Tag Archives: Saratoga Springs

Plans For The United Nations in Northern New York


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Ogdensburg UN headline FRDuring the holiday season of 1945, a most unusual conversation was taking place in the Northern New York. It was a pivotal year in the twentieth century―history’s worst war had just ended, and an effort to prevent future wars had resulted in the formation of the United Nations, which officially came into being on October 24. The groundwork had been laid earlier in San Francisco, where delegates from fifty governments joined forces and drafted the original UN Charter.

The next order of business was to find a home for the new alliance, referred to widely then as the UNO (United Nations Organization). Since San Francisco hosted the charter conference, it was considered a favorite in the running. But as the process played out, northern New York was abuzz with the possibility of being chosen as permanent host. Continue reading

Early Black Musicians in New York State


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Early African American FiddlerThe film 12 Years a Slave tells the story of Solomon Northup, a free black man who was lured away from Saratoga Springs, New York in 1841, and sold into slavery. Though he played the fiddle (and the men who tricked him into leaving Saratoga told him they wanted him to fiddle for a circus), the film overstates Northup’s status as a musician. Primarily, he earned his money from other work.

In his 1853 autobiography however, Northup wrote that prior to moving to Saratoga he had performed: “Wherever the young people assembled to dance, I was almost invariably there.” He attained some renown in Washington County, since: “Throughout the surrounding villages my fiddle was notorious.” Continue reading

Saratoga History and Tourism: Opportunities for New York


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Saratoga_Springs_signOnce upon a time many years ago, there was no tourism in America. And then there was. And the place where tourism began was here in New York State especially along the Hudson Valley.

The tourist explosion combined the artistic explosion generated by people like Irving, Cooper, and Cole along with technological developments like the steamship all New York State developments…and peace with England helped too!

Saratoga helped create this tourist boom. Continue reading

Twelve Years A Slave:
North Country Native Solomon Northup


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northup45aMinerva in Essex County, primitive and remote in the early 1800s, hardly would have seemed a likely birthplace for a man who would write a book which would attract national attention, make the author a household name, and, to some degree, help start a civil war. But indeed, it was there that Solomon Northup, author of Twelve Years A Slave, was born.

Technically the town of Minerva did not exist at the time of Solomon’s birth on July 10, 1807 (though his book gives 1808 as his year of birth, more official documents have it as 1807); the town of Minerva was not formed until 1817. In 1807 the area, not yet known as Minerva, would have been part of the Town of Schroon. Continue reading

Solomon Northup Day: A Celebration of Freedom


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Solomon Northup in a Sketch from Twelve Years a SlaveThe 15th annual Solomon Northup Day: A Celebration of Freedom will be held on Saturday, July 20th from noon to 4 pm at Filene Hall, Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, New York.

Solomon Northup Day was founded in 1999 by Saratogian Renee Moore to honor and to bring awareness to the life of Solomon Northup, a local free-born Black man who was kidnapped into slavery in 1841.

Northup was born a free man in Minerva, Essex County, NY, in July 1808. He was a literate man who worked on the Champlain Canal. While working as a cabbie and violinist in Saratoga Springs, he was abducted, held in a slave pen in Washington, DC, and sold into slavery in Louisiana for 12 years before regaining his freedom. Continue reading

2012 Horse Racing Hall of Fame Inductees Set


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The National Museum of Racing will induct its 2012 Hall of Fame class Friday at 10:30 a.m. at the Fasig-Tipton sales pavilion. Jockeys John Velazquez and Anthony Hamilton, trainers Roger Attfield and Robert Wheeler, and racehorses Ghostzapper and Planet will be enshrined. Tom Durkin, the track announcer for the New York Racing Association, will serve as the event’s master of ceremonies.

The ceremony is free and open to the public. The inductions are also available through a live stream on the Museum’s website. Radio coverage will be provided by Horse Racing Radio Network.

Through Monday, Velazquez has won 4,841 races and has earned more than $268 million. He won the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Jockey in 2004 and 2005 and led all North American riders in earnings during those years. He led all New York jockeys in wins from 2001 through 2004 and set a record with 65 wins at Saratoga in 2004. Velazquez has won 22 riding titles at New York Racing Association tracks and has nine Breeders’ Cup wins. He posted 50 Grade 1 wins from 2006 through 2011. Velazquez won the Kentucky Derby in 2011 with Animal Kingdom and the Belmont Stakes in 2007 with Rags to Riches and 2012 with Union Rags. His other major victories include the Travers, Alabama, Champagne, Sanford, Personal Ensign, Whitney, King’s Bishop, Hollywood Derby, and Kentucky Oaks.

Hamilton was born in Charleston, S.C., in 1866 and won many of the most prestigious races of the 19th century. In 1890, Hamilton rode Potomac to victory in the third edition of the Futurity, which at the time was the richest race in American history with a purse of $67,675. That year, Hamilton led the nation in winning percentage (31.2). In 1891, he boosted his national-best win percentage to 33.8 and won 154 races to place second in the national standings.

In 1895, Hamilton won two of the most prominent races in the country by taking the Brooklyn Handicap on Hornpipe and the Suburban Handicap aboard Lazzarone. The next year, Hamilton added the third major New York handicap event, the Metropolitan Handicap, with Counter Tenor. Hamilton is the only African-American jockey to win all three of New York’s major handicap races. During this era, these races were generally considered to be more important than the likes of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes.

Hamilton’s other major victories included the American Derby (1887), Lawrence Realization Stakes (1891), Monmouth Oaks (1889, 1890), Monmouth Invitational Handicap (1889, 1892), Juvenile Stakes (1890), Gazelle Handicap (1887, 1890), Nursery Stakes (1886), Flatbush Stakes (1889, 1890), Sapling Stakes (1891), Swift Stakes (1892), Toboggan Handicap (1890), Twin City Handicap (1886, 1888, 1889, 1892, 1894), Great Trial Stakes (1892), Tidal Stakes (1891), Hudson Stakes (1889), and St. Louis Derby (1888), among others.

Through Monday, Attfield has saddled the winner of 1,745 races and has purse earnings of more than $90 million. He has won the Sovereign Award for Outstanding Canadian Trainer a record eight times and trained three Canadian Triple Crown winners (Izvestia, With Approval, and Peteski). Attfield has won a record-tying eight runnings of the Queen’s Plate and seven editions of the Canadian Breeders’ Stakes. He won his first Breeders’ Cup race in 2011 when Perfect Shirl took the Filly and Mare Turf. Attfield is a member of the Canadian Racing Hall of Fame. The many other stakes races he has won in the United States include the Wood Memorial, Flower Bowl, Shadwell Turf Mile, Maker’s Mark Mile, Elkhorn, Yellow Ribbon, Orchid, and Carter Handicap.

Wheeler, whose career spanned from 1938 through 1992, won 1,336 races and trained for prominent owners such as C.V. Whitney, J. Rukin Jelks, Greentree Stable, and Nelson Bunker Hunt. He conditioned 56 stakes-winning horses, including 1982 Champion Older Female Track Robbery. The majority of his career predates the grading of races, but from 1976 on he won 18 of the 69 (26 percent) graded stakes his horses ran in and 44 of his 175 (25 percent) overall stakes attempts. In 1959 and 1960, Wheeler’s West Coast-based division included Tompion, winner of the Santa Anita Derby, Blue Grass Stakes, and Malibu, and the distaff pair of Bug Brush and Silver Spoon.

Bug Brush won six stakes at 4 and set a world record the day she beat males Hillsdale and Terrang in the San Antonio Stakes. Silver Spoon, a member of the Hall of Fame, won 10 stakes in two years, including the trainer’s first of back-to-back wins in the Santa Anita Derby, in which she defeated Preakness winner Royal Orbit. He also sent out five winners of the Hollywood Juvenile Championship, which prior to the Breeders’ Cup era was one of the nation’s top races for 2-year-olds. From 1959 through 1969, Wheeler was on the leaders list of the top 30 North American trainers seven times in terms of earnings. His division accounted for more than 60 percent of the earnings of the C.V. Whitney stable when it led all owners in 1960.

Ghostzapper (Awesome Again-Baby Zip, by Relaunch) won 9 of 11 career starts and earned $3,446,120. He was named Horse of the Year and Champion Older Male in 2004 when he posted a 4-for-4 record. Trained by Hall of Fame member Bobby Frankel, Ghostzapper won the 2004 Breeders’ Cup Classic in stakes-record time, covering the 1¼-mile distance in 1:59.02. That year, he also won the Woodward Stakes, Tom Fool Handicap, and Iselin Handicap. At 3, Ghostzapper won the Vosburgh Stakes. He closed out his career with a victory in the Metropolitan Handicap at age 5. Ghostzapper raced for Frank Stronach and is currently a stallion at Stronach’s Adena Springs in Kentucky. Foaled in Virginia at Maj. Thomas W. Doswell’s Bullfield Stable in 1855, Planet was sired by Revenue out of the Boston mare Nina.

Planet was a sensation from the start. He made his debut with a victory over four others in mile heats for a purse of $10,750 in Fairfield, Va., on May 4, 1858, and went on to establish a record for career purse earnings that stood for 20 years. Planet displayed his remarkable skill and versatility by compiling a record of 27-4-0 from 31 starts and earning $69,700. Known as “The Great Red Fox,” Planet was regarded by many turf experts to be second only to the mighty Lexington among the greatest American racehorses prior to the Civil War.

Photo: Anthony Hamilton.

New Contributor, Ellen McHale of the New York Folklore Society


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Please join us here at New York History in welcoming our newest contributor, Ellen McHale. Ellen is Executive Director of the New York Folklore Society (founded in 1944) and has over 25 years of public sector folklore experience, with over eleven years of experience as the Executive Director of a statewide folklore and  folk arts organization.  She holds a Ph.D. in Folklore and Folklife from the University of Pennsylvania and was a Fulbright Scholar to the  Institute for Folklife Studies at the University of Stockholm, Sweden.

Prior to her appointment as Executive Director of the New York Folklore Society, she served as Director of the Schoharie County Historical Society/Old Stone Fort Museum and as the Director of the Shaker Heritage Society.  For over ten years she has served as the folklorist for the National Museum of Racing’s Folk Arts project, documenting the predominantly Latino population in the backstretch/ stable area of the
Saratoga Thoroughbred Racetrack through oral history interviews and photography.

1963: A North Country Racehorse Makes Good


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With the Kentucky Derby fast approaching, here’s an item from 1963, when a horse whose name had North Country ties nearly won the coveted Triple Crown (Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont). The owner was John W. Galbreath, well known nationally and a frequent visitor to the Adirondacks. While his wealth was notable, it was in the world of sports that Galbreath earned his greatest fame.

He owned baseball’s Pittsburgh Pirates from 1946–1985 (one of his partners was Bing Crosby), winning the World Series in 1960, 1971, and 1979. He was also a graduate of Ohio State and a longtime supporter of the school’s athletic program, one of the most successful in the nation.

Galbreath became fabulously wealthy as a real estate developer, owning major properties in Columbus, Los Angeles, New York, and Pittsburgh. In 1986, the family fortune was estimated at $400 million. Despite his substantial fame in baseball and real estate, Galbreath’s favorite subject was horseracing. Perhaps the name of his birthplace (in 1897) was a good omen for a future in the sport: he was born in Derby, Ohio.

Among other things, Galbreath’s great wealth allowed him to indulge his passion. He became involved in horse racing in the 1930s, eventually serving as chairman of Churchill Downs in Louisville (where the Kentucky Derby is run). Near Columbus, Ohio, he developed the famed Darby Dan Farm into a 4000-acre spread, producing many outstanding racehorses.

He had never won the Kentucky Derby, a goal of all major owners, and in 1963, none of Galbreath’s horses seemed particularly promising. Then, shortly before the Derby, one of his colts captured three straight races, including the Bluegrass Stakes. Suddenly, anything was possible.

The horse’s name was Chateaugay, and despite the sudden success, most of the media hype went to several other competitors prior to the Triple Crown races. Never Bend was the leading money-winner, and Candy Spots and No Robbery were the first undefeated horses to face off in the Derby in 88 years.

In front of 120,000 fans at the Kentucky Derby, Galbreath’s favorite horse went off at 9-1 odds. There appeared to be little chance for success. After running at mid-pack for much of the race, Chateaugay moved up to fourth. Near the final stretch, future-hall-of-fame-jockey Braulio Baeza steered his horse through an opening to the inside, and Chateaugay strode to the front, topping all the pre-race stars to win by 1¼ lengths.

In race number two, the Preakness, the same strategy was employed. This time, Chateaugay came roaring to the front but fell just short, finishing 3½ lengths behind winner Candy Spots. In the Belmont, the results were very similar to the Preakness, but this time, Chateaugay’s charge to the lead was successful, overtaking Candy Spots to win by 2½ lengths.

Only a close loss at the Preakness prevented Chateaugay from winning the Triple Crown, but Galbreath’s colt had proven nevertheless to be a great racehorse.

During this time, the excitement in the North Country was fairly palpable, especially in the town of Chateaugay (in the northeast corner of Franklin County). Many residents were fervent supporters of Galbreath and his horse, and the famed owner expressed his appreciation in a letter that appeared in local newspapers:

Dear Mr. Peacock:
It was certainly nice of you to write me a letter about Chateaugay winning the Kentucky Derby. Several people have asked me how we happened to name this horse as we did.

As you perhaps know, we have some interest in Lyon Mountain and Mineville, New York [the iron mines], and while I was up there several years ago, I saw the name Chateaugay. I made the remark at the time that I thought it was a pretty name for a town, and also thought it would be a good name for a horse.

Since Chateaugay’s older sister, Primonetta, was our best filly to date, we naturally hoped this colt would be a good one, and for that reason, we applied the name to him.

It has been very gratifying indeed to have so many nice letters from people of your town, and I hope you will thank the members of the Chamber of Commerce for their nice telegram which they sent under your name last week. I am going to have some pictures made just as soon as we receive the proofs, and I will eventually send you a picture which you can use for publishing in the paper.

Thank you again for your nice letter and wire.
Sincerely yours,
John W. Galbreath

In honor of the victory, Galbreath named one of Darby Dan’s buildings “Gay Chateau” (well before a new meaning for “gay” entered the vernacular).

A few years after winning the Derby, Chateaugay was retired to stud service, first at Darby Dan Farm, and later in Japan after his sale to racing interests there. He died in 1985.

Galbreath died in 1988 at the age of 90. Besides a grand legacy in the sporting world, he left behind the John W. Galbreath Company, America’s third-largest real estate developer. A second Darby Dan horse, Proud Clarion, won the Derby in 1967, but it was Chateaugay who first made Galbreath’s long-held dream a reality.

Photos: Top―Chateaugay after winning the Kentucky Derby (1963). Bottom―Chateaugay after winning the Belmont Stakes (1963).

Lawrence Gooley has authored ten books and dozens of articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004. Expanding their services in 2008, they have produced 20 titles to date, and are now offering web design. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.

Book Features Saratoga Race Course History


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In the early 1800s, Saratoga Springs was a destination for its natural mineral waters and their healing powers. But that changed in 1863 with the opening of the Saratoga Race Course. From then on, summers in the Spa City came alive with the excitement of the “sport of kings.” Since the victory of the great horse Kentucky in the introductory Travers Stakes, the racecourse has showcased the sport’s greatest champions. Otherwise seemingly uncatchable thoroughbreds — including Man o’ War and Secretariat — faced unexpected defeat on its turf, earning Saratoga the nickname the “Graveyard of Champions.”

In Saratoga Race Course: The August Place to Be (History Press, 2011), author Kimberly Gatto chronicles the story of the oldest thoroughbred racetrack in the country, with tales of the famous people and horses that contributed to its illustrious history.

Gatto begins the book with a brief history of racing in New York beginning with the old Newmarket track at Belmont, and the Union Course, and moving toward the early expansion of racing across New York state. She offers a look at Saratoga Springs itself, and Irishman John “Old Smoke” Morrissey who built the track and nearby casino which also still stands as a local historical society.

Through the rest of the book, Gatto describes many of the great horses that have competed at Saratoga, including short histories of the major stakes races. She begins with the Travers Stakes, first run in 1864 and America’s first major stakes race.

A chapter is devoted to Man o’War and in later chapters relates the stories of Gallant Fox, Seabiscuit, War Admiral, Whirlaway, Native Dancer, Nashua, Jaipur and Ridan, Kelso. Gatto devotes a chapter to Secretariat and Ruffian. Later chapters cover Timely Writer, Lady’s Secret, Personal Ensign, Fourstardave, Lonesome Glory, Point Given, Commentator, and Rachel Alexandra.

Accompanying the text are recent color and black and white archival photos and illustrations by Allison Pareis. An appendix includes every winner of the Travers, Alabama, and Whitney, with jockey, trainer, owner, and running time.

Note: Books noticed on this site have been provided by the publishers. Purchases made through this Amazon link help support this site.

New Book: Sport of Kings, Kings of Crime


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A new book, The Sport of Kings and the Kings of Crime: Horse Racing, Politics, and Organized Crime in New York, 1865-1913 by Steven A. Riess, fills a long-neglected gap in sports history, offering a richly detailed and fascinating chronicle of thoroughbred racing’s heyday and its connections with politics and organized crime.

Thoroughbred racing was one of the first major sports in early America. Horse racing thrived because it was a high-status sport that attracted the interest of both old and new money. It grew because spectators enjoyed the pageantry, the exciting races, and, most of all, the gambling.

As the sport became a national industry, the New York metropolitan area, along with the resort towns of Saratoga Springs (New York) and Long Branch (New Jersey), remained at the center of horse racing with the most outstanding race courses, the largest purses, and the finest thoroughbreds.

Riess narrates the history of horse racing, detailing how and why New York became the national capital of the sport from the mid-1860s until the early twentieth century. The sport’s survival depended upon the racetrack being the nexus between politicians and organized crime.

The powerful alliance between urban machine politics and track owners enabled racing in New York to flourish. Gambling, the heart of racing’s appeal, made the sport morally suspect. Yet democratic politicians protected the sport, helping to establish the State Racing Commission, the first state agency to regulate sport in the United States.

At the same time, racetracks became a key connection between the underworld and Tammany Hall, enabling illegal poolrooms and off-course bookies to operate. Organized crime worked in close cooperation with machine politicians and local police officers to protect these illegal operations.

Note: Books noticed on this site have been provided by the publishers. Purchases made through this Amazon link help support this site.