By John H. Daniels Fellow, Professor Mike Cronin, Boston College

As an historian of Ireland, I have been the lead researcher in the Irish government’s digital history offering for the period 1913-23, namely the decade of upheaval that led to the creation of an independent Irish state. The project, named Century Ireland, explores the day to day history of Ireland in real-time on the web and twitter. The period begins in 1913, when Ireland was in a state of turmoil. The Home Rule bill, that would potentially lead to Ireland’s independence was working its way through the British Parliament, but had met with a violent response from the unionists of Ireland (those people, mainly Protestants, who wished to remain part of Britain). There was a major general strike that was ongoing in Dublin, a housing crisis that was symbolised by the deaths of seven people in the collapse of a tenement building, and levels of poverty and illness that led Dublin to be unfavourably compared to the destitution of contemporary Calcutta. To many observers in the press there was a sense that Ireland was in utter crisis, and many writers and politicians argued that the country was heading towards civil war. This would be fought by those nationalists and Catholics who desired an Ireland independent of Britain, against the unionists and Protestants who wanted Ireland to remain part of Britain and Empire. The threat of civil war was not idly made, as both sides had spent much of 1912 and 1913 arming themselves and organising their men into private armies.

Home_Rule-_'Oh!_Henry_where_did_you_get_that_cigar_and_why_are_you_smoking_it_'_(22906005345)
British politicians forced to forced to endure the stink of Campbell-Bannerman’s “cigar” of Irish Home Rule.  From Wikimedia Commons

In the event the threat of civil war in Ireland was side-lined by the outbreak of World War One. Some 210,000 Irishmen, both Catholics and Protestants fought against Germany and her allies, and some 35,000 of them would die. At the end of World War One, Ireland did not find peace. Between 1919 and 1921 a War of Independence was fought against the British. When this did not produce the complete freedom that many Irish had dreamt of, the nation drifted into civil war which would run from 1922 into 1923. The end result of this decade of upheaval was a tremendous loss of life, the destruction of much of the national infrastructure and a political settlement that created a truncated Irish independence. The southern twenty-six counties of Ireland were formed into a sovereign state, titled the Irish Free State, while the six northern counties, renamed Northern Ireland, remained part of Britain. The island was split by a border along ethno-sectarian lines. The Free State was predominantly Catholic, while in Northern Ireland a Protestant majority held sway. As a result of the fighting and upheaval many Protestants, around 60,000 people, could not see a future in the Irish Free State and left for Northern Ireland or a home elsewhere.

DSCF5375
Harry Worcester Smith of Worcester, Massachusetts, U.S.A.  Master of the Westmeath Hunt, Ireland, 1912-1913, at the kennels.  From A Sporting Tour (1925), vol. 1, facing pg. 40.

So how is all this relevant to the collection at the National Sporting Library and Museum? I was fascinated to see, when I looked at the Library catalogue, that Harry Worcester Smith had visited Ireland and had written about his experiences. Travel writing is not unusual, but the date of Smith’s journey and the social world into which he entered were extraordinary. Ireland had been in a state of political and economic turmoil ever since the Great Famine of 1845-51. Indeed, as one writer noted in the pages of Baily’s Magazine of Sport and Pastimes in 1896, the upheavals in the country meant that ‘the fair land of Erin is even now almost a terra incognita to the great majority of travellers.’ The Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Lord Houghton, had even gone so far to give the country the name ‘unvisited Ireland’. That Smith chose to live in Ireland when he did is quite remarkable as it was not a country often embraced by outsiders.

DSCF5371
Title page to Harry Worcester Smith’s A Sporting Tour (1925)

Smith took the job of Master of the Westmeath Hunt for a year, arriving in Dublin in August 1912 and departing for England, and a stop at Aintree’s famous Grand National, in March 1913, before his return to the United States. What Smith offers in his two volume A Sporting Tour Through Ireland, England, Wales and France (Columbia: State Company, 1925) is a unique insight into the lives of a hunting and racing fraternity in 1912 and 1913 which, due to the chaos of the revolutionary period in Ireland and the loss of life during World War One, had all but disappeared by the time the book was published.

DSCF5377
Knockdrin Castle.  Westmeath Hounds, the Master Servants and American Horses. From A Sporting Tour (1925), vol. 1, facing pg. 16.

Against the backdrop of political upheaval and the gathering storm clouds of war, Smith enjoyed a full season of hunting in Ireland. He hunted across the island, in Westmeath where he was based, across to Galway and down to Cork and beyond. His book recounts not only the hunts themselves, but the hectic social life that accompanied the Irish hunt season. He wined and dined (and sometimes danced) with the elite of Anglo-Irish society. There were days at the Dublin Horse Show, masked balls at the Rotunda in Dublin, meetings with the British Vice Regent and dinners with the British military top brass stationed in Ireland. His book is a journey through the world of Irish Lords and Ladies, the landed elite whose presence in Ireland was so problematic to the nationalists who wanted independence for their nation. Smith, nor the Anglo-Irish elite he hunted and socialised with, would have realised it in 1912/13, but most of them were enjoying their last ever hunting season in Ireland.

DSCF5376
On the lawn.  Harry Worcester Smith, M. F. H., the late Sir Richard Levinge, the now Sir Richard Levinge and lady Levinge.  From A Sporting Tour (1925), vol. 1, facing pg. 42.

The description of the hunt balls in Volume 2, shortly before Smith leaves Ireland is most revealing. Drinks prior to the hunt ball of Smith’s own Westmeath hunt, for example, were hosted by Sir Richard and Lady Levinge at Knockdrin Castle, a 12,000-acre estate which had been in the family since the late seventeenth century. Sir Richard, the 10th Baronet of Knockdrin, like many of his social standing (including all four of his brothers), was among the first to sign up to fight in World War One. He was killed in the third month of the war, on 24 October 1914, by sniper fire in France. By the end of the war his younger brother had also been killed, and a further brother had lost his leg. In the wake of her husband’s death, Lady Levinge left Ireland for London and rented out Knockdrin. During World War Two it was commandeered by the Irish state to house troops, and finally, in 1946, the Levinge family sold the estate.

DSCF5388
Ringside Dublin Horse Show, 1912.  From A Sporting Tour, vol. 1, facing pg. 18.

Equally telling, in Volume 1, just after Smith’s arrival in Ireland, is his attendance at the famed Dublin Horse Show. There he met Lord Castlemaine of Moydrum Castle, which sat in the east of County Westmeath. Castlemaine was a subscriber to the Westmeath Hunt, and he and Smith would meet often during the latter’s stay in Ireland. Moydrum Castle had been completed in 1814, and Lord Castlemaine was the fifth baron to occupy, overseeing an estate of some 11,000 acres. On 4 July 1921, at the height of the Irish War of Independence, Republican forces targeted Moydrum Castle, as a symbol of British rule in Ireland, and set fire to the building, which was completely destroyed. The family left Ireland for Britain, and the remaining estate was taken off them by the new Irish state in the 1920s, and sold on. Between 1919 and 1923, approximately 170 of the ‘big houses’, with which Smith would have been so familiar, and wrote about in depth, were destroyed by military action.

Smith enjoyed a life as a huntsman and, as is clear in the holdings of the Library and Museum in Middleburg, was a prodigious collector and recorder of the hunting he experienced. His two volumes recounting his Irish experience fit into the pattern of his life. What makes the books, and the associated notes and photographs in the archive, is that Smith was observing a way of life, a social elite at play in Ireland, that would cease to exist. Smith was not simply recording the hunting life of Ireland in 1912/13, but rather he was unknowingly recording a collection of hunts, social and sporting events, people and buildings that would be largely erased from history by World War One and the specific train of events in Ireland between 1916 and 1923. This is a work and a collection to be treasured for unwittingly capturing a key moment, a last bright blooming, of an Anglo-Irish way of life.


Mike Cronin

 

Michael Cronin is a professor at Boston College, teaching in Dublin, Ireland.  During his John H. Daniels fellowship at NSLM he worked on a project about the life of James Brendan Connolly, the first modern Olympic champion.  His research at NSLM served to set Connolly’s life within the broader sporting context during the period from 1890 to 1914.

Recently I discovered a charming little item in the Rare Books Room.  It’s what appears to be a tiny book, less than 3 inches high.

Puckeridge 2
Places of Meeting in the Puckeridge Hunt.  F. Ambrose Clark Rare Books Room, acquired 2007.

Although quaint, it is not all that unusual in the NSLM collection.  We have quite a few miniature books, particularly a collection of Compleat Anglers that contains a number of diminutive editions.  However, when I opened this book, I got a bit of a surprise.  It is actually a lovely color map of, and guide to, the Puckeridge Hunt territory.  Ahead of the folded map there are twelve pages of text.

Puckeridge 5
Places of Meeting in the Puckeridge Hunt.  F. Ambrose Clark Rare Books Room, acquired 2007.

The first section gives distances to various meet sites.

Puckeridge 8
Places of Meeting in the Puckeridge Hunt.  F. Ambrose Clark Rare Books Room, acquired 2007.

The second lists inns that have facilities to handle hunter horses.

Puckeridge 9
Places of Meeting in the Puckeridge Hunt.  F. Ambrose Clark Rare Books Room, acquired 2007.

Finally, railway stations servicing the area are listed.

Puckeridge 10
Places of Meeting in the Puckeridge Hunt.  F. Ambrose Clark Rare Books Room, acquired 2007.

Then comes the map.

Puckeridge 6
Places of Meeting in the Puckeridge Hunt.  F. Ambrose Clark Rare Books Room, acquired 2007.

The paper is mounted to a fabric backing making the map sturdy and easy to unfold.  When unfolded it measures 7 x 8.5 inches. In addition to the usual roads, towns, and landmarks, the map shows 32 meet sites used by The Puckeridge Hunt, across Essex and Hertfordshire.

Although its tiny size and sturdy construction indicate that this was a utilitarian item, meant to be carried and used while in the saddle, that doesn’t preclude a touch of style.

puckeridge 1
Places of Meeting in the Puckeridge Hunt.  F. Ambrose Clark Rare Books Room, acquired 2007.

The red cloth cover is decorated with a gilt pictorial vignette depicting a horseman clearing a fence, making this little map an eye catching accessory.  It certainly caught my eye when I opened the clamshell case that it’s stored in at the Library.  These little surprises are one of my favorite things about working with the NSLM collections.


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

Some weeks ago, our friend Viviane brought us a packet to read. “Save it for a rainy day to look it over,” she told me. With the surfeit of precipitation this month, I found ample opportunity to take her up on the suggestion.

Inside the packet were three comb-bound publications of memories, each taken from a hunter’s hunting diary. Equestrian sports are chock full of passion and excitement, and often those elements are overlooked by those who don’t directly participate in these sports. Hunting diaries are a great way to experience the close-up history of foxhunting, as many who ride to hounds keep meticulous track of their exploits.

Called Entries From an Orange County Hunt Journal, the pages in the packet were full of personal accounts from the local sporting scene. Memories are poignant and humorous, and reflect the experiences on horseback, and were compiled by the late R. Moses Thompson, who moved to the Middleburg area in 1991. Thompson wrote one entry about falls while hunting, including a tale about his own unusual fall:

At a gallop, going east across the open pastures from the corner of the Zulla and Rock Hill Mill, my horse, to avoid a ground hog hole that he had seen but I had not, leapt to the right, suddenly, dropping his head and shooting off in a near right-angle trajectory. True to my studies in physics, my body kept going in the direction it was headed, with forward momentum of a horse in full gallop, just without the horse. Jerking to the right, my horse had dropped his head low so that my right leg slipped over his neck and I flew forward, leaving my horse cleanly, hitting the ground on my feet, spontaneously breaking into a very fast run, legs churning, to prevent burying my face in the dirt.

1947-48
Excerpt from an Orange County hunt diary, 1947. National Sporting Library & Museum.

The recounting of hunting tales from hunt diaries is not new. NSLM has many hunt diaries in its collection, the earliest dating back to the early 19th Century, but quite a few from the 20th Century as well. Old hunting directories often included a calendar-based diary section for all-in-one note taking.

NSLM-McClary
The childhood diary of Jane McIlvaine McClary, detailing her adventures riding with the hunts in the Middleburg area.

Keeping a diary of riding activities is a great way to keep track of adventures (and misadventures) and range from formal accounts of a rider’s activities to the heartwarming or humorous personal entries.

SONY DSC
An anonymous British hunting diary, 1816. National Sporting Library & Museum.

For researchers, these diaries are a treasure trove of local history: names, dates, and landmarks are chronicled in a single document. The practice has continued for hundreds of years, and for those who study history, we hope it will continue in the future. Do you keep sporting or riding diaries? To view some of the NSLM’s hunt diaries collection, you can contact me to arrange an appointment.


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 changing exhibitions displayed in the Museum give us the opportunity to see works of art in a new light. We can reunite works that have long been separated in different collections, or juxtapose objects which are not normally displayed with each other, or gather together multiple works by the same artist.

In the case of our current exhibition, A Sporting Vision: The Paul Mellon Collection of British Sporting Art from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, on view through July 22, 2018, we have the opportunity to view works of art by British sporting artists Benjamin Marshall, John Ferneley, Sr., and Sir Francis Grant, and compare them with works by the same artists in the NSLM’s permanent collection.

Benjamin Marshall (English, 1768-1835), Mr. Thomas Willan of Marylebone Park and Twyford Abbey, 1818, oil on canvas, 34 x 40 inches, National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of Kathryn James Clark in memory of Stephen C. Clark, Jr., 2013

The more time you spend looking at works of art by the same artist, the more you begin to recognize that artist’s style, or “hand,” as art historians often like to say. This portrait by Benjamin Marshall, which is part of the NSLM permanent collection, shows a gentleman named Thomas Willan on his hunt horse. Willan owned a large farm in Marylebone Park, which is located in the present day area of Regent’s Park, London. His gothic-style manor house and gardens were known as Twyford Abbey. While the man and his horse are painted in glossy detail, the thinly-painted background is hazy and indistinct. There is a glimpse of fence line and gate on the viewer’s right and the hint of a waterway on the left. If the manor house is there, it is lost in the muted tones of the loosely painted landscape.

Benjamin Marshall (English, 1768-1835), Noble, a Hunter Well Known in Kent, c. 1805-1810, oil on canvas, 40 ⅛ x 50 inches, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond. Paul Mellon Collection, 99.80. (c)Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

Other works by Marshall now on view in A Sporting Vision show a similar treatment of background and subject. In the portrait of Noble, a Hunter Well Known in Kent (where the horse is actually the “sitter”), the landscape is made up of loose brush strokes, with lots of sky and indistinct features. Hounds and huntstaff are shown faintly in the background.

Benjamin Marshall (English, 1768-1835), Colonel Henry Campbell Shooting on a Moor, ca. 1806, oil on canvas, 33⅞ x 40⅛ inches, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond. Paul Mellon Collection, 99.81. Photo: Travis Fullerton © Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

We see it again in Colonel Henry Campbell Shooting on a Moor. The more you look at Marshall’s works, the more you can recognize similarities in the way he paints his figures as well.

John Ferneley, Sr. (English, 1781-1860), and Sir Francis Grant (Scottish, 1803-1878), The Hunt in Belvoir Vale, c. 1835, oil on canvas, 48 x 133 inches, National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of Kathryn James Clark in memory of Stephen C. Clark, Jr., 2013

Works on view by John Ferneley, Sr., and Francis Grant are connected as well. Ferneley briefly tutored the younger artist and the two collaborated on The Hunt in Belvoir Vale, which is part of the NSLM permanent collection. This mural-sized group portrait from the mid-1830s shows gentlemen foxhunting near the town of Melton Mowbray, highly popular foxhunting territory outside of London. Thirteen of the riders in the foreground are identified portraits, including Grant at the far left side. The painting was commissioned by the Earl of Wilton (1799-1882), who is pictured leading the group.

Detail of The Hunt at Belvoir Vale showing the Earl of Wilton, who commissioned the painting, leading on the chestnut horse.
Detail of The Hunt at Belvoir Vale, with self-portrait of artist Francis Grant at left.

The Sporting Vision exhibition includes several works by Ferneley and one by Grant.

Sir Francis Grant (Scottish, 1803–1878), The Melton Hunt Going to Draw the Ram’s Head Cover, 1839, oil on canvas, 35 15/16 x 60 inches, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond. Paul Mellon Collection, 85.494.1. Photo: Katherine Wetzel © Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

The Melton Hunt Going to Draw the Ram’s Head Cover was painted by Grant a few years after the NSLM painting. This group portrait features 36 identified figures riding with the Quorn Hunt, also in the Melton Mowbray area. The Earl of Wilton appears here as well, at center in the long grey coat, along with members of his family. The Countess of Wilton and her son Lord Grey de Wilton ride in the phaeton (a light-weight, four wheeled carriage) pulled by two palomino colored ponies. The painting was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1839.  Grant went on to a successful painting career and was President of the Royal Academy from 1866 to 1878.

When you are here at the Museum next, I hope you enjoy taking time to compare and contrast the wonderful highlights of British sporting art that are currently on view.

One hundred years ago, the rural Virginia community in western Loudoun and northern Fauquier counties was undergoing a transformation. The interwar period was a period of renaissance for foxhunting and equestrian sport, both in the United Kingdom and the United States. From Leesburg to Warrenton and anchored in Middleburg, a new community was evolving: Virginia’s Hunt Country.

leesburg1922
“Leesburg, 1922.” National Sporting Library & Museum, Archives Collection, MC0033, “Middleburg-Leesburg Photograph Album.”

The NSLM mission lists three functions: to preserve, promote, and share the contents of our collections and the subjects contained in them. None of these functions is truly independent of one another, but a great deal of emphasis is placed on preservation when it comes to the Library’s collections. A fantastic example of why we emphasize the importance of preservation is a photograph album in the Library’s archival collections.

mburghuntcup1923
“Middleburg Hunt Cup, 1923 — Dr. Burke won.” National Sporting Library & Museum, Archives Collection, MC0033, “Middleburg-Leesburg Photograph Album.”

Almost every photo in the album is unidentified. Most of them are fading away. Aside from balancing contrast to enhance visibility, the images in this blog post are unaltered snapshots of the album’s contents.

baby
Unidentified Photo. National Sporting Library & Museum, Archives Collection, MC0033, “Middleburg-Leesburg Photograph Album.”

Photos are decidedly horsey, and show an enthusiastic sporting community, and snapshots of everyday life. We have no idea who took or collected the photos, but most images are in or around Middleburg in the 1920s.

springfield-1911
“Springfield, 1911.” National Sporting Library & Museum, Archives Collection, MC0033, “Middleburg-Leesburg Photograph Album.”

Identification for albums like this can be tricky. Most all of the images are pasted directly to the album paper, and it’s impossible to remove the prints without destroying them.

image3
Unidentified Photo. National Sporting Library & Museum, Archives Collection, MC0033, “Middleburg-Leesburg Photograph Album.”

On close inspection, it appears the rider is wearing jodhpurs, a short-sleeved shirt, and a necktie. Competition attendees drove out in their Model T Fords, lined up in the background.

The pressure to preserve is immense with a collection like the NSLM’s. As objects deteriorate, unique glimpses at history could be lost.

image1
Unidentified Photo. National Sporting Library & Museum, Archives Collection, MC0033, “Middleburg-Leesburg Photograph Album.”

An image with advanced fading: an unidentified rider wearing a dapper straw hat.

The photographs in this album are only a fraction of the total photographic images in the NSLM collection. The best hope to preserve these images would be scanning or high-resolution photography before the originals deteriorate. This album is one of hundreds of objects in the NSLM collection awaiting digital preservation. We’re already making plans for securing the resources and equipment to preserve these kinds of objects so they can be enjoyed online.

image2
Unidentified Photo. National Sporting Library & Museum, Archives Collection, MC0033, “Middleburg-Leesburg Photograph Album.”

A pony race? Mostly boys, but there appear to be two young girls lined up as well. Photo discoloration has crept into the edges of the photo.

Overall, this mysterious album contains dozens of unidentified photographs. Of the few with identification, the oldest photo dates to 1911, with most images likely from the 1920s. This was a period of growth for Middleburg and its surrounding community, as the town developed into a hub of sporting activity. Both the Middleburg Hunt and Orange County Hunt worked to develop their foxhunting territories, building up relationships with landowners and replacing barbed wire fencing with stone walls and chicken coop jumps.

image4
Unidentified Photo. National Sporting Library & Museum, Archives Collection, MC0033, “Middleburg-Leesburg Photograph Album.”

Eager sportsmen from urban centers in the northeast began migrating to Middleburg to enjoy sports that were being crowded out by expanded development. Seasonal visitors took the Southern Railway train line from the nation’s capital to The Plains before trekking on horses or on wagons to Middleburg.

image5
Unidentified Photo. National Sporting Library & Museum, Archives Collection, MC0033, “Middleburg-Leesburg Photograph Album.”

Another image with advanced fading, this one of an unidentified woman wearing the unmistakable fashion of the 1920s.

The sporting tradition of Hunt Country lives on, and thousands of visitors still come to Middleburg in the hopes of experiencing the excitement of the world of equestrian sport. As these new audiences encounter these sports, the preservation element of NSLM’s mission makes it possible to promote and share these pieces of history.


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

On a lovely spring day in 1885, two gentlemen sat on their horses near the statue of Achilles by Richard Westmacott in London’s Hyde Park. The gentlemen were well acquainted: Hugh Cecil Lowther, the Fifth Earl of Lonsdale (1857-1944) and Sir George Chetwynd, (1849-1917) were both sportsmen and moved in similar circles. Both men were waiting to meet someone: Lillie Langtry, a famous actress, had accidentally agreed to ride with both Hugh and George on the same morning. And in the absence of a graceful way of escaping the predicament, Lillie had simply stayed home. Continue reading

Once upon a time, the tiny Virginia town of Middleburg experienced a golden age of enthusiasm for riding and equestrian sport. After The Great Hound Match of 1905 put Virginia on the map as prime foxhunting country, several hunts began operating in the region and the countryside transformed into an optimal landscape for riding.

12_17_2015
“Children and Ponies,” Undated photograph by Dove Hayes. In the Gerald B. Webb, Jr. Archive, National Sporting Library & Museum. Caption reads: “Left to Right: Polly Baldwin and ‘Merry’; Bobby Baldwin and ‘Star’; Barry Hamilton and ‘Jock’; Jimmy Hamilton and ‘Mountain Music’; Eve Prime and ‘Spoogie Woogie’; Christie Thompson and ‘Dummie.'”

Middleburg became a close-knit community in the heart of Hunt Country in the 1920s and 1930s. An excellent first-hand account of Middleburg in this era can be found in The Way It Was: Middleburg in the 1920s and 1930s by Catherine Hulbert Harts (a copy is in the NSLM collection). There really was no age barrier to participation in horse sports: children rode on ponies as soon as they were able to sit up in the saddle.

0309171144b
The Hunting Diary and Guide, 1930-31. National Sporting Library & Museum, gift of Christopher McClary, 2016. Foxhunting directories often included hunt diary sections for riders to record daily activities. This copy belonged to Jane Stevenson McClary, who was eleven years old in 1931.

A recent donation to the NSLM collection is a British-printed copy of The Hunting Diary and Guide, 1930-31. The entries were made by a young lady named Jane Walker Stevenson, who rode in and around Middleburg. Jane was eleven years old in 1931, and was quite the accomplished rider, foxhunting with the Orange County Hounds and riding with friends from Foxcroft School.

NSLM-McClary1
An afternoon of hide-and-seek, misadventures, and apples. In 1931, children played with their ponies in and around Middleburg.

Jane’s entries are both charming and opinionated. “Nancy and Barbara Iselin, Louise Dillworth came over on ponies,” she notes in her entry on Friday, March 6, 1931. “Played hide & seek on ponies. Barby fell off and I was going to lead Atoka over a jump and he pulled away from me twice. Jumped the four ft. post & sail. Atoka knocked the top rail off. Gave horses apples.”

The following day, Jane was out with Orange County, starting from the No. 18 School House in Marshall, and cutting across country to Rectortown, some five miles away.

PublicSchoolNo18_Marshall
“Number 18 School in Marshall,” 2011. Accessed via Wikimedia Commons. The Orange County meet began at this one-room school house, which still stands in Marshall, VA today.

“I was so mad at Nancy Smith,” writes Jane, “she said she was such a great rider and nonsence [sic] and she fell off on a chicken coop about 3 ft. My! She can boast.”

NSLM-McClary2
A “Collossal Run with Orange County,” March 7, 1931.

The episode didn’t ruin the day, though. “Lovely Mrs. Filly was out and she *is* lovely. GREAT Day and nice,” she writes.

mcclary3
An impressive roster! Jane lists all her hunting outings, and every horse she rode during the year. She terms it “a truly grand season.”

As for Jane Stevenson, her practice at writing evidently paid off. After attending The Hill School in Middleburg, she went on to marry Robinson McIlvane and write for The Washington Times-Herald and Fortune.

SONY DSC
Jane grew up to be an accomplished journalist and author. Her book To Win the Hunt was illustrated by her husband, Nelson McClary.

After her first marriage ended in divorce, she returned to Middleburg, eventually marrying Nelson McClary and she rode again with the Orange County Hounds. She wrote regularly for Middleburg Life and published over a dozen books during her lifetime. After Nelson passed, his son Christopher donated the family’s books to NSLM. Jane’s childhood diary was included in the donation, and we’re pleased to preserve the stories she recorded from the days where children kept pace with some of the best riders in the country.


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