#SourceSaturday: Fellowships Available the Kentucky Historical Society

khs fellowship flyer

The Kentucky Historical Society (KHS) contains multiple collections of interest to equine history researchers, and offers short-term research fellowships for scholars. As Frankfort is conveniently located in central Kentucky, the International Museum of the Horse at the Kentucky Horse Park, Keeneland Library, Ashland (Henry Clay Estate), and other potential places of interest are also accessible. The 2019 funding cycle deadlines are March 1 and October 1. For more information about the fellowship guidelines and how to apply, see https://history.ky.gov/for-researchers/research-fellowships/fellowship-guidelines/.

Collections of interest include, but certainly are not limited to:

Alexander Family Papers/Woodburn Farm
Stephanie M. Lang (Associate Editor, Register of the Kentucky Historical Society, and Coordinator, KHS Research Fellowship Program) informs us that this is one of the largest collections at the KHS, and equine history scholars have found it to be of particular interest; research with this collection has included the development of Thoroughbred bloodlines, Civil War horses, and modern veterinary medicine. The letters with the horse image in the KHS fellowship flyer above are from this collection!

African Americans in the Thoroughbred Industry Oral History Project
From their website: “This series focuses on the experiences of African Americans working in the thoroughbred industry in Kentucky. The majority of interviews focus on backside occupations including hot walkers, exercise riders, and groomers. Other occupations include trainers, clockers, and jockeys. Interviewees discuss employment opportunities for African Americans in the racing industry, individuals they have worked with including owners and trainers, living conditions at the track, how they were trained in various occupations, working on horse farms, family life, race horses they have worked with, and the Kentucky Derby. Most of the interviews were conducted in Louisville with individuals who have worked at Churchill Downs.”

Frank Bradshaw Collection
From their website: Frank Bradshaw “bred, and showed saddlebred horses at many horse shows across America from the 1950s until the 1980s… This collection consists of photographs, both color and black and white, of Frank Bradshaw and his work as a breeder, trainer and shower of saddlebred horses. Several of the photographs are of him and a horse he was showing in a horse show. One of the most famous saddlebred horses he showed was ‘My My.’ The collection also has 0.5 cubic feet of manuscripts that were mainly his business records regarding breeding and training horses on his horse farm. There are also several periodicals relating to horses, horse shows and the saddlebred horse world. Frank Bradshaw and the horses he showed are included in several of these publications. There are also rare books and pamphlets related to horse shows and saddlebred horses.”

Ronald Morgan Postcard Collection
This collection contains about 11,000 Kentucky postcards dating from the late 19th century to the present, and includes a variety of horse postcards.

#EqHist2018 Plenary

Plenary:
“Breeding Rebellion, Racing to Revolution: The Mystery of Honest Tom’s Missing Stud Book; or, The Political Legacy of the Woodstock Mare.”
Richard Nash, Indiana University Bloomington

    Dr. Nash is a leading scholar of Human Animal Studies and eighteenth century English culture, and is Professor of English at the University of Indiana, Bloomington. He is the author of numerous academic articles, including “‘Honest English Breed:’ The Thoroughbred as Cultural Metaphor,” in The Culture of the Horse: Status, Discipline, and Identity in the Early Modern World (2004)–one of the landmark works that reinvigorated the field of equine history. He co-authored The Heath and the Horse: A History of Racing and Art on Newmarket Heath (2015), and his book Wild Enlightenment : The Borders of Human Identity in the Eighteenth Century (2003) won the Walker Cowen Book Prize. He served as past president of the Society for Literature, Science and the Arts, and has held fellowships from the British Academy and the Huntington Library.

Read our profile of Dr. Nash here.

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#MemberMonday: Mike Huggins

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Mike Huggins
University of Cumbria

Ph. D., Lancaster University, 1999
Diploma in Reading Studies, Open University, 1988
Diploma in Management Studies, CNAA, 1986
MA, CNAA, 1983
Diploma in Religious Studies, Cambridge University, 1976
BA (Hons), Open University, 1975 (first class)
Certificate in Mathematics, National Extension College, 1969
Cert Ed, Durham, 1967

What got you in to history? horse history?
I initially taught in primary schools, specializing in reading, and later worked in teacher training and school inspection. But I did a doctorate on the nineteenth-century history of British horse racing to fill my time during the school holidays, and that motivated me to move into the academic world to teach leisure history.
Rather like Saul of Tarsus my conversion to horse history took a long time. I’ve never ridden a horse. Though amongst my many books are three on British racing’s history, covering the period from 1660 to 1939, including my most recent on the long eighteenth century, they’ve focused on cultural, social, economic and political themes and the debates about betting, and did not foreground the horses anywhere near as much as I should have. But I’m belatedly giving it more thought now.

Who is your favorite historical horse?Statue of Kincsem
Kincsem, the thoroughbred mare foaled in Hungary in 1874, is a favourite of mine, not least since mares can be overlooked. She won 54 races from 54 starts, many of them high standard, on racetracks across Europe, and later through her offspring influenced the breed.

What are you working on now?
I am currently exploring the cultural transfer and knowledge circulation of thoroughbred breeding and racing between Britain and Europe between 1700 and 1880.

 

#SourceSaturday: Dr. Fager’s Mile

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   50 years ago yesterday, Dr. Fager set a new world record for the dirt mile: 1:32 1/5. America’s Best Racing calls his record “unbreakable,” and certainly it has stood untouched for half a century. 

 Much of racing history is caught up in these statistics, but we also have at our disposal a century of video to examine not only what these horses did, but how. Watch Dr. Fager’s record smashing Washington Park Handicap here.

Image: DRF (click to read about his name sake).

#MemberMonday: Holly Kruse

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Holly Kruse

Ph.D., Communication
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Post-graduate Certificate, Equine Business
University of Louisville

B.A., Political Science & History
University of Iowa

 

What got you into history, and into equine history?

   I’ve always liked history, and as an undergraduate political science major at the University of Iowa, I needed to have an outside area to supplement my major. I chose history, and I ended up taking so many history classes that I ended up adding a history major to my political science major. That’s when I first read work by the Annales historians: Montaillou by Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie made a big impression on me.

   I went to the Institute of Communications Research at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign for my doctorate in media studies, and even before that, I was researching and writing about social histories of communication technologies. I published a journal article on the “domestication” of the phonograph in the U.S. in the early twentieth century, and more recently I’ve published research on the pneumatic tube as a nineteenth century (and beyond) communication technology. History is a central element in my research.Screen Shot 2018-05-14 at 10.04.29 AM

   My interest in equine history comes from my lifelong horse-racing fandom and love of horses. Several years ago I decided to take a break from my academic teaching career to earn my post-graduate certificate in the Equine Industry Program at the University of Louisville. It was a time when the prototype for TVG had been launched and when legal online betting on horse racing was getting started, so a lot was happening with newmedia and horse racing. I began not only researching current developments, but also histories of technologies related to horse racing like tote machines and remote wagering. Those histories were central to my book on horse racing technologies, Off-Track and Online: The Networked Spaces of Horse Racing (The MIT Press, 2016).

Who is your favorite historical horse?

affirmed   My favorite historical horse is 1978 Triple Crown winner Affirmed. Although as a young kid in the 1970s I already watched and loved horse racing, Affirmed was the horse who made me passionate about it. It probably helped that my sister was an Alydar fan. I finally got to meet Affirmed in the summer of 2000, several months before he died.

 What are you working on right now?

   I just finished writing a chapter on horse racing, media, and social class to a forthcoming Routledge collection on media and social class. Right now I’m working on a book on gender and technology for Polity Press. It’s meant to be a book that can be used in any upper-level undergraduate gender and technology class. I’m writing the book because I can never find a good basic book – one free of a lot of higher level cultural theory – to use in my gender and technology class. I plan to slip in plenty of equine-related technologies, including sidesaddle. I’ve presented my research on girls, hobbyhorse competitions, and social media, and I plan to include that in the book as well.

#MemberMonday: Katherine Mooney

mooneyKatherine Mooney

History PhD, Yale University
History MPhil, Yale University
History MA, Yale University
American Studies BA, Amherst College, Summa cum laude

Author of the NASSH award-winning Race Horse Men
Read the EHC review of Race Horse Men here

What got you in to history? In to equine history?
     I can’t even remember when I figured out that I wanted to do something that involved history. And I’ve been a horse person for even longer than that– it’s my mother’s fault, since she and her sisters put me on a horse basically before I could walk. I was in my first year of a PhD program in history and looking for something to read that was NOT related to my academic life, and I picked up Ed Hotaling’s book on black jockeys. The first thing I noticed was that the guys in his sources talked about horses the same way people I’d grown up with had, and I realized that equine history was a thing I could do. It was probably the best day of my professional life.

Who is your favorite historical horse?
     Too many to have a real favorite. But I really would have liked to see Lexington and Lecomte in their races in the 1850s.

What are you working on right now?
     I’m working on a shorter study about the projection of the qualities of human females on mares and how that’s affected how they’ve been perceived by both racing professionals and fans. So there’s everything in there–from theory about how women relate to horses to critical readings of Facebook and Zenyatta.com. Any suggestions welcome!

Read Katherine Mooney’s review of Mr. Darley’s Arabian here.

#ShelfieSunday: Here Comes Exterminator!

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Review by Eric Banks

     In Here Comes Exterminator!, writer Eliza McGraw revisits the life of the 1918 Kentucky Derby–winning gelding Exterminator, one of the most celebrated American thoroughbreds of the first half of the twentieth century. Few geldings have won the signature race in its history—Exterminator is one of only nine, although the third in a short span between 1914 and 1920—and his career as a racer was prolonged for a greater period than most three-year-old champions. Much of McGraw’s book, and the appeal that Exterminator exerted for most of his racing life, concerns the determination of the horse’s owner, Willis Sharpe Kilmer, to surpass the career earnings of Man O’ War, which totaled $249,465. Exterminator did so as a nine-year-old in 1924, finishing fourth in a stakes race and collecting a small purse at the newly established Tijuana Race Course, nipping Man O’War’s winnings total by just over $3,000. Five starts later, he raced for the final time at Blue Bonnets Raceway in Montreal, pulling up lame while finishing third, and retiring with a remarkable record of 50-17-17 in a 99-race career.

     Griswald, a contributing writer to Equus magazine, charts the horse’s tenacity against the background of Exterminator’s erstwhile trainer Henry McDaniel, who conditioned the horse following his purchase as a lightly raced three-year-old, and his bullheaded owner, the Binghamton, New York–based Kilmer. The former was the son of the legendary David McDaniel, the trainer of the great campaigner of the 1870s, Harry Bassett, and a steady if not spectacular success as a horseman. Kilmer by contrast was a newcomer to horse racing who parleyed a family fortune—his father invented the dubious cure-all diuretic Swamp-Root—into a powerful stable in the late 1910s. Kilmer cycled through trainers over the course of Exterminator’s career; at one point, Griswald recounts sportswriters trying to recall the nearly two dozen who had worked for him at one point or another. But McDaniel was most powerfully connected to the critical decision to enter Exterminator in the 1918 Kentucky Derby and to the later campaign in which he would at last better his paper rival, Man O’ War—a pyrrhic victory given that another horse, Zev, had already overtaken Man O’ War’s tally.

     The recognizable figural motif underwriting Exterminator’s biography might be called “the wrong horse.” Like the stories of other racehorses, including Seabiscuit, Swale, and even Secretariat, which Meadow Stud famously received after losing a coin toss (part of a foal-sharing agreement) to Ogden Phipps, the wrong-horse tale involves the emergence of a lesser-regarded juvenile blossoming into a champion. In the case of Exterminator, he was purchased for a modest sum on McDaniel’s advice to serve as something akin to a workout partner to the highly regarded Sun Briar in preparation for the Derby. After a stellar two-year-old campaign, Sun Briar had put in a desultory performance in the spring of his three-year-old year and trained poorly. He was finally removed from consideration for the race and replaced by Exterminator, one of the longest shots in the field, at 30-1, whose victory echoed that of the extreme long shot Donerail’s five years earlier, in the process galvanizing popular and media interest in the Derby across the country as an opportunity for bettors to strike it rich and for outsiders to be competitive.

     Donerail and Exterminator shared another thing as well: they were both sired by the English thoroughbred McGee, which makes the rags-to-riches narrative sometimes told about Exterminator suspect. Exterminator’s potential may have been underrated, but he had at least one classics winner as a half-brother. He was nevertheless an unprepossessing and gangly young horse whose skinniness earned him the nickname “Old Bones”; as McGraw reports, it’s not clear why the decision was made to geld him, but it reflects the lack of faith in his future as a stallion. Following his Derby victory, the lack of optimism seemed warranted; his win in Louisville on a muddy track appeared to be a fluke, and he lost races throughout the year, while Sun Briar rebounded to win the Travers Stakes at Saratoga Springs. But by the end of 2018, he showed mettle as a handicap horse and ability to win longer-distance races. He and Sun Briar—who remained Kilmer’s favorite, and who named his state-of-the-art indoor training facilities in Binghamton Sun Briar Court—made a formidable one-two punch for the stable, with Sun Briar a difficult horse to defeat at distances under a mile and a furlong, and Exterminator a hard-knocking stayer.

     McGraw writes engagingly about an important moment in the history of the sport. During World War I, a number of influential figures like August Belmont Jr. helped forged a connection, both actual and in the public imagination, between the thoroughbred industry and the US war effort through the Remount Service. The breeding program imaginatively helped to surmount the less salubrious view of the industry as it emerged from anti-gambling initiatives in the years before. The remount campaign, however, posed a question on the status of geldings in racing. The trade-off, however, was a lengthy career in which there was no issue, of course, of retiring Exterminator to stud duty (unlike Sun Briar, who sired the wildly successful Sun Beau after his retirement in 1919). This longevity and later development would later distinguish Exterminator in a manner similar to other memorable geldings like Kelso, Forego, Dr. Fager, and John Henry.

     Exterminator’s virtuoso performances on the track, McGraw writes, endeared him to fans of racing and a legion of sportswriters, from Grantland Rice to the less-remembered Brooklyn Eagle correspondent W.C. Vreeland. His timing could not have been better: a moment when mass spectatorship was emerging around a number of sports (baseball and boxing, in particular); postwar transportation developments were making travel by spectators and horses a vastly easier undertaking; and the nascent film industry widened the distribution of newsreel images and celebrity. McGraw mentions the (now lost) 1919 Hollywood film A Challenge to Chance, which featured the horse (apparently playing himself); the movie was a vehicle for boxer Jess Willard, pegged to be released as promotional lagniappe on July 4 of the same year, when he lost his belt to Jack Dempsey in a heavyweight bout. At any rate, Exterminator achieved celebrity in a decade noted in the United States in particular for developing its own spin on the concept.

     McGraw writes well, if anecdotally, on this pivot moment in the history of US racing, when the industry underwent an early wave of professionalization and established itself as a major mass spectacle sport with a seemingly permanent place in the news cycle. On Exterminator himself, she is a terrific Boswell. The horse may be poorly remembered today—the closest analogy I can think of from another era is probably Stymie, the fabulously popular New York–based who became the leading money earner of the late 1940s after making 131 starts—but McGraw makes an enthusiastic case for his rediscovery just over a century after his birth.