Which reformation must be sudden too,
My noble lords; for those that tame wild horses
Pace ’em not in their hands to make ’em gentle,
But stop their mouths with stubborn bits, and spur ’em.
Till they obey the manege.
   — William Shakespeare, Henry VIII, Act 5, Scene 2

In many ways, Europe’s equestrian literary tradition began in 1550 with the publication of Gli Ordini di Cavalcare (The Rules of Riding) by Federico Grisone. Grisone was a famed Neapolitan riding master, and his was the first new book on riding in Europe since Xenophon. Grisone’s work was a huge success, and spread throughout Europe quickly. It was also a product of its age, and is noteworthy for its cruelty in the curbing of horses. Grisone’s treatments were grisly, and included such shocking practices as tying a cat to a horse’s belly to “cure” the horse of refusal to cross a river. Later editions of the work included detailed diagrams of harsh bits designed by Grisone to force the horse to obey instructions.

An illustration of a bit, from Gli Ordini Di Cavalcare, Federico Grisone, 1561. Grisone reputedly designed these harsh bits, intended to force the horse to submit and obey commands. Grisone was famous for his ability to break recalcitrant horses.

Bits during this period broke down into two main categories: snaffles, which exerted direct pressure on the lips, bars and tongue, and the harsher curb bits, that pinched and cut the horse’s chin. To save the mouth from permanent damage, some trainers turned to cavessans which acted on the nose and muzzle instead.

Frontispiece of The Art of Riding, a 1609 edition of the translation by Thomas Blundeville of Grisone’s Gli Ordini di Cavalcare. Although Blundeville revered Grisone, he was also among the moderate voices on the use of harsh bits, especially for young horses who were still being trained.

The tenor of these methods is rather unsurprising in the broader cultural context. The middle of the 16th Century was steeped in a philosophical tradition that viewed humans as the only thinking, feeling creatures in nature. The dominance over the horse became an analogue for man’s mastery over nature itself. But as equestrian literary offerings became more robust, varying schools of thought emerged on the practical matter of treatment of horses.

Image from A General System of Horsemanship, by the Duke of Newcastle. Writing in the 1650s, Newcastle was blunt about using physical punishment to curb recalcitrant horses, but also combined positive reinforcement as a most effective balance.

Through the late 1500s and into the 1600s, more and more voices advocated against the harsh methods. The moderate school included writers like Thomas Blundeville (who translated Grisone’s writings into English), Gervase Markham, and the Duke of Newcastle. All these writers struck a balance that required physical punishment for horses as a necessary part of training, but considered this a last resort, not a first treatment (for example, Markham advocated burning straw around a horse’s head as a treatment for obstinate refusal to carry burdens). In this light, most authors of the age took their cues from Xenophon. Of course, these perspectives were largely explored exclusively among the literate population of Europe. Servants, who were typically tasked with daily care but did not read, often mistreated the horses in their care.

Portrait of Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle, from the frontispiece to her Poems and Fancies, 1653. Lady Newcastle was an early writer advocating better treatment of animals and a rejection of the anthropocentric tradition.

Unsurprisingly, the advocates for gentler treatment often had more experience working directly with horses, and maintained that horses were intelligent and possessed memory, senses and feelings. By the middle of the 1600s, more thinkers began to admit the intelligence of animals, beginning with the horse. The Duchess of Newcastle, in her oft-criticized works, decried the anthropocentric view of her day, asserting that

…Man doth think himselfe so gentle, mild,
When he of Creatures is most cruell wild.
   — Margaret Cavendish, Lady Newcastle, Poems

Lady Margaret’s views, which included criticism of meat eating and hunting, were radical in her day. The growing sentiment toward gentle treatment, however, likely had more to do with practical considerations than abstract philosophies. As the quality of horses grew, they became valuable as commodities and as status symbols. Consequently, owners of good horses wanted to keep them in good condition. John Astley, in his book The Art of Riding, claims that harsh bits ruined horses, having “so dulled and deaded the senses and feeling, as he feeleth little of paine, of pleasure nothing at all, and of a sensible creature is made a senseless blocke.”

The shift in perspective was slowly reflected in the wave of equestrian literature from 1550 to 1650. Authors looked to underscore proper care and training of horses, as a worthy way to perfect human riders, but also to protect costly investments in horseflesh. From our current perspective, it’s also possible to trace the first stirring of a notion of animal rights and the deeper ethical considerations that govern the treatment of horses today.

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


When I first saw the oil study of Proctor Knott winning the First Futurity stakes held at Sheepshead Bay on Long Island in 1888, I didn’t immediately realize that the painting’s title referred to the name of the horse, not the jockey. Shelby “Pike” Barnes was up, one of several leading African-Americans in the sport at the end of the 19th century and the first to win over 200 races in one season (Read more about Pike Barnes’ record-breaking career on the National Museum of Racing & Hall of Fame website). Following closely in second place was Salvator ridden by Tony Hamilton, another leading black jockey. The purse collected by the winning race horse’s owner was a whopping $40,900 (over $1,000,000 today), the highest race earnings at the time.

Louis Maurer (American, 1832 – 1932), Proctor Knott (The First Futurity, 1888, Jerome Park, Sheepshead Bay, a Close Finish), c. 1888, oil on canvas, 12 ½ x 18 ⅛ inches, Gift of The Margaret Kendrick Blodgett Foundation in memory of Peter Winants, Director Emeritus of the National Sporting  Library, 2001

The hunched figures in the oil study by Louis Maurer in the National Sporting Library & Museum’s permanent collection may be construed by viewers as caricatures, especially in light of the fact that the artist drew conservative political cartoons that are blatantly racist and denigrating by today’s standards. Currier and Ives published them leading up to Republican Abraham Lincoln’s presidential election in 1860. One of the most extreme examples is titled An Heir to the Throne, Or the Next Republican Candidate.

The Library of Congress’s description for the image: “The Republicans’ purported support of Negro rights is taken to an extreme here. Editor Horace Greeley (left) and candidate Abraham Lincoln (resting his elbow on a rail at right) stand on either side of a short black man holding a spear. The latter is the deformed African man recently featured at P.T. Barnum’s Museum on Broadway as the “What-is-it.” (A poster for this attraction appears on the wall behind.) Greeley says, “Gentlemen allow me to introduce to you, this illustrious individual in whom you will find combined, all the graces, and virtues of Black Republicanism, and whom we propose to run as our next Candidate for the Presidency.” Lincoln muses, “How fortunate! that this intellectual and noble creature should have been discovered just at this time, to prove to the world the superiority of the Colored over the Anglo Saxon race, he will be a worthy successor to carry out the policy which I shall inaugurate.” The black man wonders, “What, can dey be?” Source and image: https://www.loc.gov/resource/cph.3a05736/

Although this is difficult imagery to associate with Currier & Ives and Louis Maurer, the successful lithography firm’s company policy was business before politics. They produced satire expressing sentiments held across the political spectrum. For example, Maurer drew a pro-Lincoln cartoon, The Political Oyster House, also published by the firm in the same year.

Currier & Ives was much more widely known for creating a market for its broad variety of affordable art prints than for its caricatures. Among the last images Maurer contributed to the firm was the completed painting of the 1888 First Futurity race upon which the NSLM’s oil study was based. It was reproduced as a large chromolithograph titled The Futurity Race at Sheepshead Bay to appeal to middle-class collectors who could afford the image that commemorated an important moment in racing history.

inscribed: To the Coney Island Jockey Club this print of The Futurity Race at Sheepshead Bay. Sept 3, 1888. Value $50,000 Won by Proctor Knott is dedicated by the publishers. Painted by L. Maurer. Copyright 1889 By Currier & Ives, New York. Printed in oil colors and published by Currier & Ives, 115 Nassau St. N.Y.  Proctor Knott (Barnes) Salvator (Hamilton) Galen (Turner), Image and source: https://www.loc.gov/resource/pga.00720/

The large original oil on canvas is in the collection of the National Museum of Racing & Hall of Fame in Saratoga Springs, New York. The painting and print reveal a stylistic consistency between the depiction of the African-American and Caucasian jockeys portrayed in the composition with the crowd in the distance focused on the action of the race.

It’s hard to imagine now, but Sheepshead Bay was in the racing capitol of the United States. From 1879 and 1910, three venues were established in Brooklyn within miles of one another which were accessible by new rail lines. The Brighton Beach track opened in 1879; then the picturesque dirt and turf tracks at Sheepshead Bay were begun in 1880 and 1886 respectively (where the First Futurity took place). The Gravesend Track operated by the Brooklyn Jockey Club was started in 1886. These tracks attracted sportsmen and race-goers from across all walks of life to Coney Island.

Louis Maurer (American, 1832 – 1932) First Futurity (detail), 1888, oil on canvas, 36 x 60 inches, National Museum of Racing & Hall of Fame’s Permanent Collection, Gift of George D. Widener. Image Source: https://www.racingmuseum.org/sites/default/files/styles/front_page_rotator/public/1955.15-1140×500.jpg?itok=Lfxvfux4

At the height of their popularity, the races drew as many as 40,000 spectators to the region during the season of May through October. The booming flat racing industry was fueled by sportsmen and supported by jockeys, trainers, grooms, and stable hands who traveled there seasonally. A community of hospitality workers also arose.

Many of these working-class men and women were African-Americans facing the rising tide of racism that would soon culminate in the spread of segregation laws across the United States by the early twentieth century. While race relations were  complex, Louis Maurer’s painting, oil study, and print of the 1888 First Futurity as well as works by other artists of the era capture a slice of history to be embraced and honored for what they represent, a time when African Americans dominated the sport of racing as acclaimed  top athletes and were depicted in this historically significant role.

To read more about this topic, please see They Rode to WinClarice & Robert H. Smith Educator Anne Marie Barnes’s blog and the upcoming public program on June 13, 2017, Race Forms: African-American Jockeys in Eadweard Muybridge’s Animal Locomotion and Gilded Age Philadelphia by Dr. John Ott, a part of the Heroes & Underdogs lecture series.

pfeifferClaudia Pfeiffer has been the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Curator of Art 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 cpfeiffer@nationalsporting.org

In the racing world, horses and jockeys are the heroes of the track. Amid trainers, grooms, and thousands of spectators, no individual is easier to identify than the brightly-clad jockey. They are a symbol of power, skill, and grace, a psychological link between man and horse. African-American jockeys are no exception.

Early American racing history was directly shaped by black hands. Slaves and freed men alike raced and trained Thoroughbreds throughout the country. After the Civil War, former slaves became paid jockeys and stable staff at the farms and plantations where they grew up taking care of the horses. Their knowledge of and connection with race horses were an underpinning of American racing, and many races featuring African-American jockeys, often in equal number to white competitors. In fact, in the first 28 runnings of the Kentucky Derby (1875-1903), 15 of the winners were African-American.

Edward Muybridge, The Horse in motion. “Sallie Gardner,” owned by Leland Stanford; running at a 1:40 gait over the Palo Alto track, 19th June 1878 , albumen, 1878, Library of Congress. 
Muybridge’s early photographic records of black jockeys and boxers show conflicting messages in 19th century race relations. They perpetuate imagery of African-American strength and obedience, while also representing the social mobility of successful black individuals within those sports.

Men like Isaac Murphy, Oliver Lewis, Shelby “Pike” Barnes, and many others used the stereotype of black athleticism to garner respect and greater social and economic freedom. Some were able to negotiate salaries of up to $400,000 in today’s money, an income almost unheard of for black Americans at the time. They raced with a passion familiar to all sport lovers. After an 1890 win at Sheepshead Bay, Isaac Murphy told a reporter simply, “I ride to win.”

Louis Maurer (American, 1832-1932) Proctor Knott (The First Futurity, 1888, Jerome Park, Sheepshead Bay, a Close Finish), 1888, oil on canvas, 13 1/4 x 19 inches
Gift of the Margaret Kendrick Blodgett Foundation, at the request of Mrs. Blodgett’s granddaughter, Margaret Hall Whitfield, in honor of Peter Winants, Director Emeritus of the National Sporting Library, 2001
      Favored to win, Proctor Knott with Shelby “Pike” Barnes up takes 1st place at the 1888 First Futurity and a record $40,000 purse. Barnes was the leading U.S. jockey in both 1888 and 1889. He was also the first jockey to win over 200 races in a year and was among several successful African-American jockeys that dominated the sport in the late 19th century. Barnes was inducted into the National Museum of Racing & Hall of Fame in 2011.


However, the heyday of black American jockeys came to an end. Jim Crow laws and 1896’s “separate but equal” ruling in Plessy v. Ferguson made it harder and harder for black jockeys to find employment. While African-Americans were welcome trainers, grooms, and stable hands throughout the 20th century, they were often shut out from the more visible and lucrative position of jockey. Although tracks are now desegregated and several black jockeys have been elected into the National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame, there are significantly fewer African-American wearing silks today. According to a 2013 Jockey’s Guild study, there are only about 30 African-Americans in a membership of nearly 1,000 individuals.

Andre Pater (Polish, American, b. 1953) Going to the Post, 2011, oil on canvas, 24 x 28 inches, Collection of Nils and Samantha Brous © Andre Pater.
Contemporary sporting artist Andre Pater began incorporating African Americans into his work in acknowledgment of the previously marginalized black jockeys of the 19th century.


Andre Pater (Polish, American, b. 1953) Jockey Up, Turquoise and Gold Silks, pastel on board, 34 x 24 inches, 2008. Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Jose Laudo De Camargo © Andre Pater

Racing contributions and successes by black jockeys demonstrate the value of representation- both on the track and on canvas. African-American jockeys in the closing years of the 19th century dominated the sport in many ways. Yes, they won countless races and took home impressive purses. But they also showed – and still show – great tenacity and passion. They are smart, skilled, and talented competitors whose achievements continue to inspire us.

Want to know more about African-American jockeys and Gilded Age imagery? Join us on June 13th for a Heroes & Underdogs talk with Dr. John Ott of James Madison University. Dr. Ott will be presenting “Race Forms: African-American Jockeys in Eadweard Muybridge’s Animal Locomotion and Gilded Age Philadelphia”.



Anne Marie Barnes is the Clarice & Robert H. Smith Educator 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


This weekend I’ll be going to the Virginia Foxhound Show.  It will be my first time at a hound show and although I’ll be going with someone knowledgeable, I’ve been doing a little homework and thought I’d pass along what I’ve learned thus far.

The Virginia Foxhound Club Hound Show at Mrs. Marion DuPont Scott’s “Montpelier,” Orange , Virginia, 1959, by Jean Bowman. National Sporting Library and Museum, Archive Collection (MC0040).

The developmental history of foxhound breeds can and has filled volumes.  The English foxhound was developed through the cross breeding of several varieties of hounds used to hunt hare and stag.  The goal was to create a pack hound with nose and stamina enough to hunt the red fox across long distances, with mounted hunters following behind.  As the story goes, the American foxhound’s development began with a pack of hounds imported to the colonies by Robert Brooke in 1650. Over the next 200 years additional imports of English, French, and Irish hounds were crossbred with the American hounds ultimately resulting in the modern American foxhound.

Although both the English and American foxhounds were developed to hunt fox, breeders select for traits most beneficial in their local terrain.  This divergent selection has resulted in hounds with distinctly different physical characteristics.  The best summation of this difference that I found is that, American foxhounds are the Thoroughbred of foxhounds, while the English are Percherons.

Example of an American Foxhound.  Taken from The American Foxhound Club 1975 calendar. National Sporting Library and Museum archive collection (MC0020)

American foxhounds should have a slightly domed skull, long, large ears, large eyes, straight muzzle, well laid-back shoulders, a moderately long back, fox-like feet, and a slightly curved tail.

Example of an English foxhound.  Taken from The American Foxhound Club 1973 calendar. National Sporting Library and Museum archive collection (MC0020)

By comparison, the English foxhound is a bit shorter and more heavily built.  They have a wider skull and long muzzle.  Their ears are noticeably shorter and higher set than the American hounds, and their legs are muscular and straight-boned, with rounded, almost cat-like paws.

While hound shows can be interesting to the layperson, and are certainly social events for the groups involved, their main purpose is to further refine the development of the breeds.  It is an opportunity for breeders to see what others have accomplished, and to display their own successes.  Bloodlines with favorable traits are identified and plans are made to add them to breeding programs.

Program for the first Virginia Foxhound Show, 1934.  National Sporting Library and Museum archive collection (MC0071)

The first Virginia Foxhound Show was associated with the American Foxhound Club and was held in 1934 at the Montpelier estate of Mrs. Marion DuPont Scott.  The meet was suspended during WWII and did not resume until 1955 at which time it was run by the newly formed Virginia Foxhound Club.   The show continued at Montpelier until 1961 when it was moved to the Upperville Horse Show grounds.  In 1965 it was relocated for several years to William W. Brainard, Jr.’s  estate, Glenara, near Marshall.  Finally it settled at Oatlands in 1970 and remained there until 1996 when it moved to its current location at Morven Park.

This emblem decorates the silver cups presented as trophies in The Virginia Hound Show.  National Sporting Library and Museum archive collection (MC0040)

Although the show originally focused only on American Foxhounds, in the late 1960s it began to open up and now features American, English, Cross-bred, and Penn-Marydel Foxhounds.  Today the Virginia Foxhound Show is the largest sanctioned hound show in the world.

Here’s what I’ve been told to expect at the show.  All handlers wear long white coats.  Those showing English hounds, sport bowler hats, while all others use riding helmets.  English hounds are shown off leash, showcasing natural movement.

Taken from The American Foxhound Club 1974 calendar. National Sporting Library and Museum archive collection (MC0020)

There are contests for the best of both sexes of, individual hounds, couples of hounds, and parent/offspring, within each class, American, English, Cross-bred, and Penn-Marydel.  The hounds are judged for conformation to an ideal breed standard.

Taken from The American Foxhound Club 1969 calendar. National Sporting Library and Museum archive collection (MC0020)
Taken from The American Foxhound Club 1972 calendar. National Sporting Library and Museum archive collection (MC0020)

There are also pack classes of five couple of hounds.  These are judged as a unit on uniformity, conformation, and way of moving; on the obedience of hounds to huntsman; and on the responsiveness of hounds to huntsman.

Taken from The American Foxhound Club 1974 calendar. National Sporting Library and Museum archive collection (MC0020)

The Junior Handler Class is open to children associated with exhibiting packs.  There are two divisions, aged under 10, and aged 11-16.  Participants are judged on handling and presentation of the foxhound.  This promises to be quite cute as the children sport the same white coats and hats as adult handlers.  I’m looking forward to seeing all the hounds in person!

Taken from The American Foxhound Club 1975 calendar. National Sporting Library and Museum archive collection (MC0020)

If you would like to learn more about foxhounds, hunts, or sporting dogs in general, the Library has many resources available.  There are extensive archival materials on various hunts, their hound pedigrees, journals of kennel activities, hound shows, and hunt diaries.  The Main Reading Room houses books on a wide range of breeds and strains.  You can also learn about training sporting dogs, kennel construction, or the medical care of these canine athletes.  Readers can catch up on current events in the hound community through Hounds magazine, also available in the Main Reading Room.  Come visit me in the Library and I’d be happy to connect you with any of these resources.


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

As the story goes, contemporary sporting artist Andre Pater (pronounced “potter”) made a fateful wrong turn towards Paris, Kentucky, on the way to a meeting and experienced the beauty of the scenic thoroughbred farms in the pastoral region for the first time.  In 1988, he and his wife, Kasia, moved from Dallas, Texas, and have made the Kentucky Bluegrass their home ever since.

Before moving to the U.S., Pater received a formal academic art education, earning a Masters degree in Interior Architecture from the Kraków Academy of Fine Arts in his native Poland. There, he honed his skills in drawing and in easel-painting nudes. The artist, however, was fascinated by Arabian horses from an early age and taught himself to draw and paint animals. Direct observations from nature and study of previous Polish and sporting art masters fueled his creativity and exploration of different techniques.

The Meet
The Meet (Hilary J. Boone, Jr. and Hilary J. Boone, III), 1991, oil on canvas, 25 x 30 inches, Private Collection © Andre Pater

In Kentucky, the Paters first lived at Wimbledon Farm, the property of Hilary Boone, II, President of the Iroquois Hunt Club. It is here that Pater first began to artistically explore foxhunting along with the other sporting and animal subjects for which he has gained prominence. He persuaded Boone to sit for a sporting portrait along with his son, Hilary Boone, III, surrounded by the Iroquois pack in 1991. (Ironically, Boone, III, a polo player, first took up hunting seriously after the painting was completed.)

Pater’s growing success led to a rising tide of commissions and the need for a larger studio. He found one on the property of Penny Chenery, owner of the 1973 Triple Crown Winner Secretariat. The expansive space gave the artist the freedom to paint on a grander scale, and among these larger canvases were paintings of hounds.

Hounds in a Kennel
Hounds in a Kennel, 1995, oil on canvas, 28 x 32 inches, Private Collection © Andre Pater

Fully immersed in Kentucky country life, the Paters became social members of the Iroquois, and the artist gained unrestricted access to the kennels. Foxhunting and hounds subjects became an inspiration throughout his career.

One cannot help but be captivated by the individual personalities, anatomical accuracy, and physical movement that Pater is able to convey in his portrayals of hounds, figures, and other animals.  His mastery in capturing the characteristics of light and shadow with a painterly effect draws the viewer into the compositions. Pater paints his subjects from the inside out.

Heading Home, 1994, oil on canvas, 30 x 40 inches, Private Collection © Andre Pater

… and to think it all began with a wrong turn. The Paters’ involvement with the Iroquois has continued to the present. Kasia serves on the hunt club’s Board, and Pater has supported the Hound Welfare Fund – a program for Iroquois hounds retired due to age, illness, or injury – by donating limited edition prints and chalk drawings auctioned at the annual fundraiser in June.

Awake, 2011, charcoal on paper, 33 x 37 inches, Private Collection © Andre Pater

On Saturday, May 27, in celebration of Virginia Foxhound Show weekend, Andre Pater will return to the National Sporting Library & Museum to discuss several of his foxhunting and hound paintings and drawings in the exhibition, Andre Pater: In a Sporting Light, on view through August 13. The talk will be followed by a reception and lecture on the Hound Welfare Fund by Lilla Mason, MFH of Iroquois Hunt Club. For more information on the programs and to RSVP, please visit Nationalsporting.org.

pfeifferClaudia Pfeiffer has been the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Curator of Art 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 cpfeiffer@nationalsporting.org

“Mrs. Noland, I hesitate to suggest it, but do you think you might eliminate molasses from the boys’ breakfast?”

Rosalie Noland had welcomed the school headmistress to her home with her typical southern hospitality and grace, but the conversation had taken an unexpected turn.

Mrs. Noland had recently insisted her seven children learn civility and culture, and had brought them to Washington, D. C. for proper schooling. The children were not adjusting to city life well, and they longed to return to their country home in Middleburg, Virginia. Charlotte, the third oldest at age 13, deeply resented being away from her beloved animals and countryside and acting out had become common. But what did that have to do with the boys of the family eating molasses for breakfast?

Charlotte had been arriving to school late every day. When questioned, she blamed her tardiness on dish-washing duty, claiming that the sticky molasses on the plates prevented a prompt arrival. Unfortunately, that turned out to be a lie. Instead of going to school, Charlotte was sneaking off to a local zoo and helping the zookeeper train and feed a raccoon! The story is told in Charlotte’s biography, Charlotte Haxall Noland 1883-1969, published in 1970 by Foxcroft School.

The Noland family home, Burrland, in Middleburg, Virginia. From Charlotte Haxall Noland 1883-1969, 1970, published by Foxcroft School.

Ultimately, Charlotte was expelled for her truancy, and over the next two years, the educational struggle continued at other schools in Washington and Baltimore. Charlotte insisted that the teachers didn’t understand her, and that they made the lessons boring and inaccessible. She began to plot for her own school, a cherished dream that would some day come true.

Charlotte Haxall Noland (1883-1969) spent her childhood leading others (sometimes into mischief) and riding the farm horses around her family home of Burrland. The family reunited with Burrland after two years in the city, and a year later Charlotte went to stay with her aunt in Richmond to make her debut. It was an unqualified success, but upon her return home, the pragmatic Charlotte assessed the ritual as “a lot of fun, but really a waste of time.”

Miss Charlotte on Screwdriver. From Charlotte Haxall Noland 1883-1969.

A turning point came when Charlotte went to work. She found employment as the physical education teacher at St. Timothy’s School in Baltimore, and found that the gym suited her well. She went on to teach at Bryn Mawr School in a similar capacity, refining ideas for her dream school. Eventually she enrolled in a summer course in physical education through the Sargent School at Harvard where she learned the rules and how to officiate a new sport known as basketball.

Foxcroft students riding to Luray, Virginia. From Charlotte Haxall Noland 1883-1969.

Upon returning to Baltimore, Charlotte set up a gymnasium for girls, finding clients from all the surrounding schools. She built up enough capital to open her dream school, near her hometown of Middleburg. The school was named Foxcroft School (Charlotte fell in love with the name when she walked past a family home belonging to a Major Foxcroft one summer) and opened in 1914. Charlotte had her dream school at age 31.

Portrait of Miss Charlott Noland
Portrait of Miss Charlotte Noland, by Ellen Emmett Rand, The Collection of Foxcroft School, Middleburg, VA [image source: http://www.foxcroft.org/podium/default.aspx?t=204&sdb=1&nid=602199]
In many ways, Foxcroft was an expression of Charlotte Noland’s belief in the virtues of sport and physical competition. The school motto is “mens sana in corpore sano” (a healthy mind in a healthy body). Beagling was an early mandatory excursion for all students. A basketball tradition was founded at Foxcroft with an annual Thanksgiving game between the school’s two houses, the Foxes and the Hounds.

The Foxes, 1916: Sophie Fisher, Louise Stovall, Mildred Bromwell, Erwin Hayward (Capt.) Elizabeth Tomlin, Kitty Ulman. From Charlotte Haxall Noland 1883-1969.

Other sporting traditions began to take shape: the girls were trained in riding (aside or astride) by Miss Charlotte (as she would be called forever afterward) and, with parental approval, be given training on jumping their steeds. Students spent a weekend each year riding their horses to Luray, Virginia (a round trip of over 100 miles). A Coon Hunt was organized every October, and very soon the school had its own horse show.

Miss Charlotte on Van Epps, with the hunt girls. From Charlotte Haxall Noland 1883-1969.

From 1932 to 1946, Miss Charlotte served as Joint Master to the Middleburg Hounds with Daniel Sands. Early in the school’s development, she allowed the best riders from among her students to ride with the Middleburg Hunt. Miss Charlotte’s hunting career eventually came to an end, as she never truly recovered from a bad fall while hunting. She gradually lost the full use of her injured leg, and riding became difficult. Instead, she turned to fishing, spending her retirement in her boat, “The Sea Fox,” and she reportedly caught a 68 pound marlin!

The Winning Hunt Team: General Billy Mitchell, Miss Charlotte on Winterweather, and Frederick Warburg. From Charlotte Haxall Noland 1883-1969.

Many of the sporting traditions at the school have continued on, and riding is still a signature program of the school. Today, Foxcroft School is a cornerstone of Virginia’s hunt country and an embodiment of its founder’s vision.

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

This coming Saturday is a big day in the horse racing world! You don’t need us to tell you that May 6 is the 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville. The Virginia Gold Cup is also this Saturday, just down the road from us at Great Meadow in The Plains.

There are so many amazing horses, talented people, spectacular stories, and fun facts associated with both of these big events – we could never share them all. Here are just a few stories about some of the four-legged stars connected with the collections here at the NSLM.

Sea Hero
This long-shot bay colt won the Derby in 1993. Today, Sea Hero is the oldest living Kentucky Derby winner and is enjoying a life of retirement standing at stud in Turkey.

Sea Hero
Tessa Pullan (English, b. 1953), Sea Hero, 1995, bronze, on stone base, 88 x 29 ½ x 96 inches, including base, Bequest of Paul Mellon, 1999, Acquired 2014 [(c) Tessa Pullan]
One of the very few grey horses to win the Derby (only eight have ever done so), Determine won in 1954 – the same year the National Sporting Library was founded.

Man O’War
One of the most famous names in American horse racing never actually ran in the Kentucky Derby, but his progeny went on to win quite a few. The chestnut stallion’s offspring included 1937 Triple Crown winner War Admiral, and he is found in the bloodlines of most top thoroughbreds, all the way up to American Pharaoh (2015) and Nyquist (2016). Another son was steeplechaser Battleship, the first American horse to win the English Grand National Steeplechase in 1938.

Marilyn Newmark (American, 1928-2013), Man O’War, 1977, bronze, 10 ½ x 14 ¾ x 3 ½ inches, Gift of Jacqueline B. Mars, 2016.  Newmark, who is known primarily for her equestrian sculpture, created this posthumous portrait after referencing the many photographs documenting the champion thoroughbred.

Gallant Fox
Gallant Fox was the second horse to ever win the Derby, Preakness, and Belmont races (1930), and the first to be referred to as a “Triple Crown” winner by the press. Gallant Fox: A Memoir, written in 1931 by the horse’s owner, William Woodward, Sr., is one of the scarcest books ever printed by the Derrydale Press. The copy in the F. Ambrose Clark Rare Book Room here at the NSLM is numbered one of fifty (but the whereabouts of only five copies are currently recorded).

The Celebrated Horse Lexington, by Boston, out of Alice Carneal, and Churchill Downs, Derby Day, c. 1946, Published by Currier & Ives, Gift of Mrs. Parker Poe, 1978

Lexington never ran in the Derby either. In fact, he died in 1875, the first year the Kentucky Derby was run. But Lexington was the leading sire in America for decades. This print in the NSLM collection features a portrait of Lexington after Louis Maurer (German/American, 1832-1932). The portrait is surrounded by images of the first 71 Derby winners – from Aristides (1875), up through Hoop Jr. (1945).

You can see a portrait of the 1973 Triple Crown winner Secretariat, along with Derby winners Smarty Jones (2004), Barbaro (2006), and many other gorgeous thoroughbreds in our newest exhibition Andre Pater: In a Sporting Light.

Andre Pater (Polish/American, b. 1953), Secretariat, 2004, pastel on board, 20 x 24 inches, Private Collection [(c) Andre Pater]

Happy Race Day!