How Kentucky Became Southern: A Tale of Outlaws, Horse Thieves, Gamblers, and Breeders
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 Southern offers an accessible inside look at the Thoroughbred industry and its place in Kentucky history.
Maryjean Wall served as the turf writer for the Lexington Herald-Leader for thirty-five years. She recently received her doctoral degree in history from the University of Kentucky.
“One of the best studies ever on the history of the horse in Kentucky. Wall combines her abilities as a prizewinning journalist and a trained academic to craft a readable, pathbreaking history. Focusing on the period immediately after the Civil War, Wall shows how Kentucky almost lost its preeminence in the horse-racing industry and how it regained that position. . . . It is a story peopled with colorful characters and filled with insights.” —James C. Klotter, State Historian of Kentucky
“This is a remarkable work. Many authors, myself included, have addressed the development of the Bluegrass region as the Thoroughbred capital of the nation, but I have never seen a treatment that tells the story with such depth and thoroughness. —Ed Bowen, President, Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation
”Maryjean Wall has hit a home run in a very clear and concise way! This is a 'must read' for every Kentuckian who cares about our complicated and intriguing past.”--Brereton and Libby Jones, owners of Airdrie Stud
"The historian and former Herald-Leader turf writer offers a look at how Kentucky went from an underdog, post-Civil War border state to the center of the billion-dollar Thoroughbred industry."--Lexington Herald-Leader
"With superb research, fluid prose and an eye for detail, Maryjean Wall has you re-thinking all sorts of popular notions about Kentucky and its place in the world of horse racing and breeding. This is a fine blend of sports and sociological history."--John Eisenberg, author of My Guy Barbaro and The Great Match Race
"To those who know, the raising of champion blood horses in this part of the country is not simply the product of custom. According to Maryjean Wall, in her vivid book . . . very soil lends itself to the cause."--BookForum
"Serious and casual railbirds will delight in Wall’s historical perspective, detailing the post-Civil War effort to restart Kentucky’s thoroughbred industry and showing how it has survived."--Louisville Courier-Journal
"This book . . . is a fitting tribute to her adopted home and the great sport she has reported on for 35 years. Horse racing history buffs will find this book interesting and should enjoy it."--Horse.races.net
"The finished book is a remarkable page-turner that earned glowing cover blurbs from some of the best historians of Kentucky and Thoroughbred racing."--Points of Interest
"When the nation’s attention focuses on Churchill Downs again next spring and Louisville turns on the charm, we will now know . . . what exactly it is what we’re drinking to when we raise that first mint julep."--Wall Street Journal
"The author brings an tremendous wealth of knowledge and insight into the history of the horse industry, both on a national and a Kentucky/regional level."--Kentucky Ancestors
"The award-winning Herald-Leader racing writer, who retired to finish her doctorate in history, tells the fascinating story of how Kentucky became the world's Thoroughbred breeding capital after the Civil War. You will learn a lot from this book, even if you have lived here [in Kentucky] all your life."--Lexington Herald-Leader
"To what extent any of this stereotypical imagery is representative of reality, and to what extent it plays into the notion of being 'Southern,' is explored in detail in this fascinating--and groundbreaking--study."--Weekly Standard
"Photographs enhance the text and notes and bibliography provide thorough documentation for this excellent study, revealing a new perspective on the history of our state."--Kentucky Libraries
"Wall's fascinating epic, complete with vintage photos, reveals a wealth of information."--Kentucky Living
"The author's ability to draw together disparate fields, disciplines, and resources to make this compelling argument is masterful, while situating the era's revisionist potrayal of Kentucky in its horse breeding industry is both insightful and intriguing."--Choice
"Former reporter Wall will shock lifelong Kentuckians who believe Kentucky is and always has been southern. In this exhaustively researched, discerning book, the author crafts a finely tuned documented history of Kentucky from Civil War times through the Gilded Age and into the 1910s... The author's ability to draw together disparate fields, disciplines, and sources to make this compelling argument is masterful, while siuating the era's revisionist portrayal of Kentucky in its horse breeding industry is both insightful and intriguing."--Choice
"An important volume for anyone interested in the history of Kentucky after the civil war and what has shaped it to become the place it is today. . . . This is a great story and a book worth reading."--The Irish Field
"Eminently readable and well-researched"--Courier Journal
"Those of us who wouldn't miss the Kentucky Derby each first Saturday of May have some sense of Kentucky as a focal point of Thoroughbred breeding and racing. But author Mary Jean Wall broadens our understanding by showing the state is so much more."--History Wire
"How Kentucky Became Sourthern presents an impressive synthesis of socio-economic history with the development of a horse industry in both Kentucky and the Northeast . . . Wall's work addresses the complex issue of the state's changing identity in the aftermath of war, as it was expressed and informed by the racehorse industry, and as it influenced the lives of Kentuckians across the decades." -- Ohio Valley History
"Maryjean Wall has succeeded rather admirably in crafting what should come to be regarded as a standard, possibly even definitive, history of the Thoroughbred industry in the post-bellum United States--a powerful tale with rogues' gallery and then some of intriguing characters, in which the restoration of Kentucky horse racing's antebellum prominence is the central theme." -- Arkansas Review
"Wall . . . ably connects this history of the thoroughbred industry to larger developments in American culture. In so doing, she expounds on a crucial aspect of Kentucky history, engages a growing academic literature on the fashioning of the state's neosouthern identity, and should thus serve as a leading scholarly guide on the topic for the freseeable future." -- Register of the Kentucky Historical Society
Named a Choice Outstanding Academic Title for 2011.
"A welcome addition to the literature of the history of Kentucky and details how the Bluegrass horse-racing industry helped shape the state's identity and destiny. . . . one hopes it will awaken greater curiosity and apprecitation of the Thoroughbred's role in shaping the history and perception of Kentucky."--Journal of Southern History