A GREAT RACE

EQUUS - - Conformation Insights -

“Buf­falo Bill” Cody had an axe to grind with the Board of Di­rec­tors of the Chicago Fair: He had ap­plied for of­fi­cial sta­tus as an ex­hibitor, but the Board wanted a much higher per­cent­age of the gate re­ceipts than Cody was will­ing to give. Instead, he lo­cated right next door to the Fair and in a ges­ture of one-up­man­ship, opened a full month ear­lier—which got lo­cals into the habit of com­ing out to Jack­son Park on a reg­u­lar ba­sis. This ac­tu­ally ben­e­fit­ted the Fair, and this photo, which was taken in June of 1893 in the plaza out­side the Ex­po­si­tion’s Ad­min­is­tra­tion Build­ing, shows that there must have been some rap­proche­ment or else Cody could not have brought his rid­ers onto the Fair grounds and would not have been given the honor of ring­ing the bell.

Be­sides Cody on his fancy steed, there are two Na­tive Amer­i­can men in Siouxstyle war bon­nets. A Mex­i­can “rough rider” sits be­tween Cody and the In­di­ans. On the plat­form with the huge bell stands the newly-elected and very pop­u­lar mayor of Chicago, Carter Har­ri­son (the tall man with the gray beard). Next to him is the bearded, dark-haired Fred­er­ick Dent Grant, el­dest son of Ulysses S. Grant. Be­tween the two men, in a feath­ered hat, is Grant’s wife Ida, whose father was a Chicago real-es­tate mag­nate. Grant is hold­ing a stop­watch; time on the clock says six min­utes to 11; Cody holds a rope wrapped around the clap­per of the bell. At 11:00 a.m. sharp, he will ring the bell to mark the be­gin­ning of a spe­cial day at the Fair. Note the large num­ber of young boys in the pic­ture: They are from Chicago or­phan­ages, and Cody had per­son­ally paid their ad­mis­sion.

It is more than ap­pro­pri­ate that the bell was rung in honor of chil­dren. An over­size re­pro­duc­tion of the Lib­erty Bell in solid bronze and weigh­ing some 13,000 pounds, it had been cre­ated by col­lect­ing pen­nies from school­child­ren across Amer­ica. Its me­tal con­tained fil­ings from the orig­i­nal Lib­erty Bell, part of one of

Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton’s sur­vey­ing chains, and but­tons, belt buck­les and watch chains do­nated by Civil War veter­ans. Cody was the first per­son to ring it; af­ter the fair, the bell went on a world tour, fi­nally end­ing up in St. Petersburg, Rus­sia, in 1917 where it was stolen and melted down by the Bol­she­viks to make gun bar­rels. And speak­ing of guns, it’s worth not­ing that this is one of the last pho­to­graphs taken of Carter Har­ri­son; he was shot to death four months later by a dis­grun­tled of­fice-seeker. Iron­i­cally, the in­scrip­tion on the bell is a New Tes­ta­ment quo­ta­tion that reads: “A new com­mand­ment I give unto you: that ye shall love one an­other.”

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