Tuesday, November 12, 2019

A visit to the Harness Racing Museum & Hall of Fame - finally a museum that had cards!

Last weekend, my brother took me on another Adventure, this time it was to the Harness Racing Museum and Hall of Fame in Goshen, NY. I never know where the Adventures are going to be, it's more fun that way, and this was certainly a fun one...and that's before I found real, honest to goodness cards in the gift shop!

This museum was not something I knew even existed, but I don't know all that much about horse racing...of any sort. Harness Racing is when the horses pull a small trailer called a "sulky" where the driver sits. It is a very old sport, the Goshen Historic Track, where the museum is located, opened in 1838, and has been the continual host of races ever since. It's one of two sporting arenas on the National Register of Historic places!

An even cooler aspect of this is that my great grandfather used to take part in this sport. I never met him, as he died  before I was born, but my brother did. All I know is that he was a driver, but I never realized something until we were there and talking about it...but my great-grandfather was an athlete! How cool is that? I don't know if he ever raced at Goshen or stayed at his local track, he lived in New Jersey at the time. But Goshen is not all that far away from New Jersey, so it's possible. It's something I want to know more about and as I would see later, they keep very detailed records...so I might be able to find out more some day.

Neither of us had ever been there, so we didn't know what to expect, but as we turn into the driveway, the track comes into view...and as we are driving in the driveway, we see some horses go by on the track! We happened to arrive there are the perfect time, because there were 4 horse/driver teams out there on the track practicing! Wow!
I took a little video...
it was pretty cool to see them, and especially hear them, going around the track.
They went back behind the building, off the track, and we went into the museum.
 The museum is largely in a stable built in 1912, although it has been expanded because the museum is quite large.
 here are some pictures from inside the museum:

 This somewhat lousy photo shows the original stable section, which is the main part of the museum. The original floor remains!
 The actual cart pulled by Hambletonian!

 This is the only known single-wheel sulky.
 The original stable is the building where hay chutes were invented, I think the lady who worked there said. Original people had to move the hay manually, but they invented chutes here were a person could put the hay in from the second floor and it would go down in to the stable stalls for the horse to eat.
 This was built in Whitehall, NY, which is by Lake George.

 Actual sleigh bells!
 Family tree of Hambletonian
 The museum has lots of models. Some of horses, mostly of people. They are really impressive, more on them below.
 They have a Sulky you can get on to see what it's like...I had some difficulty getting off...in fact, I had to get on the floor and crawl out from under it, which was quite a challenge!
 The very first ever moving starting gate, made from a cut-down 1932 Ford.
 The Hall of Fame for each person is a unique model made of them. It was truly spectacular. I photographed each and every one. Living people are in one room, those who have died, referred to as Immortals, have their own room. As a modeler, I was highly impressed not only with the quality of the work but also with the effort put in to sculpt and cast a unique model of each person. This is one of the more unique models- in the welcome video when you enter the museum, they show this lady "swimming" the horse, which is something I didn't know was possible. Horses can swim, and they made her model showing that.
 Here's a view of the track from the second story lookout.
 I love historic markers like these.
 After we finished the museum, we talked into town a little bit. Goshen is an old town with a lot of cool architecture. This obelisk is in honor of a signer of the Declaration of Independence who lived there. It's also in the middle of the road, which is kind of odd.

 Here's a look into town. We didn't explore that way...my medicine makes me have to eat at certain times and I was going to be pushing it as is- so that direction was left for another day.
 There is a Civil War monument in town.
You can just see the age of the buildings here. I really like architecture quite a bit. One of the houses, on the other side of the road, has a historical marker denoting that it's where Ulysses S. Grant stayed to watch the races from the back balcony. (It's shown in the album).

Now, the museum had a gift shop. I naturally explored the gift shop, and found some post cards...
 The Museum itself.

 These two are both of Grayhound, a famous horse. His stable- including those two striped chairs and the lamp- are at the museum. They were moved there and reassembled board-by-board from their original location.
 A card advertising a book. It counts!
 This very large card- it barely fit on my scanner tray- shows West Point.
This one, the same size as the West Point card, shows the view from to the southeast taken from Bear Mountain.

Then, as we are getting ready to check out, I notice a small display of small white boxes...a step over to them reveals that they are indeed trading cards! The first museum I've ever been to that had cards! They are called Harness Heroes, and a little researching online tells me that they have been produced since 1991. They had six different years- 1999, 2000, 2003, 2004, 2011 and 2013-and my brother got me each year. Each set is 36 cards, so I ended up adding more than 200 to my collection that day! One weird thing is that they use the exact same design every year...and have since 1991! They don't even change the color of the border. That's a little strange, but it's a pretty solid design.

Here's a few interesting photos from each set:

 The sets are mostly images of famous horses (both current and historical) with some people at the end of the set, and the final card or two being something important to the sport. The 2000 set had a card for the track, which is great, considering I got all the cards there.

 Most of the driver cards are taken at the track, but some are posed shots.

This photo dates to the 1800s.

 Based on the back of this card, he is the winningest driver in history, with 15,523 wins in 58.626 career races in a span covering 1981-2012! The fact that they have such detailed records (of all the drivers and horses that got cards) is what gives me hope that I may find out more about my great-grandfather.
 I'm showing this one mostly because I think my mom will enjoy seeing it.
 The lady who swims the horses is now in my card collection!
Each set came with a cover card- it can't be called a checklist, because while it does list all the cards in the set, they are not in numerical order and no numbers are given on this card. It looked the exact same in each set, other than being a lighter blue before 2011.

While we were walking around the grounds, we saw a sign for a car show they hold in August...which involves parking the cars around the track. We will absolutely be attending that show in the future, and I plan to check and see if they have new years of cards when we go...there is a set produced every year.

While I'm used to many more horsepower, this was a lot of fun- and seeing the horses on track was truly an amazing experience! I'm really glad my brother chose this one because it opened my eyes to a sport I knew very little about, but now have an appreciation for. Racing, the concept of competing to see who's fastest...it doesn't matter if it's a car or a horse, I enjoy it.

I ended up taking over 1200 photos that day. It is the 4th most I've ever taken in a day. You can see all the good ones on my website here: Harness Racing Museum & Hall of Fame

You can see all the Harness Heroes card sets, both front and back, on Cardboard History Gallery here: Other Sports By Set I have them in Other Sports by Set, sorted chronologically mixed in with the other sports that aren't part of the Big 5, which are each listed with their own section.

Thanks for reading!


  1. Whoa, I'd never heard of this type of racing but it sure looks fun! Looks like you had a great day of weather too!

    1. I knew it existed, but I knew nothing about it. Now I do! The weather was perfect, in the 40s, which is what I prefer.

  2. Awesome. And they are hard to find on eBay. Nice score and very cool museum!!

    1. I did a little ebay research and I discovered that...it seems 1991 is the only set readily available.

  3. I was staring at your photo of that model with the lady and the "swimming" horse for at least 20 seconds before I finally read what was going on. I kept thinking, what the heck is going on here.

    1. LOL! I had no idea horses could swim like that.

  4. Here's me, reading your post: "Weird. That mannequin looks like Billy. Wait a minute..."

    1. LOL! I shoulda posted the series of pictures my brother took of me trying to extricate myself from there...