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.

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“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.

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“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.

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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.

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“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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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In a fortunate coincidence, we started reprocessing our books on Olympic equestrian events this week — right in the middle of the Rio Olympics. Something we found tipped in one of the books was called Ryttar-Olympiaden: Stockholm 1956. This off-print is a sampler ad for a 270-page commemorative book on the equestrian games of the XVIth Olympiad. Some great photos are included, and we wanted to share some memories to compare as we watch Olympic competition 60 years later.

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Lis Hartel, Denmark, Silver, Henri St. Cyr, Sweden, Gold, and Liselott Lisenhoff, Germany, Bronze, Individual Winners of the Grand Prix de Dressage, riding their honorary turn around the Stadium.
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Hans Gunter Winkler, Germany, Gold Medal Individual of the Olympic Grand Prix Jumping Competition, made and extraordinary fine effort. Despite a serious muscle-rupture, incurred during the first round, and suffering from severe pains, Winkler rode his horse Halla through the second round without any fault.
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Queen Elizabeth at the moment when her horse Countryman III is passing the obstacle. To the left of the Queen, Princess Margaret, the Duchess of Gloucester, and the Princess Sibylla of Sweden.
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Some onlookers at obstacle No. 8-9: to the left the Grand Duke of Luxemburg, Lady Mountbatted, in the middle King Gustaf Adolf and Queen Louise, and then the long file of Swedish Princesses: Sibylla, and her four daughters, Christina, Desiree, Birgitta, and Margheretha. In front of them her only son, Carl Gustaf, the Crown Prince of Sweden.
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A. P. M. Bouchet, France, and his horse Ferney have a fall at the eight obstacle, but finish the cross-country phase.

The Olympics never seem to lack drama! From royal guests, to falls, injuries, and successes, the 1956 Stockholm Olympics seem to have had a fair share of heroics. It’s always great to get a look back at some of these moments past, even while new memories are being made.


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

A couple of months back, I received an in-print reference question. That wasn’t nearly as remarkable as the fact that the reference question had been submitted to one of our Museum curators instead of the Librarian. This person wanted to know who a rider was in a photograph she had found online. Apparently, somebody had blogged about NSLM and this photograph was listed as being in our collections.

Who is this rider? The intrepid George L. Ohrstrom, Jr Librarian was on the case!
Who is this rider? The intrepid George L. Ohrstrom, Jr Librarian was on the case!

So this question was very layered. The first thing to find out was, does NSLM really have this photo. If so, where? We have dozens of Archival Collections with photographs, but the individual photographs are not tagged and being given an image without a citation is not unlike the proverbial needle in the haystack. In this case, I had a very valuable clue built into the request: the photo was somewhere out on the internet someplace.

Some judicious Google usage landed me a 2009 blog post that gave a broad citation, but a very workable one: “the Gerald Webb papers.” NSLM has an Archival Collection called the Gerald B. Webb, Jr. Photograph Albums, 1935-1961. The trail was heating up. Unfortunately for me, the photographs were mostly pasted or tipped in to some very large scrapbooks. Not exactly albums, but again, workable. What followed was a lot of tedious searching by hand, until I landed the photo, and a hand-written label.

The mystery revealed... partly.
Margaret “Peg” Cotter. The mystery revealed… partly.

This was great, but I kind of wanted a little more. Who was Margaret Cotter? And Rocksie? Back to the internet!

Once I had names, Google was my best friend. The Baltimore Sun yielded photos from their back file of Ms. Cotter and Rocksie, a big bay hunter. The second photo, an action shot similar to Mr. Webb’s, is dated 1938.

Another resource I tapped later was Newspapers.com, which is a subscription service which allows a free seven-day trial. I found an article in The Lethbridge Herald (Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada) from Tuesday, September 16, 1941. Another paper ran it citing Lucrece Hudgins of the Associated Press as the author.

“At a recent horse show in Virginia, a girl and horse leaped six feet six inches into the air an, for the third time, set a new American record for women jumpers.”

It’s impossible for me to say for certain which show was in the photograph Gerald Webb, Jr. took and which is now in NSLM’s Archival Collections. The article above relates the story of Ms. Cotter’s and Rocksie’s breakthrough success in 1938:

I believe this photo must be from sometime between 1938 and 1941. That looks an awful lot like six feet in the photo. It’s very possible this is the first record-breaking moment in 1938… but I can’t say so definitively. Nevertheless, Ms. Cotter seems to have been a phenomenal athlete and equestrian (to say nothing of Rocksie’s athletic abilities!). It’s gratifying to have had the opportunity to discover a little bit about her.

Do you have a reference question you’d like help with? Contact me with your requests!

John Connolly
George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Librarian