Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Hagen-Renaker "Brookside Stella" Hackney Pony

Hagen-Renaker Monrovia "Brookside Stella"
with replacement wooden base.

One of Maureen Love's earliest designs for Hagen-Renaker was the B-644 Hackney Pony "Brookside Stella," designed and named after a real show pony. The model was one of two Monrovia HR designs with a foil sticker on the bottom of a base giving information about the breed (the other was the Lipizzan). "Brookside Stella" was first issued in Fall 1956-Spring 1958, reissued Fall 1983-Spring 1985, and later reissued as a Special Run for BreyerFest in 2008.

Left, Monrovia (1950s) version; center and right, San Marcos (1980s) reissues.

Sticker on base of Monrovia model.

2008 BreyerFest Special Run models, black and charcoal.
We know the real Brookside Stella was a pony and not a horse because of book and newspaper records of horse shows during the post-World War II era. Brookside Stella was owned and driven in Hackney Pony harness classes, and later shown in halter, by the redoubtable Southern California socialite Mrs. J.A. Smith. She, along with her husband, owned dozens of Hackney ponies (many of whom had the prefix "Brookside") and Shetland ponies, which Mrs. Smith showed in harness and halter classes around the country, sometimes taking 16-18 ponies at at a time on the road to shows. Brookside Stella's name appears in the show results for Hackneys under 13 hands high.

Shreveport, Louisiana Times, June 1, 1949.

The earliest records I've been able to find of Mrs. Smith and Stella are from 1949, and the last mention of little Stella I've found was in a photo showing her standing next to her handler at the Smith's pony farm, in a 1955 issue of the Los Angeles Times. Brookside Stella's name also appears in a 1951 newspaper article on the Grand National Exposition, Horse Show and Rodeo at the Cow Palace in San Francisco, as having been "exhibited by Kenmore Stables," and also as being owned by Kenmore Stables at the 1951 Los Angeles International Horse Show. Kenmore Stables was in San Diego, so it appears that little Stella changed hands more than once. She was back at the Smith pony ranch by 1955, though, as we know from the LA Times article from the same year, and from the foil sticker on the base of the HR "Brookside Stella" from 1956.

Los Angeles Times, February 6, 1955. 

An interesting footnote to this story is that some of Mrs. Smith's other ponies competed against the Hackneys owned by the Owl Truck and Construction Company, which also owned the team of Belgian horses that included Sespe Violette, subject of another Maureen Love design for Hagen-Renaker, the B-567 Belgian mare of the same name.

My own Monrovia "Brookside Stella" lost her original base over the years, so she now has a new wooden one.

"Brookside Stella" group shots courtesy of the online Hagen-Renaker Museum.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Pacific Coast Quarter Horse Magazine, 1952-1953

Horse magazines are an important part of the education of the model horse collector, and indeed all horse lovers.  Magazines teach us about horse breeds, about famous horses and riders, stables and horse events.  And when I found some old horse magazines at an estate sale last year, they taught me a little more about the history of the horse in California in the mid-twentieth century.

The ad for the estate sale said the items had belonged to the widow of a man who had been a race horse trainer in Southern California, which of course piqued my interest.  It turned out that not only had Don Early trained Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses, he had also been the editor of more than one Southern California-based horse magazine in the post-World War II era.  

Apparently neither publication lasted long, but they did capture a snapshot in time, when the work of the horse had shifted from agriculture and transportation, to recreation and sport.

This blog post will focus on one of the magazines, Pacific Coast Quarter Horse.  I found issues dating from July 1952 to June 1953.

The cover of the premier issue featured the filly Sue's Joela. 

"ON THE COVER -- The intelligent-looking, well-conformed youngster gracing our first cover is the 1952 foal of an Illinois-owned mare shipped to California to the court of Joe Reed II.  The dam is Sue's Answer, by Question Mark out of the Joe Reed mare, Sue Reed."  

The  Table of Contents page listed the officers and directors of the PCQHA.

We can see editor Don Early, who saved copies of the magazine for decades, in the middle of the page.

The letter from the president of the Pacific Coast Quarter Horse Association, Richard Danielson, Jr., hoped that "this magazine will make new friends for the Quarter Horse."

Subsequent issues featured cover photos of some of the best-known Quarter Horses of that long-ago day, including who chestnut stallions, Harold Hutson's Buzzie Bell H (August 1952) (Daybreak x Lucky Strike Bell mare), and Joe Reed II (November 1952) (Joe Reed x Nellene).

The speedy stallion Senor Bill (Chicaro Bill x Do Good) was featured on the October 1952 cover.

Other covers featured racing filly Bardella (Three Bars x Della P) (January 1953)  and stallion Bart B.S. (Dee Dee x Mable Tet [TB]), affectionately known as the Grey Ghost (March 1953) .

The last issue of the publication at the estate sale, June 1953, featured the venerable stallion Texas Dandy (My Texas Dandy x Streak).  The letter from the president of the PCQHA said that the magazine was struggling due to lack of advertisers.  

The editor had also saved a small stack of PCQHA letterhead.

What impressed me more than the fact that Don Early had kept multiple copies of each magazine, was the fact that he had also kept some of the original art used in the magazine, inked onto white cardstock.  Many of the pieces were unsigned, but others had been created by noted Western artist and horse trainer Mac McHugh. You can see the printer's markings in pencil on the borders of the drawings.

Still others were cartoons by Pawnee Indian artist, illustrator and war hero Brummett Echohawk.

I've donated a set of the magazines, as well as all the original art, to the Special Collections Unit at Cal Poly Pomona University Library.  They specialize in Southern California history, and the collection from the estate of Don Early's widow will help researchers illuminate the history of the horse in Southern California and the United States, in the years following World War II. (Special Collections is also the home of the W.K. Kellogg Arabian Horse Library, which holds information about many breeds of horses.) 

I'm sure that others who document the history of the Quarter Horse in the US will be able to provide better context for these copies of Pacific Coast Quarter Horse magazine.  In the meantime, it's a pleasure to show you what I found at this estate sale.  

Sunday, August 19, 2018

The Flocked Breyer Model Horses of Diercks & Algyre

I'm always pleased when I see examples of the real horse world overlapping with the world of model horses.  When I was at BreyerFest last month, someone gave me two old Draft Horse Journal magazines for free. And in with the articles and ads and photos of Percherons, Belgians, Clydesdales, and Shires, were a couple of ads that really got my attention. They showed examples of flocked Breyer horses produced by Diercks and Alygyre.

Diercks and Algyre were three women -- Phyllis Algyre, Eileen Diercks, and Eileen's daughter Ruth P. Diercks, who lived in Iowa.  

This ad appeared in the November 1966 issue of The Draft Horse Journal magazine. It shows a team of four Breyer Belgians customized as "four splendid dapple grey Percherons" in "full scotch harness."  The wagon was extra.

And this ad was printed in in the May 1967 issue of Draft Horse Journal.  It shows a flocked Breyer Belgian in harness, as well as a pair of Breyer Quarter Horse geldings pulling a Prairie Schooner. 

I also found some newspaper articles on Diercks and Algyre.  This one is just a photo with a caption, from the October 19, 1969 issue of the Waterloo, Iowa Courier-Sun.  The caption says that the vehicles were made by Ed V. Ramsey of Waverly, Iowa.  

The January 26, 1975 issue of the Waterloo (Iowa) Courier calls the women of Diercks and Algyre "national authorities" on making model horse harnesses.  

A nearly full-page article appeared in the January 21, 1976 edition of the Greene (Iowa) Recorder, that provided a wealth of details about the company and its work.  

The article gives us some insight into how Diercks & Algyre customized Breyer horses and made harnesses for them.  I saved the narrative and the photos in sections to make it easier to read.


Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

Part Five

Part Six


A few different companies and individuals have produced flocked Breyer horses over the years.  You can read more about flocked model horses in the Model Horse Collectibility blog:


Saturday, July 28, 2018

Early Examples of Model Horse Collections, 1930s to 1950s

At BreyerFest earlier this month, some of the longest-standing members of the hobby and I talked quite a bit about the origins of model horse collecting in the twentieth century.  (I won't say we're the "oldest" members of the hobby, because even the good folks in their 70s are still very much young at heart.)  

Our conversations reminded me of these drawings by C.W. Anderson from his book Blaze and the Spotted Pony. How well he knew us!

So I decided to go into the venerable Newspapers.com database and dig around for expressions such as "model horse," "horse figurine," and "horse collection" in the context that we in the hobby think of those terms.

While most people in the hobby today are women and girls, boys played a significant part of the newspaper stories I read about horse collections. The earliest example of the phrase "horse collection" I could find (not referring to someone with a lot of real horses) came from the Pittsburgh Press newspaper, January 25, 1937.  A young man, James W. Arrott, IV, entered his miniature horse collection in a local hobby show.

An Abilene (Texas) Reporter newspaper story from October 13, 1938, described Mrs. W.D. Fagan's "unusual" miniature horse collection that ranged from half an inch to about a foot high.  The paper had asked its readers to tell them about their hobbies.

The earliest newspaper stories I read didn't discuss groups of collectors buying, selling, trading model horses amongst themselves, or corresponding about their hobby.  It appeared that lots of Americans had collections of figurines, and some of them collected horses.   Children who had collections often met at a club such as a 4H or riding club, a Scout troop, or a library, and perhaps shared their common interest there.

The Greeley (Colorado) Daily Tribune reported on June 24, 1944, that local school children raised money for a $100 War Bond by charging admission to see their collections of various items, including lambs, pigs, and horses.

Merchants caught on to the need to advertise horse collectibles, as shown in the Salem (Oregon) Capital Journal ad for the Metropolitan store from April 12, 1945: 

By the 1940s, collectors putting model horse collections on display in local public libraries seemed to be fairly common.  This may have been due, in part, to the increasing popularity of juvenile fiction horse books.  Walter Farley's The Black Stallion was first published in 1941; The Black Stallion Returns came out in 1945, the same year Marguerite Henry's Justin Morgan Had a Horse was published.  

The Mount Pleasant (Iowa) News, March 18, 1946, describes such a display.

Cowboys in pop culture also played a huge role in the imagination of boys and girls alike in the post-World War II era.  The adventures of cowboys and, importantly, their faithful steeds were ubiquitous on the radio, in comic books and newspaper comic strips, in the movies and later on TV. The Minneapolis Star Tribune from May 16, 1948, showed a photo of third grader Donny Anderson, appropriately attired in his cowboy outfit, sitting next to his model horse collection.

So where did people find model horses, before the days of Breyer, Hartland, and Hagen-Renaker?  Their options were limited, including toys, handmade horses (ceramic or hand-carved), or ceramic and metal horse figurines marketed as decorative objects. A search for the phrase "horse figurine" turned up this ad from the Amarillo Globe-Times, December 8, 1938:

Later, ads and articles aimed specifically at people who had animal collections became more numerous.  The Dayton Daily News, August 26, 1945, had a hobby-specific advertisement for Wagner's:

Fred Meyer Drugs advertised one of its early horse figurines in the November 13, 1945 Salem Capital Journal:

Graceful Horse Figurines appear in this November 22, 1945 ad for Sears, Roebuck & Co. in the Minneapolis Star:

In 1946, the name of a pioneering model horse designer began to appear in Idaho newspapers as well as in magazines such as Western Horseman: Virginia Orison.  (She deserves a separate blog post, which I'm working on.)

Metal horse figurines were common in American households, gracing bookshelves and fireplace mantels.  And by the late 1940s, kids and adults from all walks of life were given model horses as gifts.  President Harry Truman, for example, in 1948, received what looks a lot like a small metal horse in Western tack like the one that Gladys Brown Edwards designed.  The horse was sent to the president as a birthday gift from a nine-year-old Wyoming boy.

By 1954, newspaper ads had begun to show illustrations of horse-shaped objects we might recognize.  The Ben Franklin stores ran this ad in newspapers in July 1954:

In the 1950s it was common to see boys and girls with model horse collections mentioned in their local newspapers.  This photo from the November 28, 1957 Nashville Tennessean shows a group of girls admiring what may have been a Beswick 976 mare in bay.

The Winona, Minnesota Daily News, November 29, 1958, showed a photo of collectors with (among others) some new-at-the-time Hagen-Renaker horse figurines, as well as what might be one of the Orison Quarter Horse models under Western tack.

In the near future I'll post some other examples of reporting on model horse collections before 1960, using old horse magazines as my sources.  Stay tuned!