Since 1939, the Piedmont Foxhounds have hosted the Piedmont Point-to-Point races in Upperville, Virginia. The most prestigious race of the meet is the Rokeby Challenge Bowl, which, for decades, has attracted top horses in training for major steeplechase races. From 1939 until his death in 1999, the race and trophy were sponsored by Mr. Paul Mellon, who was a member of Piedmont and an avid supporter of jump racing. The winner of the race received a small trophy to keep and their names were engraved on a large perpetual trophy which they could keep for one year. Those who won the race three times (not necessarily consecutively or with the same horse) retired the trophy and could take it home for keeps. The trophies provided by Mr. Mellon were exquisite examples of silver and were highly sought after prizes.

The Rokeby Bowl, Piedmont Point-to-Point trophy, c. 1720, sterling silver, on wood and silver base, 15 x 10 ⅞ inches, National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of Mary Gillian Fenwick, 2016

One of the original silver Rokeby Bowl trophies has been generously donated to the NSLM by Mary Gillian “Gill” Fenwick. Mrs. Fenwick retired the Rokeby Bowl after winning the race three consecutive years, in 1961, 1962, and 1963. She was just the third owner to retire the trophy (five more have done so since then). Her winners were piloted by the famous steeplechase jockey Crompton “Tommy” Smith, Jr., all three years. The horses were Bay Barrage (1961), General Tony (1962), and Fluctuate (1963).

fenwick-tommy-smith-on-fluctuate-1963
Tommy Smith aboard Fluctuate, in the 1963 Rokeby Bowl steeplechase. Tommy Smith (1937-2013) was a five-time Maryland Hunt Cup winner and became famous for winning the British Grand National race in 1965 with Jay Trump.  Photo courtesy of Carol Fenwick. ©Howard Allen Photography, LLC

All three were talented racers. After winning in 1961, Bay Barrage ran again in 1962 with Olympic equestrian Frank Chapot on board. He placed third against his stablemate General Tony. Past Maryland Hunt Cup winner Fluctuate, nicknamed “Chris,” won in 1963 when he was 16 years-young and was rewarded with well-earned retirement.

fenwick-tommy-smith-mrs-thomas-b-glascock-jr-gill-fenwick-1961
Gill Fenwick (right) and Tommy Smith (left) accepting the Rokeby Bowl trophies from Mrs. Thomas B. Glascock, Jr. (center) in 1961. Photo courtesy of Carol Fenwick. ©Howard Allen Photography, LLC

The original course was on Mellon’s Rokeby Farm property in Upperville. The race was 4 1/4 miles long, included 22 post and rail fences averaging 3’9″ high, and included two in-and-outs! In 1957, the point-to-point was relocated to the farms of Mrs. J. F. F. Stewart and Dr. and Mrs. A. C. Randolph along Route 50 in Upperville, now known as the Salem Farm course.

fenwick-frank-chapot-on-bay-barrage-1962
Frank Chapot (1932-2016) on Bay Barrage in the 1962 running of the Rokeby Bowl. Chapot, who just recently passed away in 2016, was an Olympic medalist, USET coach, and world-renowned trainer, who also occasionally rode in steeplechases. Photo courtesy of Carol Fenwick. ©Howard Allen Photography, LLC

The trophy itself has more stories to tell. The bowl is almost 300 years old, dating to the year 1720. The plain silver punch bowl is hand-engraved with an image of a horse and jockey and inscribed with the words “Silver Tail’d Betty” and “Banbury Town Plate 1720.”  Town Plates (flat race meetings) were held in towns all over England for centuries. Prior to the establishment of the Jockey Club in the early 1750’s, each meet featured its own set of rules. The town of Banbury is located in Oxfordshire, in Southern England.

SONY DSC
Detail of Rokeby Bowl trophy, with engraving of horse and jockey and “Silver Tail’d Bettey”

After Mr. Mellon acquired the bowl, he added a tiered wooden base with sterling silver bands and donated it to Piedmont for the race. The NSLM is grateful to Mrs. Fenwick for gifting this special piece of racing history to the collection. It has traveled a long way since it was first used as a race trophy in 18th century England, then awarded at steeplechase races in 20th century America, and now has a home on display at the NSLM.

The 76th running of the Piedmont Point-to-Point takes place Saturday, March 25th at the Salem Farm course in Upperville, Virginia. For a schedule of all the Spring Steeplechase races, visit the Virginia Steeplechase Association calendar.

While leafing through a copy of the June 3, 1905 edition of The Thoroughbred Record, I happened across a piece under the heading “Local Turf News,” that detailed the visit of John Porter to their editorial offices in Lexington, Kentucky.

Surely this didn’t mean the famous trainer of racehorses, John Porter (1838-1922), who trained horses for the likes of the Duke of Westminster and King George V? The first sentence describes the man who visited:

John Porter, jockey; 4 feet 1 inch in height; weight 98 1/2 pounds, was a caller at The Thoroughbred Record office on Thursday afternoon. There is nothing unusual about Porter’s being a jockey. His height and weight would indicate as much, but when one becomes aware that he is just about seventy-five years old — Porter says he is not quite sure as to his correct age, but “that’s how old white folks tells me I am” is the way he puts it — it dawns upon one that he must indeed be the oldest of all American jockeys now living.

It’s obvious this isn’t the British John Porter, but a man with no less remarkable experience with horses. Upon reading the small piece, I found myself drawn to the mysterious story of the unheralded African American jockey who was still riding at age 75.

The first thing to note is that it’s extremely difficult to find anything about John Porter. He is confirmed as an African American jockey residing in Lexington in the Directory of African Americans in Lexington, KY, 1893 by D. Y. Wilkinson. If he was indeed 75 in 1905, he would have been born in 1830. The article in The Thoroughbred Record says that

Porter was born at the Col. Innis place on the Maysville pike and has been a resident of Lexington all his life, and was exceedingly proud of his owners and trainers badge which gained him admittance to the recent spring meeting, which was by no means his first, and, it is hoped, will not be the last…

It’s likely that Porter was born a slave as were many jockeys of the period. The antebellum racing scene was run largely on the labors of talented African American trainers and jockeys. Porter worked with horses from an early age, exercising horses for John Cameron at the Kentucky Association Course.

kentuckyassociationracetrack-1920
Kentucky Association Racetrack, 1920, by Kraemer Art Company Postcard Proofs – Kentucky Historical Association. Via Wikipedia.

His first mount for a race was on a half-sister of Lexington named Maid of Orleans. It did not go well, at least not immediately. From The Thoroughbred Record:

[S]he jumped the fence, spilling Porter, who claims she ran away clean to the Dicks River cliffs before she was caught. She was eventually found and brought back, and gave Porter his first winning ride on the next day of the meeting.

Success brought opportunity and Porter landed at the stables of Dr. Elisha Warfield, who bred Lexington, then known as Darley. The complexities of the ownership and running of Lexington are their own story, but when ownership shifted and Darley was re-named Lexington, the jockey who rode the newly-christened horse to victory at the 1853 Phoenix Hotel Stakes was John Porter.

SONY DSC
Lexington, c. 1870, Edward Troye (American, 1808-1874) charcoal on paper, 26 x 18 inches, National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of Ms. Elizabeth J. D. Jeffords, 2008.

In fact, it appears that Porter was the preferred jockey for Lexington again for his most famous match against Le Compte, but Porter, according to The Thoroughbred Record, was “with” a Mr. Viley who refused to allow Porter to travel to Louisiana to ride.

lexington_horse_mullen
Lexington in Stable, James Mullen – Robert N. Dennis Collection of Stereoscopic Views of Kentucky, 1875. Via Wikipedia.

A facial infection caused Lexington to go blind, forcing his retirement in 1855, but was a leading sire 16 times before his death in 1875. Porter, however, went on to success as a jockey, and trainer.

I found another article in The Thoroughbred Record about John Porter, this time from September 7, 1918:

An unique figure at the Kentucky Association track is an exercising boy named Porter, grandson of the famous jockey, John Porter, who rode at Lexington in many races, including the Phoenix Hotel Stakes, and who had the mount on Ten Broek in the St. Ledger at Louisville when the noted record-holder finished second to King Alfonso in that classic.

Another John Porter, a grandson carrying forward the family tradition of working with horses. When giving tours at our Library, I often point out that the threads of history are extremely delicate. Although John Porter was considered famous in Kentucky horse circles in 1918, he is today very difficult to find in the pages of history.

The contributions of African American jockeys were so often unacknowledged in historical accounts, but they made huge contributions to their sport. Although the record-keeping is imperfect, we’re fortunate to have at least some resources that let us trace the events. Without them, I never would have heard about our John Porter, the man who once rode to victory aboard one of the greatest race horses in American history.


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

Finding blog post topics is a challenge. I was leafing through an 1888 copy of The New York Sportsman when a headline caught my eye. It documented an embarrassing (and dangerous) episode that occurred in Chicago on Monday, July 16 of that year. The article was reprinted from a Chicago Tribune report, politely entitled “A Panic-Stricken Race-Crowd.” The original article was far less flattering, terming the event a “Ludicrous Panic at the West Side Driving Park.”

1890garfield
Garfield Race Track, 1890. From Chicagology.

I was born in Chicago, and grew up knowing almost nothing of the city’s horseracing history. The Chicago Driving Park was founded in 1863 and operated continuously under many different owners into the early 20th Century. The track eventually became known as Garfield Race Track, on a portion of today’s Garfield Park in the western part of Chicago.

The track was a trotting track, a hugely popular form of racing for urban communities in the 19th Century. Thousands of attendees would attend (and gamble) on the races, with the massive crowds often packed shoulder-to-shoulder. It created a situation that could easily devolve. Our Tribune reporter paints a scene that’s both humorous and exasperated:

0130171539
“All sorts of cries were raised. Some one yelled ‘Dynamite!’ Another cried, ‘Mad Dog!’ Another, ‘The stand’s falling!’ Another, ‘A runaway horse!’ Another, ‘Anarchists!'”

The reporter tells that his notepad and paper were knocked from his hands in the stampede as racegoers crowded to climb the fences and escape the threat of doom. Never forgetting his role, our reporter immediately began interviewing people in the bedlam:

“Every one was asking what the trouble was and no one knew. ‘I had to run,’ explained one, ‘or I would have been knocked down and trampled on. I didn’t know what I was running for, but when I got going I made great time.'”

Racegoers, policemen, and even the bookmakers joined the estimated 12,000 stampeders. The bookmakers kept their priorities in the confusion:

“When the scare came they grabbed their cash-boxes and departed, and the way the clerks got out over the sides of their inclosures would have made a cat envious. Four of them even forgot to take their money drawers with them. But everything was found intact when they returned.”

trottingpark1882
Chicago Trotting Park (West Side Driving Park), Picturesque Chicago, by Chicago Engraving Company, 1882 From Chicagology.

But what was the mysterious cause of the stampede? The answer was nothing nearly as fearsome as an anarchist’s bomb:

“[A]s a matter of fact, not one man in a hundred knew what the trouble was until it was all over. The trouble was that the flooring under the gambling shed cracked. That made the noise and started the stampede.Some one heard it, and raised the cry that the stand was falling. In such a crowd it required little to make a scare. The stand was in no more danger of falling than it has been for years.”

Racegoers were lucky that there were no fatalities from the mad dash for the exits. The main result was a sheepish crowd returning to the track and a snarky report in local and national papers the following day.


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

Many readers may not realize it, but the vast majority of the books at the National Sporting Library have been donated to us.  We rarely purchase titles.  In 1954, two of our founders, Alexander Mackay-Smith and George L. Ohrstrom Sr., pooled their personal libraries to create the National Sporting Library.  Since then the collection has grown and evolved through donations both large and small from the community.

The library today is a reflection of the interests of the sporting community.  We have books, both scholarly and for the layperson, on a large variety of equine topics, as well as on art, angling, hunting, wingshooting, hounds, firearms, biography, and general sporting.  The sporting community has a long tradition of poking fun at itself and as such, you will also find humorous books on our shelves.

tickner-port
John Tickner, Horse & Hound Magazine, 6 March 1997, pg. 12

John Tickner (1913-1997) was a prolific writer and cartoonist.  He is probably best known for his weekly cartoon in Horse & Hound magazine where he worked for twenty years.  In addition, he also wrote and illustrated numerous lighthearted books on horses, riding, and country life.

Here at NSLM we have ten volumes by Tickner and one compilation of his Horse & Hound cartoons.

tickner-booksTickner’s Dog Licence (1957), Tickner’s Light Horse (1958), Tickner’s Show Piece (1958), Tickner’s Horse Encyclopaedia (1960), To Hounds with John Tickner (1962), Tickner’s Pub (1965), Tickner’s Rural Guide (1967), Tickner’s Hunting Field (1970), Tickner’s Terriers (1977), Tickner’s Ponies (1991, c1966), and Tickner’s Horse & Hound (1997).

Here’s a closer look at Tickner’s Horse Encyclopaedia (1960).

tickners-enc
John Tickner, 1960.

Under A…

Accident: “An accident is an awful thing when it is happening to you but, if you happen to survive it – and quite a few horse persons do – it gives you a wonderful opportunity to bore everyone you meet for weeks, months and even years.”

tickner-accident
Tickner’s Horse Encyclopaedia, by John Tickner, 1960, pg. 7.

Under C…

Colour: “The colour of horses is one of the most useful topics of conversation if you wish to trap people who pretend to know about horses into revealing that they don’t.  All horses are a colour and some horses are several.  The essential thing to know is that a horse is hardly ever the colour it appears to be.”

tickner-color-1
Tickner’s Horse Encyclopaedia by John Tickner, 1960, pg. 29

And under M…

Mount: “The most spectacular way of mounting (see films and television) is to leap from a balcony.  This is frightfully spectacular and is most spectacular when the horse moves off just as the mounting person is in the middle of leaping from the balcony.”

tickner-mount
Tickner’s Horse Encyclopaedia by John Tickner, 1960, pgs. 68-69.

All of Tickner’s books are light, comical, and quick reads.  If you’re looking for a way to spend a cold winter afternoon, I encourage you to drop by the main reading room and settle into one of our comfy couches or chairs and have a laugh or two with John Tickner.


SONY DSC

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

The village of Middleburg and its surrounding beautiful Virginia hunt country boast numerous famous residents and visitors, both past and present. The portrait painter Ellen Gertrude Emmet Rand (1876-1941) can now officially be added to this list.

Rand was among the first females in the United States to succeed as a professional portrait artist. She was a contemporary of Mary Foote who painted Rand’s portrait.

Mary Foote (American, 1847-1938), Portrait of Ellen Emmet, c. 1907 image source: https://i0.wp.com/www.askart.com/photos2/2014/BAR20080801_6627/170.jpg
Mary Foote (American, 1847-1938), Portrait of Ellen Emmet, c. 1907 [ image source: http://www.askart.com/photos2/2014/BAR20080801_6627/170.jpg ]

Rand was formally trained, having attended classes at Cowles Art School in Boston and the Art Student League in New York City. She received instruction from some of the greats of her generation, studying at William Merritt Chase’s school in Shinnecock, New York, and with Frederick MacMonnies in Paris.

Ellen Emmet Rand, Frederick MacMonnies In His Studio, ca. 1898, William Benton Museum of Art Collection © University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT. http://benton.uconn.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/1519/2016/05/1969.17.jpg
Ellen Gertrude Emmett Rand (1875 – 1941), Frederick MacMonnies In His Studio, ca. 1898, William Benton Museum of Art Collection © University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT. [image source: http://benton.uconn.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/1519/2016/05/1969.17.jpg ]
Rand is perhaps best known for painting the official presidential portrait of Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1934, among the hundreds of portraits which she completed of politicians, captains of industry, socialites, artists, and scholars throughout her over forty-year career.

In 1936, the Sporting Gallery in New York City held an exhibition titled Sporting Portraits by Ellen Emmet Rand, N.A., featuring twenty of her hunt paintings. Among these, seven were of Virginia-based sitters. I have been researching this exhibition for an essay I am contributing to a book being developed for the University of Connecticut/William Benton Museum’s upcoming retrospective exhibition, The Business of Bodies: Ellen Emmet Rand (1875-1941) and the Persuasion of Portraiture, on view in Connecticut from October 2018 through March 2019.

.

Photocopy of Sporting Portraits by Ellen Emmet Rand exhibition pamphlet cover from the Frick Reference Library, National Sporting Library & Museum, Ellen Emmet Rand Curatorial files
Photocopy of Sporting Portraits by Ellen Emmet Rand, N.A. exhibition pamphlet cover from the Frick Art Reference Library, New York, National Sporting Library & Museum, Ellen Emmet Rand Curatorial files
Photocopy of Sporting Portraits by Ellen Emmet Rand exhibition pamphlet pages 2 and 3 the Frick Reference Library, National Sporting Library & Museum, Ellen Emmet Rand Curatorial files
Photocopy of Sporting Portraits by Ellen Emmet Rand, N.A. exhibition pamphlet pages 2 and 3 from the Frick Reference Library, New York, National Sporting Library & Museum, Ellen Emmet Rand Curatorial files

In exploring Ellen Emmet Rand’s densely-written diaries (years 1918 and 1926-1941) which are housed in the Ellen Emmet Rand archives held at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut, I am beginning to discover entries about Rand’s travels to Middleburg and the surrounding region to paint. Some of these portraits were in the 1936 exhibition.

Rand stayed at the Red Fox Inn in Middleburg in 1929 to paint the portrait of Foxcroft School founder and jt-MFH of the Middleburg Hunt, Miss Charlotte Noland (#7 in the Sporting Gallery pamphlet). Rand received what would become one of her favorite mares, Gandora, in lieu of payment for the painting. She wrote on March 8, 1929:

The deal for this portrait is a very good mare of Miss Charlotte’s  thoroughly broken + a fine jumper + a good size + a good horse quite nice looking. That is Miss Charlotte’s return for the portrait + I am well satisfied. (1929 Diary, Ellen Emmet Rand Archive, Box 6, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut)

Considering Rand was making between $3,000 and $4,500 per painting that year, it must have been quite a horse!

, The Collection of Foxcroft School, Middleburg, VA [image source: http://www.foxcroft.org/podium/default.aspx?t=204&sdb=1&nid=602199
Ellen Gertrude Emmett Rand (1875 – 1941), Miss Charlotte Noland, Joint M.F.H., The Middleburg Hunt, 1929, oil on canvas, 40 x 30 inches, Foxcroft School, Middleburg, Virginia [image source: http://www.foxcroft.org/podium/default.aspx?t=204&sdb=1&nid=602199 ]
In April and October of 1930, Rand stayed at the Orange County Hunt Club in The Plains  to paint Mrs. Harriet Harper and her husband Mr. Fletcher Harper, MFH of the Orange County (and an NSLM founder) respectively, #1 and 2 in the 1936 exhibition. (Read more about the couple here: Mr. and Mrs. Fletcher Harper by John Connolly) Rand only drew two sketches in her 1930 Diary; both were of Fletcher Harper. She made what she called “a fake start” of Mr. Harper’s portrait on October 1,1930:

October 1-2, 1930 diary entries by Ellen Emmet Rand
Sketch of Fletcher Harper, October 1-2, 1930 diary entries by Ellen Emmet Rand, 1930 Diary, Ellen Emmet Rand Archive, Box 6, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut

I started F. this p.m. Made a fake start, the position + lights were not quite right! I will make a fresh start tomorrow. He is awfully good fun to paint. (1930 Diary, Ellen Emmet Rand Archive, Box 6, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut)

The passage most likely refers to the incomplete painting in the NSLM’s permanent collection.

Ellen Gertrude Emmett Rand (American, 1875-1941) Study for Portrait of Fletcher Harper (1874-1963), c. 1931, oil on canvas, 45 x 34 ½ inches. National Sporting Library & Museum, gift of Mrs. Fletcher Harper, 1972.
Ellen Gertrude Emmett Rand (American, 1875-1941), Study for Portrait of Fletcher Harper (1874-1963), c. 1931, oil on canvas, 45 x 34 ½ inches. National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of Mrs. Fletcher Harper, 1972

The artist, however, did not only come to Virginia hunt country to work. She and her husband William Blanchard Rand were both accomplished equestrians and sometimes made trips to The Plains on and around Thanksgiving to ride, shop for horses, attend the Warrenton Point-to-Point, visit with friends and acquaintances, foxhunt, and hilltop. Rand’s portrait completed in January 1936 of her husband, who was MFH of Old Chatham and a polo player, depicts him in his hunt attire. It was #12  in the 1936 Sporting Gallery exhibition.

William B. Rand, ca. 1935
Ellen Gertrude Emmett Rand (American, 1875-1941), William B. Rand, ca. 1935, William Benton Museum of Art Collection © University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT. [image source: http://benton.uconn.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/1519/2016/05/1969.18.jpg ]
It is not surprising that Ellen Emmet Rand as a portrait painter who loved horses would be drawn to the Middleburg area. I look forward to discovering other local places she may have rested her head as I continue to delve into her first-person account to research the 1936 Sporting Gallery exhibition.

If you are willing to share information about any Ellen Emmet Rand works, especially the whereabouts of any of the Sporting Gallery exhibition paintings listed above, please contact me. It is an opportunity to flesh out scholarship with nine specialists who are focusing on the life and times of Ellen Emmet Rand. Not only will the research support this project, but we are developing an exhibition for the National Sporting Library & Museum as well.

Writer's Retreat, December 1, 2016, Essay authors consult the Ellen Emmet Rand manuscript collection at UConn’s Archives and Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center.
Writer’s Retreat, December 1, 2016, Essay authors consult the Ellen Emmet Rand manuscript collection at UConn’s Archives and Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center. Project lead and Curator: Alexis Boylan, UConn-Art & Art History; Essay Contributors: Emily Burns, Auburn University; Betsy Fahlman, Arizona State University; William Harris, Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum (not pictured); Elizabeth Lee, Dickinson College; Emily Mazzola, Fitchburg Art Museum; Claudia Pfeiffer, National Sporting Library & Museum (not pictured); Susan Spiggle, UConn- School of Business; Thayer Tolles, Metropolitan Museum of Art; and Christopher Vials, UConn-English (not pictured).

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

 

Several months ago, I saw a fascinating column by John Kelly in The Washington Post that looked at an outbreak of equine influenza in 1872. The column looks at the impact on Washington, DC and Richmond of “The Great Epizootic,” a massive outbreak that impacted Canada and most of the United States between October and December of that year. Since my desk is less than 30 feet from the NSLM’s collection of 19th Century newspapers, I decided to see if any of our materials could help tell the story.

Two resources were most prominent in our collection on the topic: The Turf, Field and Farm and The Spirit of the Times. Both were weekly newspapers printed in New York City, but enjoyed a national audience that submitted small columns or letters spread throughout the paper.

“The disease appears to be a form of influenza, and is classed by veterinary authorities under three heads, viz., the catarrhal, rheumatic and the gastro-erysipelatous forms. The disease, which has made such havoc in the stables of Buffalo, Niagara and [Rochester], is of a catarrhal character, its first noticeable symptoms being a flow of tears from the eyes, a watery discharge from the nose, and general languor, followed by a cough.”

“The Horse Epidemic,” The Turf, Field and Farm, October 25, 1872

The papers assert that the disease first broke out in Canada and trailed south quickly, infecting stables across the United States in a matter of days.

armitage1
Illustration from Every Man His Own Horse Doctor by George Armitage, 1877. The main symptom of “The Great Epizootic” was lethargy and weakness.

Almost overnight, “The Great Epizootic” became a national crisis. Although most food sources during the era were far more local than today, many other aspects of the economy ground to a halt without a means of transportation. The horse was still the main powerhouse for plowing and carting in rural communities, and by the 1870s, urban travel had quickly become dependent on the horse to pull rail cars and trolleys in the cities.

horse-drawn_rail_car_of_the_toronto_street_railway_company_circa_1889
Horse-drawn rail car of the Toronto Street Railway Company, High Park line, at King and Queen Streets, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, circa 1889. Toronto Public Library, via Wikimedia Commons.

Even worse, the epidemic was a critical factor in the Great Boston Fire, which broke out on November 9 and destroyed over 750 buildings in twelve hours. The Boston Fire Department’s horses were unable to pull tanks and engines when the fire broke out, forcing the department to respond to the fire with volunteers pushing equipment on foot.

“The fire departments of London and New York have put out thousands of fires every bit as threatening in the commencement, and in as crowded neighborhoods, as the one at Boston. But at the latter place the sickness of the horses induced the fire companies to draw their own engines, heavy engines, to the fire. Before they reached it and got to work it was beyond their control.”

“The Horse Epidemic: The Boston Fire,” The Spirit of the Times, November 16, 1872.

aftermath_of_fire_of_1872_14226308730
Aftermath of the Great Boston Fire of 1872. Public Works Department photograph collection, Collection 5000.009, City of Boston Archives, Boston, via Wikimedia Commons.

The challenges of contemporary American veterinary science were on full display during the crisis as conflicting theories of medicine and contagion resulted in recommendations from sources reliable or otherwise. The editors of The Turf, Field and Farm took a commonsense approach to their advice, endorsing the course of action that history would bear out as correct: give the patient rest, keep her comfortable, and feed her well.

ad
An ad for Taylor’s Great Compound in the November 16, 1872 issue of The Spirit of the Times. Businesses that lost money for each day a horse was ill were willing to pay well for those who claimed to have “the cure.”

The mortality rate of “The Great Epizootic” is estimated at no higher than 10 percent, but it likely could have been lower were it not for the great economic pressures to resist giving adequate rest. It appears that most casualties were very old, or had been overworked. The reality is sad in retrospect, but we might excuse some of it due to just how important the horse was to everyday life in the 19th Century.


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

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.

burns
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.

surtees
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.

howitt1
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.

osbaldeston
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.

roosevelt
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