Saturday, April 7, 2018

Visiting the W.K. Kellogg Arabian Horse Library and Arabian Horse Center

So much of model horse history is connected to "real horse" history, that I spend a lot of time in the Library doing research on this, my favorite research topic.

And there's no better place in my area -- or perhaps in the country -- to do that research than at the W.K. Kellogg Arabian Horse Library on the campus of Cal Poly Pomona.

WKKAHL is one of the world’s largest public collections of Arabian horse materials, a research facility open to anyone interested in the Arabian horse. The Library holds a wealth of information on many breeds of horses influenced by the Arabian -- Thoroughbreds, palominos, Morgans, etc. -- and on the general subjects of equine art and equine history.

I find myself spending a lot of time looking through horse magazines from the 1940s through 1960s there, searching for clues about the development of the model horse hobby in the advertisements from that era, along with articles about horse book authors and illustrators.  Sometimes I come across a photo in a magazine of a real horse that inspired a model horse; for example, the Arabian stallion FERSEYN, who was the subject of two Maureen Love designs for Hagen-Renaker, Inc.

Ferseyn, from a 1950s issue of Western Livestock Journal.
Used by permission.

WKKAHL also holds the Gladys Brown Edwards and Cecil Edwards Papers, which provide a wealth of detail about GBE's life and work as an equine artist and Arabian horse authority.  

One of Gladys Brown Edwards' scrapbooks and an example of her work for Dodge, Inc.
were on display at WKKAHL during their "Becoming Gladys Brown Edwards" exhibit.

GBE's trophy of the Arabian stallion "Islam" was called the Classic Arabian. 
Also from the "Becoming" exhibit.

WKKAHL is about to close its exhibit "Horse Drawn," which featured many wonderful examples of illustrations from horse books.

Beginning May 10, 2018, WKKAHL will host a first-of-its-kind exhibit with deep, deep ties to the model horse community: the subject is the California pottery Hagen-Renaker, Inc.  

It's indeed fitting that WKKAHL host this important exhibit. The Arabian Horse Library is part of Cal Poly Pomona Library Special Collections, which has a focus on local history.  The Hagen-Renaker factory in San Dimas is only a few miles from CPP, and the company has been family-owned and operated since the late 1940s.    

Many times when I make a research trip to WKKAHL, I also make time to see the W.K. Kellogg Arabian Horse Center, across the CPP campus.  It's the oldest continuous breeding program of Arabian horses in the United States.  Students of any major can participate in the breeding, riding, or training programs.  

Quoting from their website:

"The W.K. Kellogg Arabian Horse Center was established in 1925 by the cereal magnate Will Keith Kellogg of Battle Creek, Michigan. In his quest to fulfill a childhood dream, W.K. Kellogg sought out the finest Arabian bloodlines of the day to begin a breeding program at his winter home in Pomona, California. He acquired horses from within the United States and abroad, importing several horses from Lady Wentworth’s famed Crabbet Arabian Stud in England.

"The ranch became a popular destination for 1920s Hollywood stars to visit rare Arabian horses, and Kellogg’s horses appeared in several films. The ranch became so popular that a show was established on Sundays in order to better showcase the Arabian horses.

"W.K. Kellogg presented the ranch to the state of California in 1932 with the stipulation that the Arabian breeding program and the Sunday Shows be maintained.

"During World War II, use of the ranch was given to the U.S. Army as a facility for breeding war horses. The Kellogg Ranch became the Pomona Quartermaster Depot in 1943. One of the most notable events of the army days was the acquisition of the Polish Arabian horses that were rescued ahead of the advance of the Russian army at the end of the war. Twenty-one Polish Arabians, including the stallion *Witez II, were brought to the ranch in 1946.

"The U.S. Army ceased breeding horses in 1948, and the Ranch was transferred into the ownership of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. During this time, much of the ranch’s best stock was dispersed around the country. The future of the ranch seemed uncertain, and envoys from both the Kellogg Foundation and the Kellogg Company went to Washington to lobby for its continuation.

An Arabian mare and her foal at the Kellogg Arabian Horse Center.

"The ranch was turned over to California State Polytechnic College San Luis Obispo as their southern branch in 1949. This new venture by Cal Poly joined forces with the Voorhis School, a men’s agricultural college, which was located in nearby San Dimas. All instructional programs were moved to the present campus in 1956. Cal Poly Voorhis-Kellogg Campus admitted its first female students in 1961. The newly co-educational college separated from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in 1966, and attendance had grown large enough by 1972 for Cal Poly Pomona to be granted University status. Today, Cal Poly Pomona has an average enrollment of 22,000 students in programs within eight different academic colleges.

"The W.K. Kellogg Arabian Horse Center’s current breeding philosophy was established in 1964 when Norman K. Dunn was appointed as Manager of the Horse Department. Professor Dunn surmised that the Arabian breed was surpassing the insular breeding program at Cal Poly, and proposed that Cal Poly mares be bred to outside stallions. Some of the first outside stallions suggested for breeding to Cal Poly mares were *Bajram, *Bask, Fadjur, and The Real McCoy. The breeding program continues in this tradition today, breeding to the top stallions from all over the United States."

A friendly Arabian gelding at the Kellogg Horse Center.  

One of the most celebrated Kellogg Arabians of the 1980s was  the multi-champion Park Horse Reign On, a son of *Bask. 

The Kellogg Arabian Horse Center is located in spacious buildings that opened in 1974. For nostalgia's sake, when I visit Cal Poly Pomona, I always make sure to look at the old stables on the campus as well.  They're only a few steps from the Arabian Horse Library, and bring to mind images of the 1920s and 1930s, when W. K. Kellogg himself would go horseback riding and the Kellogg Arabians brought their grace and athletic ability to numerous motion pictures.  

Even though the horse stalls have been converted into student organization offices, the doors and hardware remain in place.

I could go on about the history of the Kellogg Ranch, but Mary Jane Parkinson has already literally written the book on that history:

Here's the WKKAHL website:

Archival footage of the Kellogg Ranch:

British Pathe' has archived this 1930s video of the Kellogg Ranch:

The Kellogg Arabian Ferseyn was the inspiration for Maureen Love's model of the Hagen-Renaker horse of the same name in the 1950s, and in the 1970s the mold became the Breyer Classic Arab Stallion!  Here is *Raseyn, Ferseyn's sire, at the Kellogg Ranch. Ferseyn, who was foaled at the Kellogg Ranch, appears as an old horse here too, starting at 13:35

The Kellogg Arabians appear from 0:37 to 2:08 in this 1951 video:

And a 1993 public television series, California's Gold with Huell Howser, documents the history and activity of the Kellogg Arabian Horse Center, from the beginning of the video through 11:50.  (This long-running series always opened with the song, "California, Here I Come" and was aimed at fourth grade California History students, so that's why it seems rather basic. Legions of grownups loved this series as well, though. )

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Paul Brown and the California Polo Hero

As any model horse collector will tell you, horse books and magazines and horse art are an integral part of the hobby.  The images and stories help build our appreciation and understanding of real horses, which translate to the horse figurines in our collections. I recently learned quite a bit about polo in the 1930s.

Readers of this blog know that my favorite place to search for used model horses, old horse books and magazines, and vintage horse art is at an estate sale.  Members of the Greatest Generation who are passing away or moving to smaller homes lived in a time when the horse was a much larger part of our daily lives. The items they collected and saved reflect the horse's importance. 

So, periodically, I go online and search estate sale listings in my area for certain keywords -- "horse" and "pony"-- and for the names of horse authors and artists, such as "Gladys Brown Edwards," "Sam Savitt," and "Paul Brown."

The search engine is not intuitive. Usually, all I see are estate sale ads with pictures and descriptions of saw horses and two horse-power motors.  Occasionally, I come across a sale that actually has what I'm looking for.

And, at one sale earlier this year, I found far more than I'd hoped.

I couldn't believe it, at first.  The ad listed "Paul Desmond Brown Horse Art." I assumed that someone had collected some of Brown's highly-desirable lithographs of equestrian sports, or perhaps prints of his work, which would certainly have been worth seeing.  I'd never seen anything by Brown at an estate sale. Whether I could afford them or not -- Brown's work is not inexpensive, and the sellers had even researched his middle name -- was another story. 

After standing in line in the pre-dawn mist for a couple of hours, I entered the estate sale home and (after a few minutes' rather hectic searching) spotted a battered-looking art portfolio lying on a sofa.  Inside were not prints, not lithographs, but four pieces of original Paul Desmond Brown Horse Art, showing polo players in action.  Brown's hand-written notes on the lower part of each drawing contained the name "Boeseke."

I didn't even stop to breathe before taking all four to the cashier.  They were affordable.  I bought them.

When I came up for air, I looked around the sale more carefully.  A couple of tables were covered in sterling silver and silver-plated trophies, some mixing bowl-sized, some small enough to be held in one hand; some with a single name.  The larger, solid silver trophies were inscribed with several names, dates in the 1930s, the name of an equestrian event.  And the name "E.J. Boeseke, Jr." was on all of them.  

In a corner of a room in the back of the house were a handful of horse show ribbons and a dusty framed photo of a tall, slender man wearing jodhpurs and riding boots, standing next to a shorter man in a suit and hat.  I assumed the tall man was Boeseke; the shorter one looked like photos I've seen of film studio titan Louis B. Mayer.  I bought those, too, to help further my research.  The picture, the ribbons, and the Paul Brown drawings, had passed down through Boeseke's family.

Driving home, I mused that E.J. Boeseke, Jr. must have been a major figure in the polo world, if Paul Brown made multiple sketches of him.  My online research bore this out.

In the early 1930s, the Great Depression was at its height. Americans looked for inspiration, for escape from the grim economy.  They looked for heroes.  And -- perhaps we'd almost forgotten, perhaps we're too young to remember -- heroes could be found on the polo field. 

A full-page story in the Detroit Free Press shows Elmer Boeseke and Red Ace in the center of the page.

Elmer Boeseke and his horse Red Ace are shown at the top of the page, second from left,
in this article in the (Tucson) Arizona Daily Star. 

The Daily Star's full-page spread on the popularity of polo
featured a map of polo clubs around the country.

Polo was a major sports attraction in the 1930s, and for a few sparkling years Elmer Julius Boeseke, Junior of Santa Barbara, California was one of a handful of men in the heart of it.  Boeseke's father, Dr. E.J. Boeseke, Sr. and several other relatives were well-known polo players in Santa Barbara.  The Museum of Polo website tells us Elmer Boeseke, Jr. was inducted into the Polo Hall of Fame in 1999.

The right man at the right time, Elmer Boeseke, Jr. was as tough as he was tall. Versatile in all four positions, his performance in the forever famed 1933 East-West duel was crucial to the West's victory and its newfound respect in polo. That memorable achievement also earned him a 10-goal rating in a single jump from 8-goals.

One of only three 10-goalers in his day, he played on the victorious U.S.A. squad in 1932 which won both the Cup of the Americas and the Argentine Open, a feat not realized since. He had a U.S. Open Championship to his credit, a Monty Waterbury trophy and countless other honors in Pacific Coast tournaments.

That 1933 East-West match became the stuff of polo legend. It was the lead story in the Chicago Tribune.

Elmer Boeseke appears on the far right in this photo.

The tall and lanky Boeseke, also known as "Big Bo" and "the Babe Ruth of Polo" for his all-out, neck-or-nothing riding style, owned a number of polo ponies, but perhaps the most beloved and best-known was his chestnut off-track Thoroughbred gelding, Red Ace.  The Polo Museum website's Horses to Remember section recalls:

Dr. E.J. Boeseke, Sr., found Red Ace at a Tijuana racetrack, brought him to California and trained him as a polo pony. In the East West match of 1933, with E.J. Boeseke, Jr., in the saddle, Red Ace won Best Playing Pony. But he is best remembered for a moment in the game when he won hearts as well. After Boeseke was knocked to the ground in a particularly rough play, Red Ace turned, trotted back, stood by his unconscious master and gently nuzzled him.
Prior to his memorable performances in the East West series, Red Ace played polo on both coasts in the U.S., in South America with a North American team, and in England. He was remembered by Seymour Knox as a “brilliant pony,” and by Thomas C. Nelson of Argentina as one of the best ponies he’d ever had anything to do with. He had great straightaway speed and great courage.

Red Ace routinely played two chukkers in a game, and Elmer Boeseke was one of the biggest and most hard-riding men in polo. In a 1934 article in the New York Herald Tribune, the writer noted, “When up on Red Ace, Boeseke’s game was of a higher standard. He seemed surer. He knew he could trust Red Ace.” 

You can see the long-legged Boeseke, number 2 in the dark jersey, and Red Ace in this British Pathe' video archived on YouTube.

Los Angeles Times staff artist did a portrait of Red Ace and two other polo ponies in 1934.

And a newspaper article of that not-so-long-ago day reminds us that Red Ace was also an award winning show horse.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 9.29.1934.

A page of sketches in Paul Brown's book Hits and Misses shows the artist's note:  "Boeseke's Red Ace: What a pony."

I believe the ribbons Red Ace won at this and other horse shows, may have been the ones I found at the estate sale.

Oh -- you wanted to see the drawings, didn't you?  Of course. Brown shows us Boeseke at the peak of his form in 1933.   Somewhere in the crowds at the polo matches, we can imagine Paul Brown with his small pad of paper, pencil flying, trying to capture the essence of the action. Later, Brown would go back to his studio, review photos of the match, search his memory, and recreate these moments in equine history.

Artist's notes: 

Aurora vs Templeton - Practice 1933

5th period   Iglehart hit up field and all
players started after ball.  Boeseke waited
to stop ball and as he did so hooked it 
up along side pony. Carried ball around
both teams and scored.
(signed) Paul Brown '34
"8th period Aurora Templeton Sept 1 Cochrane"
 is penciled lightly in the lower right corner of the paper. 

Artist's Notes:
Penalty # One
East vs West  Chicago '33
Boeseke goes down.
(signed) Paul Brown 

Artist's notes:
Goal  Boeseke vs Hitchcock
East vs West Chicago 1933
8th Period  3rd Game
(signed) Paul Brown

Artist's notes:
Finals   Open Championship   Aurora vs Greentree '33
5th period   Over the boards headed for the
club house -- pace terrific -- Boeseke vs Balding.
Elmer hit a long one down and out on to the field.
(signed) Paul Brown '34
As you can see, the drawings are not in perfect condition; like most old artwork born in the days before acid-free storage techniques, they need a bit of professional conservation.  I took them out of their 80-plus-year-old mats and stored them, for now, in archival Mylar sleeves. 

But you can also see why I could not possibly have left them at the estate sale for someone else to purchase.  This is the perfect combination in equestrian sporting art: the horses and riders at the top of their form, captured in exquisite, heart-stopping detail by the master. 

You can sense Brown's excitement, his concentration mirrored in Boeseke's body language.

Brown shows us, capturing one split second of time, just how hard Boeseke is about to smack that unseen ball with his mallet.  

With only a few well-placed lines, Brown shows us the other players rushing into focus as hard as they can pelt.

We experience a sharp intake of our collective breath, a collective gritting of our teeth, as Brown anticipates just how hard Boeseke and his horse are about to slam into the ground.  The horse seems much more aware of their fate than the rider.

More than eight decades after the polo scores were tallied, the battered riders patched up as the exhausted polo ponies dropped their heads to graze, Paul Brown the magician conjured for us their ghosts.  


Many thanks to Alexis Adkins at the W.K. Kellogg Arabian Horse Library at Cal Poly Pomona #WKKAHL for the recommendations for storing old paper, and to Brenda Lynn at the Museum of Polo, who told me that the old-timers pronounce Elmer's last name "bo-seek."

Additional resources:

M.L. Biscotti's book Paul Brown: Master of Equine Art does an excellent job of summarizing Brown's life, career, and style.

An article by Arthur C. Liese on the Hurlingham Polo website honors Brown:

The Garden City (NY) News did a story on a recent exhibition on Brown:  

The National Sporting Gallery and Museum has more than 200 of Paul Brown's works in its collection:  

The Chisholm Gallery has a good summary of Brown's style and the scope of his work, and a dizzying array of images of his art:

Some of Paul Brown's illustrations in ads for Brooks Brothers are shown here:  

To read more about Elmer Boeseke: 
And about Red Ace: