The American upper class and the American horse industry from 1865 to 1929 /

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Beisel, Jennifer
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Middle Tennessee State University
This dissertation examines how particular individuals, between 1865 and 1929, used their wealth, leisure time, and participation in recreational activities as a distinctly new method to establish their social identity within a new American national upper class while creating the conceptual and physical framework for the American horse industry. During that process, participants in this multifaceted recreational, leisure, and competitive activity utilized emerging corporate and industrial business practices to create a nationally based professionalized sporting industry and to establish equestrian-oriented country house and rural estate properties. Participants adapted scientific agriculture and model farming principles and hired architects and landscape designers to create new cultural landscapes from the vernacular equestrian horse management tradition resulting in the development of stable complexes that included twenty-six specific elements gathered together and defined here for the first time for historians, preservationists, and curators.
The first chapter examines the pre-1865 European and American upper classes and their characteristics adopted by the newly, wealthy elite to create a new identity. The second chapter summarizes the development of eight horse sport and recreational activities (foxhunting, flat racing, steeplechasing, polo, harness racing, coaching, military programs, and horse shows) while highlighting the interconnected network of leading horsemen. The third chapter country house and rural estate predecessors and these two similar, yet distinct property types that included both functional and leisure activities. Chapter four introduces horse management and stable design through the description of stable complexes' twenty-six elements. These architecturally significant stable complexes were both functional, production areas and the basis of prestige and social advancement. The fifth chapter examines the background, development, and activities of two competitive stables, Shelburne Farms and Longview Farm. The sixth chapter surveys the interpretation at extant sites and how sporting landscapes or stable complexes could be better utilized to educate the public not only about the social and physical development of the horse industry itself, but also the culture and experiences of its participants. The epilogue extends the narrative of the eight horse sports after 1929 when they became the model for subsequent groups.
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