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October 20, 2010

We Always Find Mystery Photos In The Attic

Do you know the identity of this sword-wielding horseman? Tell us!

The Chronicle’s attic is one of my favorite places in our office. It smells like dust, it's hot in the summer and freezing in the winter, and it doesn’t necessarily have any health benefits to it aside from climbing the three flights of stairs from the bottom floor where my desk is, but it’s well worth the climb and the sneezing.

Most of our photos are organized in filing cabinets that are labeled by year, and within each drawer is a mass of folders that have the issue date written upon them. You can tell easily enough when the filing duties changed hands, as the writing ranges between a neat, block-type to a flowing cursive scrawl throughout the decades.

When we’re looking for photos from our archives, normally we hit our bound volumes first, which literally are hardcover books containing six months worth of magazines. We have them going back to the very beginning of The Chronicle, way back in 1937. The bound volumes started becoming indexed from the beginning, but there was a gap during the 1950s and 60s, which occasionally makes photo searches difficult.


Photo 2: We know this event took place in the late 1990s, but that's about it.

If we’re looking for someone in particular and have an idea of what year the photo might have run, we hit the indexes. The indexes tell us what issue the photo ran in, which gives us a starting point for our search.

Sometimes, though, when we find the appropriate folder, the photo isn’t there! It’s understandable, considering how often we reuse photos we’ve printed through the years, and the seemingly easy photo search becomes a scavenger hunt, complete with clues left by whoever might have gotten to the photo before us. It’s always interesting to track the photos from their original published date to their home today, which might be in one of our newer issues, or sent home to its owner, or more often than not, lost to time.

Of course, you all can probably imagine the vast numbers of photos we have in the attic, considering our magazine has been publishing for almost 75 years. While all of the photos we’ve published are archived, there are thousands of photos that we’ve never printed, and therefore, they’re not always labeled.


Photo 3: Again, late 1990s.

Amidst the filing cabinets, shelves with copies of the magazine, random pieces of office furniture, various signs from events, logo wear and dust, a few boxes of mystery photos sit quietly in any spare space that’s available. With some of the photos, we might know a bit of the story, like what year or what horse show, but for the most part, we don’t know a thing.

It’s fascinating to dig through them, wondering about the identity of the horses and riders, where in the world they were at the time, and if they, perhaps, went on to become some of the best riders of their generation, or faded into obscurity like the boxes in which they now live.

I don’t know about all of you, but I love a good mystery, so I’m dusting off the boxes and letting these photos out to play. Do you know the identities of these mystery combinations? Let us know in the comments!


Photo 4: This was at Upperville. We don't know the rest!

One of web writer Coree Reuter’s favorite parts of working at The Chronicle of the Horse is adventuring up into the attic. While it's occasionally a journey that requires a head lamp, GPS unit and dust mask, nearly 75 years of the equine industry is documented in the old issues and photographs that live above the offices, and Coree is determined to unearth the great stories of the past. Inspired by the saying: "History was written on the back of a horse," she hopes to demystify the legends, find new ones and honor the horses who have changed the scope of everyday life with this blog.

Curious about anything in particular? Have a question or an interesting topic? Please e-mail Coree, she'd love to hear from you!

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History Blog