Peytona and Fashion's Great Match

Peytona and Fashion's Great Match

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In the mid-19th century, before the more recent rise of football, basketball, and baseball, horse racing was considered America’s most popular sport. This 1845 print conveys the same carnival-like atmosphere that has remained a lasting feature of the “Run for the Roses.” Then, as now, crowds of spectators from every walk of life attended races to cheer and bet on their favorite horses. While fierce competition between jockeys, trainers, and breeders is a timeless feature of the sport, antebellum-era races were fueled by political and sectional tensions. The races were dominated by a concurrent debate between North and South over who was superior in equine breeding and training.
The rivalry extended back to 1823, when Henry, a Southern favorite, was defeated by the Northern champion Eclipse in a well-publicized race. The competition heated in the 1840s, when press and politicians encouraged a series of North/South match races that would capture passions from Maine to Florida. The first of these was held on May 10, 1842, and Fashion, a New Jersey-bred equine superstar, nicknamed “Queen of the Turf,” defeated the Richmond-bred stallion Boston, dubbed “Pride of the South.” Fashion won by thirty five lengths, setting a world record. Inflammatory headlines that followed the contest, such as “Northern Champion Defeats the great Southern Stallion” had Southerners demanding a rematch.
Sensationalized as a “sectional clash,” promoters arranged a new match on Union Course on Long Island, New York. This was the same track as the Fashion/Boston race. The Southern champion Peytona, an Alabama-bred chestnut mare, would compete against Fashion for a $20,000 purse. Originally named Glumdalclitch, Peytona was an inexperienced racing mare that had made headlines after setting the record for winning highest single stakes – $35,000 – in Nashville during the fall of 1843. The race took place on May 13, 1845, after Peytona had traveled over 1,500 miles to compete against the eight year-old Fashion.
In this print, the victorious six-year-old Peytona demonstrates her famously long stride in the foreground as Fashion trails behind. The center of the track is crowded with people, carriages, and wagons, but the scene does not begin to convey the true magnitude of the crowds – up to 100,000 attended – as reported in the rich news accounts and diary entries that document the event. One eyewitness laments that views of the race could only be attained at “peril of life and limb,” and numerous accounts complain of traffic jams before and after the race. The New York Herald noted that the booths at the race served all nature of refreshments to thousands of people of every class. Tents no doubt also housed numerous gaming and betting tables. The Herald commissioned eight reporters to cover the race, publishing an advance front-page story as well as four special editions.
Even though the print depicts a victorious Southern horse, it was a popular with sportsmen throughout the country. While this image endured in popular culture, the Southern victory was short lived. Two weeks later, during a rematch in Camden, New Jersey, on Wednesday, May 28th, Fashion beat Peytona, and the Southern champion came up lame. Except for the first Peytona/Fashion match and a few less notable contests, most pre-Civil War matches were usually won by Northern horses. After the Civil War, however, horses from the Bluegrass Region of Kentucky and the rolling hills of Virginia and Maryland’s Hunt Country would fully establish Dixie’s reputation for superior equine breeding.
The drawing of this print was completed by a New York artist, Charles Severyn (active 1845-1860). Multiple lithographers executed prints based on his design, including Henry R. Robinson (active 1833-1851) and Currier & Ives. This black and white print is a proof copy, produced before text and colors were added. The “America on Stone” collection also contains the finished hand-colored print made by Robinson. This proof copy, however, appears to be closer to the Currier & Ives version than to the Robinson print.
Currently not on view
Object Name
Object Type
Date made
date made
ca 1845
date depicted
Severin, Charles
place made
United States: New York
United States: New York, Long Island
Physical Description
paper (overall material)
ink (overall material)
image: 18 1/4 in x 28 1/4 in; 46.355 cm x 71.755 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
Harry T. Peters "America on Stone" Lithography Collection
Patriotism and Patriotic Symbols
Architecture, Commercial Buildings
Horse Racing
Horse Race between Peytona and Fashion
See more items in
Cultural and Community Life: Domestic Life
Domestic Furnishings
Peters Prints
American Civil War Prints
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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