In recent years I have been engaged in writing a history of the American turf. I was particularly interested in the coverage of Racing's Laurel International in your Nov. 15 issue, and am sure you won't mind my making a correction in the article U.S. Racing Is Headed for Grass by Albion Hughes....
In the article, Mr. Hughes states: "First American race track was Newmarket at Hempstead Plains near where Belmont now stands. In fact the Newmarket Porringer, oldest American sporting trophy and earliest piece of authenticated Colonial silver extant (at Yale University), was donated by British Governor Nicolls in 1668 to be competed for at the spring meeting at the then three-year-old Newmarket grass course."
Actually, it is no fact at all.... The porringer referred to in the Yale Collection was fashioned by Peter van Inburgh and the misleading inscription on it is: 1668. wunn. att. hampsted. plaines. march 25.... The noted Director of the Yale University Art Gallery, John Marshall Phillips, has given me the following information:
"The porringer is not the oldest authenticated piece of American-made silver in existence as it was fashioned...probably around 1710. It bears the initials Fs[Sup]M for Francis and Maria Salisbury who were married about that time.
"There was a silver cup offered as a prize for a race run at Hempstead Plains in March 1668, and since this porringer bears an inscription which must have been copied from an earlier piece it was thought that it was fashioned from the cup which was the prize given at that time.
"The race, run over Hempstead Plains, Long Island, was won by Captain Sylvester Salisbury, a close-up ancestor to the Francis and Maria Salisbury whose initials are on the porringer. Therefore, this porringer in the Yale Collection is inscribed as of 1668 to commemorate the date of the silver racing cup awarded an ancestor in that year....
"...The earliest piece of American silver is however a dram cup by Hull and Sanderson, fashioned in 1651, in the Garvan Collection."...
THE AIR I NURSED
My attention has been called to a letter in your issue of Nov. 1, 19TH HOLE, relative to Anchors Aweigh, signed by Captain N. L. Nichols. As author of this piece I would like to add a bit of history to Captain Nichols' letter.
Anchors Aweigh was composed in 1906 by me as a football song. The facts are these: as leader of the midshipmen's church choir, it became my duty by custom to prepare a portfolio of songs for the midshipmen to sing in the upcoming December 2 Army-Navy annual football contest. Up to then no permanent football song had been produced at Annapolis and the use by the midshipmen of a parody on Army Blue (revered West Point song) was suspected as being somewhat responsible for the Navy's recent string of three defeats and one tie in competition with the Army.
It was evident that we needed an inspiring marching song. The title first considered was Haul Away, then Heave Around, but luckily I finally hit upon the nautical term, Anchors Aweigh which seemed to have a catchy connotation.