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How Kentucky Became Southern

How Kentucky Became Southern: A Tale of Outlaws, Horse Thieves, Gamblers, and Breeders

Maryjean Wall
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    How Kentucky Became Southern
    Book Description:

    The conflicts of the Civil War continued long after the conclusion of the war: jockeys and Thoroughbreds took up the fight on the racetrack. A border state with a shifting identity, Kentucky was scorned for its violence and lawlessness and struggled to keep up with competition from horse breeders and businessmen from New York and New Jersey. As part of this struggle, from 1865 to 1910, the social and physical landscape of Kentucky underwent a remarkable metamorphosis, resulting in the gentile, beautiful, and quintessentially southern Bluegrass region of today.

    In her debut book,How Kentucky Became Southern: A Tale of Outlaws, Horse Thieves, Gamblers, and Breeders,former turf writer Maryjean Wall explores the post--Civil War world of Thoroughbred racing, before the Bluegrass region reigned supreme as the unofficial Horse Capital of the World. Wall uses her insider knowledge of horse racing as a foundation for an unprecedented examination of the efforts to establish a Thoroughbred industry in late-nineteenth-century Kentucky. Key events include a challenge between Asteroid, the best horse in Kentucky, and Kentucky, the best horse in New York; a mysterious and deadly horse disease that threatened to wipe out the foal crops for several years; and the disappearance of African American jockeys such as Isaac Murphy. Wall demonstrates how the Bluegrass could have slipped into irrelevance and how these events define the history of the state.

    How Kentucky Became Southernoffers an accessible inside look at the Thoroughbred industry and its place in Kentucky history.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-2607-4
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[vii])
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    Kentucky, racehorses, and Southern colonels just seem to go together naturally. Whether picturing Bluegrass horse farms or their close relative, the Kentucky Derby, many of us cannot summon one of those images without calling up all three. The goateed colonel holds the dominant position in the landscape of imagination that defines this central portion of Kentucky. Place the colonel on the colonnaded plaza of a grand mansion, surround him with guests and family sipping juleps served on silver trays, indulge him in his telling of tall tales about fast horses, and the image evokes Kentucky horse country.

    This picture has...

  4. chapter ONE The Fast Track into the Future
    (pp. 13-53)

    July 1865 found some of New York’s wealthiest citizens joining an eclectic collection of gamblers, horsemen, and social hangers-on in the daily rounds of mineral baths and Thoroughbred racing at Saratoga Springs, New York. The Civil War had ended only three months previously, and most of those visiting this Adirondack resort sought to put all lingering thoughts of the war behind them. If they had entertained any thoughts at all of this late war, they had viewed it as an opportunity to make vast sums of money or, at worst, as a period of unpleasant news reports. Saratoga visitors quickly...

  5. chapter TWO The Greening of the Bluegrass
    (pp. 54-89)

    Some 460 million years before horses like Kentucky and Asteroid appeared on American racetracks, central Kentucky and Middle Tennessee formed their destiny as horse country. This occurred during the Ordovician Period, a time of major plate collision of the earth’s crust, along with volcanism on what would become North America. Continents moved, mountains formed, and vast seas opened into a shallow marine shelf that was to form the central portions of the east-central United States. Surging seas swept over this shallow shelf, bringing with them the millions of invertebrates that left behind a precious natural gift, their fossilized shells, which...

  6. chapter THREE A Killing Spree and a Hanging Tree
    (pp. 90-108)

    The 1870s, the decade when General Custer visited the Bluegrass, brought to prominence a horse Americans came to call the King of the Turf. His owner had named him Longfellow. Bred and born in Kentucky, Longfellow was big and brown but not entirely handsome, for his head lacked the finely chiseled appearance characteristic of the classic Thoroughbred. He possessed a somewhat unfortunate profile. His face curved downward like the lower end of a whiskey jug, convex where it should have tapered in a straight line to his nose. Any horseman would have called himRoman nosedin the parlance of...

  7. chapter FOUR “All the Best Jockeys of the West Are Colored”
    (pp. 109-142)

    Longfellow was only beginning his stud career in 1873, still keeping his name and the Bluegrass region in the news, when another Kentuckian started down a career path that would bring a similar attention to this place and to notions of who and what Kentuckians were. This was Isaac Murphy, an African American born during the Civil War and raised in Lexington. His destiny was to make him one of the most successful jockeys of all time, one of a handful of riders who helped elevate the significance of their profession from laborer to athlete. During a time when the...

  8. chapter FIVE Old Money Meets the Arrivistes
    (pp. 143-171)

    Isaac Murphy’s 1890 Kentucky Derby winner, Riley, raced for the stable of Ed Corrigan. “Big” Ed Corrigan was an ill-tempered sort who was known to crack his cane over a man’s head rather than consider the other’s point of view. This did not seem to trouble folks involved in the sport of horse racing, for Corrigan had plenty of money and spent it freely in the game. He was among the vast variety of new men entering the sport in the 1880s and 1890s: in his case, a fiery maverick who cared not what others thought of him or whether...

  9. chapter SIX Winners and Losers in the Age of Reform
    (pp. 172-201)

    Each time the sport of horse racing attempted to participate in the good feelings and free-flowing money that marked the lives of at least the elite class during the supposedly carefree Gay Nineties, it took a series of unsettling blows. Racing continued to expand beyond all expectations, with more than three hundred racetracks operating throughout the United States, six in the region of New York. This vast expansion brought a proliferation of problems, not the least of these the spread of racetrack gambling into the urban poolrooms that the working and the lowest economic classes patronized.

    Poolrooms (i.e., betting shops)...

  10. chapter SEVEN The Idea of Horse Country Reclaimed
    (pp. 202-242)

    John Madden’s rise to national prominence occurred during a time when plantation literature experienced renewed popularity. This genre of fiction had existed at least since the 1830s but was sweeping the country once more beginning in the 1880s and into the twentieth century. Writers of plantation fiction extolled an antebellum South that was to a great extent imaginary. The picture that emerged was a vision of gentle twilight washing across the wide verandas of old mansions where sweet magnolias bloomed in perpetuity. Servants hovered discreetly in the shadows of stone columns on these moss-covered porticos, poised to fill the white...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 243-268)
  12. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 269-276)
  13. Index
    (pp. 277-292)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 293-293)