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Cherry and Black: The Career of Mr. Pierre Lorillard on the Turf (first edition), by Walter Spencer Vosburgh

February 7, 2011

There’s something about “Cherry and Black” that I really like. I’m not sure if it’s the title or if it’s the beauty of the book itself. The book has a red cloth cover, with gold lettering on the spine, and although it has some shelf wear, it is barely noticeable. It is hard to believe this book is from 1916. The text is printed on paper that has a beautiful feel, with a deckle edge. I won’t post a cover photo, since there’s nothing on the cover (and no dust jacket). Although you can get a digital reprint of this book, I think it pales in comparison to this beautiful first edition copy. I’m not sure if this copy has ever been read, as its binding is still in such good condition.

Privately printed and written by a great horseman, W. S. Vosburgh, the book tells the story of the great turfman, Pierre Lorillard who raced in England and USA from 1873-1901, doing much to push forward racing in America. As Vosburgh writes in the introduction, “His career was one of the most important in the history of American racing and one for which all devotees of racing have reason to be thankful, as it was the success of his stable in England with Parole and Iroquois that aroused the first real interest of Americans in racing, an interest that penetrated the country from coast to coast.” (p.viii)

Lorillard was actually the first American to win the English Derby, called “the greatest turf event in the world,” by the New York Times in Lorillard’s obituary. His first racing colors were a scarlet jacket and a blue cap, and in 1873, his colors were changed to the “cherry, with black whips and cap and gold tassel” that were worn by Lorillard jockeys in numerous winning races in America, England, and France, riding on some of the most famous horses bred in America at that time. This book is the story of the “cherry and black jacket” through the history of racing.

Speaking of jackets, Pierre Lorillard has also been called the inventor of the tuxedo, named after his town of Tuxedo Park, just outside of New York City. Lorillard wore the new style of tailless black jacket to a formal ball, held at the Tuxedo Club in October 1886. The story has it that Lorillard designed his jacket after a short black jack his friend had made in London, which had been based on British military uniforms of that time (the late-Victorian era). Lorillard’s tuxedo caught on and became fashionable as formal wear for men.

Apparently it is a bit controversial as to who actually wore the Lorillard-designed jacket first. Some say Pierre Lorillard was not bold enough to wear the jacket to the formal ball in 1886. Instead his bolder son, Griswold, and his friends did, showing up in “a tailless dress coat and waistcoat of scarlet satin, looking for all the world like a royal footman.” It was their social status that caused this jacket to go from fashion statement to classic style. For more information on the story of the tuxedo, see The Black Tie Guide.

(Note this copy of this beautiful book has a lucky new owner now.)

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