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: