On September 17, 1937, a new newspaper launched in Middleburg, Virginia. Called The Middleburg Chronicle, it would one day be re-named The Chronicle of the Horse and become one of the most popular sporting periodicals of the 20th Century.

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The paper was founded by Stacy Lloyd and Gerald Webb, who served as publisher/editor and managing editor, respectively. The front page of the new paper contained a sad but significant piece of horse racing news:

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John T. “Jack” Skinner was a steeplechase trainer and jockey in Middleburg, and had trained Welbourne Jake into a winner. The horse won the 1937 Maryland Hunt Cup, one of the most prestigious steeplechase races in North America.

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Welbourne Jake, photo of painting by Franklin Brooke Voss, 1937. National Sporting Library & Museum images collection, 2018.0223.

Skinner was initially slated to ride in the Maryland Hunt Cup, but was sidelined when a fall broke his collarbone. Instead, a young college student named John Harrison rode to victory.

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Unidentified steeplechase. John T. Skinner, second from left. National Sporting Library & Museum images collection, 2018.0240

It’s impossible to say what Welbourne Jake’s career might have been if not for his unfortunate accident. But for one day, the connection between Paul Mellon, Marion duPont Scott, Jack Skinner and the Maryland Hunt Cup were immortalized on the first front page of The Chronicle.


Wedding Photography by Spiering Photography

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

The museum has recently opened a new exhibition, The Chronicle of the Horse in Art, comprising art that has been featured on the cover of The Chronicle of the Horse magazine.  The library has ties to this exhibition on several levels.  First, one of our founders, Alexander Mackay-Smith was also a long time editor of The Chronicle.  Second, our two organizations have shared space over the years.  The library was in the basement of the Chronicle’s offices until the current buildings were constructed.  Although we no longer share the same building, we are still on the same campus.  Finally, the library houses an extensive backfile of The Chronicle.

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George Stubbs (English, 1724–1806), Shark with his Trainer Price, dated 1775 (detail), oil on canvas, 40 1/8 x 50 1/8 inches, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond. Paul Mellon Collection Photo: Katherine Wetzel © Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

It turns out, there is yet another connection.  We have a children’s book in which one of the characters is shown reading a copy of The Chronicle.  It’s called Welcome Home!, by Ludwig Bemelmans.  Many readers will be familiar with this author and illustrator through his popular Madeline series of books.

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The story is based on a poem by Beverley Bogert and describes the Gallant Hunt riding to the Holiday Hounds.

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They chase the fox but he cleverly evades them.

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Mr. Fox ends the day safe and comfy in his den surrounded by his family.

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Welcome Home! by Ludwig Bemelmans, 1959.

The cover of The Chronicle of the Horse is quite distinctive.  It has an elaborate masthead and border which frame the featured artwork.  It is unique enough to make an issue of The Chronicle easily recognizable even at a distance.

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The Chronicle of the Horse, May 7, 1965

In the final scene of Welcome Home!, we see Mr. Fox relaxing in his bed, reading what is clearly an issue of The Chronicle.

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Welcome Home! by Ludwig Bemelmans, 1959

Our copy of Welcome Home! also has a letter from Ludwig Bemelmans’ daughter, Barbara, to Alexander Mackay-Smith, in which she conveys her father’s thanks for being allowed to use the image of The Chronicle in his book, and gifts him a copy.

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Barbara Bemelmans, 1959

And eventually that same book was donated to the library and can now be viewed by anyone that cares to stop by the Main Reading Room.  I encourage you to do so!


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

Growing up, one of my favorite books was Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Like Alice, I would have gladly followed the White Rabbit down the rabbit hole.  I get the same sense of heady adventure from research. Not much is more satisfying than to dive into the proverbial rabbit hole, follow what might seem to be disjointed paths, only to resurface with new connections.

Researching the upcoming loan exhibition, The Chronicle of the Horse in Art, on view from August 26, 2016 through March 26, 2017, has been one of these grand adventures. Several major loans including works by the sporting art masters George Stubbs, Ben Marshall, and John Ferneley, Sr. are coming from Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Yale Center for British Art, Genesee Country Village & Museum, and private lenders across the country.

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Ben Marshall (English, 1768-1835), John Gully (detail), c. 1815, oil on canvas, 13 ¾ x 12 inches, National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, by 1975, reproduced on the 5/30/1975 Chronicle of the Horse cover

On the surface the exhibition concept seems straightforward: find the current location of representative artwork reproduced on the covers of  the famed equestrian magazine, The Chronicle of the Horse (CoTH), and request permission for loans. Simple, right? Not when you start to take into consideration that the magazine started featuring artwork on the cover in August 1945 and continued weekly until March 2012. There were approximately 3,400 covers to unearth, and what we found was that many of the rabbit holes led straight back to NSLM’s permanent collection. As a result, several paintings from the NSLM’s permanent collection will be included as well.

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Eric Guide Haupt (American, 1891 – 1984), Portrait of George L. Ohrstrom, Sr. (1894 – 1955), oil on canvas, 36 x 30 inches, National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of the Ohrstrom Family

Portrait of George L. Ohrstrom, Sr. by Eric Haupt appeared on the 11/18/1955 cover along with an obituary written by Editor Alexander Mackay-Smith on page 2.  Ohrstrom, Sr. had taken ownership of the magazine in 1952 until his passing in November 1955. Mackay-Smith and Ohrstrom, Sr. were also founders of the National Sporting Library in 1954.

Edward Troye (American, 1808 - 1874) American Eclipse, 1834, 1843 Oil on canvas, 25 ¼ x 30 ¼ inches Gift of Mr. George L. Ohrstrom, Jr., c. 1974
Edward Troye (American, 1808 – 1874), American Eclipse, 1834, 1843, oil on canvas, 25 ¼ x 30 ¼ inches, National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of Mr. George L. Ohrstrom, Jr., c. 1974

George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. took over his father’s role in both organizations and led each for five decades. Ohrstrom, Jr. was an inveterate sporting art collector. On 6/2/1976, American Eclipse, 1834, painted in 1843 by Edward Troye, appeared on the CoTH cover with the credit “Courtesy of Mr. & Mrs. George L. Ohrstrom and the National Sporting Library.” The reproduction was accompanied by a detailed article by Mackay-Smith about the legendary thoroughbred painted by Troye and other art donations to NSL.

Given the NSLM’s and CoTH’s intertwined histories, these works were not a surprise. Others, however, were. We were not able to allocate the time for what would have conservatively been a two-month, full-time job looking through the bound volumes of the CoTH magazines in the Library lower level.  We instead relied on a finding aid and a list shared by the CoTH to do strategic searches. We found that the descriptive titles for the works on the covers magazine often didn’t match the currently known titles. The Library’s digitization of its microfilm holdings of many of the CoTH issues recently made searching infinitely easier. 

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Alfred J. Munnings (1878-1959), Shrimp with Ponies in the Ringland Hills Near Norwich, c. 1911, oil on canvas, 20 x 24 inches, National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of Mrs. Felicia Warburg Rogan, 2008 © Castle House Trust (Sir Alfred Munnings Art Museum)

It turns out that one of the most important paintings in NSLM’s collection was reproduced on the 4/19/1957 cover under the title “Welsh Ponies.” Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum provided the image well before Mrs. Felicia Warburg Rogan purchased Sir Alfred Munnings’ Shrimp with Ponies in the Ringland Hills Near Norwich, c. 1911, and later donated it to NSLM.

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Jean Eleanor Bowman (American, 1917 – 1994), Mongo on the Turf at Laurel Racetrack, Maryland with Charles Burr Up, 1964, oil on canvas, 29 x 36 inches, National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of Jacqueline B. Mars, 2012 © John H. Pentecost

Even a fairly recent donation to NSLM appeared on the 11/13/1964 cover, a portrait of the race horse Mongo with jockey up by Jean Bowman, image courtesy of Mrs. Marion DuPont Scott. An article appeared in the issue about the turf and dirt track champion home-bred at duPont Scott’s Montpelier.

Much like Alice in Wonderland, I find myself waking up in the exact place I started,  refreshed and excited to share the wonderful stories found in the The Chronicle of the Horse, the resulting exhibition, and the research reconnecting the past to the present.

On to the next rabbit hole…

RELATED EVENTS:

NSLM Members are cordially invited to attend a Members’ preview, reception, and gallery talk by George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Curator of Art Claudia Pfeiffer to celebrate the opening of The Chronicle of the Horse in Art exhibition on Thursday, August 25th from 6:00 to 8:00 pm. To become a member and take part in his event, please contact Frances Monroe at 540.687.6542 ext. 26 or fmonroe@nationalsporting.org.

A public reception will be held on Saturday, August 27th. Join NSLM’s George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Curator of Art Claudia Pfeiffer, for a coffee reception from 10:00 to 10:30 and then follow her on a custom tour of the exhibition.


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.

email: cpfeiffer@nationalsporting.org