New York State Inspector General Lucy Lang has released the first annual report of gaming investigations since the Gaming Inspector General’s duties and responsibilities were transferred to the Offices of the Inspector General last year as part of the 2020-21 State Budget. [Read more…] about NY Inspector General Releases First Gaming Annual Report
Chicago in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was second only to New York as a center of both thoroughbred racing and off-track gambling. Its complicated history is one of political influence and class; the business of racing; the cultural and social significance of racing; and the impact widespread opposition to gambling in Illinois had on the sport.
A new book considers these topics and looks at the nexus between horse racing, politics, and syndicate crime, as well as the emergence of neighborhood bookmaking, and the role of the national racing wire in Chicago. [Read more…] about New Book About Politics, Gambling and Horse Racing History
California’s 8th Governor and long-time Senator Leland Stanford, namesake of Stanford University and one-time president of the Central Pacific Railroad, has a unique connection to New York State’s Capital District.
Leland was born in Watervliet in 1824, the son of Josiah Stanford and Elizabeth Phillips. Among his seven siblings were New York Senator Charles Stanford (1819-1885) and Australian spiritualist Thomas Welton Stanford (1832-1918). The elder Stanford was a wealthy farmer in the eastern Mohawk Valley before moving to the Lisha Kill in Albany County where Leland was born. [Read more…] about Leland Stanford, The Bull’s Head & Albany’s 19th Century Cattle Market
A new book, The American Prize Ring: Its Battles, Its Wrangles, and Its Heroes, 1812-1881 (2022), reprints important boxing history columns by William E. Harding, one of America’s most prolific sportswriters of the bare-knuckle boxing period.
Harding’s “The American Prize Ring: Its Battles, Its Wrangles, and Its Heroes” appeared as a column in the weekly National Police Gazette from June 4th, 1880, until September 10th, 1881. Although the Gazette, and its editor Richard K. Fox, published several pamphlets on boxing, Harding’s monumental history of American pugilism was never published in book form until now. The columns end just before John L. Sullivan’s first prize fight.
Harding’s columns are here assembled for the first time by Jerry Kuntz, who provides an informative introduction. In a foreward New York Almanack founder and editor John Warren writes that “the importance of Jerry Kuntz’s yeoman work in assembling sporting writer William E. Harding’s columns on pugilism in America cannot be understated. Quite simply, this is the best reference work on bare-knuckle boxing in America…” [Read more…] about American Prize Ring, 1812-1881: A New Book Documents the Bare-Knuckle Boxing Era
In January 1920, a successful businessman and three-time president of the village of Saratoga Springs took his own life in the hallways of Saratoga Springs Town Hall. His story exposes the conflicts that arose over gambling in the resort town at the turn of the 20th century.
Caleb W. “Cale” Mitchell was born in 1837 in Troy, NY. He made a fortune as a gambler and businessman in the city of New York and in Washington, D.C. before moving north and taking up residence in Saratoga Springs in the 1870s. He and his brother George Mitchell built the Glen Mitchell, a resort on the site of the Maple Avenue Middle School, which boasted a lovely hotel, three freshwater ponds, a racetrack for trotters, and later a long toboggan slide for winter entertainment. [Read more…] about Saratoga Corruption & The Destruction of Cale Mitchell
The New York Racing Association has recently announced a revised configuration for the historic Saratoga Race Course for the 2022 race meet. A chute, or straight-away will return, allowing for a start directly into the clubhouse turn for races of one mile in distance. Known as the Wilson Chute, it had been a regular feature of the track until 1972, when the area was converted to additional parking.
The Wilson Chute is named in honor of Richard T. Wilson, Jr. who had been the President of the Saratoga Racing Association beginning in 1909. As an executive and an investor, he was integral in saving racing at the Spa and then developing the sport and the racing plant that so many are familiar with today. [Read more…] about Saratoga Race Track’s Wilson Chute is Returning; Here’s Some History
In the early 1800s it was unusual for Americans to be interested in sporting matters on their own shores. News from Europe was the only sporting news of merit, and publishing an American sporting journal was considered a risky use of capital.
The first attempt along these lines may have been in 1829 Baltimore, where John S. Skinner published a monthly magazine which focused on race horse pedigrees called The American Turf Register and Sporting Magazine. Another early attempt was published in New York by the recognized writer and horseman Cadwallader R. Colden, whose organ was called The New-York Sporting Magazine and Annals of the American and English Turf, first published in 1833.
Among the most notable of the sporting press arrived in 1831, when William T. Porter and James Haw published the first issue of The Spirit of the Times, focusing on horse literature and sporting subjects. They had chosen the name for their broadsheet from a quotation in Shakespeare’s King John, “The spirit of the times shall teach me speed.” [Read more…] about The Spirit of the Times: A 19th Century Chronicle of American Sports
Throughout the 19th century the blacksmith’s shop was a central part of American life. Even the smallest forge was kept busy mending and making the variety of tools and implements for home and garden, for workshop and industry, and tack and shoes for mules, horses and oxen. Blacksmiths were critical to transportation, manufacturing and home life. Like today’s auto garage, nearly every substantial crossroads had a blacksmith’s shop.
Better shops included the blacksmith, a fireman, a helper, and sometimes a furrier. In 1850 there were more than 150 blacksmiths in Troy, NY, a city of about 30,000 people, including one woman, Canadian Cyrilla Turcott. About half of these smithies were born in Ireland. More blacksmiths of all skill levels could be found in the city’s wagon, carriage and wheelwright shops, or employed in the city’s booming iron industry. [Read more…] about 1840s Troy: Blacksmith Dan, John Morrissey & Friends
Those traveling on the Adirondack Northway (I-87) between Exits 27 and 28 probably don’t realize they are passing over Pottersville, the northern Warren County hamlet that borders southern Schroon Lake.
For a hundred years, from the 1870s into the early 1960s, the tiny village was home to amusements that drew thousands. The most remarkable of them, the Pottersville Fair, drew 7,000 on a single day in 1913. Later it hosted a large dance hall, roller skating rink, and the Glendale Drive-in, while nearby Under the Maples on Echo Lake was host to circus acts and an amusement park that was a forerunner of the Gaslight Village theme park in nearby Lake George. [Read more…] about The Pottersville Fair: Gambling, Races, and Gaslight Village
You could see Charles F. Dumbleton coming for blocks. Although he wasn’t exactly well-dressed, he held his head high and had a swagger that said “I’m coming to YOU.” This despite his uncertain gait, a limp supported by his ever present crutches, which confirmed from a distance it was Taffy – the name given to one of the most notorious men in the city of Troy in the mid-nineteenth century.
He wasn’t always notorious. He had built that reputation over years of street fights, petty thievery and bullying his betters. He was a frequenter of bawdy houses, a bartender, a saloon operator, a gambler and political operative. He was one of the leaders of a band of men. Newspapers and night watchmen called them a gang – “a terror of the town,” but loyal friends on the make is a more accurate description. [Read more…] about Taffy Dumbleton: Troy’s ‘Terror of the Town’