The current model horse hobby has grown in so many exciting directions. In the late 1960s to early 1970s it was a small community connected coast-to-coast by snail mail correspondence and live show get-togethers. News traveled very slowly back then, and we all ran to the mail box to look for letters, sales lists, or packages. Imagine a world with no eBay, no Paypal, no NAMHSA, in fact no internet at all. Without cell phones, making a call to another hobbiest was a very special occasion and incurred great long distance charges.
I want to honor some of the early pioneers who helped set the stage for the future. I wonder what they would think of it all today....
Marney lived in the Chicago area, the original home for Breyer Molding Company. As a collector, she got involved in the quality control of the horses and eventually served as a technical advisor to Breyer. With her vast knowledge and superb collection she drew on her hobby friends and created an amazing Breyer reference book, the first one to be compiled that lead the way for future authors. She was a very competitive shower, both model and live horses, and also hosted the Model Horse Congress. The following are a few images and articles to help paint a picture of this generous and enthusiastic woman. Please click on photos to enlarge them.
Ellen Hitchins and Simone Smiljanic
In 1971, Ellen Hitchins of California and Simone (Simmie or Smee) Smiljanic of Indiana came to Southfield, Michigan to judge a back yard model horse show that was held by Patty Albright, Cathy Hawkes, and me. Live shows had started a couple of years before that on the west coast, but this was likely the first one in Michigan. Marney Walerius was in attendance, as were some other hobby folks from the midwest.
The show in 1971 went so well, that another was held in Southfield, MI in 1972. This one had much more invovlement from several hobby folks. Peter Stone from Breyer was there to give a talk and provided prizes. The IMHA name was the club that Simone Smiljanic ran, so it was held under the banner of her club. Marney also referred to this as the "First Model Horse Congress", and after this it moved to Illinois and was run by Marney.
Model Horse Congress was moved to N. Barrington, Il, in 1973 and skillfully managed by Marney Walerius. Here are some photos from the 1978 Congress black and white videotape, and further below is the program from the 7th Congress, Aug. 10-12, 1978.
Two wonderful articles about Marney Walerius were featured in the publication "The Hobby Horse News" and have now been digitized by Kirsten Wellman for all to enjoy. They are linked here with her permission.
Ellen Hitchins and Simmie Smiljanic each had their own model horse club, and they served as an officer in each other's club. Below is a class list for an IMPHSA photo show. Note that Mission House provided model horses as prizes to each of the class first place winners.
More model horse history is documented on a well-researched and interesting blog by Teresa Rogers. It can be found here: