#SourceSaturday: Yale Center for British Art

New Haven, CT  06520


At Yale University, the Center for British Art holds a rich archive for the study of British sporting pastimes, including fox-hunting and horse racing. The simple keyword “horse” entered in the Collections Search returns more than 3,600 results! These works range from sculptures to prints and paintings, as well as rare books, manuscripts, and ephemera. Many of these collection items have been digitized and are available through the Collections search engine, allowing for ease of access and discovery.

The Center for British Art was established with the gift of Paul Mellon (1907–1999), who took his serious and life-long passion for horse riding and racehorse breeding into an equally serious collection of rare books and manuscripts on British sport. Podeschi’s volume on the Paul Mellon Collection provides the most extensive reference list (Sport in Art and Books : The Paul Mellon Collection, 1981). Some of the Mellon Collection items also are found in the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and the National Sporting Library and Museum.

John Dalby, active 1826–1853, British, Foxhunting: Clearing a Bank, ca. 1840, Oil on millboard, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
John Dalby, ca 1840. “Foxhunting: Clearing a Bank”
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

For scholars, the Yale Center for British Art houses a Reference Library with extensive British sporting art research materials. Reference holdings can be accessed through the Center’s collection search and through Orbis, Yale’s online library catalogue. 

Residential Scholar Awards are available for conducting study and research in this collection. The Yale British Art Center, affiliated with the Paul Mellon Center for British Art in the UK, also publishes an online journal, British Art Studies, a potential home for your future research. 

To date, none of the past scholars in residence have pursued an equine topic, despite the riches awaiting within!



John Wootton, 1682–1764, British, Lamprey, with His Owner Sir William Morgan, at Newmarket, 1723, Oil on canvas, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
John Wootton, 1723. “Lamprey, with His Owner Sir William Morgan, at Newmarket”
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection


For Further Reference:

CUMMINS, JAMES B. “THE PAUL MELLON COLLECTION OF SPORTING BOOKS.” The Yale University Library Gazette 75, no. 3/4 (2001): 167-87. http://www.jstor.org/stable/40859253.
Egerton, Judy, Tate Gallery, and Yale Center for British Art. British Sporting and Animal Paintings, 1655-1867 : A Catalogue. Sport in Art and Books. Millbank, London: Tate Gallery for the Yale Center for British Art, 1978.
Podeschi, John B. Books on the Horse and Horsemanship: Riding, Hunting & Racing; 1400-1941. Volume: Sport in Art and Books. The Paul Mellon Collection. London: Tate Gallery, 1981.
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, and Judy Egerton. British Sporting Paintings : The Paul Mellon Collection in the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Richmond: Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, 1985.
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, and Malcolm Cormack. Country Pursuits : British, American, and French Sporting Art from the Mellon Collections in the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Richmond: Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, 2007.


#SourceSaturday: The Lasker Collection at the Huntington Library (San Marino, CA)

The Huntington Library in San Marino, CA possesses a rich collection of equine manuscripts, rare books, and horse-racing documentation from the 15th to the 20th century. The collection has an enormous breadth, from classical horsemanship manuals, to studbooks, auction records, equestrian law and clippings from horse-racing periodicals. Made up of over 7,000 volumes, the collection represents the life-long passion of Edward Lasker (1912-1997), a Los Angeles attorney and businessman who bred and raced Thoroughbreds for most of his life. The collection was donated by his widow, Cynthia Lasker, in 2010.

The online finding aid for the manuscripts and rare books in the Edward Lasker Collection documents approximately 1400 rare titles. Some of these present a catalog of the major early works in horsemanship and horse care from classical authors. The earliest work in the collection is an Italian imprint of  Liber Marescalciae equorum by Laurentius Rusius from 1489.  Rare books from the French classical horsemanship tradition include a translation of the Hippiater of Constantine Porphyrogenitus into French by Jean Massé, the works of Pierre de la Noue, Jean Saunier, and François Robichon de La Guérinière.

The works related to horse racing primarily cover Great Britain and the United States, including stud books and registers, steeplechasing results, and two volumes dealing with horse races at “The Derby,” and “The St. Leger.” A Huntington Verso blog post details the collection’s ties to 20th century California racetracks: “California Conquest“, featuring English and American sporting magazines, racing calendars and works related to equestrian sports personalities. The global breadth of modern horse-racing include texts about Persian, German, Russian, French, Italian, Australian, South American and Asian racing.

The full bibliographic record for the Lasker Collection can be viewed through the Huntington Library Catalog using a Keyword search or a Subject search for “Edward Lasker”.

CalifChrome-02Playing cards showing scenes at Rancho Santa Anita and its owner, “Lucky” Baldwin (San Francisco: Alverson Comstock, ca. 1895). Matt Stevens, “California Conquest” Verso, The Blog of the Huntington Library, June 5, 2014 . 

#sourcesaturday: Colorado Springs Pioneer Museum and Archive (Colorado Springs, CO)

Caption: George Catlin, Wild Horses at Play, 1834-1837, oil on canvas, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Mrs. Joseph Harrison, Jr., 1985.66.499


The Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum has collections and exhibitions that focus on regional history of the Pike’s Peak area. In the next years, they will be opening three major exhibitions: Palmer, Cultural Crossroads, and the Sesquicentennial of Colorado Springs. A dynamic mapping project in the Story of Us exhibit highlights “R” for the original “Riding Master” of Colorado Springs.

CSPM has over 6,500 cubic feet of archival materials, including over 80,000 historic photographs (horses digitized — plus many, many more photographs that are not digitized). In these collections are a number of archival resources that may be of interest to equine topics for Western History and Indigenous Studies:

  • Examples of saddles in the artifact collection
  • Francis W. Cragin Collection (database link and finding aid/transcription link), a professor
  • General William Jackson Palmer papers, an American civil engineer, soldier, and industrialist
  • Winfield Scott Stratton Collection, an American prospector and capitalist
  • Virginia and Gilbert McClurg Collection, founder of the Colorado Cliff Dwellings Association (later Mesa Verde National Park)
  • Papers of various early pioneers such as Anthony Bott, A.Z. Sheldon,  Henry Templeton, David McShane, Irving Howbert, M.S. Beach, and S.M Buzzard



#SourceSaturday: National Agricultural Library

USDA National Agricultural Library hold resources that might be of interest to equine historians with a broader interest in US history and agricultural history. They offer a database for government documents in Agricola, an assortment of Digital Collections, and even an internship program.


Man O’ War Photograph Collection

Collection Number: 297

Linear Feet: 1.25

Collection Description: The Man O’ War Photograph Collection contains black and white photographs of the racehorse Man O’ War (1917-1947). It includes photographs of the horse, races, and trainer. No dates on photographs.


Quartermaster Corps Front Royal Remount Station Photographs

Collection Number: 471

Bulk Dates: 1941

Linear Feet: 1

Digitized Items available here

Collection Description: The collection consists of 106 black and white photographs taken during winter of 1941 at the Front Royal US Army Remount Station in Front Royal, Virginia (operated by the Quartermaster Corps). The photographs are captioned and illustrate the process by which, toward the end of the era of the US Army Remount Service, horses and mules were nurtured and formed into animals useful to the US Army.


Unknown. “Inspection of a new horse’s teeth.” Special Collections, USDA National Agricultural Library. Accessed March 18, 2019


Additional collections of interest: 

Horse” Search

MS 182 USDA History Collection

Film Collection


To Visit the Collections: 

National Agricultural Library
10301 Baltimore Avenue
Beltsville, MD 20705



#SourceSaturday: Narragansett Race Track archive (1934-1978) acquired by the Rhode Island Historical Society



The Rhode Island Historical Society (RIHS) has recently acquired the most significant, extant archive of nearly 30,000 negatives of photographs taken at (and by) the Narragansett Race Track (NRT) for over 40 years (1934-1978).  _JDK4646_1.jpgRichard Ring, the Deputy Executive Director for Collections and Interpretation at RIHS, recently gave a talk in January 2019 about the acquisition, highlighting some of exciting trackside images (which you can see here). The negatives are not currently accessible to scholars, as they will need to be digitized, cataloged, and properly stored for long-term preservation. However, there are plans in the works to make them available in the near future.

A Brief History of the Narragansett Race Track (Richard Ring)

In April, 1934 the Rhode Island General Assembly passed a law permitting horse racing with pari-mutuel betting. This was a system in which all bets of a particular type are placed together in a pool; state taxes and the “house take” are deducted, and payoff odds are calculated by sharing the pool among all winning bets. Walter E. O’Hara, a self-made Irish-born mill owner from Fall River, MA, began construction of the track in June and opened it in August—it took seven weeks and $1.2 million to build—sparking a Rhode Island story of sports, money, and politics. By 1937 the NRT was the most profitable racetrack in the country.

“Gansett,” as it was more popularly known, attracted crowds of 40,000 or more, including world-famous millionaires and celebrities. It became a gathering place for the glitterati of the late 1930s and 40s; millionaires like Alfred Vanderbilt; movie stars like Mickey Rooney, Jimmy Durante and Milton Berle were regulars, as well as star athletes like Jack Dempsey, Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, and singers like Bing Crosby and Cab Calloway all came to see and be seen, to play the horses, and to engage in the sport of kings.

An excellent article on the track and the political controversy surrounding it appears in “The Great American Racetrack War: What happened to the most profitable horse track in the country?” by Richard Farley in Town & Country (June 9, 2017).

#SourceSaturday: Fellowships Available the Kentucky Historical Society

khs fellowship flyer

The Kentucky Historical Society (KHS) contains multiple collections of interest to equine history researchers, and offers short-term research fellowships for scholars. As Frankfort is conveniently located in central Kentucky, the International Museum of the Horse at the Kentucky Horse Park, Keeneland Library, Ashland (Henry Clay Estate), and other potential places of interest are also accessible. The 2019 funding cycle deadlines are March 1 and October 1. For more information about the fellowship guidelines and how to apply, see https://history.ky.gov/for-researchers/research-fellowships/fellowship-guidelines/.

Collections of interest include, but certainly are not limited to:

Alexander Family Papers/Woodburn Farm
Stephanie M. Lang (Associate Editor, Register of the Kentucky Historical Society, and Coordinator, KHS Research Fellowship Program) informs us that this is one of the largest collections at the KHS, and equine history scholars have found it to be of particular interest; research with this collection has included the development of Thoroughbred bloodlines, Civil War horses, and modern veterinary medicine. The letters with the horse image in the KHS fellowship flyer above are from this collection!

African Americans in the Thoroughbred Industry Oral History Project
From their website: “This series focuses on the experiences of African Americans working in the thoroughbred industry in Kentucky. The majority of interviews focus on backside occupations including hot walkers, exercise riders, and groomers. Other occupations include trainers, clockers, and jockeys. Interviewees discuss employment opportunities for African Americans in the racing industry, individuals they have worked with including owners and trainers, living conditions at the track, how they were trained in various occupations, working on horse farms, family life, race horses they have worked with, and the Kentucky Derby. Most of the interviews were conducted in Louisville with individuals who have worked at Churchill Downs.”

Frank Bradshaw Collection
From their website: Frank Bradshaw “bred, and showed saddlebred horses at many horse shows across America from the 1950s until the 1980s… This collection consists of photographs, both color and black and white, of Frank Bradshaw and his work as a breeder, trainer and shower of saddlebred horses. Several of the photographs are of him and a horse he was showing in a horse show. One of the most famous saddlebred horses he showed was ‘My My.’ The collection also has 0.5 cubic feet of manuscripts that were mainly his business records regarding breeding and training horses on his horse farm. There are also several periodicals relating to horses, horse shows and the saddlebred horse world. Frank Bradshaw and the horses he showed are included in several of these publications. There are also rare books and pamphlets related to horse shows and saddlebred horses.”

Ronald Morgan Postcard Collection
This collection contains about 11,000 Kentucky postcards dating from the late 19th century to the present, and includes a variety of horse postcards.

#SourceSaturday: Research Fellowships Available at Michigan State Special Collections

Back in April, we posted about the fantastic Veterinary Medicine Historical Collection held at at Michigan State’s Special Collections. Great news: MSU Special Collections is now offering research fellowships of up to $2,500 each for the summer of 2019! For more information, visit https://lib.msu.edu/travel-fellowships/.

From their collections:

Giordano Ruffo, Libro marischalcie equorum, c. 1400

Ritterliche Reutter Kunst, 1584

J.S. Rarey, The Modern Art of Taming Wild Horses, c. 1855