A Perspective on Carl Raswan From His Writings (Part I)

compiled from materials provided by Richard Pritzlaff
from the Khamsat Vol 5, Num. 4 Oct. ’88
Copyright 1988
used by permission of the editor of these materials

We are grateful to Richard Pritzlaff for providing the following Carl Raswan materials as his gesture in tribute to Carl Raswan. Richard Pritzlaff was unable to attend the Al Khamsa convention in San Francisco so he sent a wealth of materials to the KHAMSAT on Raswan to help gain a better understanding and appreciation for Carl Raswan and his work. (See convention coverage in this issue.) Many people may not be aware that Carl Raswan spent part of his last years at Richard Pritzlaff’s Rancho San Ignacio often working diligently to publish his writings. This is the first of several installments on Carl Raswan from Richard Pritzlaff’s collection. This feature deals with excerpted correspondence between Carl Raswan and the noted early American breeder, W.R. Brown as well as correspondence with Richard Pritzlaff. (To be an accurate record spelling and grammar are presented essentially as they appear in the correspondence provided.)

Letter from Carl Raswan to W.R. Brown, November 6, 1925, from Pomona, California:

My dear Mr. Brown,

Received your kind letter of October 31st today and thank you for all information and “News: I am anxious to answer your various questions:

Jauhanna LDMr. Kellogg is very interested to see your stock and if things happen to come to our favour, that we are able to leave here in December, I expect that Mr. Kellogg and I may see you around New Year. Thank you for the information about the direct route via Montreal.

Various Horse families (and strains) exist in the same Bedouin tribes, but certain families of certain tribes are celebrated as breeders of particular absolute pure strains (and families of horses) — The “good, old, solid times” are passing too in Arabia and the pure — absolutely pure — strains are disappearing fast — the farther north you go (away from the Nafud desert) the less you fine which are considered absolutely pure.

An Arab Horse today is considered “ASIL” WHEN

(1) Pure in stain and Family

or: (2) Pure in strain alone and of different family

or:(3) Pure in two related strains (example: Kuhaylan stallion and Saklawi mare).

A “Fanatical” Bedouin breeder will only consider No. (1) “pure”. (“Asil” mare and “hadud” stallion).

If some of our old Americans regret the passing of so many old ideals of Lincoln’s time — so do the old Bedouins regret the passing of the breeding of absolutely pure strains (how otherwise could Abbas Pasha have paid $15,000 for an old crippled SAKLAWIAH (SHAIFI) mare? which he imported to Egypt from Central-Arabia). Or how could have been preserved the Muniki Hadraj type — the same 1700’s producing the Darley Arabian and nearly 200 years later a “Kismet” or “Maidan”?! Or how could have been such “types” been preserved which are as different as a Morgan from a Kentucky Saddle Horse (Kuhailan and Saklowi for example) or a Pony form a Race horse (Abaiyan and Muniki). While I do not say they absolutely resemble such types, still they do Mostly surprisingly so — and the various differences appear more in the composite bloods and not in the Arab so much (which should prove anyhow not only a careful fixed breeding in such Arab Strains for many generations, but also an intensifying breeding of such fixed types through many occasions of closest in-breeding). No tribe who ever owned “fast” horses exterminated a tribe with “slow” horses (not only in Arabia — see also England versus Boers as other instances of history). You mention the Muniki (large and fast) and the Abaiyan (small and slow). But: the Abaiyan have the endurance, I could prove it to you by our “Arak”.

Letter to Carl Raswan from W.R. Brown, February 18, 1928 from Miami Beach, Florida:

My dear Raswan,

Your letter of Jan. 19th, Damascus reached me here where I am having good rest on the sand under an almost tropical sun and as you may judge I was greatly delighted at the splendid photos of some high quality horses, also to hear that you would be in this country soon and that I am to have the pleasure of seeing you and hearing of your trip and all about your recent discoveries. Most of the photos you sent this time are of the kind of horses I like with intelligent, aristocratic, sensitive heads and well set up conformation, strong, deep ribbed and graceful. May I congratulate you on getting such good photos. Are they selected from a good many as the best or did you find a tribe where the quality ran high. I hope too, that the horses given you was a good one. By the way I received a letter from your friend Ameen Rihani saying he was coming over shortly and accepting my invitation to come to Berlin (N.H.) to see me and bring his horses for a rest upon their arrival. Your photos of the Arabic books were wonderful for a small camera and they look most intriguing. Do you want me to help you again on the translation? My idea would be to have them enlarged in our photographic department and bound and translated by a scholar in New York who was conversant with the ancient script. The cost perhaps would be considerable but if they are about horses I would feel well repaid if I could retain a copy. You will find me at home and a cordial welcome at Berlin (N.H.). Cable me or telegraph from the hotel the probable date of your arrival so that I can make plans to have plenty of time to hear about your trip. I am more than envious of your freedom to go out there and nothing would give me greater pleasure than to live the Bedoween life for a time among fine horses. I hope you got the last edition of our stud book which I sent to Damascus. It has had a lot of favorable comment.

How about working for me when you get back? I need a rider and could give you leisure to work on your notes and between us, a considerable contribution to the world’s knowledge of the Arabian Horse could be made.

Letter from Carl Raswan to Richard Pritzlaff April 20, 1954:

Our dear Richard,

You made me practically “independent’ now — independent to do my work as I would like to present it to the Arabian Horse Breeders and Horse Lovers.

Dashialls sent me a note, saying that the Los Angeles times printed the following: “Louis Brandt, director of the hit play, ‘Once Upon a Taylor’ (running the 18th week at the Circle Theatre, etc. etc.) will fashion Carl Raswan’s Drinkers of the Wind into a screen play to be made into a picture by his own Tower Productions, Inc., this summer on location. Rodney Bell, recently in ‘Brigadoon’ and ‘A Star is Born’, is wanted by Brandt for a stellar assignment.”

Lou also wrote that he’ll have news for me before long. I am used to Hollywood publicity, but a “grain” of truth must be in this clipping — and I know that Lou is working on it. The best thing is not to get excited about Hollywood, but bite my time to wait and see. I am in no hurry about anything except that I have to work (with my nose on the “grind-stone”) to get the INDEX out. (It’s a life’s work — you know it — and I owe it to the Arabian Breeders for years and years. And now you make it possible to get it out).

And other — real good — news: the Swiss publisher had my collection of Arabian Horse Stories translated into German (a beautiful translation — I just finished correcting it). This book was published yet — but now it will be published in German first. I love this book really — and I am glad that it is coming out in German first, and no doubt, England, the U.S.A., France, Italy and others will like it too. It reads marvellously (I should not brag about my very own stuff, but somehow I read it with tears running over my cheeks — all these wonderful horses in Arabia, Egypt and America come back to life and I lived with them again and also with the people).

Letter from Carl Raswan to Richard Pritzlaff, November 28th, 1954:

…There is no place (though there are other places) which I know that should give so much courage and peace of heart in this restless world as San Ignacio Ranch and the whole country around it.

…The Hungarians never called a Persian, Turk or Barb an Arabian, but separated them from their real (authentic) Arabians – and called them Part-bred Arabians or “Araber-Rasse” (not ORIGINAL and Arabians). I found more than 380 additional imported Arabians & Near Eastern horses in these papers which I sorted out in those boxes on your ranch. What an important addition to my Index! It is hardly possible that I miss even a single one of the original imported Arabians that came to Europe between 1789 to our own time (1932). It was “fate”, dear Richard, that we came to your ranch this year & that you went to the additional sacrifice and had my boxes brought up from Springer, and that you went to Hawaii & that I spent so many days & later nights to sort out all those horse-papers…Dr. Doyle has seen me work here & often enjoyed the papers and manuscripts & notes I was working on…

Anyhow, don’t worry about us. We are allright now and accomplished a lot of work and Dr. Doyle & his family are the kindest & good people. Dr. Doyle and I often talk about you and we plan that perhaps we three go together to Egypt & Damascus and Arabia (two or three months, God willing) and get us a couple of the best mares and two of the best stallions. Let us hope that we can do it.

Letter from Carl Raswan to Richard Pritzlaff, January 21, 1955:

…I believe you have completed in every way the foundation for me to make this literary & scholarly work on the Index and on this book (“The Arab and His Horse“) a success. When you look back you will recognize what I mean. Every time you helped us you gave us a further chance not to quit this work (on the Index), but go on with it, and make it perfect. The Springer Storage Boxes were a God send, when you had them shipped up to the ranch & I could find the missing notes & papers. and so on — and so on — Twice on your ranch — and while in Mexico your help, so that we could continue the work. and now it is crowned, it is finished, completed and the printing will bring it before the “world” — the critics too — and the scholars — and the Arabian Breeders & Arabian Horse Lovers.

…Mrs. Joder wrote (she is in Boulder now, own ranch & her Arabian News Magazine.) She will help me through her magazine — and perhaps, when the book comes out, we should stay at least a few weeks in Boulder. Would you advise me to do this & perhaps stay even a few months in Boulder? It may be the best thing to do (that is: to work with Mrs. Joder hand in hand the first few months (after the book comes out and the Index — first volume is coming out too).

Letter from Carl Raswan to Richard Pritzlaff, June 5, 1956 from Mexico City, Mexico:

…It is the daily bread and the milk for the babies and such necessities of life which “stare” us in the face when ever the time and day comes and they have to be replenished. Sometimes the worries for these daily expenses really don’t let one sleep and I “Kill” the worries by sitting up and working myself to forgetfulness.

However I know that I am getting this work & worrying gradually believe me. The book [Ed. Note: “The Arab and His Horse“] was not a success as far as money is concerned, but these hundreds of letters which I received prove that the book was a necessity — and the Index is a necessity too. After I worked on & off more than 34 years on it, I simply have to let others share with me the knowledge I gathered up in Arabia & Europe and America…

There is the value of the book & the Index: others will (in years to come) have a work & reference book to which they can always turn for information.

I wish I could be riding with you or hiking through your glorious country — and also I wish I could go with you & Dan to Iowa & see your filly & Dr. Doyle’s new horses. Your filly must be well developed now and a beautiful creature [Ed. Note: this filly was Kualoha] & I hope Rabanna will have another foal, so that you get really started in pure-Arabian breeding. And I hope too that you may be able to arrange with Dr. Doyle (and maybe with some friends of Dr. Doyle) to get the two Egyptian horses over (the two you liked the best). [Ed. Note: this refers to Richard Pritzlaff’s unsuccessful first attempt to acquire horses from Egypt. the two referred to here are the chestnut filly Mouna (EAO) (Sid Abouhom x Moniet El Nefous) and the bay colt Kamal II (Nazeer x Kamla), a full brother to Hadban Enzihi.]

Letter from Carl Raswan to Richard Pritzlaff, May 25, 1958:

…You made history! God bless you & von Szandtner & the Arabians you managed to bring to your little kingdom at Hermit’s peak.

Everything “fits” into the Divine “pattern” “High-Powers” designed for you & the future of Arabian Horse-breeding in America…

…My letter (eleven pages & pedigrees) probably got lost in Egypt but you managed without it, as Herr von Szandtner was so helpful and so good to you: When you have time, write me more about him and how things were with horse-breeding in Egypt.

Letter from Carl Raswan to Richard Pritzlaff, September 14, 1958, from Mexico City:

…We are so happy that everything has worked together this year to lay a solid foundation for your perfect little Arabian stud (I have to find a beautiful Arabian word for your studfarm & work it out like a “seal” — (“trademark”), which you can use on your pedigrees, letterheads, envelopes, etc.).

…People ask me why I don’t have Arabians now (or why I am not with them now). All I can say is: that it is the very love for them that has separated me from them for the last years. I owed a debt to the world & to those, who with me believe in them. All the papers which I have collected throughout 34 years, all the notes & pictures I have taken in Arabia, Egypt, Europe & America — they could not be wasted. (I don’t have to explain it to you. You know what I mean!) This “Index” — the Handbook for Arabian Breeders — I had to assemble it and print it — but with the greatest sacrifice of my life: with absence from my Arabian horses – with concentration on only this one matter: the “Index”.

Letter from Carl Raswan to Richard Pritzlaff November 17, 1964 from Santa Barbara, California:

…We are holding out here. Sometimes it is hard, because we still suffer with the ten years of loss of time and consequently of the money we could have made if we had not worked on these 6 volumes of the INDEX, but instead of the Autobiography and a Juvenile book.

…I have worked steadily on my Autobiography and here & there on the Juvenile book. I’ll probably finish the Autobiography by April. It contains the 1913/1914 period of my life in Egypt & other parts of the Near East & the outbreak of the war & my escape from Egypt to Saxony & later how I volunteered with the 18th Hussars & in Spring 1915 to Constantinople and Gallipoli & the battle of Suula Bey — and later through Asia Minor (21 days and the Armenian massacres & finally Damascus & Jerusalem & how I joined General Kress von Kressenstein (Chief of Staff to Jemal Pasha IVth Turkish Army) and my work there and with camel corps to the SINAI, HEJAZ and Northern Arabia — and finally Jerusalem & Damascus again & with Turkish Cavalry outfit to the Ercerum-Caucasus region and back to Aleppo — the amazing mountains..the Tower Mountains & back to Constantinople & my complete breakdown there — sent to an invalid home (to the Errgelbridge in Saxony) & recovery in Winter 1917/18 and return to Russia in Spring 1918 – the UKRAINE — and end of war in WARSAW & capture by the Social Revolutionaries & finally free — 5 days in an open Coal Car (below zero weather) to the German border (almost frozen lifted out of the car) and return home and how I entered the American Army as interpreter for French, Arabic & English in Coblenz & two years later, I am on my way to New York & California to start a new life in Coachella Valley …south of Palm Springs. It was enough for one young man’s life — but I did not realize then that more was to come — in Arabia again…

Letter from Carl Raswan to Richard Pritzlaff, March 27, 1965, from Santa Barbara, California:

…I am happy to know that you visit your beloved friend General Tibor von Szandtner’s wife. (Please, tell her about us & what we are doing and have done.). It was a tremendous work that I have accomplished with God’s help in the last 12 years. I begin to realize it myself now — because I look at the years that have rolled by & the books that I was able to publish – and every day the sacrifice of sitting 12 to 14 hours at home & just writing & checking & doing research. How I was able to do it without losing my health & strength, I don’t know…

I am still working hard, but more walking too & more sleep — and I hope to stick to it this year — and next year go to the Near East (if possible the coming winter already) — and I hope that when I go with Ursula [Guttmann] & her family too & with my family (& stay in Damascus a year of so) that you could go too & we make a ‘side’-trip from Damascus to the tribes — with Prince Mutib –

Your plans about Babolna are good. You will love the country & the people — and see for yourself what good horses they have & what great horsepeople they are. Their good Arabians may not be as good & true Arabians as yours, but you may be able to encourage them & advise them how to get a new authentic foundation stock of Arabians. With their history & traditions the Hungarian Government should make all efforts to go to Egypt & Arabia itself & search for ASIL stock & start Babolna again with a dozen broodmares & two stallions, and thus create a NUCLEUS of doubtless pure (ASIL) Arabians (and keep this ASIL “nucleus” through the coming generations & centuries — by exchanging with studfarms like yours & Mrs. Ott’s, Marshall’s and others).

Letter from Carl Raswan to Richard Pritzlaff, November 29, 1965, from Santa Barbara, California:

Believe it or not: I was in the Saint Frances Hospital for a week. What I had thought was a food-poisoning Tuesday, three weeks ago, was a heart-attack. It seems, that cutting the lawn with an old lawn-mower did it.

Monday a week ago I collapsed again. Esperanza got the Doctor right away and he rushed me to the hospital, where they gave me injections. It was 8 am by that time — and by 10 am they gave me “the-works” (it lasted 3 and one half hours). They tested me for everything. The rest of the day I rested in a half-trance. The following day another one and a half hours of tests and more X-rays. In the afternoon the doctor told me: “you have had silicosis. Both of your lungs are full of holes (scars)”. I told him that I never worked in a mine, but during the war in the Sinai, Hejaz, Northern Arabia and during all these years in Desert Arabia I had gone through many sandstorms — and I remember that not only I, but my companions too, suffered with bleedings from our lungs. In the beginning I was scared, but the Bedouin assured me not to be afraid. The bleedings would stop and the lungs would heal (which they did — and later I paid no more attention to it).

The left kidney is damaged, but healed over (this is the kidney which suffered the most when the Nazis beat me up in 1934).

My esophagus is pushed aside. This must have happened when Col. Bagdan Zietarsky and I shipped two enormous truck-loads with Arabians from Baghdad to Damascus and in Zietarsky’s truck some horses broke loose and I went in and managed to get two fillies and a colt and a mare out, but when I tried to get another mare out she hit her head against a beam and fell unconscious to the floor of the truck, knocking me off my feet. I fell on top of her and the big stallion, the cause of all the trouble, still plunging and kicking, broke his rope and fell on top of me. The Doctor said that most of the disks in my back bone and the column of my neck show damage too — and some of them have strange thorn-like growth. All has healed up, only the “scars” are left. (“Your body is a miracle for Medical Science”, the Doctor said, “You should write about your body and not about horses”).

There is also an ulcer…The strange thing is that I have never had stomach trouble. I eat like “a horse”, but not much meat or fancy things. Always lots of vegetables and lots of fruit and honey and milk. The diet the Doctor gave me fits right into my regular diet I used to live on (milk, cereals, etc). I am not worrying about that ulcer.

The hearts needs rest. A full month. I was born with a heart valvular condition, but look what I have lived through: World War I — Arabia — high altitudes and heat and what not!

[Ed. Note: Carl Raswan passed away less than a year after he wrote this letter to Richard Pritzlaff]