Thursday, March 31, 2011

Mystery History -- Solved!

Wanda wins with her 8:17 p.m. Tuesday guess "Charles Frederick Holder at the Valley Hunt Club?" (Wanda, you didn't link to any contact info, so please e-mail me at and I'll tell you about your fabulous prize.)

In the 1910 photo above, Charles Frederick Holder sits in the library of his Pasadena home.

The rectangular photo above the mantel is of Catalina Island where he explored and fished. The man in the framed photo above the mantel is Charles Darwin, one of his heroes.

Born to a wealthy Quaker family in Massachusetts, Holder was an explorer, college professor, philanthropist, conservationist, sportsman, master swordsman and author.

It's not surprising that he had a love of the great outdoors and all things nature-related: His father, Dr. Joseph Holder, was the curator of invertebrate zoology at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. As a child, Charles hunted and fished with his father in locations along the eastern seaboard and spent hours on end exploring every corner of the museum; in 1871 he became his father's assistant at the museum and began writing about natural history.

When he was in his 30s, Charles was diagnosed with a lung condition. He followed the advice of his doctors and moved west, settling in Pasadena in 1885 with his wife, Sarah Ufford Holder.

They were active in Pasadena's civic and cultural affairs: He served on the boards of trustees of the public library and the public school system and was the first president of the Tournament of Roses, and she was on the board of directors of the Pasadena Children's Training Society, a home and school for what now would be considered foster children (it morphed into Hathaway-Sycamores).

Here's a charming illustration of the public library from Charles F. Holder's book All About Pasadena and Its Vicinity (1889, Lee and Shepard publishers):

Excerpt from the book:
The public buildings of Pasadena speak well for its future. On Fair Oaks Avenue is the Young Men's Christian Association, a large and expensive building in course of erection. On Colorado Street near the extensive Carr estate the Union Club-House is rising, and returning to Raymond Avenue we find the Public Library building, the finest of the kind west of Denver. Here is a fine collection of books, and a reading-room containing all the papers and periodicals of the day. The reading-room is free to all visitors, and books are obtainable by paying a small monthly fee.

In the library are the rooms and museum of the Pasadena Academy of Sciences -- which eventually will contain some of the finest collections in Southern California, among which may be mentioned the H.N. Rust collection of antiquities, ranging from the mount builders of the West to the California aborigines; the Carr collection of fossils, representing the great and varied field covered by New York State; the zoölogical collections of Delos Arnold and C.F. Holder, while many other citizens of Pasadena propose to contribute their private collections, which will make the museum one of the most valuable in the State.

Holder co-founded, along with Dr. Francis Rowland, the Valley Hunt Club* in 1888.

Here's a photo of Holder circa 1889 with Valley Hunt Club foxhounds. The photo is in his book Life in the Open (1906, G.P. Putnam's Sons publishers):

In 1890, members of the Valley Hunt Club invited their friends on the east coast to an annual mid-winter holiday in Pasadena where they could watch chariot races, jousting, foot races, polo and tug-of-war under the warm California sun.

Here's a chariot race (that's Throop University on the right, which would become Caltech):

Holder had an idea for expanding the event:

"In New York, people are buried in snow," he announced at a Valley Hunt Club meeting. "Here our flowers are blooming and our oranges are about to bear. Let's hold a festival to tell the world about our paradise."

And the Tournament of Roses was born.

He and Rowland were the grand marshals of the 1910 Tournament of Roses.

Holder founded the Tuna Club of Avalon on Catalina Island, where he fished and explored for many years.

Here he is in a photo captioned "Mr. Holder fishing for sheepshead, Catalina Islands" from his book Big Game at Sea (1908, Hodder and Stoughton publishers):

He lost his life in 1915 as a result of a terrible automobile accident. He was 66 years old.

Garrett Newkirk wrote this in an article the day after Holder’s death:
Dr. Holder was a man of the finest fiber, lover of all that is good, a hater of evil and despiser of shams. He will ever remain in the memory of those who knew him best as a type of the truest gentleman, a loving husband, a faithful friend, a patriotic citizen.
In 1998, Holder was inducted in the International Game Fish Association Hall of Fame.

Many thanks to Pasadena Public Library, Pasadena Museum of History and Tournament of Roses.

* Please note I very rarely link to Wikipedia pages, but in this case it was necessary because the Valley Hunt Club's site is available to members only.


Bellis said...

Congratualtions to Wanda. It always amazes me that people like Holder who claim to love animals enjoy killing them for fun.

Cafe Pasadena said...

I sensed Wanda might be right when she mentioned the Valley Hunters Club. And that didn't look like Muir to me either. So, congrats to her!

(I'll be glad to pick up the fab prize on her behalf if she doesn't make contact! ;) )

Mister Earl said...

Did Holder's home become the Valley Hunt Club, or were they two different locations?

Petrea said...

The Valley Hunt Club is very mysterious to me. I guess they want it that way! Is their sole function to produce the Tournament of Roses, or do they have other facilities as well?

pasadenapio said...

Mr. Earl, the Valley Hunt Club's original location was on a little lane off Orange Grove Boulevard that doesn't exist anymore. The membership purchased the land where it currently is located (Orange Grove Boulevard at Palmetto Drive) about seven years later. Dr. Holder's residence was not part of the club facilities.

Petrea, the Valley Hunt Club produced the Tournament of Roses from 1890 to 1895. Since then, the Tournament of Roses Association has produced the parade and the game.

The Valley Hunt Club has a two-story, mansion-like clubhouse that includes dining rooms, a ballroom, a couple of libraries, sitting rooms, meeting rooms, a gym, spa, etc. Outdoors there are swimming pools and tennis courts, lovely patio areas and gardens. It's all quite elegant and refined (and there's a dress code to boot).

Over the years I have been to some meetings in the executive conference room as well as some luncheons in the main dining room, a couple of private parties plus one wedding. It's always a rare treat when I'm allowed to walk through the door!

The Pasadena City Council approved a 20-year master plan on Jan. 31 of this year to upgrade and expand.