Consider this a warning. Reading this column could be dangerous to your productivity. It might also be good for your soul.
In a process begun seven or eight years ago, every edition of Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred magazine and its predecessor The Maryland Horse is available online at archive.org. The 1,043 (and counting) magazine editions are searchable and sortable and – in short – treasures of history, information and entertainment. I’ve known this chest of treasures was there, but dove in fully while researching the exploits of Broad Brush, Deputed Testamony and others for an article in this magazine.
And nearly lost myself.
There is so much stuff – articles, columns, photography, advertisements, letters to the editor, strong opinions, gentle essays, legends equine and human, bygone places and eras.
The magazines go back to the original – July 1936. That first one went four pages and included a letter from Maryland Horse Breeders Association President Chester F. Hockley. He wrote of the hiring of Humphrey S. Finney as the director of publicity for the MHBA and encouraged readers to send information about foals of 1936, yearlings to be broken, winners bred and horses sold or purchased. There was a list of stallions, an item on Alfred Vanderbilt’s purchase of 11 yearling colts and a list of all MHBA directors. The phone numbers “Pikesville 600M” for Janon Fisher Jr. and “Annapolis 1850” for Finney will make you smile. Hockley even included a subtle sales pitch: “Furthermore, it is hoped that through this monthly bulletin, The Maryland Horse, the horsemen may advertise their wants, be they employees or horses. If you have something to sell, try to sell at home through these pages.”
Something clicked because the August edition went to six pages and even included a photo of hotshot 2-year-old Airflame on the front page. September was a 12-pager. October and November were 16 each and by December the count was 24. A writer named “The Deacon” had a byline. An advertisement for the Man-O-War Remedy Company promoted Thoroughbred body brace and wash, cough medicine, diuretic mixture and leg paint, all “tested for twelve years.”
Beyond early history, you can head off in any direction. I gave up searching my name – because it’s in pretty much every edition after a certain point – but it’s fun to find horses I used to know. There’s Mod Man’s win at My Lady’s Manor in 1979 . . . Fourmatt’s Federico Tesio score in 1984 . . . Tom Skiffington talking about his first ride on Owhata Chief (NZ) at Fair Hill in 1978. The people are even better. There’s a letter to the editor from my brother in 1985 (he was 15) . . . a photo of my dad at the sales (nice trenchcoat) . . .
Beyond personal connections, the archives lead everywhere – bylines from Mike Pons . . . early articles by former editor Lucy Acton (then Carter) . . . executive director Cricket Goodall’s promotion . . . John and Kitty Merryman strolling through a field with a broodmare . . . “pony girl” Angela Price on the cover . . . Nancy Sweet-Escott . . . a letter from John E. “Jay” Williamson III who was stationed at Fort Carson in Colorado in February 1968 . . . Fendall Clagett in the winner’s circle . . . Dale Austin on the beat . . .
Nothing beats the horses you can sift through – Petee Dee . . . Native Dancer (of course) . . . a rambunctious Rash Prince at Country Life Farm . . . the Deputed Testamony Preakness coverage . . . Jay Trump . . . Mountain Dew . . . Kauai King . . . Twixt . . . Petrify . . . the occasional Standardbred, Draft or foxhunter . . . Alma North . . . Kelso’s half-brother Son of the Wind entering stud . . .
The advertisements are just as interesting. Don’t even look at the price of real estate. If anything, regional stallion prices have declined. There were several iterations of sales companies serving the region. Horse vans were big with Imperatore winning the battle for creativity including one full page with a six-horse van being launched (complete with champagne bottle and Navy band) like a ship above the headline “Great, Admiral . . . BUT WILL IT FLOAT?” I have no idea, but the copy made me laugh. Somewhere, another manufacturer combined a horse van with a camper. Some concoction called Tuttle’s Elexer was on sale – “Works Fast. Works Well. Ask the old timers.”
This could literally go on for days, so I’ll stop. The magazines are stored on a digital library called archive.org, a non-profit with 38 million books and texts along with 14 million audio recordings and 625 billion web pages. How this magazine wound up there can be attributed to director of publications Barrie Reightler asking a simple question in 2013 or 2014.
“What happens if this library burns down?” she asked to herself, other staffers, the MHBA board of directors, anybody really. The office was on Padonia Road in Timonium then and included an extensive library of books and magazines. Reightler wanted a digital archive, did some homework and found solutions for scanning and storing.
“The board was great and we kept coming back to making it all available for free so people could use the magazine for research,” she said. “It was all about making it available.”
Ultimately, a company in Frederick, Md., offered the best solution – scanning hard copies of old magazines to the tune of 80,000 pages, creating images and assembling the monthly editions as PDFs and/or other files. It wasn’t free, it wasn’t necessarily easy (think about how many boxes it takes to move 68 years – 1936 through 2003 – of magazines), but it was worth it. The magazine began creating digital files for each magazine in 2004 so the scanning is no longer necessary.
Assistance from the National Sporting Library led to archive.org and here we are – a permanent online home to Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred and The Maryland Horse. The website offers a search window (use text not metadata) and you can further narrow your choices by searching specific years. The mechanics aren’t perfect, but you’ll get the hang of it.
Use the direct link below or access via the midatlantictb.com website’s Digital Archives link. But get comfortable first. You might be there awhile. archive.org/details/mid-atlantic-thoroughbred