Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Royal Worcester Percheron "Saltmarsh Silver Crest," by Doris Lindner

It's pretty common to see used model horse figurines at yard sales, estate sales, antique malls, and thrift stores in the US. Breyers, Hartlands, horses for American Girls and Barbie, technicolor batches of "My Little Pony" collectibles, even vintage Marx "Best of the West" horses and riders appear weekly in ads for sales around the country.

And model horse collectors seek them out. Sometimes we get very lucky and find ceramic horses that were made in Japan (referred to in hobbyspeak as "MIJ" horses), or by Hagen-Renaker, Beswick, or other manufacturers of clinky (another hobby term for easily-breakable ceramic, porcelain, etc.) horses. 

But we don't often see model horses by Royal Worcester for sale at secondhand locations in the United States, probably because comparatively not that many of them were made in the first place. There are usually some listed on eBay and other online auction sites.

This example of the Royal Worcester Percheron, designed by Doris Lindner (1896-1979), was recently found at an estate sale.

He came with his original wooden base and factory certificate, which identifies him as number 52 in a limited edition of 500. 

A little online searching told me that his piece was issued in 1965, and was modeled after a real horse, Saltmarsh Silver Crest.

Source: Australian Percheron Society

Saltmarsh Silver Crest, foaled in 1955, was bred by G. H. Bowser and owned by Mr. George Edward Sneath of Pinchbeck, Lincolnshire. Online newspaper accounts provide us with a record of some of his winnings. Here's an example:

The Birmingham Post and Birmingham (West Midlands) Gazette, 5 April 1962

Online sources note that Saltmarsh Silver Crest was not only a champion show horse; at one time, he was the heaviest horse in England, weighing in at 2,772 pounds. 

Source: South Holland Heritage

Fortunately for model horse collectors who own this piece, the Royal Worcester "Saltmarsh Silver Crest" won't require that much food. He is a little smaller than a Traditional scale Breyer without his base, and weighs in at a little over two pounds with the base. I set him on a mostly-Breyer shelf in my display case to show the scale.

Like so many older model horses exposed over the years to smoke and dust, little Silver Crest needs some gentle cleaning. It's also common to see this piece with some damage to its minute details. This example of the RW Percheron lost his mane "flights" but the flight (or "bob") on his tail is, miraculously, still attached.

Saltmarsh Silver Crest is a splendid example of a beautifully designed model horse that has endured over the decades to grace a collector's shelf.


The Museum of Royal Worcester website contains information about the life and work of artist Doris Lindner:  

The Percheron Horse Association of America website provides a history of the breed:

The Australian Percheron Society "P for Percheron" website has one of the photos of Saltmarsh Silver Crest archived:

The South Holland (UK) Heritage website has an article on the Sneath family that discusses their Percheron horses: 

Here's a short film of the Worcester factory from 1951. At about 1:54, we can see some horse and rider figurines; at 2:28, a "statuette of Princess Elizabeth" is shown:

Monday, September 19, 2022

Vintage Postcards of Queen Elizabeth II and Royal Horses

Since so many model horse collectors watched and commented online on the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II, and since so many of us also collect horse postcards, I thought I would share a few images from vintage postcards that I bought at an estate sale several years ago. They show some of the horses associated with British monarchy. Some of them illustrate the coronation of the Queen's father, George VI; a couple of the cards appear to be even older.

Monday, August 29, 2022

Recent Acquisitions: Four Old Horse Books

When I attend an estate sale or visit a secondhand store, I'm usually looking for model horse figurines, horse books, and things that belonged to equestrians. Over the last couple of months I have found four old horse books I'd never seen before. The fourth book has the most interesting backstory, but they're all worth sharing.

One: The Racing Life of Dan Patch, 1:55
The first book came from an antique store outside Lexington, Kentucky (a very horsey place indeed). It's a promotional publication -- sort of a magazine -- called The Racing Life of Dan Patch 1:55.  I found it when I was in Kentucky this year for BreyerFest. 

It was published in 1913 by International Stock Foods Company, which was owned by Dan Patch's owner. M. W. Savage.  He took out ads in newspapers, offering to mail it to people for free. To get a copy, all you had to do was be "a Farmer, Live Stock Owner, or Horseman Over Age 21," write to Savage, and tell him 1) Where you saw the ad; and 2) How many horses, cattle, sheep, or hogs you own or take care of? 

Kansas Farmer newspaper, 8 March 1913.

Savage wanted the information because the International Stock Food Company distributed a myriad of animal feeds and supplements. Indeed, most of the book is ads for things they sold, along with illustrations of horses, mules, cattle, sheep, pigs, and poultry.

The previous owner had had the copy hardbound, probably sometime in the 1950s.

You can see a copy of The Racing Life of Dan Patch 1:55 here:  

For more information on Dan Patch, the Historical Society that honors him has this site:  

Two: History of the Maryland Hunt Cup
2) The second book is History of the Maryland Hunt Cup, 1894-1954 by John E. Rossell, Jr., illustrated by Paul Brown. Published in 1954, the book was limited to 1000 copies, each signed by the author. This is copy number 743.

If Paul Desmond Brown illustrated a book, of course I'm going to want it. This book contains black and white photographs as well as Brown's iconic illustrations, plus a map of the Maryland Hunt Cup course in Worthington Valley, Maryland, and some neat little horse-and-rider silhouettes.

The third and fourth old horse books came from a recent estate sale in Monrovia, in the San Gabriel Valley. 

Sidebar: At the same sale, I found a small collection of miniature Hagen-Renaker animals from the late 1940s to 1950s, meaning they were issued when the company was based in Monrovia. Some of them are damaged and need to be restored, but they're all wonderful -- an old Mama Penguin, an early Cow, ducks, chickens, squirrels, deer, elephants, and more.

Back to the old horse books:

Three: The Life of a Racehorse
3) The third book is The Life of a Racehorse, by John Mills. This narrow volume appears to be a late 1890s reprint of Mills' book from 1861. The British Library says the publisher, Ward, Lock, & Co., was based at Warwick house starting in 1878.

The story is not unlike Anna Sewell's Black Beauty in that it's told from the perspective of the horse. It begins:

Ay, 'tis long ago since I stood  by my dam's side, on a hot and bright May morning; and yet it seems but yesterday when we were together under the great chestnut tree with its leafy branches throwing for yards around a deep and sombre shade, in the center of our paddock. This is the earliest scene I  can remember of my life -- a life fraught with sorrowful changes of the past.... 

You can read it online here:  

Four: Secrets of the Turf, Etc.
4) The last of these old horse books was also published in England, but it has a specific California connection. It's called Secrets of the Turf, Etc. It is a hardbound copy of four separate books written by Bracebridge Hemyng and an author with the pen name "Hawks-Eye."

This book has a sticker in the inside front cover identifying it as a volume of the Kent Cochran Collection, purchased by the California Thoroughbred Breeders Association and presented to the organization's Foundation on October 5, 1959. Cochran wrote for the Racing Form for almost 50 years. His October 1980 obituary in the Sacramento Bee newspaper called him a "turf historian and bon vivant."

This is particularly interesting to me, because CTBA book collection was donated to Cal Poly Pomona earlier this year. I wrote a blog post just on Secrets of the Turf, Etc. at the California Horse History Project:  

Sunday, July 24, 2022

In Memoriam: Susan Renaker Nikas (1940-2022)

I was honored to be invited to the memorial gathering in Claremont, California on July 24 for the woman who ran Hagen-Renaker, Inc. for so many years: Susan Renaker Nikas. Born in February 1940, she passed away in June of this year (2022).

Sue was remembered by all as a kind, forthright, and generous person. I corresponded with her first by mail and later via email, beginning in the early 1990s. Occasionally she would invite me to visit the Hagen-Renaker factory in San Dimas, and her home next door.

Her obituary in the Los Angeles Times did a good job of summarizing her life:

February 27, 1940 - June 10, 2022 Susan Renaker Nikas, 82, passed away at her home in San Dimas, California from congestive heart failure. She was an intelligent, talented, and generous woman who remained active running the family business and writing and recording songs until the last six months of her life. Susan was one of four children of Maxine and John Renaker. At 18 she traveled to England to try her hand at being a folksinger. Later she met her husband Theodore Nikas while performing at his coffee house The Prison of Socrates in Balboa. After her daughter started school, Susan obtained her teaching credential and became a U.S. History teacher. 

In the late 1970s, she went to work in the family business, eventually becoming the CEO of Hagen-Renaker, Inc. Over the years, she worked hard to maintain the tradition of quality of the ceramic figurines the 75-year-old company produced. They were featured in an article in the LA Times, an exhibit at Cal Poly Pomona, and numerous publications aimed at the dedicated collector community. 

In the late 1980s, she also returned to her musical roots, forming the popular bluegrass band, Clay County, which performed at festivals and released numerous CDs. Even after Clay County ceased performing, she continued writing songs and releasing solo albums, the last being "Too Late Now," released in 2021. 

Susan will be sorely missed by family and friends. She was predeceased by her parents and older brother, Jim, and is survived by her twin brother David, sister Mary, daughter Ekaterine Nikas Terlinden, son-in-law Donald, and grandchildren Elizabeth and William Terlinden.

Some of my most recent and best memories of Sue revolved around the exhibit "Miniature Menageries: The History and Artists Behind Hagen-Renaker, Inc." which ran for 18 months in 2018-2019 at the W. K. Kellogg Arabian Horse Library. 

WKKAHL is part of the Special Collections Unit at the Cal Poly Pomona University Library; Special Collections focuses on local history. As a family-owned business that operated from right after World War II to the end of 2021, Hagen-Renaker certainly qualified as "local history." As well, several real horses with connections to the CPP property -- once the W. K. Kellogg Arabian Horse Ranch -- inspired Hagen-Renaker horse figurine designs by artist Maureen Love. 

Hagen-Renaker horse designs at the "Miniature Menageries" exhibit. The dapple gray "Encore" and palomino "Tria" were loaned from Sue's collection.  The reproductions of Maureen Love's art were provided by Share The Love. The other horses were from my own collection.

Sue very generously loaned many priceless pieces from her own collection for the exhibit, along with one-of-a-kind photographs and company paper ephemera. (I'll share a link to my blog post on the exhibit below.)  When the Library held an opening reception for the exhibit, Sue brought her guitar and sang for us.

Interim Dean Emma Gibson, collector Claudia Segger, Head of Special Collections Katie Richardson, Susan Renaker Nikas with her guitar, assistant archivist Elizabeth Hernandez, collector Melanie Teller, and collector Dawn Sinkovich of Share The Love, at the opening reception for "Miniature Menageries" in May 2018.

The exhibit was strategically timed to coincide with a large model horse collector gathering in Southern California, Clinky Mayhem 2018. This meant that many people who collect Hagen-Renaker figurines could also see the exhibit.

Sue did more for the model horse hobby than many collectors realize. Others will be able to provide more examples, but I can give two. In the late 1990s, Sue asked hobbyists to submit names for new "Specialty" horse models and gave each winner a test color piece of each horse. (I helped her coordinate the contests.) 

In 2018, Sue donated many "factory second" miniature and Specialty animal figurines to the W. K. Kellogg Arabian Horse Library, so they could resell them to raise funds for the Library.  Cal Poly Pomona students and faculty bought many of them, and collectors who visited the exhibit during Clinky Mayhem had the opportunity to purchase little grab bags with one or two tiny figurines inside. 

The same year, members of the Hagen-Renaker Collectors Club entered a drawing to be able to purchase one of six overrun "Skywalker" models from the 1998 HRCC Special Run of that mold. Proceeds went to the Club. 

Sue was devoted to her family's business, and we as collectors are so much the better for her dedication. She will be deeply missed, not only by her family, her friends, and her fellow musicians, but by many in the Hagen-Renaker collecting community.

Thank you, Sue, for everything.


Here's my summary of the "Miniature Menageries" exhibit: 


Backstory: Hagen-Renaker Mini Clydesdale Foal

We know that Maureen Love, who designed so many wonderful horses and other animals for Hagen-Renaker, Inc. often sketched horses from life before creating her three-dimensional sculptures. But sometimes she worked from photos.  I believe the H-R mini Clydesdale foal is an example of this.

During the 1990s, I struck up a correspondence through the mail with Susan Renaker Nikas, who ran family-owned Hagen-Renaker for so many years before closing the Southern California company in December 2021. We had connected not just through my appreciation of H-R horses and animal figurines, but also through our mutual enjoyment of bluegrass music and public radio. An accomplished singer, songwriter, and instrumentalist, Susan played at the time in a band appropriately called Clay County.

In October 1992, Susan wrote to me that she was thinking of issuing a new miniature draft horse, perhaps a Clydesdale or a Percheron. She eventually decided on a new Clydesdale design by Maureen Love.  Here's a photo of versions of the adult Clydesdale, which debuted in 1993, and the foal, which debuted in 1994, from Ed Alcorn's Hagen-Renaker Online Museum website:

In August 1993, my husband and I traveled to England, where a friend I'd met through the model horse hobby took me to an agricultural fair near her home in the West Midlands. There, I photographed all sorts of animals. When I got home, I sent some prints to Susan.

Welsh Cob stallion; he came from Wishaw Welsh Cobs.

Some of the photographs were of Clydesdale horses. 

Clydesdales at a rural fair, West Midlands, England, August 1993.

Apparently the Clydesdale foal below caught Susan's eye. There was another photo of the foal trotting after its mother in the show ring, which Susan kept. In November 1993, she wrote to me that, after seeing my photo, she was going to ask Maureen about designing a foal to go with the adult horse.

The Hagen-Renaker Clydesdale foal was issued from 1994 to 2000. Susan very kindly gave me this one, which Maureen Love had signed.

That's the residue from dots of "Quake-Hold" on the bottom of the base and around the foal's hooves. I lost most of my collection of ceramic model horses during the January 1994 Northridge Earthquake, so I wanted to try to secure this foal on its shelf. Back then I didn't have access to Museum Wax. At least the signature is still visible!


You can find more information on Hagen-Renaker Tennessee, and the HR Collectors Club, here: 


And here's a link to the Hagen-Renaker Online Museum: