African Americans and the Kentucky Derby: A Long and Storied History

African American Jockeys Kentucky Derby

Jimmy Winkfield rides Alan-a-Dale in the Kentucky Derby in 1902.

“Today will be historic in Kentucky annals as the first ‘Derby Day’ of what promises to be a long series of annual turf festivities of which we confidently expect our grandchildren, a hundred years hence, to celebrate in glorious rejoicings.” —Louisville Courier-Journal, May 17, 1875

As we’re about to celebrate the 141st running of the Kentucky Derby, one cannot talk about the history of the Derby without also talking about African American history. The two are inextricably tied. Of the fifteen riders at the first Kentucky Derby in 1875, thirteen were black, including the winning jockey, Oliver Lewis. Lewis rode Aristides to victory with the help of trainer Ansel Williamson, a former slave.

In the early days of American horse racing, many of the jockeys were slaves, who, after emancipation, continued working as trainers and riders for their former owners. Black jockeys won half of the first sixteen Derbies, and fifteen of the first twenty-eight, and most of the trainers were African American as well.

Baden Baden horse Edward D. Brown

Baden Baden was trained by Edward D. Brown, and ridden to victory by Billy Walker in the 1877 Kentucky Derby.

There was plenty of fame and fortune to be found for successful trainers and riders. At the third Kentucky Derby in 1877, the rider-trainer duo of Billy Walker and Ed “Brown Dick” Brown, guided Baden-Baden to a win. Ed Brown was one of the most successful trainers in the country and famous for his expensive suits and large bankrolls. Brown’s career in racing spanned more than 30 years as a jockey (who won the Belmont Stakes in 1870), a trainer, and as an owner. His horse, Monrovia, won the Kentucky Oaks in 1893. His filly, Etta, won in 1900. He was inducted into the National Racing Hall of Fame in 1984.

Some of the best-known names of the era were the jockeys. Alonzo “Lonnie” Clayton still holds the record as the youngest-ever Kentucky Derby winner. At the age of 15, he won the 1892 Derby astride Azra. Isaac Burns Murphy was very well respected by his fellow jockeys, trainers, owners, breeders, and fans across the country. He was the first jockey to win back-to-back Kentucky Derbies. James “Jimmy” Winkfield almost eclipsed Murphy’s record in 1903, when he placed second in what would have been his third Kentucky Derby win in a row.

Unfortunately, Jimmy Winkfield was also the last African American to win the Kentucky Derby. Since 1911, when Jess Conley finished third, only three other black jockeys have ridden horses in the Derby. As James C. Nicholson writes in The Kentucky Derby:

“In fact, black riders were forced out of the sport by jealous white jockeys and bigoted owners and trainers in an increasingly racially biased American society whose court system had given official sanction to various Jim Crow laws by the end of the nineteenth century. As the Derby became increasingly popular on a national scale in the twentieth century, blacks still played indispensable roles in the lives of racehorses and the sport of horse racing. But grooms, hot-walkers, and stable hands operated far from the spotlight that would shine ever brighter on top athletes, including jockeys.”

This Saturday, as the riders take their mounts, and we celebrate the horse-trainer-jockey team who take their victory lap around the winners circle, take a moment to remember history and the men who should never be forgotten.

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2015 Kentucky Derby

Brace yourselves! In a little over a week, the 2015 Kentucky Derby will be here!

Since 1875, Kentucky has been home to this annual event and the Derby’s history is forever intertwined with Kentucky. Each year, people from different states and different nationalities come together in Louisville to take part in what is perhaps the shortest sporting event in history. From mint juleps to colorful, extravagant hats, from the wagers to the crowning of the winner, the Kentucky Derby is sure to please both young and old, male and female.

Here are a list of books for all of you Derby fanatics or Kentucky connoisseurs to prep you for the big day! Take a look!

John Eisenberg draws on more than fifteen years of sports writing experience and a hundred interviews throughout Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Florida, and Arkansas to tell the story almost nobody knew in 1992: the story of and underdog, perseverance, and the overcoming of one’s obstacles.

The Kentucky Derby: How the Run for the Roses Became America’s Premier Sporting Event calls this great tradition to post and illuminates its history and culture.

Never Say Die traces the history of this extraordinary colt, beginning with his foaling in Lexington, Kentucky, when a shot of bourbon whiskey revived him and earned him his name. Author James C. Nicholson also tells the stories of the influential individuals brought together by the horse and his victory—from the heir to the Singer sewing machine fortune to the Aga Khan.

In The Prince of Jockeys: The Life of Isaac Burns Murphy, author Pellom McDaniels III offers the first definitive biography of this celebrated athlete, whose life spanned the Civil War, Reconstruction, and the adoption of Jim Crow legislation.

Heroes and Horses presents a series of delightful vignettes evoking a way of life almost beyond recall. Bourbon County, the touchstone for Ardery’s life, is the center that holds together the tales in the collection. Stories about Ardery’s family home, “Rocclicgan,” boyhood activities on the farm, and the servants’ kitchen gossip paint vivid portraits of a lost time in Kentucky’s history.

For more than 125 years, the world’s attention has turned to Louisville for the annual running of the Kentucky Derby on the first Saturday in May.The Encyclopedia of Louisville is the ultimate reference for Kentucky’s largest city.

Interested in other Kentucky oriented books or just longing for a new book to read this summer, head on over to UPK’s website to check out the rest of our fantastic book selection!!

Earth Day 2015!

Today is officially Earth Day! Whether you ride your bicycle to work today or plant a tree in your backyard, take time out of the day to give back to this beautiful place we call home. However, Earth Day is not one day out of the year where we turn the water off while brushing our teeth or turn the thermostat off to conserve energy. Its purpose is to make us, as citizens of this Earth, more aware of the planet that we live on and more engaged in the environmental movement. There is only one Earth, so we must take care of it.

In honor of Earth Day and all that it stands for, here is a list of published UPK books that are sure to excite those interested in environmental action, but beware these books may end up giving you a green thumb!

Motivated by agricultural devastation in her home country of India, Vandana Shiva became one of the world’s most influential and highly acclaimed environmental and antiglobalization activists. Her groundbreaking research has exposed the destructive effects of monocultures and commercial agriculture and revealed the links between ecology, gender, and poverty.

In The Vandana Shiva Reader, Shiva assembles her most influential writings, combining trenchant critiques of the corporate monopolization of agriculture with a powerful defense of biodiversity and food democracy. Containing up-to-date data and a foreword by Wendell Berry, this essential collection demonstrates the full range of Shiva’s research and activism, from her condemnation of commercial seed technology, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and the international agriculture industry’s dependence on fossil fuels, to her tireless documentation of the extensive human costs of ecological deterioration.

This important volume illuminates Shiva’s profound understanding of both the perils and potential of our interconnected world and calls on citizens of all nations to renew their commitment to love and care for soil, seeds, and people.

The core dilemma in environmental advocacy may be illustrated by the question, “When we communicate about the world, should we stress what we know or what we feel?” The contributors to The Symbolic Earth argue that it is more important to decide how we should talk about what we know and feel. In their view, the environment is larely a product of how we talk about the world.

Because the environment is a social construction, the only hope we have of preserving it is to understand and alter the fundamental ways we discuss it. This collection first examines the ways in which discourse creates environment perceptions. Subjects discussed range from the description of natural scenery to the advocacy of political interest groups, from the everyday interactions of citizens facing environmental crises to the greenwashing of corporate imagemakers, and from the psychology of the mass public to the social constructions of the mass media. The authors include nationally known scholars of environmental history, rhetorical theory, ethnography, communication and journalism studies, public policy, and media criticism.

Frederick Law Olmsted, popularly known as the “Father of American Landscape Architecture,” is famous for designing New York City’s Central Park, the U.S. Capitol grounds, and the campuses of institutions such as Stanford University and the University of Chicago. His celebrated projects in Boston, Buffalo, Detroit, Milwaukee, and other cities led to a commission from the city of Louisville, Kentucky, in 1891. There, he partnered with community leaders to design a network of scenic parks, tree-lined parkways, elegant neighborhoods, and beautifully landscaped estate gardens that thousands of visitors still enjoy today.

The Olmsted Parks of Louisville is the first authoritative manual on the 380 species of trees, herbaceous plants, shrubs, and vines populating the nearly 1,900 acres that comprise Cherokee, Seneca, Iroquois, Shawnee, and Chickasaw Parks. Designed for easy reference, this handy field guide includes detailed photos and maps as well as ecological and historical information about each park. Author Patricia Dalton Haragan also includes sections detailing the many species of invasive plants in the parks and discusses the native flora that they displaced.

This guide provides readers with a key to Olmsted’s vision, revealing how various plant species were arranged to emphasize the beauty and grandeur of nature. It will serve as an essential resource for students, nature enthusiasts, and the more than ten thousand visitors who use the parks.

Now that you’ve finished reading, go out and plant a tree. I know you want to!

Excerpt from Fighting the Cold War: A Soldier’s Memoir

Whether you are a history buff, itching to get your hands on the next and best historical autobiography, or a lover of all things book related, this autobiographical novel is something that everyone can sink their teeth into. Written by Jack Galvin, Fighting the Cold War: A Soldier’s Memoir depicts the story of Galvin’s sixty year involvement in shaping American and International history from the start of World War II all the way to the post-Cold War Era.

To get you excited for the release of UPK’s upcoming book, here is a prepared excerpt, which discusses the procedures Galvin was taught, while in Puerto Rico, to deal with nuclear detonation and fallout by simulating a nuclear explosion with exploding gasoline barrels.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

After Ranger School, I drove to the Brooklyn Navy Yard, turned in my car for shipment to Puerto Rico, and on the last day of March 1955 found myself looking up in awe as our troopship eased into the narrow channel between Isla de Cabras and the looming walls of the fortress San Felipe del Morro. The ever-pounding waves out of the north pushed us along through the slot and into San Juan Harbor, where we docked at Fort Buchanan.

My orders sent me to the 65th Infantry Regimental Combat Team. I arrived at Ponce as a platoon leader just in time to go on a field maneuver. I scrambled into my fatigues and boots, then dashed for the line of trucks. The lead vehicles were already on the move, and by the time I ran down to the truck bearing the I Company guidon I was barely able to find the platoon and jump for the tailgate before we moved out. My platoon sergeant gave me a hand and pulled me in. I told him that I was the new platoon leader and said, “You’ve probably heard about that.” He replied, rather mournfully, “Yes.”

As we bounced along under the canvas with the dust pouring in over the tailgate, I went down the line of seats and shook hands with the squad leaders and troops. It was awkward: stepping over packs and weapons and ration boxes; trying to talk over the noise of the truck’s engine and the flip-flap of loose canvas. Sergeant First Class Vidro had been the acting platoon leader for quite a while, and he was still the platoon leader as far as he was concerned. He made room for me, though, and we shook hands, and amid quizzical looks I squeezed in between him and the tailgate. As we drove along, first through the cane fields and then up into the hills of the National Forest, I quizzed him on what we could anticipate on arrival, and on how we could expect the day to go.

Sergeant Vidro was taciturn, his responses hesitant. He looked off into the dust behind us and said something close to, “It will be just like always. An order from the captain and we move out.” It was hard to extract much more detail. After we got out to the forest, Vidro and I had our first of several talks about how we would work this out: what his job was now as platoon sergeant once again and what mine was as platoon leader. It was the first big challenge that I faced in my professional life: to keep him motivated and happy, to keep the platoon itself feeling that the right thing had been done, and to insert myself into the proper leadership position. All this took place over several weeks.

Our field maneuvers in Puerto Rico with the 65th followed a certain pattern, in accordance with the colonel’s goal, which was to improve our ability to fight a nuclear war. We would move out to some area that we had rented, seize the best ground, dig our foxholes deep, and await the aggressors. Our plan was to defend as long as we could, then pull back quickly (at night), leaving a small covering force and falling back ten kilometers. Before first light, we would fire a nuclear weapon equivalent to thousands of tons of conventional explosives, which the umpires out in front of us would simulate by detonating a barrel of a gasoline mix. Then—watching carefully in order to avoid our own fallout pattern—we would charge forward and mop up, attacking and defeating the remaining enemy. On a warm, gentle, breezy night in Puerto Rico, with our hill position surrounded by distant fires as the harvested sugar cane fields were burnt off, the sweet smell drifting over us—along with the smell, as in a library, of oxidizing paper—and the sudden flash of fire on the top of a hill gave me a sense of vertigo. One time I said to the company commander, “We’re only backing up a mile or so. The radius from ground zero would be far more than that.” With a pained look he explained, “If we back up any more we’ll be outside the training area that we rented.”

To find out more on Fighting the Cold War and other historic UPK books, go check out our website.

Preview of Lincoln’s Final Hours by Kathryn Canavan

On April 15, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln died from a gunshot wound inflicted by John Wilkes Booth the night before. Most of us know how the general story goes—Lincoln and his wife, Mary, were attending a show at Ford’s Theatre when Booth pulled the trigger and ran out of the building. However, most of us aren’t intimately familiar with the play-by-play of events leading up to and following the moment in which Lincoln was fatally shot. What were these smaller details of Lincoln’s final hours?

UPK author Kathryn Canavan supplies them in the forthcoming title Lincoln’s Final Hours: Conspiracy, Terror, and the Assassination of America’s Greatest President. For your reading pleasure, below is Chapter 10, “Booth’s End Game,” in which the Lincolns enter the theatre to much fanfare.


When the green Lincoln carriage pulled up at Ford’s, footman Charles Forbes swung down to the wooden carriage platform. He tugged at the door handle, causing a set of steps to spring forward. Fred Petersen watched from the other side of the street as Mr. Lincoln and Mary alighted first, then Miss Harris and Major Rathbone. There’s no way of knowing whether neighbors on either side of Petersen’s boardinghouse were also watching. The owners of both houses, like many of the actors and musicians at Ford’s, were reportedly secesh.

When the two couples walked through the fourth arched door at around nine p.m., the play was already in progress. The gilt braid and buttons of the army and navy filled the seats. Veterans of almost every major skirmish had come to Ford’s to celebrate with President Lincoln and General Grant. As he walked past the lobby clock and ascended the stairs to the dress circle, Mr. Lincoln carried his size 7⅛ black silk top hat, made by local haberdasher J. Y. Davis, the one with the thin silk mourning band buckled over the standard hat band in remembrance of eleven-year-old Willie. If the president put a hand in the pocket of his Brooks Brothers suit as he walked up the stairs, his fingers might have brushed any one of nine items he was carrying, including his ivory-handled pocketknife, an oversized monogrammed handkerchief, his soft brown leather wallet with a five-dollar Confederate note and nine newspaper clippings inside, and two pair of eyeglasses, one mended with a piece of string. Mr. Lincoln had been wearing reading glasses for almost eight years. He was forty-eight when he bought his first pair at a jewelry store for 37½ cents. Mrs. Lincoln, whose cataracts may have already been affecting her sight, carried the small black leather case that held her opera glasses.

Led by sixteen-year-old doorman Edmund Schreiner, the foursome probably crossed the dress circle as quietly as possible, but their arrival might have been broadcast by the metal hobnails in the heels of the president’s black leather boots. When the audience members, like dominoes first touching, each became aware that the Lincolns were heading for the presidential box, heads swiveled, and waving and howling broke out in every corner of the building. Then the blare and crash of the orchestra interrupted actress May Hart’s lines. Witnesses disagree whether the full orchestra broke into “Hail to the Chief” or Handel’s more sedate “Hail the Conquering Hero Comes.” Either way, the timbre of the orchestra was fully met by hundreds of war veterans cheering hysterically, letting out their pent-up feelings of admiration for the man who had led them through four harrowing years. With the trumpets still blaring and the drums sounding, Captain Joseph R. Findley thought that surely such a reception was rarely given to any man. Cast members came out from the wings to watch the president. Rows of theatergoers glanced around for General Grant and were disappointed, but nonetheless, the hysteria didn’t stop for five solid minutes.

From his balcony seat, Captain Oliver Gatch noticed that Mr. Lincoln walked slowly, his great body bent forward and his shoulders wearing a noticeable stoop. His high silk hat was in his left hand. In response to the deafening ovation coming from every part of the house, the president smiled a sad smile. His delighted wife curtsied several times.

May Hart tried to remember her lines as she stood at the stage’s edge with Laura Keene, staring over the footlights into the dress circle, where the Lincolns, Major Rathbone, and Miss Harris were proceeding to their box. Hart, like Captain Gatch, noticed that Mr. Lincoln’s tall figure was bent, and the sadness on his face seemed out of place on such a gala evening.

The crowd continued its wild cheering as the Lincolns stepped into the box. President Lincoln leaned in front of the lace curtains that screened the box from audience view and acknowledged the applause with a dignified bow, bringing the fanfare to a hush. The president signaled Ned Emerson, who was on stage at that moment, to go on with the play. Then he stepped in back of the curtains and seated himself out of sight. “How sociable it seems, like one family sitting around their parlor fire,” Miss Julia Shepherd thought to herself as she watched from her seat in the dress circle.

At about the same time, Louis Carland walked through the side door from Ford’s to Taltavul’s. The costume maker looked to his right and caught a glimpse of John Wilkes Booth’s back as the actor strolled out the canopied front door. He looked to his left and saw Taltavul wiping the lower end of the bar. He supposed Booth had just finished a drink.

Booth’s fateful end game had begun.


Interested in reading more about the last moments of Lincoln’s life? Then you should be on the lookout for Lincoln’s Final Hours: Conspiracy, Terror, and the Assassination of America’s Greatest President by Kathryn Canavan, coming this fall!

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(ADVANCE COPY: Above excerpt may not reflect published text—please check against final copy before quoting from the book.)

The Civil War: What Did the Women Think?

There are a lot of books out there about the Civil War, so it can be hard to know where to start if you want to learn more. If you’re looking for some unique books about the time period, you’ve come to the right place! These three books follow the lives of four women throughout the war by looking at the writings they left behind.

Cover of Diary of a Southern Refugee during the War   Cover of Cecelia and Fanny  Cover of Josie Underwood's Civil War Diary

  • Diary of a Southern Refugee during the War by Judith Brockenbrough McGuire: First published in 1867, McGuire’s diary provides an intimate view of daily life in the South during the war. She wrote about her hardships, past triumphs, and family activities alongside reports of military rumors and life behind the lines of battle. Her actual entries are pretty fascinating, but James I. Robertson provides additional information that helps explain where Judith’s story fits in the wider narrative of the conflict.
  • Cecelia and Fanny: The Remarkable Friendship between an Escaped Slave and Her Former Mistress by Brad Asher: Letters from Fanny Ballard to her escaped former slave, Cecelia, illuminate the friendship these two women maintained throughout the upheaval of the Civil War. Fanny’s family lived in urban Louisville, and her letters provide a rare glimpse into the urban context of slavery and the resulting social atmosphere of the city. It was pretty rare for an escaped slave to become friends with their former owner, and rarer still that letters exist between the two. Another unusual aspect of this book is that it focuses on slavery in an urban context, instead of plantation slavery.
  • Josie Underwood’s Civil War Diary by Josie Underwood: The politically prominent Underwood family of Bowling Green, Kentucky, played a vital role in ensuring Kentucky remained in the Union – despite the facts that they disapproved of Lincoln and owned slaves. Twenty years old at the start of the war, Josie details her opposition to the Confederate occupation of her city and her heartbreak that so many friends and family members were on opposite sides. Josie also wrote about her daily life, arguments with her family, and her personal hopes with the future – she was like any young woman today struggling to find her place in the world.

The Civil War section of your bookseller of choice can be intimidating at first, though more options means more chances to find the story you’re looking for. Hopefully these books help you along in your quest for Civil War knowledge!

If you’ve read these three, which one was your favorite? Or, if you haven’t, do you keep a journal for history? Let us know in a comment below!

Meet Florenz Ziegfeld: The Mr. Selfridge of Broadway By Cynthia and Sara Brideson

We admit it—we’re a little obsessed with Mr. Selfridge. Maybe it’s the decadent sets, the exquisite Edwardian fashions, and the never-ending intrigue in the lives of Selfridge and his employees. Or maybe it’s because Harry Selfridge bears a remarkable resemblance to Florenz Ziegfeld Jr., the subject of our book, Ziegfeld and His Follies: A Biography of Broadway’s Greatest Producer (University Press of Kentucky). To those unfamiliar with film and theater history, the name Ziegfeld may mean nothing. However, among theater and film buffs, the name Ziegfeld still summons the same reaction as it did in the “Selfridge era,” roughly between 1910–1929. Ziegfeld’s friend and one of his greatest stars, Eddie Cantor, described his employer as, “. . . all the gods rolled into one. The greatest name in show business!” We have been interested in Ziegfeld’s life and work since we were eight years old; then and now, many have asked us what draws us to Ziegfeld. We answer the question with “Billie Burke.” Burke, Ziegfeld’s second wife who is now immortalized as Glinda the Good Witch, dazzled us as children. When we learned about her life with Ziegfeld and simultaneously learned about his spectacular productions, our answer as to why he so interested us expanded: “He made everything so beautiful.”

If Masterpiece had not turned the life of Harry Selfridge into a television extravaganza, he may have remained as obscure to the general American public as Ziegfeld. But, with the popularity of the television series and still extant store bearing his name, Selfridge’s legacy is well-secured. Selfridge’s formula for a magical shopping experience has been adopted, in varying degrees, by nearly every chain store. The notion of “just browsing,” in-store restaurants and fashion shows, and restrooms on the premises all began with Selfridge. Ziegfeld may not have a television show or a store, but his formula for a magical theatrical experience is ubiquitous in Hollywood and Broadway. You know the Cinderella story of a poor girl winning love, fame, and fortune that has been told time and again on the screen and stage? That’s Ziegfeld’s Sally (1920), the mother of the updated Cinderella story. You’ve probably watched a variety show at least once in your life. They are the grandchildren of Ziegfeld’s Follies. In one evening, Ziegfeld treated viewers to melodies by Irving Berlin, Will Rogers’ musings, Fanny Brice’s burlesque of ballet, and a parade of living mannequins dressed in over-the-top costumes designed by Titanic survivor “Lucile” Lady Duff Gordon.

Harry Gordon Selfridge and Florenz Ziegfeld Jr. were both showman, masters of seducing the public, setting trends, and concocting wild publicity schemes. Few know that Selfridge actually took inspiration from Ziegfeld before the theatrical impresario had even built a name for himself. While working for Marshall Fields, Selfridge visited the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893 where Ziegfeld was promoting body builder Eugen Sandow. When Ziegfeld invited a socialite woman at the fair to feel Sandow’s biceps, she allegedly fainted. Then, every woman in the crowd wanted to touch the strongman’s muscles. Selfridge came away from the fair with a greater knowledge of how to attract and entertain a crowd. The idea of “sampling” goods used essentially the same concept as Ziegfeld allowing audience members to touch and interact with his star. Ziegfeld’s most famous (or shall we say infamous?) publicity stunt involved his first musical theater star (and later common law wife) Anna Held. He planted a story in every newspaper that she bathed in 40 quarts of milk a day to preserve her creamy complexion. Such conspicuous consumption both enraged and fascinated the public, but one thing was certain: the milk bath bonanza equaled high ticket sales.

Selfridge employed numerous elaborate publicity schemes as well. He invited French pilot Bleriot to bring his plane into the store after a solo flight across the English Channel and also invited ballerina Anna Pavlova and actress Mabel Normand as guest shoppers. Selfridge took great care to make his store akin to a theatre; shoppers always anticipated the unveilings of the still life tableaux in his store’s front windows.

Just as Selfridge changed the entire conception of a shop and shopping itself, Ziegfeld changed the conception of the theater and the theatergoer’s experience. Both men, we should mention, particularly changed the shopping/theater experience for women. In the 1936 Best Picture winner, The Great Ziegfeld (1936), screenwriter William Anthony McGuire wrote an accurate bit of dialogue in which Ziegfeld articulates his vision for his productions: “I want a show with silk drapes, with lace, with beautiful girls. . . . I want to dress them [the girls] not for the bald heads in the front row but the women in the back row.” The scantily dressed showgirls of the Follies could have been deemed exploitative, but in Ziegfeld’s era, they symbolized the new, liberated woman who did not have to hide her sexuality. “Unliberated” women flocked to Ziegfeld’s shows to “gaze, just once a season, on vice when it is well dressed and glitters.”

Selfridge similarly catered to women, especially those in the growing middle class. He tailored his shop to women, moving the perfume and cosmetics counters so that they were the first things customers saw upon entering his store. Selfridge’s allowed women to “cross the lines” and purchase goods and enjoy shopping without risking their reputations. “They came to the store and realized some of their dreams,” Selfridge stated.

As much as Selfridge and Ziegfeld helped give women larger roles in society, they had reputations as womanizers. Ziegfeld’s most notorious affair was with showgirl turned alcoholic Lillian Lorraine. The affair was quite public and publicized, culminating in a scandalous confrontation in front of Billie Burke. Approaching the couple while they dined at a fine restaurant, Lillian threatened to throw off her floor-length fur coat if he did not speak to her. “And I’ve got nothing on under it!” she shrieked. Selfridge had his share of scandal, as well. Though not Ziegfeld’s mistresses, we were especially interested to learn that the Dolly Sisters, who performed in many Ziegfeld shows, carried on liaisons with Selfridge. As identical twins ourselves, the Dolly Sisters’ connection to both Ziegfeld and Selfridge holds special fascination to us. The Dollys, heirs to Ziegfeld’s friend Diamond Jim Brady, were gambling addicts. Selfridge squandered millions of pounds at the baccarat table with Jenny goading him on. Over three decades, he lost over three million pounds gambling and entertaining his lady friends.

Ziegfeld and Selfridge both enjoyed the lives of impresarios; this is what made them both icons in their own times and led to their downfalls. They were, in Selfridge biographer Lindy Woodhead’s words, “curiously naïve” in their financial outlooks. Little surprise is it then that both men failed to save any money and were broken by the Great Depression. In 1932, Ziegfeld died of pleurisy—penniless and half delirious, murmuring the words “all that beauty…” Selfridge did not die until 1947, but he was ousted from his store in 1939. After that time, he could be found wandering the streets, gazing at what had been his empire. He died in a humble London flat.

As the third season of Mr. Selfridge approaches, we cannot help but wonder if someday Ziegfeld will be immortalized and rediscovered to the degree that Selfridge has. We can only hope that our book will give readers a vision of a sumptuous era when song, dance, laughter, and beauty reigned and anything seemed possible. As a last thought on Ziegfeld and Selfridge, we refer to Will Rogers, who once made a statement about Ziegfeld that could equally be applied to Selfridge: “He can never truly die. You can’t ever kill magic.”

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