The Ups & Downs of Some Prominent Hounds
The Belvidere Hounds were first seen going to covert in the magazine “The Sportsman” in 1927, in a cartoon drawing by D. T. Carlisle that was captioned, “The Belvidere Hounds hunt only silver fox.” It depicts a red fox on top of a stone wall as it mocks and taunts the hounds, the huntsman and his horse as they pass by, all with their noses elevated in disdain as they seek a more worthy prey.
Clearly, it was a well disciplined pack. To stay in shape, they engaged in fly fishing and ice skating and played court tennis and hockey. They were virtuous and, on one famous run, refused to chase a fox that had found safety on an island in a pond that was posted against swimming. The Belvidere Hounds loved fine wine and food and celebrated the 4th of July, Mother’s Day and Thanksgiving. The pack tried its paws at sailing, but their endeavors proved problematic and the results quite possibly led to the coining of the phrase, “sick as a dog.” Their exploits were so well followed that if an issue of “The Sportsman” appeared without duly recording their activities, the magazine would be deluged with complaints and demands to know what they had been up to.
All was quite glorious until the stock market crashed in 1929. The Belvidere Hounds’
discipline began to slip. Scandalously, they were seen chasing the lure at Greyhound races. Out hunting they ran riot, anything became game: chipmunks, ‘possum, even birds. The hounds did make a concession to public spirit by censuring any member of the pack caught hoarding (i.e., burying a bone).
It was all chronicled in the cartoons by Carlisle, which were collected and published by The Derrydale Press in 1935.
Overlapping the history of the Belvidere Hounds is the story of Pierpont the Foxhound. Pierpont’s biography was recorded by Maurice Hanson in a slim volume published in 1939. Carlisle’s artistic talent was again brought to bear to illustrate the work.
On the day of Pierpont’s birth (with a silver bone in his mouth) he was enrolled at Groton. At Harvard, he was elected to “Hound and Hare” and voted “Most Likely to Succeed” by his classmates, whose assessment proved to be correct. Pierpont bought controlling interest in General Hydrants. They were available with six different sniffs based on the scents of Pekingese, Great Danes, Scotties, Airedales, Dachshunds and Cockers. To paraphrase a well-known advertising adage – “scent sells.” Profits soared and Pierpont became a celebrity.
He was the most eligible hound in America, recognized and sought after everywhere. After numerous flirtations, including one with Countess Vanya, a Russian Wolfhound, at the perfume counter of one of
the great department stores, he became smitten and married one of the debutante hounds from Foxcroft School.
It was a very happy union. Nothing was wanted, until, that is, the aforementioned crash of 1929. As a headline in one of the leading papers stated, “Wall Street Loses Scent,” and General Hydrants’ stock plummeted to zero. Pierpont was without a bone of any kind. His wife was forced to sell her silver fox coat, no doubt a gift from the Belvidere Hounds, and the couple went into seclusion.
When Pierpont re-emerged, he was supporting the New Deal and speaking out for the public ownership of hydrants. His friends were shocked and he was shunned as a traitor to his class. Undeterred, however, his skills and enthusiasm led to his becoming the director of the Federal Hydrant Administration. He was considered a “howling success” and regained national attention to such an extent that he was considered to have excellent Presidential possibility as a “middle-of-the-road hound.” His message, “two bones in every kennel and a hydrant for every front yard,” resonated from shore to shore.
Unfortunately, the Hanson biography ends abruptly, leaving us in the lurch. It is as if, like the fox of the chase, Pierpont had gone to ground. Additional research has revealed nothing further. No other biographies of Pierpont were written and as far as Wikipedia is concerned, it appears as if he never existed. It is as if it were all a bunch of fiction. ‘Ware hound!
This article, in a slightly different version, first appeared in Middleburg Life, in the column “Then & There.” © Richard Hooper
Photographs courtesy of the National Sporting Library & Museum