforded the opportunity to really dig into the books, manuscripts, photographs, and archival materials in the collection. Every book came off the shelves to be recataloged, and that meant a chance to learn more about the collection. This blog has been a wonderful opportunity to share those materials with the outside world.

We’ve reached over 55,000 readers on this blog since we first began. Our posts have made the NSLM’s presence truly international, receiving views from countries across the globe. We’ve received comments, questions, and visits based on the content of our blog. I have accounted for 119 out of Drawing Covert’s 243 posts. I’ve learned a lot and have enjoyed my blogging greatly.

Drawing Covert will continue in the months ahead, but I will no longer be a contributor to it. I have taken a new position and will be leaving the National Sporting Library & Museum in the next few weeks. I’m grateful to our readers for their support and interest; you have made this blog a tremendous success by sharing it with friends and family. We’ve come a long way, and I’m excited to know that Drawing Covert will continue to provide fascinating sporting content in the future. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of it.

Wedding Photography by Spiering Photography

John Connolly served as the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Head Librarian at the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) from 2014 to 2019. The NSLM collections span over 350 years of the history of equestrian sport, as well as fly fishing, wing shooting, and other field sports.

“Invented by Thos Butler & Executed at his House. Pall-Mall, London, 1755,” read the prominent and legible inscription and date on one of the panels of the NSLM’s Sporting Screen.

The inscription that adorns the NSLM Sporting Screen.

On view in the exhibition, Deconstructed: The NSLM Sporting Screen, through September 15, 2019, this captivating object is presented in its recently conserved state. The screen is decorated with 18th-century themes. On one side are primarily horse and jockey portraits as well as Thoroughbred breeding and a mare and foal image.

(after) Thomas Butler (English, c. 1730-1760), Four-Panel Sporting Screen, c. 1860 (recto),
hand-colored engravings mounted on canvas, and oil on canvas mounted on a wooden frame, 81 ½ x 108 inches, Bequest of Sonia Phipps Seherr-Thoss, 2006

Thirty-two mounted and hand-colored subscription prints from the series, Portraits and Pedigrees of the Most Celebrated Racers from Paintings by Eminent Artists, published between 1741 and 1753, have been adhered to canvas and individually tinted. The full series included 34 engravings. NSLM’s screen features 31 unique images from the set and a repeat (Can you find it?). Underneath the hand-coloring, the square prints look like this:

“Plate 1: Starling,” Portraits and Pedigrees of the Most Celebrated Racers from Paintings by Eminent Artists, with portraits of the Jockeys, Published by Arundel and London, Thomas Butler, 1751-1753, 1753. ©

The engravings include the racehorses’ pedigrees, race wins, and crests of the owners: they are among the earliest attempts to produce a formal record of the emerging 18th-century British racing industry. John Cheny, Sr. oversaw the printing of the annually-produced prints beginning in 1741 until Thomas Butler of Pall-Mall, a bookseller and printmaker, took over their publication in 1750 after Cheny died, until the last one was printed in the series in 1753. The engravings are after the works of sporting artists James Seymour (English, 1702–1752) and Thomas Spencer (English, 1700–1765). The four paintings underneath the prints on the screen are also copies of 18th-century works by James Seymour: Fox, Aaron, Cato, and Slamerkin.

Paintings copied from the works of James Seymour (English, 1702–1752).

On the other side of the screen is a completely different 18th-century sporting theme, classic riding school imagery.

(after) Thomas Butler (English, c. 1730-1760), Four-Panel Sporting Screen, c. 1860 (verso),
hand-colored engravings mounted on canvas, and oil on canvas mounted on a wooden frame, 81 ½ x 108 inches, Bequest of Sonia Phipps Seherr-Thoss, 2006

The eight images are copies of illustrations in the 1729 book, Twenty Five Actions of the Menage [sic] Horse, a riding manual written and illustrated by artist John Vanderbank (English, 1694–1739). Trained in classic dressage, Vanderbank created a series of illustrations, many of which were reproduced in his publication.

John Vanderbank (British, 1694–1739), “The Manege-Gallop with the right leg” engraved as plate 14 in “Twenty Five Actions of the Manage Horse…,” 1729, pen, in gray ink, black ink, graphite, and gray wash on medium, slightly textured, cream, laid paper, 6 5/8 × 6 1/4 inches, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

“The Manege-Gallop with the right leg,’ Plate 14, “Twenty-Five Actions of the Manage Horse” by John Vanderbank; engraved by Josephus Sympson, 1729, National Sporting Library & Museum, Vladimir S. Littauer Collection

The date on the screen was a point of interest. On the surface, the riding school and horse racing images support the 1755 production date of the “Thomas Butler” inscription on the NSLM’s sporting screen. Butler advertised his shop’s ability to copy known sporting artist’s works, which would explain the production of the oils on canvas on the screen’s horse racing side and the imagery after the 1729 Vanderbank publication on the other.

The manner in which the paintings on both sides of the NSLM screen were executed, however, points to a later style. Here is an image of an actual oil on canvas by John Vanderbank for comparison to the manége images on NSLM’s screen:

John Vanderbank (British, 1694–1739), A Young Gentleman Riding a Schooled Horse, between 1728 and 1729, oil on canvas, 19 1/8 × 12 3/4 inches, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

The recent work done by Conservator Deborah Parr on the screen in preparation for the current exhibition afforded NSLM a great opportunity to use scientific analysis to definitively answer the question of when the NSLM sporting screen was made.

Parr took paint samples from sites on the front and back of the screen and sent them off for pigment analysis. This is one of the images from the microscopic review:

Pigment scraping of “Slamerkin” at 1000x magnification contains a mix of
blue and yellow paints to create the color green, photo courtesy Natasha K. Loeblich, Conservator and Paint Analyst

The report confirmed that the pigment, Cerulean blue, was present in all samples, a “smoking gun.” Cerulean blue became available for purchase in 1859. The NSLM screen is, therefore, definitively, a 19th-century piece highlighting imagery produced in the 1700s, well before its construction.

One of the questions, I have received about this conclusive findings is whether or not we are disappointed. The result ultimately relates to a decorative object and not a mis-attributed work of fine art. It is fulfilling to be able to settle a research question and have a proven date to contextualize an object. It definitively tells us that sporting enthusiasts in the 1860s were drawn to antique sporting images for decorations in their homes.

Come out and see the exhibit! There is so much more to explore about 18th-century sporting artists and the conservation work that was done on the NSLM Sporting Screen.


Claudia Pfeiffer has been the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Curator at the National Sporting Library & Museum since the position was underwritten by the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Foundation in 2012. Her primary focus is the research, design, interpretation, writing, and installation of exhibitions. E-mail Claudia at

On March 24, 1933, the 92nd Grand National was run at Aintree. This year’s race was noteworthy for more than the typical large crowds: every publication commented on the fine running and beautiful weather.

A field of more than 30 horses made the iconic race of four-plus miles, and there were the usual falls and mishaps along the way. The victor of the day was the 25-1 horse Kellsboro Jack, owned by Mrs. F. Ambrose Clark. But she had “purchased” the horse from her husband earlier in the year.

From Kellsboro Jack Scrapbook, National Sporting Library & Museum ARchives Collection, MC0031.

F. Ambrose “Brose” Clark was an influential American sportsman of the early 20th century. Brose was the grandson of Edward Cabot Clark, a partner of the Singer Manufacturing Company. As a young man, he was a gentleman rider in steeplechase races and rode to hounds. AS a racehorse owner, he spent years in pursuit of victory in the world’s most famous steeplechase: the Grand National.

From Kellsboro Jack Scrapbook, National Sporting Library & Museum ARchives Collection, MC0031.

Clark purchased Kellsboro Jack in Ireland, naming him for the horse’s native town of Kellsborough. Kellsboro Jack was trained for the Grand National by Ivor Anthony, and reportedly the horse was treated exceptionally well — one local newspaper reported that the horse preferred to sleep bedded down in soft sheets. Preferential treatment was sometimes indulged for Clark’s horses; he once ordered a rocking chair loaded into a train’s boxcar so he could ride along with a favorite mount.

From Kellsboro Jack Scrapbook, National Sporting Library & Museum ARchives Collection, MC0031.

Clark suspected that 1933 was an unlucky year for his horses. Instead of taking chances on another unsuccessful attempt at Aintree, he opted to sell Kellsboro Jack to his wife Florence for £1. Mrs. Clark was an accomplished sportswoman herself, and maintained her own stable of racehorses. Kellsboro Jack would go on to win in record time: 9 minutes, 28 seconds.

From Kellsboro Jack Scrapbook, National Sporting Library & Museum ARchives Collection, MC0031.

Although the triumph of the day technically belonged to Florence, the ecstatic couple shared the victory together. Mrs. Clark declined the honor of leading in Kellsboro Jack, asking Brose to do it in her stead. Kellsboro Jack would be retired following his record-setting victory, but the horse was brought to hunt meets and to paddock at other races so friends and well-wishers could see him.

Wedding Photography by Spiering Photography

John Connolly has served as the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Head 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 

In late 1947, William Woodward was absent from the Gimcrack Dinner, held at York. Woodward was the guest of honor, having won the Gimcrack Stakes with Black Tarquin. The Gimcrack Dinner was described by J. Fairfax-Blakeborough in The Chronicle of the Horse as “an occasion for historic speeches, for the announcement of new Turf policy, of alterations to rules and procedure.” Despite his absence, Woodward sent along a speech to be delivered by the Marquess of Zetland, and the topic was foreseeable: once again, Woodward lobbied for the repeal of the Jersey Act.

Victor Child Villiers, 7th Earl of Jersey, for whom “The Jersey Act” was named. Image accessed via Wikipedia

The Jersey Act was not a government statute, as its name might suggest. Rather, it was named for Lord Jersey,  the senior steward of the British Jockey Club. Since 1913, the Jersey Act had effectively barred most American racehorses from recognition as Thoroughbreds in the General Stud Book, the register of Thoroughbred bloodlines for the British turf.

The Jersey Act pushed back against the influx of imported American bloodstock in the early 20th Century, following restrictions on gambling in the United States. The crackdown on gambling led to faltering racing prospects and a downturn in the value of horses for breeding. The new rule was expected to protect the value of British bloodlines by demanding bloodline purity.

Beginning in 1913, the General Stud Book required all included horses to be able to trace their pedigrees back to a registered horse in the General Stud Book. The rule would become known as “The Jersey Act.”

Many American Thoroughbreds had flawed pedigree paperwork, in large part due in no small part to the loss of breeding records during the American Civil War. Without the ability to successfully prove lineage back to the General Stud Book, American horses were excluded from future registration. The American Stud Book, first published in 1873, was much more lenient in its pedigree requirements.

William Woodward, Sr. Image accessed via Wikipedia

Through the 1930s and into the 1940s, American critics of the Jersey Act made their objections heard loud and clear. They argued for inclusion on the basis of performance as American horses had become extremely successful on the British turf. Woodward, who was chairman of the American Jockey Club, was a leading critic of the rule.

The American Stud Book, published by S. D. Bruce in 1873, only required five generations of pure lineage for inclusion.

In the end, the Jersey Act was overturned in the aftermath of World War II, when British breeding was left with few alternatives to improve bloodstock in the post-war era. By the time the rule was relaxed in 1949, American bloodlines were among the most successful in the world. It immediately removed the label of “half-bred” from some of the best competitors of the turf on either side of the Atlantic.

Wedding Photography by Spiering Photography

John Connolly has served as the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Head 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 

Before Eadweard Muybridge (English, 1830–1904) began systematically studying animal locomotion with his camera in 1877, understanding of how horses and other animals moved at faster gaits was tenuous at best. The series of photographs Muybridge produced allowed sporting artists to more accurately portray their subjects.

Eadweard Muybridge (English, 1830-1904), Horse and Rider, 1878, c. 1890 collotype, 19 x 24 1/8 inches, National Sporting Library & Museum, Judith & Jo Tartt, Jr. Photography Collection

Muybridge also explored ways to portray motion by combining photographs of different stages of action and displaying them together. He came up with a device known as a “zoöpraxiscope” in 1879. The zoöpraxiscope featured a disc with several images painted on to it, showing different stages of motion. A projector light was shone through the disc, and the shadows cast on the wall by the images as the disc was spun seemed to bring the pictures to life.

Eadweard Muybridge’s zoopraxiscope and disc Zoopraxiscope [CC BY-SA 4.0 (

W.E. Lincoln’s U.S. Patent No. 64,117 of Apr. 23, 1867, W.E. Lincoln [Public domain]

The zoöpraxiscope was difficult to produce, so another moving picture device called a “zoetrope” was more popular. This is a cylindrical device with images printed on the inside. When the device is spun and viewed through the slats, or “apertures,” the pictures form the moving image. Your eyes can’t perceive each picture fast enough to see them individually, but the “blanks” interspersed in between tell your brain that each picture is separate. Your brain and your eyes compromise and put together a moving picture that satisfies both. This is called the “Phi phenomenon,” and it only works if you view each image for less than 1/10th of a second. Any slower, and your eyes would be able to perceive each picture separately. Modern movies and videos work in a very similar manner; a series of images, called “frames,” cycle through the screen at around 60 frames per second. Some higher quality displays can display 300 frames per second!

NSLMology: The Science of Sporting Art, on view through September 15, 2019, features a zoetrope building station, but you can make one at home too! Download the pattern and instructions to make a zoetrope of a galloping racehorse.

Instagram post from April 27, 2019 Family Day showing a completed zoetrope

Be sure to stop by the museum and visit NSLMology: The Science of Sporting Art to learn more about motion and zoetropes, as well as ecology, weather, chemistry, and color theory. There are lots more zoetropes to try, including one with Muybridge’s Gentleman Jumping!

Cynthia Kurtz is the Spring 2019 Curatorial Intern at the National Sporting Museum and Library. She is currently pursuing a Master of Arts degree in Museum Studies at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. and graduated cum laude from Tulane University with a degree in Classical Literature in 2016. When not at the museum she can likely be found with her beloved horse Splash.

Coming from a non-sporting background I’ve learned a great deal about sporting topics since I joined NSLM three years ago.  One of my favorite discoveries is an American game bird, Scolopax minor, or the American Woodcock.  This bizarre bird also goes by a large number of colloquial names such as the Timberdoodle, the Whistledoodle, the Labrador twister, the Bogsucker, the Mudsnipe, and the Hokumpoke, just to name a few.

Photo: Fyn Kynd/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

The timberdoodle is a small bird with a well-camouflaged chunky body, a short neck and tail, and a very long, narrow, bill that ends in a prehensile tip.  This mobile tip allows it to find and grasp earthworms, the woodcock’s preferred food, as it probes underground with its bill.  The ears are positioned ahead of its eyes, between the eye socket and the base of its bill.  Its large eyes are located high and far back on its head giving it one of the broadest fields of vision of any vertebrate.   In order to provide space for this configuration, the woodcock’s brain is essentially upside down.  Its cerebellum is found under the rest of the brain, just above its spine, rather than in the usual position in the rear of the brain case.  No other bird sports this configuration.

Besides being odd looking the timberdoodle is also oddly behaved.  They have a very distinctive walk that resembles the inverse of a pigeon’s.  They step forward heavily with the front foot and rock their body back and forth while keeping their head still.  It is speculated that this disturbs worms in the ground allowing the woodcock to target them.  Regardless of function it is quite entertaining to watch.  Their vocalizations are also unusual.  The most common sound is described as a “peent,” and more closely resembles the call of an insect than of a bird.

Woodcocks eat their weight daily in earthworms and other invertebrates.  This diet requires moist ground and woodcock cover usually consists of young, dense forest with  plenty of damp, brambly, and brushy areas.  They drink a lot of water and rather than tilting the head back in the fashion of other birds, the timberdoodle uses its bill like a straw and sucks up a drink.

woodcock 5
Woodcock range map by Lang Elliott.

The range of the American woodcock covers the eastern half of North America from southern Canada to the Gulf of Mexico.  They breed in the north and migrate south for the winter.  They are crepuscular, active at dawn and dusk, and migrate by night.

In breeding season males sing and perform aerial displays to attract females.  Females brood and raise the chicks, usually four, alone.  Her nest is a simple hollow on the ground.

Woodcock eggs.  From the Missouri Department of Conservation

After 21 days of brooding the eggs split longitudinally and chicks, which are able to travel within just a few hours, emerge.  The chicks are born with nearly adult sized feet and their bills start out at 15 mm and grow 2 mm a day.  They will begin probing for worms after two days, are nearly full grown and flying in less than a month, and the family breaks up at 6 to 8 weeks.

Hen and chicks.  From Linda Rockwell’s Photo Feathers blog.

The enemies of the woodcock include domestic dogs and cats, foxes, and various raptors.  Their eggs are sought after by opossums, raccoons, skunks, and snakes.  In order to lure a predator away from her nest, the hen will create a distraction by faking a broken wing some distance from the nest and then breaking into flight at the last second as the predator attacks.  There have also been rare but persistent reports of woodcock hens flying out of harms way with their chicks clutched between their thighs.  Most modern authorities are skeptical of this behavior but the tales of witnesses continue to come in.

The American woodcock is a game bird whose hunting is regulated to a short period of time and a low bag limit.  The hunting can be challenging due not only to the woodcock’s preferred environment but also to its sometimes stubborn refusal to flush from cover.  One author I read said that he had to practically kick the bird out of cover.  Due to this predisposition to freeze in place and to it’s excellent camouflage, it is best to use a good bird dog, a pointer, retriever, or setter, to flush the birds from their cover. 

Two hunters and their dog in classic woodcock terrain.  From Living Water Guide

Finding them is not the only challenge.  Once flushed, they burst from practically underfoot in heavy cover and then fly rather erratically, zigging and zagging or suddenly dropping back to the earth.  Getting a good shot off is not easy.  If a hunter manages to bag a woodcock or two the birds make a dinner that is either adored or hated, there is no middle ground.  They are said to have a liver-like flavor.

The Library has numerous books about woodcocks and woodcock hunting.  In addition, the woodcock has been featured frequently in sporting art.  In fact, the Library’s annual auction this year (May 29-June 5) has two woodcock etchings.  The first is by Roland Clark (1943)…

roland clark

and the second is by William Schaldach (1940).


For more information about this unusual bird drop by the Library and I’d be pleased to share our books about the Timberdoodle with you.  Or read more about them at the various sites I’ve linked to in this week’s blog.

SONY DSCErica Libhart has served as the Mars Technical Services 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