Horse standing in field at center and forefront image, facing left; one eye looking at viewer.
In 1865, the New York Times reported on a great race in Brooklyn, New York, between stallions George Wilkes and Commodore Vanderbilt. The race, referred to as an “exciting contest with fifteen thousand people present,” had a $2,000 stake. The race was won by stallion George Wilkes. Currier & Ives often published individual portraits of the great thoroughbreds of the day. The prints usually listed the horse’s owners and referenced the animal’s greatest victories. The firm commissioned artists to create portraits of famous horses like Rysdyk’s Hambletonian (1849-1876) or Hambletonian 10. Hambletonian, an American trotting horse and the forefather of the standardbred horse breed, is shown here in a rare interior setting with his owner, William Rysdyk. The stallion was inducted into the Harness Racing Hall of Fame as it profoundly influenced the sport with its reputation for speed. Rysdyk made a modest fortune betting on the races and later had Hambletonian studded and he sired approximately 1,331 foals. The lineage of nearly all American trotters and pacers can be traced to one or more of four prominent Hambletonian sons: George Wilkes, Dictator, Happy Medium, and Electioneer. Gift of Lenore B. and Sidney A. Alpert, supplemented with Museum Acquisition Funds 2004.D03.517