I purchased my first copy of James Barly’s only book, Judging Saddle Horses and Roadsters (privately printed, 1945), in the Renaissance Book Shop, a fantastic four story warehouse full of books in downtown Milwaukee. Unlike so many of its ilk, Renaissance is still there, and apparently still thriving, with a branch at the airport of all places, even without a website to call its own.
I did better on Ancestry.com, where his great-grand niece, Christine Allswede, has cataloged the most important milestones of his life.
Joseph Anthony Barly was born in Menominee, Michigan on 9 Mar 1895. He died in Miami, Florida on either 15 Jan 1988 or 22 Jan 1988, depending on whether you believe the Social Security Death Index or the Florida Death Index respectively.
The 1910 federal census has him living, at age 15, with his parents in Michigan, but by the time of his 1917 draft registration, he had taken up residence in Milwaukee, where he worked as an automobile mechanic. He served 2 1/2 years in WWI in the Thirty-second and Second Divisions, Engineers and was mustered out as a first lieutenant in 1919.
He married Ceil Ann Sterling on 2 Jul 1922 and graduated from Marquette University of Law in 1923, after which he was admitted to the Milwaukee and Wisconsin bar associations that same year. He continued to live and practice in Milwaukee, probably until his retirement to Florida in 1964.
But those are the dry facts. Christine has given me permission to quote her correspondence with me:
I only knew Joseph as the encourager. We shared a passion for horses and he always cheered me on in my riding career through our many correspondences. I wish I had kept his letters, but I still have the song he wrote for me. His true passions in his life were his wife, family, horses, and writing music. While living a modest life in his older years, he used his wealth to build several churches in India, two of which are named after his wife and mother.
And in 1945, he wrote and privately published Judging Saddle Horses and Roadsters, a labor of love that is surely one of the high points in any Saddlebred enthusiast’s collection. He renewed the copyright in 1973, which means the book won’t be in the public domain for a long, long time.
That’s OK. It’s scarce enough to give the collector a thrill when found, and common enough that the diligent and patient searcher will eventually find an affordable copy. I have been privilaged to have found and cataloged a number of copies now, and if you are contemplating adding this worthy book to your collection, you might be interested in a few of the common flaws.
- This book was issued with a jacket, although the jacket seldom survives. I actually thought it might have been issued without a jacket until I found one on my fourth or fifth copy.
- The original color of the book was a dark maroon, with the title in gilt on the front cover and nothing printed on the spine. Many copies have faded to brown, and may be so faded that the observer isn’t sure whether a spine title was once present and has worn off, but there was never a spine title to begin with.
- End papers have a tendency toward discoloration, and there may be some tanning of the text pages as well. If these are the only flaws, don’t pass the book up, because you may not find a better copy.
What makes this book so special? Joan Gilbert, in her article Paths of Glory Lead Where ? on the Horse Show Central site summarizes the content quite nicely, along with some philosophical meanderings on the fickleness of fate in obscuring the histories of even the worthiest subjects. I won’t retread her ground, but I will say that for me, it’s a combination of things.
First, the book was written by a Milwaukee resident and published in Milwaukee, and I have an affinity for unique things produced by my home town. Second, I am fascinated by privately published books in general, and I admire anyone who takes the time to craft and publish a good one. Third, I’m a Saddlebred lover from way back, and this book offers a fascinating insight into what it takes to present a winning show horse.
Christine writes: [Joseph] would be so pleased to know people were still interested in his book. More than 30 years after I found my first copy, I have to say, “Yes we are!”.