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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.”

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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:

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“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.”

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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

This year, the NSLM is fortunate to have received numerous gifts of art from several generous donors. One such gift is a rare set of 22 hand-colored aquatints from 1807 and 1808, Orme’s Collection of British Field Sports: Illustrated in Twenty Beautifully Coloured Engravings from Designs by S. Howitt – an impressively long name for an impressive set of works on paper. Published by Edward Orme of London (who proudly labeled himself as “Printseller to the King”)  the series features scenes of hunting, shooting, and racing. The works were recently donated to the NSLM by George and Susan Matelich and Family.

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(after) W. M. Craig (English, c. 1765-c.1834), Engraved by James Godby (English, active 1790-1820) and Henri Merke (Swiss, active c.1800 – c.1820), Orme’s Collection of British Field Sports: Illustrated in Twenty Beautifully coloured Engravings from Designs by S. Howitt (Title Page), Published by Edward Orme, January 1, 1807 hand-colored aquatint, image: 13 ¼ x 17 ⅜ inches, National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of George & Susan Matelich and Family, 2016 (2016.04.01)

Originally housed in a large folio case, the prints are now framed individually. Yet all 20 plates, plus the title page, list of plates, and the original illustrated folio cover are still together. Oftentimes, these types of works are broken up and sold separately, never to be reunited. Full sets are rare.  Another complete set that is still bound as a folio can be found in the collection of the Yale Center for British Art.

(after) Samuel Howitt (English, 1765-1822) Engraved by James Godby (English, active 1790-1820) and Henri Merke (Swiss, active c.1800 – c.1820) Horse Racing Published by Edward Orme, January 1, 1807 hand-colored aquatint, 13 ¼ x 17 ⅜ inches National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of George and Susan Matelich and Family, 2016 (2016.04.04)
(after) Samuel Howitt (English, 1765-1822), Engraved by James Godby (English, active 1790-1820) and Henri Merke (Swiss, active c.1800 – c.1820), Horse Racing, Published by Edward Orme, January 1, 1807, hand-colored aquatint, 13 ¼ x 17 ⅜ inches, National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of George & Susan Matelich and Family, 2016 (2016.04.04)

Samuel Howitt was an artist known for his images of hunting, animals, and equestrian scenes. This set includes some of his best works and was a prized collection piece. Often described as a highly important set of English sporting images, these prints are excellent examples of the popular sporting art being produced at the beginning of the 19th century.

(after) Samuel Howitt (English, 1765-1822) Engraved by James Godby (English, active 1790-1820) and Henri Merke (Swiss, active c.1800-c.1820) Stag Hunting 1 Published by Edward Orme, March 1, 1807 hand-colored aquatint, 13 ¼ x 17 ⅜ inches National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of George and Susan Matelich and Family, 2016 (2016.04.07)
(after) Samuel Howitt (English, 1765-1822), Engraved by James Godby (English, active 1790-1820) and Henri Merke (Swiss, active c.1800-c.1820), Stag Hunting 1, Published by Edward Orme, March 1, 1807, hand-colored aquatint, 13 ¼ x 17 ⅜ inches, National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of George & Susan Matelich and Family, 2016 (2016.04.07)

The engravings are titled in both English and French. They are in excellent condition, with colors that are still vibrant – no small feat for fragile works on paper that are 210 years old. Deep reds and blues are usually the first to fade.

Detail of Stag Hunting 1
Detail of Stag Hunting 1, showing the fine condition of the blue and red colors

Each are numbered and feature the name of the artist, printmaker, and engraver in small script along the bottom edge.

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“Sam’l Howitt del.”

For those of you who have prints hanging on your walls at home and have wondered what the abbreviations stand for, here is a quick Latin lesson:
del. is short for delineavit, meaning  “Drawn By”
excudit means “Printed by” or “Published by”
sculp. or sculpt. is short for sculpsit, which means “Engraved by”

(after) Samuel Howitt (English, 1765-1822), Engraved by John Clark (English, active 1775-1825) and Henri Merke (Swiss, active c.1800 – c.1820) Shooters Going Out in a Morning Published by Edward Orme, March 25, 1808 hand-colored aquatint, 13 ¼ x 17 ⅜ inches National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of George and Susan Matelich and Family, 2016 (2016.04.03)
(after) Samuel Howitt (English, 1765-1822), Engraved by John Clark (English, active 1775-1825) and Henri Merke (Swiss, active c.1800 – c.1820), Shooters Going Out in a Morning, Published by Edward Orme, March 25, 1808, hand-colored aquatint, 13 ¼ x 17 ⅜ inches, National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of George & Susan Matelich and Family, 2016 (2016.04.03)

The List of Plates includes a charming image of a hare. The same hare can be found in the collection of the British Museum in London.

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(after) Samuel Howitt (English, 1765-1822), Engraved by J. Swaine (English, 1775-1860), Hare, Published by Edward Orme, March 9, 1808, 24 x 32 cm, British Museum, Donated by Nan Ino Cooper, Baroness Lucas of Crudwell and Lady Dingwall, In Memory of Auberon Thomas Herbert, 9th Baron Lucas of Crudwell and 5th Lord Dingwall, 1917 (1917,1208.3170)
(after) Samuel Howitt (English, 1765-1822), Engraved by John Clark (English, active 1775-1825) and Henri Merke (Swiss, active c.1800 – c.1820) Pheasant Shooting 1 Published by Edward Orme, June 1, 1807 hand-colored aquatint, 13 ¼ x 17 ⅜ inches National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of George and Susan Matelich and Family, 2016 (2016.04.13)
(after) Samuel Howitt (English, 1765-1822), Engraved by John Clark (English, active 1775-1825) and Henri Merke (Swiss, active c.1800 – c.1820), Pheasant Shooting 1, Published by Edward Orme, June 1, 1807, hand-colored aquatint, 13 ¼ x 17 ⅜ inches, National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of George & Susan Matelich and Family, 2016 (2016.04.13)

These works are now part of the growing collection of prints and drawings in the NSLM art collection and we look forward to putting them on view soon. You can see other works on paper from the permanent collection in the special exhibition Picturing English Pastimes: Sporting Prints at the NSLM, currently on view in the Museum. Curated by visiting John H. Daniels Fellow Jennifer Strotz, this installation of late 18th and early 19th century prints focuses on the British print market and equestrian subjects.


Nicole Stribling is CuNicole Stribling is Curator of Permanent Collections at the NSLM. She has worked at the NSLM since December 2012. As Curator of Permanent Collections, she catalogs and cares for the fine art collections and manages the registrar duties for the collection and loans, coordinating packing, shipping, and insurance arrangements. Prior to the NSLM, Nicole worked at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, in the American and British Paintings Department and in the Exhibitions Department. She earned her BA in Art History from the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia and is currently pursuing her MA in Museum Studies at Johns Hopkins University.rator of Permanent Collections at the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM). She catalogs and cares for the art collection, which includes paintings, sculpture, works on paper, and decorative arts ranging from the 17th through 21st centuries. Have a question about the NSLM collections? Contact Nicole by email.

When somebody asks me a library question and the initial answer is “I don’t know,” I usually end up learning a whole lot about something. That was true a short time back when somebody contacted me about a horse named Argyle, and his connection to a Supreme Court Justice named Gabriel Duvall. All we knew was Argyle was foaled around 1830 at Duvall’s farm, Marietta.

Looking for broad background information on the horse, Google gave a clue in an entry of The American Turf Register and Sporting Magazine of July 1834:

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A good start. A useful tool is the All Breed Database, and some simple searching found Argyle’s listing.Argyle’s dam, Thistle, could trace a bloodline through Florizel back to the Godolphin Arabian and the Darley Arabian, two founding sires of the Thoroughbred breed. On his sire’s side, Argyle’s ancestry also goes back to the Godolphin Arabian.

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Daniel Quigley (Irish, 18th Century) The Godolphin Arabian, late 18th Century, oil on canvas, 38 x 48 inches, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection. On view at NSLM until March 26, 2017 in The Chronicle of the Horse in Art.

What made Argyle famous? A more comprehensive check of the Turf Register shows a slew of impressive victories in the American south in 1834 and 1835 (putting Argyle at about four years old). Here is one entry, from April 1835:

Charleston (S.C.) Races. The annual races over the Washington course, commenced on Monday Feb. 9 for the citizen’s purse, of $1000; three mile heats and resulted as follows:

Mr. Walden’s br. c. Argyle, four years old, by Monsieur Tonson, dam Thistle, by Oscar, 102 lbs. 1 1
Mr. Haun’s b. m. Rattlesnake, five years old, by Bertrand, dam Devil, by West Paragon, 109 lbs. 2 2
Mr. Montmollin’s br. m. Alborak, five years old, by Sumter, dam Mary Bedford, by imp. Bedford, 109 lbs. 3 3
Col. Fitzsimmons’ ch. f. Rushlight, four years old, by Sir Archy, dam by Pacolet, 99 lbs.

Time, 5 m. 46 s.–5 m. 51 s.


Fourth day,
four mile heats, purse $1000.

Mr. Walden’s br. c. Argyle, four years old, by Monsieur Tonson, dam Thistle, by Oscar, 102 lbs. 1 1
Col. Spann’s ch. h. Bertrand, Jr. aged, by Bertrand, dam Transport, by Virginius, 126 lbs. 2 2

Time, 8 m. 5 s.–8 m. 8 s.

Two wins, three days apart! Argyle tore through his southern competition (usually in the Carolinas and Georgia), and it appears to have ruffled a few feathers that a “northern” horse should dominate. But more on that presently. For now, the main concern was unraveling the mystery of ownership. In April 1834, P. M. Butler is listed as the owner of Argyle, before rotating to J. McLean, then George Walden. Oddly, in the same issue (April 1835) Walden is listed as the owner for the racing calendar, and P. M. Butler took out an ad responding for Argyle to a challenge by a horse named Shark, sired by American Eclipse.

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Fighting words! P. M. Butler’s advertisement, responding to a challenge of Argyle by Shark, referred to as a “water ‘varment’.” This is likely a less-than-tactful boast about defeating a horse named Rattlesnake at the Charleston Races.

Interesting to note that at this point Argyle was both racing and covering mares at stud for a subscription fee.

By November of 1835, Argyle was considered one of the best horses in the United States. An article appeared in the Turf Register praising Argyle, only to be forcefully contested the following month.

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Exultant praise for Argyle from a writer named “Observer.” November 1835 issue of the American Turf Register.
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A scathing rebuttal the following month. The writer “Truth” points out the perceived weakness in Argyle’s pedigree. Regardless of how well the horse has performed, we shouldn’t consider him a real Thoroughbred.

In the February 1836 issue, the question of ownership is given some shadowy clarity. Apparently both Col. J. H. Hammond and Walden co-owned Argyle, and they retained a one-third stake while bringing on board additional partners for the princely sum of $15,000. There is no further significant mention of him either in race results or articles until August 1836, when an article details an “unsuccessful race with Bascomb” and claims that Argyle has been withdrawn to parts unknown. From 1836 to 1838, Argyle was noted in five races, all in Virginia and Maryland. It appears Argyle retired from racing at eight years old in 1838.

Did Argyle return to Marietta after his racing career ended? We don’t know. But in looking at the history, you can see the contours of rivalry that match with the conflict that eventually tore apart the nation.


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

Do you keep a journal? If you care about being remembered to history, you probably should. Today’s highlight is an excellent example of how to make history: the 1826-1842 Case Book of veterinary surgeon Charles Clark.

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The first entry of Charles Clark. Clark was a veterinary surgeon in Giltspur Street, London. His first patient was a gray horse “whose feet have been reduced to a deplorable state by the joint affects of contraction and the knives of the smith.”

Clark was the nephew and pupil of Bracy Clark, one of the first graduates of the veterinary college in London who was known for his research on horse feet. Because of Clark’s careful record-keeping, we can study his first-hand accounts of his treatments and results, sometimes in consultation with his uncle.

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“Uncle Bracy determined to day (Dec 26) to keep the foot distended by mechanical means that the frogs might have liberty to expand themselves.”

You can record lasting history, too. The best bet would be to write on sturdy paper with dark ink, and keep your journal in good condition. Nobody is really sure yet how viable the digital record will be in the long term. Keeping a paper journal might preserve your name for centuries. It worked for Charles Clark, 190 years ago!


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 week we kick off our Annual Auction, our main Library fundraiser of the year. Our highlight today comes from the books for sale in the Auction, but it wouldn’t be for sale without a string of failed careers (including a miserable stint for the postal service) across three countries. The book in question is called Hunting Sketches, and it’s a wonderfully illustrated 1933 imprint of the original, written in 1865. The author is Anthony Trollope (1815-1882).

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Anthony Trollope, Esqre. Illustration by Robert Ball.

Today, Trollope is recognized as one of the most prolific novelists of the Victorian era, but he took a long path to get there. His parents were of the gentry, but Trollope’s father, a barrister, did not have the money to support the gentlemanly lifestyle. After losing his law practice and failing as a farmer, the Trollope family relocated to Belgium to avoid debtors prison. At 19 years old, Anthony worked for some time as a tutor and flirted with joining the cavalry before returning to London to work as a clerk in the General Post Office.

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The 19th Century headquarters of the General Post Office in St. Martins-le-Grand in the City of London. Antique steel engraved print by Thomas Hosmer Shepherd (1793-1864).

It wasn’t a good fit. Trollope was consistently late to work, surly and unhappy, and didn’t get along with his supervisors. He later described his time there as “neither creditable to myself nor useful to the public service.” Facing deepening debts, however, Trollope remained at the Post Office, feeling he had no other choice but to continue working.

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Trollope praises John Leech as a man with “an eye… for the man who hunts and doesn’t like it.”

Trollope’s fortunes changed in 1841, when a postal inspector in Ireland was discharged. The position was widely considered undesirable, but Trollope volunteered for the job. Eager to move Trollope out of the General Post Office, his supervisors approved him and Trollope was off to Ireland.

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This edition of Hunting Sketches contains many illustrations by Robert Ball, and an introduction by James Boyd, MFH.

Trollope found almost immediately that Ireland agreed with him. Not only could his civil service stipend go much further in the economically depressed Irish countryside, but he appears to have gotten along well with the people as well. With a more comfortable living, Trollope began foxhunting and continued to do so for much of the rest of his life.

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Trollope’s Hunting Sketches consists of essays about many different aspects of hunting in the mid 19th Century.

Trollope’s new job was heavy on travel, and he spent much of his time on trains in writing his novels. The rest, as they say, is history. In 1865, Trollope wrote his Hunting Sketches, a mild, witty, and insightful look into hunting and its popular reception during Trollope’s time. Because Trollope endured years of failure at a postal worker, we have his observations available to us today. You can read more about participation in the NSLM Annual Auction by viewing the catalog.


Wedding Photography by Spiering Photography

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

For those of you who have been to one of my gallery talks, you’ve probably figured out that I love to share ideas about sporting art, sporting culture, and related trivia. It’s a passion to bring this material to broader audiences. Put me behind a podium, however, introducing someone with an impressive list of credentials, and I’m like a deer in headlights! All of a sudden I’m responsible for summarizing someone’s accomplishments. This is the worst kind of pressure, and I am not good at rote memorization.

Arthur Fitzwilliam Tait (American, 1819 - 1905) American Deer, 1857 oil on canvas, 7 ⅛ x 5 ⅝ inches Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Timothy Greenan, 2011
Arthur Fitzwilliam Tait (American, 1819 – 1905) American Deer, 1857, oil on canvas, 7 ⅛ x 5 ⅝ inches National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Timothy Greenan, 2011

I like to think I’m more like A.F. Tait’s American Deer when presenting gallery talks, poised and dignified (with a dose of caffeine). You might have seen this painting in the second floor Museum galleries, but it is currently off view. Although Tait painted several full-size canvases of deer, some reminiscent of Sir Edwin Landseer’s Monarch of the Glen in the Museums of Scotland collection, the small three-quarter portrait in the NSLM collection is unusual for him. It depicts an eight-point buck with a velvet rack and summer coat framed by foliage. Fun fact – Did you know that antlers used for sparring in the fall are rich with nerves and sensitive to pain when in velvet? Bucks are extremely aware of their racks and avoid contact with objects such as tree limbs during this time.

Edwin Landseer (1802-1873) Monarch of the Glen; National Museums Scotland; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/monarch-of-the-glen-184975
Edwin Landseer (English, 1802-1873), Monarch of the Glen, 1851
National Museums Scotland
image source: http://www.artuk.org/artworks/monarch-of-the-glen-184975

Landseer’s magnificent portrait of a red deer in the Highlands shows the buck proudly displaying his twelve-point rack and thick winter coat. Paintings like these were embraced by an ever-increasing urban population as windows into nature.

I know I would not get tired of looking at Landseer’s painting. Working in a converted 1804 Federal-style house means that the Curatorial offices in the Museum are below ground level. Mine is the only one with a window. I enjoy the filtered sunlight and occasionally get a glimpse of the lawn service crew mowing the grass.

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I think I speak for George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Librarian John Connolly, Curator of Permanent Collections Nicole Stribling, and myself in saying, we enjoy sharing the topics we love with  like-minded people instead of just a computer screen. Gallery Talks are about sharing ideas and intended to be informal chats that last about a half hour. If you’ve been wondering if you would like to commit your Wednesday afternoon to a Gallery Talk, know that we are down in the trenches and looking forward to coming up for some good conversation. See you next Wednesday at 2 pm!


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