When I started this blog in March, I wasn't sure I'd be able to keep up with it. There were some rough patches (August, I'm looking at you. Only one post!! And nothing of substance. What a disappointment). But, somehow, keep up I did (mostly), and it has been a great way to jot down thoughts on a new source or work out how to break down a specialized topic so that people from many fields had a prayer of understanding me.
With the first (foreshortened) year just about over, we've surpassed two thousand views. Here's to two thousand more!
Sometimes you come a cross a gem while looking for something entirely different. Yesterday was one of those days for me.
The "Harness Horse Gossip" column from the January 2nd 1907 Chicago Tribune contained this little tidbit:
Breeders Talk Heavy Harness The American Association of Trotting Horse breeders, which organization has already assumed a truly national character, and is recognized, by reason of the extent and character of its membership, as an important factor in all matters pertaining to the breeding and racing of harness horses, has decided to appoint a special committee to work actively on matters Interesting to those breeding a type of horse for heavy harness work. This committee will be composed of Mtr. George Romiel, of the department of animal Industry, Washington, D. C., as chairman; A. T. Cole, Chicago, Gen, J. B. Castleman, Louisville, Ky., Joseph Battell of Middlebury, i't., and II. K. Devereux of Cleveland. The idea Is to the development and advancement of our native horses In a line heretofore given over without opposition to animals of foreign birth, and that a great deal or good will be accomplished is not a matter of doubt.
Although Battell had published volume one of his Morgan Horse Register in 1894, the Morgan Horse Club was not founded until 1909– two years after the formation of this committee.
One of the reasons that many early Morgans were registered with other breeds is simply because America's oldest breed was willing to compete in any and all rings, and did not enforce a separate registry. Saddlebreds began to be registered in 1891 and trotters (and later pacers) who could meet the "standard" for a mile in 1876.
Its been a great week for Morgan History! Someone found this article from the New York Herald, December 22, 1912, and sent it into the Lippitt Club. The article claims Justin Morgan referred to Figure as a Dutch horse. Sadly, given it's late date this is still just hearsay.
While there were horses in the Americas well before Figure (The Justin Morgan Horse), and even earlier 'breeds' developed in what is now the United States (the Narraganset Pacer comes to mind), Figure's timely birth along the his astounding versatility, and the all-important ability to pass on his traits, are what allowed the Morgan Horse to become the first truly American (as in U.S.) breed. This stud ad was recently posted by The Morgan Horse Museum. The ad is by Justin Morgan himself, when Figure was about five years old.
There are two things I'd like to point out about this ad. This first is the fee- $1. While this seems like a ridiculously tiny fee to us, "full-blooded" (i.e. Thoroughbred) stallions of the time often stood for only $5, and only imported champions were likely to command more than $25. Figure was of course not full blooded, but rather an unregistered and unregisterable "sport," and at this point still rather young. So with only a couple of seasons of accomplishments, a scant handful of foals on the ground (with possibly none ready to be ridden), and his "strength, beauty, and activity," he merits a full dollar fee and being stood in two towns in the same season (a common practice for quality studs).
The second, and related, item is the complete and utter lack of pedigree information. While most stud ads contain at least sire and damsire, Justin Morgan is silent. Given the currently accepted theory that his sire was the stolen True Briton, and his dam a mare by Diamond (great grandson of Cade, via Wildair), this lack is startling.* I have long favored the Dutch theory, most famously supported by the late great Jeanne Mellin, and this ad's peculiar silence further suggests that Figure was not largely thoroughbred.**
*See the Morgan Horse Register, Vol 1. Notably, True Briton and Wildair were both owned by Col. James De Lancey.
**His current "official" pedigree is 3/4 early Thoroughbred (more like today anglo-Arabs, or even Akhal-Tekes) and 1/8 Arabian, though there is some question as to wether his damsire Diamond was in fact full blooded. Even if Diamond was only half Thoroughbred himself, that would still make Figure 5/8 Thoroughbred and 1/8 Arabian.