Oscar Wilde.

Lady Windermere's fan, and The importance of being Earnest online

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fact, no man could gainsay or criticise its justice or its truthful-
ness. This was the wedge that split the rock of ignorance and
prejudice, and thus exploded the theories of generations as to the
value of running blood in the trotter. As I look at it to-day,
the undertaking to gather up a great lot of fragments and con-
vert them into a breed was a tremendous one, and although it
was backed up with brains and influence, it is doubtful whether
many of its promoters had any very clear conception of the re-
sults that would follow— either its success or its failure. It
assumed to direct and control the trotting-horse breeding interest
of the whole country, and to leave its impress for all time. It
required no gift of prophecy to see this as the result of success,
and neither did it require any gift of prophecy to foresee that


failure would wipe out the work already done in both the Regis-
ter and the Monthly. It was the crucial period in the history of
these publications. A misstep or an unwise provision would
have brought a disastrous end. To found a breed of horses rest-
ing primarily and wholly upon performance and the blood de-
scended directly from performers, or the producers of performers,
was something that never had been attempted in the world. The
basis was wholly unique, but it commended itself to the public
judgment as a just one, and as the only foundation upon which
the proposed breed could be successfully established. The basis
was wisely chosen and the superstructure erected thereon was
equally wise in all its provisions. Never have we known a set of
men to work more earnestly or more unselfishly for the common

After very careful consideration in a large and intelligent com-
mittee, the finished labors of that committee was reported to the
Association on November 19, 1879, at the Everett House, in this-
city, and the standard was then and there adopted without so
much as a question and without a voice or -a vote being raised
against it. Thus the standard was launched in unity and wis-
dom, and from that day it went forward on its mission of educat-
ing the people. The "Trotting Register" has done much and the
Monthly has done something in the way of education, but the
standard has been the special formula through which all these
teachings have been brought home to the breeder, great and
small, in a manner that educated both his mind and his pocket.
If we could conceive of the brightest mind directing the most
pointed pen for the period of a hundred years in the special
department of how to breed the trotting horse, we feel sure he
would fail to accomplish as much as this little, practical formula
called the "Standard" accomplished in the first dozen years of
its existence.

When the standard was adopted and put in operation there was
a material advance in the market value of all animals registered
under its requirements, and it thus became not only a matter of
honor, but of profit, to breed only in the standard ranks. Every-
body was willing to pay more for a good horse tliat was standard
in his breeding than for one equally good that was not standard
in his breeding. A record of 2:30 was then accepted as evidence
of a high rate of speed, everywhere. There was a grand rush for
standard rank and the number of fraudulent performances sent


forward in order to secure such classification was overwhelming.
This led to many rejections of performances, adroitly shaped up
to deceive, and every rejection made a batch of enemies. But
great as this evil was, there was another that began to manifest
itself very strongly. The Eegister was rapidly filling up with
colts under rules seven and eight, and every one of them, as soon
as he was able to stand up, wanted his number, for he was to be
kept as a standard stallion. The public attention was urgently
called to the preponderating numbers of these feebly bred colts,
as a menace to the hitherto unimpeded progress of the grand
purpose of establishing a breed. The Breeders' Association
thereupon took up the standard and revised it, wholly in the
direction of higher qualifications and more stringent require-
ments. By comparing the revised standard with the original,
above, it will be observed that rule ten was stricken out, and
that rules seven and eight were restricted to fillies only, thus
cutting off the source of danger altogether. The rates of sub-
sidiary speed were advanced and there was a tightening up of the
requirements in other directions. This revision did not suit all
interests, especially beginners who were just starting to breed
their first colt by a standard horse, but as every one knew there
would never be a time when there would not be just such ground-
less complaints, the action received the hearty indorsement and
support of all breeders who kept in view the central object of
the standard in building up a breed of trotters.

When fast horses began to multiply by the thousand, annually,
say about 1890-91, we began to hear an increasing number of
gibes at the standard as "a, slow coach," ''away behind the times,"
"a 2:30 horse was no longer considered a trotter," etc., and
every one of these taunts had an element of truth in it. The
standard, as the teacher of the breeders of the country, had not
only produced trotters, but great trotters, with marvelous rapid-
ity. At one time it was the ambition of all breeders to place
their stock inside of the limits of the standard, not only because
it was an honor, but because it added materially to the bank ac-
count and to the value of every animal, so bred, in the establish-
ment. But breeders both great and small are no longer stimu-
lated to enter a standard with the antiquated 2:30 rate of speed
that is everywhere received with a sneer. When the standard
was formed on the basis of 2:30, it was within about fifteen
seconds of the fastest performance, and if the same ratio were


now preserved, "2:30" would be stricken out and "2:20" inserted
instead. The breeders would again be stimulated to look forward
with hope, and not backward with regret.

Of the numerous criticisms of the standard after its adoption,
there were none of any special force or practicability, but from
one source there was a persistent war made upon it, not because
it was unfair in its principles or administration, nor because it
lacked vigor in its support, but evidently because it was not con-
trolled in Kentucky, and that the pivotal authority of that con-
trol was not placed in the hands of the manager at Woodburn.
It is but just that I should say here that many of the stanchest
and most enthusiastic supporters of the standard and the Register
were Kentuckians, and with the exceptions of two or three
breeders who stood well in their community, and a few others
who were bankrupt in character and morals, there were no
enemies to engage in this war. I would gladly skip over this
period, for it is of necessity more or less personal, but to omit it
would leave the history of the times and of the formation of the
breed of trotters incomplete, and liable to misrepresentation by
those who may come after us.

The first public suggestion or demand for a standard, and
the first use of the word "standard" in connection with rules for
registration, was addressed to the Breeders' Association, in the
paragraph quoted above, from the Montlily for April, 1878. In
that paragraph, while no specific rules were formulated, the
whole scope of such rules was foreshadowed.

In the course of correspondence with breeders all over the
country as to their views about the provisions of the proposed
standard, I received from Mr. Henry C. McDowell, of Kentucky,
a little slip of paper, perhaps as large as your hand, marked
"copyrighted," on which were printed a number of rules that
purported to be rules for the admission of certain animals, trot-
ters and runners, to some book that was not named or described.
This little paper was courteously received and commended as a
step in the right direction.

The idea of inserting the word "copyrighted" seemed to be
that it might serve as a "scare head" and thus deter all makers
of books from attempting to make a book under the provisions of
these rules. These rules were strictly tentative, and they were
peddled about for months, and changed several times to see


whether they would be acceptable or not, and every revised and
corrected edition was marked "copyrighted."

Some of the rules that were, we might say, self-evident, were
not very objectionable, but others again were simply intended to
give Woodburn and those who had their breeding stock from that
establishment a great advantage over all other breeders. The
selfish object of the fourth rule is palpable, as follows: "Any
mare, the dam of any mare or stallion that has produced or sirod
a horse, mare or gelding, with a record of two minutes and thirty
seconds or better."

To the original draft of six rules, "rule seven" was afterward
added, which reads: "The full sister of any animal entered under
rules one, two, three, and four." This was the capsheaf of ab-
surdity, for it not only made the grandams of trotters standard
trotting brood mares, but all their sisters also. This not only
embraced a large number of running mares, genuine and bogus
alike, in Kentucky, but it reached across the Atlantic and made
one of the greatest of English dams of running horses, and all
her famous sisters, standard trotting brood mares in America.
Bonnie Scotland, the great racing sire, never was able to get a
trotter except from old Waterwitch, and upon the strength of
that scratch, his sisters and his mother and his aunts were all
made standard trotters. No wonder this marvelously stupid
production came to be known as the "Pinafore Standard." [A
more extended review of the "Pinafore Standard" may be found
in Wallace's Monthly for December, 18T9, page 831.]

But when we come to consider the ultimate result intended to
be reached, the scheme was not "marvelously stupid" — it was
not the work of a fool, but of the other kind of fellow. The
admission of the grandmothers and all their sisters was not
specially intended to bring in the great English racing mare and
all her sisters as standard-bred American trotters, but it was in-
tended to bring in a great host of Kentucky running-bred mares
that never could trot a mile in four minutes, and place them on
an exact equality of rank with mares that had records of 2:20 or
less. This would not only place Kentucky away ahead of the
North in the length of her lines of inheritance, but would place
Woodburn away above all competitors, either North or South, and
with a little help of the Edgar-Bruce type, we would soon have
had "twelfth dam, fifteenth dam/' etc., not one of them named
and not one of them honest. Great local, and especially personal,


advantages were to accrue, and the theory that Kentucky run-
ning blood was not the best trotting blood in the world was to be
smashed, and here we reach "the milk in the coco^nut." So
far as we can understand the conditions as they then existed and
so far as we can analyze the facts developed, this seems to be a
fair interpretation of the impelling motive. In an unfortunate
hour I took up this bantling of the young manager and exposed
its absurdities, addressing the exposure to a highly esteemed
personal friend whose name was connected with the movement,
and just as soon as the gentlemen interested could be got to-
gether, every vestige of the "Pinafore" features was eliminated,
the poor old grandmothers and their sisters being ruthlessly
turned out in the cold. This was the first set-back which Mr.
Brodhead received in his enterprise, which was to accomplish so
much for Woodburn, and which ended so disastrously.

There was another feature embraced in the "Pinafore," and
protected by the same "copyright," that was of special signifi-
cance. It was provided that time made in a public trial, against
the watch, should be accepted as of equal value with time made
in a race with other horses. It is not worth while to stop to con-
sider the question as to whether these two kinds of performance
are of equal merit, and should receive equal honor, for every
honest man will call such a claim a bald absurdity on its face.
Then why has Woodburn, from time immemorial, it will be
asked, always refused to enter a colt in a stake or start one
against others? If you ask the manager he will tell you that Mr.
Alexander, the owner, is opposed to racing in all its forms. Then
why does Woodburn, in one form or other, hold so much stock
in the Kentucky Breeders' Association, one of the most notorious
gambling concerns in the whole country? We will not press this
question too closely. There can be no shadow of doubt, there-
fore, that this feature of the "Pinafore" was the special product
of the mind of the manager at Woodburn, for no one of the other
gentlemen would be willing to own it.

The quasi-organization from which, nominally, the "Pina-
fore Standard" emanated consisted of the five gentlemen follow-
ing: Lucas Brodhead, Henry C. McDowell, Eichard S. Veech,
James C McFerran, and Colonel Eichard West. The names of
these five gentlemen when appended to any matter connected
with their enterprise and given to the public had no rank assigned
to them, except "Committee on Eules." This implied that


there was an organization behind them that had appointed them
to this duty, but there never was even a shadow of such an or-
ganization. Mr. Brodhead was manager at Woodburn and am-
bitious to control the trotting pedigrees of the whole country,
and for the methods employed the reader is referred to page 430
of this volume. Mr. McDowell is simply Mr. Brodhead's echo.
In December, 1877, he attended the annual meeting of the Na-
tional Association of Trotting Horse Breeders, and out of com-
pliment to Kentucky he was elected president. He was about
the city two or three days, and before he left for home he resigned
without ever intimating any reason why he resigned. Mr. Veech
is a man of undoubted integrity and plenty of brains, and was
identified with the Breeders' Association from the start. Mr.
McFerran and Colonel West are both dead, and while it was not
my privilege to know them intimately, I knew enough of them
to trust them as honorable and honest men. Not long after the
appearance of the original suggestion in the Monthly, as given
above, that a standard of qualifications for admission to registra-
tion was of paramount importance, and that the preparation of
such a standard was in the special province of the National Asso-
ciation of Trotting Horse Breeders, Manager Brodhead caught
the idea and the situation, and with Mr. McDowell hurried away
to spend a. night with Mr. Veech, near Louisville, and thus fore-
stall the action the Breeders' Association might take in the
premises. They were all of one mind as to the importance of
keeping Kentucky in the foremost position as a breeding State,
but they were not all of one mind as to the means best adapted
to that end. Mr. Veech was very clear and pronounced in his
views that the way to breed the trotter was to go to the trotter
and not to the runner, but what Brodhead said McDowell said,
and that left him in the minority. Seated around a table, each
with a copy of Wallace's Monthly containing the table of 2:30
trotters under their sires, they commenced forming some rules.
With "'The Great Table" before them they could not fail to strike
the self-evident requirements of a standard, and two or three of
their rules were very good, but as a matter of course the scheme
of the majority to get in all the running-bred mares possible and
enter them as standard trotting mares had to prevail. Hence
the provision for admitting the grandams. Imported Bonnie
Scotland was kept many years in the trotting latitudes, and just
got one trotter and no more at any rate of speed, hence he was a


standard horse according to this scheme, and his dam. Queen
Mary, in England, was a standard trotting brood mare. Now if
the dam thus became a standard trotting mare, why should not
lago, his sire, become a standard trotting sire? This would have
been too glaring and open, and would have been ridiculed as an
absurdity by everybody. The trick had to be carried through
quietly or it could not succeed. At a later period the sisters of
all the standard mares were made standard, and then came the
very appropriate and expressive title of the "Pinafore Standard,"
for it literally embraced "his sisters and his mother and his
aunts." This scheme would have admitted a vast herd of so-called
trotting mares in Kentucky that had no trotting inheritance, had
never trotted themselves, and never produced a trotter. This
part of the scheme was certainly not the work of the "Commit-
tee on Rules," but the work of an individual for the purpose of
carrying out a selfish and inadmissible scheme to promote
local and personal interests. When the exposure of this scheme
came out Woodburn, with all its influence in Kentucky, could
not stand against it an hour, and every "Pinafore" feature was
promptly eliminated.

When the processes of emendation and change in the "Pina-
fore," and each change "copyrighted," were going forward, the
views of the diiferent members of the "Committee on Eules" did
not always harmonize, and when it came to the selection of a
man to do the work, part of the committee insisted the work
should be placed in the hands of John H. Wallace, and after
some discussion a committee consisting of Mr. Brodhead and
Mr. McDowell was deputed to tender this work to Mr. Wallace
on such terms as would be equitable and Just. In due time a
communication was received from these gentlemen, informing
me of the business upon which they had been appointed and
wishing to know for what compensation I would engage to com-
pile the book, laying down the conditions upon which it must be
done. Without having a copy of this correspondence before me
I can only give the substance from memory. First, the copy-
right was to be in the committee or some member of it; second,
the compilations were to be as the committee directed; and third,
the book was to be the property of the committee when com-
pleted. This was a stunner, but I concluded to play out the role
they had assigned me and see what they would do. In my reply
I put the case substantially as follows: "Your proposed book.


if ever made, must be made almost, if not quite wholly, from the
first three volumes of the "Trotting Register," and these volumes
are carefully protected by copyright. I have spent several years
of hard labor in compiling them, and a large amount of money
in traveling over the country tracing and verifying the facts
which they contain. You ask me, in effect, to take my three
volumes and to skim all the cream out of them to make one
volume for you. Now, before going an inch further, we must
understand what you are willing to pay for my property, before
I can entertain any proposition to dump it into the lap of your
committee." Sometimes I have been disposed to lament my
hard fate in coming so near the exalted position of "hired-man"
to two such distinguished characters as Henry C. McDowell and
Lucas Brodhead, but I missed it. To this letter I never received
any reply, nor did these gentlemen ever make any report of their
negotiations with me to the "Committee on Rules."

The next news we had from the "Pinafore" was the announce-
ment that the book would be compiled at Woodburn, by LeGrand
Lucas, and on inquiry as to his capacity and knowledge of the
subject it was learned that he was a young kinsman of Brod-
head's, perhaps still in his "teens," who was employed there as a
kind of clerk or bookkeeper. He was evidently an innocent lad,
for he had been installed in his new office only a very few days
when he wrote me for certain numbers of the Monthly, in dupli-
cate. In reply I wrote him that eacli volume of the "Register"
and each number of the Monthly was legally covered by copy-
right and that I could not consent to his taking my property to
make up his new book, and that he must do as I had done — com-
mence at the beginning and hunt for himself. Poor boy, what
could he do? If he were debarred from the use of the Wallace
publications, where on the face of the globe could he get the
information? If cribbing had to be done in order to carry out
the scheme, it would be very indiscreet to do it under the very
roof of Woodburn and under the supervision of its manager.
Thus the work languished for months, and little or no progress
was made.

In Chicago there was one James H. Sanders, publishing a
paper, whom I had known for years. He never had an idea of
his own in the world, but he was one of the most notorious and
shameless plagiarists that I have ever known. As an illustration
of what I knew about him in this department of industry and


thought, I will give a single example that will honestly represent-
many others in my own experience. At one time he was em-
ployed several months as editor of Wilkes' Spirit of» the Times,
and during that time I wrote an article for that paper that had
some pith and point in it, but I was afraid to send it for fear
Sanders would steal it, so I called in a capable friend and told
him the situation, had him read it carefully and make some notes
of the order of thought that he might know it if he ever saw it
again. The paper was then signed and sent forward. In two or
three days I received an acknowledgment of the communication
effusively thankful for the favor, remarking that by a singular
coincidence our minds had been running in the same channel and
that when my communication was received he already had an
article in type taking the same view of the subject. When the
paper came my friend looked it over and remarked "that man is
nothing more than a shameless plagiarist."

In a short time work on the book, if it were ever begun, came
practically to an end for want of material, and this was probably
brought about by a hint from the proprietor, Mr. Alexander,
that Woodburn, with all its strength, could not afford to sacrifice
its good name for honesty, by taking the property of another
man, without his consent. At this juncture J. H. Sanders, of
Chicago, wanted a Job, for ready money, and knowing the situa-
tion in Kentucky, published an editorial going to prove that
pedigrees could not be copyrighted, for they belonged to the own-
ers of the horses, or some other such brainless argument as this.
Brodhead and his echo saw in this the opportunity of their lives,.
for Sanders wanted the Job, and if my work were to be appropriated
they could blame it all on him. So they hied away to Chicago, and
the three worthies, all fully inspired with the aniimis furandi,
were not long in reaching an agreement. Sanders did not want
any share in the book or in the profits it might yield, but he
was ready to do the work for a fixed compensation, in cash, and
to be free from all responsibility for damages or loss. The com-
pensation, as represented by Sanders, was three thousand dollars.
The negotiations were consummated, announced through the
press with a brilliant flourish of trumpets, and the two gentle-
men returned to Kentucky in high feather. Work on the com-
pilation (?) was soon commenced, and, as related by an eye-
witness, the methods were very simple and expeditious. Mr.
Sanders sat at one side of a table with the three volumes of


"Wallace's Trotting Register," and Wallace's Monthly open be-
fore him, and as he read out the pedigrees in their alphabetical
order, his clerk, on the opposite side of the table, wrote them
down. In a very few weeks the work was done and Sanders put.
his three thousand dollars in his pocket. Thus the clerk was paid,,
his employers were in possession of his dishonest work, and J. H.
Wallace was robbed of the labor of years, but the instinctive
honesty of the public conscience had not yet been reckoned with.
The book was published under the title of "The Breeder's
Trotting Stud Book." The clerical work was well done, closely
following the copyrighted sources from which it was drawn, so
closely indeed as to furnish strong prima facie evidence that it
was copied. But this feature of excellence, if that word can be

Online LibraryOscar WildeLady Windermere's fan, and The importance of being Earnest → online text (page 55 of 61)