Friday, June 21, 2019

Duke, the General Purpose Horse

Many model horse collectors also have collections of horse books, magazines, and paper ephemera around the house. This is the story of a horse book that made it back to my house from an estate sale this morning.

Having an estate sale?  You have my attention.

An estate sale at the home of people who kept horses during the 1950s?  Yes. please.

This morning's estate sale was on a "horse property" of a little over an acre, in suburban Los Angeles (which used to be a very, very horsey place).  I had looked at the photos promoting the sale on the internet, and noticed that there only seemed to be a handful of small, rather nondescript Made In Japan (MIJ for short) ceramic horse and dog figurines for sale. 

But, at a sale like that, you never know what else might be there of interest to the independent equine history researcher, that didn't make it into the photographs.

The MIJs were overpriced so I left them there, and I didn't see any other model horses or even horse magazines for sale.  However, buried in a plastic bin full of old Bibles and cookbooks was a very old, very thick book. I picked it up and examined the spine.

Navin's Explanatory Stock Doctor, it was called. The 1879 publication date really caught my attention.

And indeed, Dr. Navin had entered his book "In the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington," in the year 1864.

I'll tell you more about the book in a separate post. For now, I want to share a couple of the pieces of cardstock that were tucked inside.

The first was an advertisement from the Danville Buggy Company, of Danville, Illinois.  I went online and found mentions of this business from 1884 to 1911.

And there was a flyer advertising the services of 


(Duke's owner should have hired a proofreader.)

     DUKE io a beautiful bright sorrel with white marks on hind feet is a neat compact horse weighing over 1400 pounds in fair flesh, with strong bone, has splendid action and good style, and is a remarkable sure foal getter.
     DUKE was sired by an imported English Suffolk, Dam an English Hunter.

Duke's owner and keeper, G. D. Rowand, apparently lived in or near Sidell, Illinois. I found references online to a man with that name having owned prize-winning hogs and a pacer named David R..  

And according to the March 14, 1902 Bloomington, Illinois Weekly Pantagraph, a G. D. Rowand from Sidell had recently "returned from a trip to South Africa on a British transport loaded with 1,000 mules. He went as an assistant veterinarian." (Tens of thousands of horses and mules were shipped from the US to South Africa for use by British soldiers fighting the Boer War.)

There was no date on the flyer. I wonder if Mr. Rowand owned Duke before, during, or after his service as an assistant veterinarian?  Did Duke or any of his offspring serve in South Africa? Might this old copy of Navin's Explanatory Stock Doctor have belonged to Rowand, or one of his neighbors?  We'll probably never know. 

But now we know there was a horse named DUKE, and someone liked him enough to have saved this small scrap of information with his chunky image on it. 

Thursday, June 20, 2019

All the Pretty Paper Ponies, Part One: Sam Savitt Horse & Pony "Paper Dolls"

When I was a kid, there weren't just 3D model horses in plastic, ceramic, metal, and (later) resin. There were also punch-out paper horses that I needed to have.  Or at least that's how I justified saving up my 25-cents-a-week allowance to buy them.  

With one rather bedraggled exception (which I'll tell you about another time), none of my paper horses survived my childhood.  One of my favorite sets of "horse paper dolls" was this one. The only copy of it I found online was the UK edition, but the punch-out paper horses were the same as the set I owned.

The book contained several pages showing various horse breeds at work.  I carefully punched them out and played with them often.  They never stood on the shelves with my model horses, although the paper horses did have stands so they could remain upright on top of a desk or table.

My paper horses always reminded me of the scene early in Enid Bagnold's classic book National Velvet. Fourteen-year-old Velvet Brown has returned to her home in late 1920s rural England one evening after having exercised one of her own paper horses. She had carefully cut the horse from a photograph in a newspaper:

“He went beautifully!” said Velvet, and laying down a tiny paper horse on the table she wrenched at the gold band that bound her teeth back and laid it beside the horse.

...“Look at him,” she said lovingly, taking up the paper horse. “I must unsaddle him and rub him down.” The heads were bent on the lesson books again and Velvet took a tiny bridle of cotton threads from the horse. Then going to a shell-box on the sideboard she brought it to the table....

Velvet opened the box and took out a stable rubber two inches square, a portion of her handkerchief, hemmed round. Laying the little horse flat on the table she rubbed him with delicacy in circular motions, after having taken a paper saddle from his back.

The horse was a racer cut from the Bystander. He stood three inches high and had a raking neck and a keen, veined face. By dint of much rubbing the paper had given off a kind of coat, and now as Velvet rubbed there came a suede-like sheen on the horse’s paper body. He was dark, most carefully cut out, and pasted upon cardboard. The bridle was made by the fingers of a fairy, noseband, chin-strap and all, in black cotton.

“He has a high action,” said Velvet. “A lovely show canter, but a difficult trot. I didn’t jump him to-day as he needs to settle down.”

In the shell-box other horses lay....

Perhaps if I'd had a shell-box to store them in, I would have been able to save my paper horses, too. 

I thought my chance of having them again was gone until I went to a living estate sale last year, and spotted most of the same set inside a small flat box on a shelf in the garage.  I took one look, gasped, and put the collection in my bag of Horse Stuff To Buy.

The horse I spotted first when I removed the box lid, was a graceful hunter, leaping my choice of two fences:

I didn't realize it at the time, but my set of paper horses had been designed by one of the most esteemed equine artists of the twentieth century, Sam Savitt.  His style is unmistakable.

Each paper horse was doing something different. Here's a plow horse, her driver, and the plow....

A palomino Liberty Horse from the circus, and two polo players complete with detachable mallets....

A mare, a foal, a watering trough, a palomino foal by itself, and a Shetland Pony with a little girl safely sitting in a basket (since she is too small to ride in a saddle)....

Then there was a Standardbred trotter and sulky....

...A Thoroughbred in a full gallop, with detachable jockey.

...Cowboys and bovines.

The last pieces in the old box in the estate sale garage folded together to make a stagecoach.  

The horses and driver from this set were missing. I found them online.  You can see from this page that the horses came with little cardboard stands that slotted into the bases under their hooves. The page showed how the pieces looked when they had been assembled.

During the 1960s paper horses, like model horses, were more about imagination than they were about competition and collection size. The model horse hobby was not nationally or even regionally organized back then.  We played horses by ourselves, or with a handful of other kids who were also defying their parents' wishes that they grow up and start doing "normal" adolescent things -- whatever those things were.  

Even though images of horses permeated popular culture, most of us had dozens, not hundreds or thousands, of model horses, horse books, and related items. They fueled our dreams and provided countless hours of 

For most collectors then, the hobby was reasonably affordable. A punch-out book of paper horses cost less than 50 cents; a model horse could be bought from the five-and-dime store for well under five dollars.  I remember smaller solid color, unfinished Hartlands in a bin with price stickers of 15 cents, Breyers that cost $2 to $4 each, Made In Japan ceramic horses from 29 to 69 cents apiece, and Hagen-Renakers for $1.50 and up. 

To a younger kid back then it was still a lot of money, and we valued our model horses and paper horses as individuals with character. When we finally got a new horse figurine home, it was given a name, a personality, sometimes a pedigree, and relationships with our other model horses. If we staged a model horse show, it was on the bedroom carpet or perhaps in a corner of the backyard (if the weather allowed) with a few friends who lived nearby.  Other collectors in other areas might have been our pen pals.

It's easy to remember the shelf-dwelling equine friends of our childhoods when we lose ourselves again in Bagnold's succinct, mystical prose:

...Velvet’s dreams were blowing about the bed. They were made of cloud but had the shapes of horses. Sometimes she dreamt of bits as women dream of jewellery…. Sometimes she walked down an endless cool alley in summer, by the side of the gutter in the old red- brick floor. On her left and right were open stalls made of dark wood and the buttocks of the bay horses stood like mahogany all the way down. The horses turned their heads to look at her as she walked. They had black manes hanging like silk as the thick necks turned. These dreams blew and played round her bed in the light and the early hours of the morning....

When I look at my set of paper horses, I think of the other little girl who used to own them, and I want to let her know that they are safe, loved, and appreciated here.  

A few years ago I wrote a blog post about equine artist Sam Savitt.You can read it here:

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Cute (Model Horse) Foal Photos

Hagen-Renaker A-453 mini mini foal,
one inch tall, designed by Maureen Love, first issued Fall 1964.

Spring and early summer bring a wealth of photos of foals to the internet. I thought it would be fun to share some pictures of some model horse youngsters, too.  These were all issued by the California pottery Hagen-Renaker, Inc.

This very vintage Hagen-Renaker A-62 draft horse foal dates from 1949-1951. It was designed by Helen Perrin Farnlund. It's a factory "second" that was never finished.  A little girl who lived near the HR factory in Monrovia, California at the time picked it out of a Hagen-Renaker trash bin and took it home.  Then she grew up and, a couple of years ago, gave it to me. 

Here are some miniature Hagen-Renaker foals designed by Maureen Love: the A-236 lying foal from the mid-1950s, and the A-298 Arabian foal, standing, tail pointing up, issued Spring 1956-Spring 1959.  (For you Breyer collectors, the mini HRs are Stablemate scale. In fact, the "G1" Stablemates were all originally Hagen-Renaker designs by Maureen Love that were issued in ceramic many years before the first Stablemates came out.)

More Hagen-Renaker youngsters.
Left: A-363 turning yearling from Spring 1958-Fall 1959. Right: another A-236 Arabian foal.
Note the difference in shading.

HR Designers Workshop B-561 lying Morgan foal, "Clover"
and B-562 grazing Morgan foal, "Scamper," from 1954.

Hagen-Renaker Designers Workshop B-550 "Roughneck" Morgan foal, first issued Spring 1954.

Three examples of the HR B-709 small "Zilla" Arabian foal, first issued in Fall 1959.

And finally (for now), here's one of the most recent additions to my herd: the HR B-751 DW "Vanguard" Thoroughbred foal, designed by Maureen Love, issued Fall 1961 to Spring 1972.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Nearly Lost Equine Images, Part One: Trigger, the Pinto Pony

One of the reasons I created this blog was to record the importance of model horses, and real horses, in the lives of children and adults during the twentieth century.  This is the first in a series of posts about real horse photos that turned up in some old albums from the 1920s through 1950s. Had the pictures not been rescued, the images of these horses might have been lost forever.

"Trigger, September 1952. Farm"

I try not to make assumptions when someone doesn't keep their old family photos. There could be any number of reasons. 

Maybe the photo albums were lost by accident in a move; maybe they were put in a storage pod and never removed by the family. Maybe there were bad feelings among family members; maybe the grandkids didn't value them. Or perhaps there were no surviving family members to cherish the old pictures.

Whatever the case, I think it's appropriate to remember the equine friends that appear in the pages of old photograph albums. These pictures shed light on the fact that horses, ponies, mules, and donkeys played an important part in family life, not only as work animals but also as beloved family friends.

This seems to be the case with the pictures of Trigger the pinto pony that my friend found at a very large yard sale a couple of weeks ago.  The yard sale contained donations from dozens of people who volunteer for a local cat rescue group. There was really no way to trace the origin of the pictures except for a few penciled notes on the backs of some of the photos, and connecting them to the family names mentioned in some old Baby Books in which the mom had made notes.

The crumbling black pages of the photo album contained dozens of pictures of a 1950s California family that traveled back to the dad's family farm, probably in South Dakota (or possibly Minnesota). 

"Farm. 1952."

We know that the families' last names included Johnson and Nelson, and that this particular pony's name was Trigger.

"September 1952. Farm"

One Baby Book notes that, in 1952, Lenny Johnson, Jr. (age 4) and his parents left Southern California and "went on vacation to Bryce - Zion - Yellowstone - Teton - Black Hills and on to the Farm. Lenny road (sic) tractor and pony. Road pony bareback all by himself."

Handwritten notes on the backs of the photos say that the pony's name was Trigger.  

"Rodney on Trigger, 1951."

"Karin on Trigger, Kirstin on Dolly, 1951."

"Farm. September 1952."

Perhaps one of the reasons that Lenny's mom, Betty Jean, made note of Trigger and Dolly was that she and Lenny's dad also had horses when they were children, and saved their pictures.  We'll look at them in subsequent blog posts.

We can't deduce much more about Trigger at this point, except to say that it looks like his children loved him. And perhaps, in the long run, that's the most important thing to remember.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Arizona Live, 1991

I'm happy to report there has been a great deal of discussion in model horse groups on social media of "live" model horse shows during the 1970s through 1990s. I thought it would be useful for this blog to share a few more examples of live shows from that era.

Today's topic: Arizona Live.  Here's the Arizona Republic's May 4, 1991 interview with artist and show holder Kathleen Moody.