Jockeying for Position: Horseracing among the Early Washington Elite

 

 

The elite of early Washington talked politics at the Jockey Club and horses in the U.S. Senate Chamber. The most famous horses in American history, like Secretariat and Man o’ War, are tied to some of the most famous men in American history.  Join Tudor Place Curator Rob DeHart and Dr. Lindsey Apple, historian and member of the Advisory Board of Ashland, The Henry Clay Estate in this dynamic discussion about the early DC horse racing industry and correspondence between Tudor Place’s Thomas Peter and Secretary of State Henry Clay of Kentucky about the sale of a prized racehorse.  Learn how Henry Clay, Thomas Peter and their contemporaries like Andrew Jackson and Martin Van Buren jockeyed for position — mixing politics, business and pleasure.

Photo collage: Ephemera, Tudor Place Archive; The Farmer of Ashland engraving of Henry Clay, Henry Clay Memorial Foundation.

Click to watch video.

We’re in the Comics! An Animated History of D.C.’s Start

Note: Post updated, February 23, 2012, with addition of an older comic — sort of a ‘flashback Flashback,’ regarding another real estate transaction involving Tudor Place forebear Robert Peter. (Click on comics to see enlarged.) 

Close those history books. It’s time to learn a little D.C. history from the “funnies” page!

First, some background: Many people know that Robert Peter

(1726-1806)

, first mayor of Georgetown, tied his family to that of George Washington in 1795, when his son, Thomas

(1769-1834), married Martha Washington’s granddaughter, Martha Parke Custis (1777-1854). Martha and Thomas Peter went on to buy, build and reside at Tudor Place. But what is less well know is that, four years before the wedding, Robert Peter and the President engaged in a different sort of transaction, one that helped to bring about the new District of Columbia.

Georgetown was a wealthy colonial port and the nearby capital city no more than a promise and a sea of mud when the President authorized his agents to secure land for a new city. It’s brought to life in this February 5 “Flashbacks” by Patrick M. Reynolds:

 

CLICK TO VIEW ENLARGED

A successful tobacco merchant, Peter was born in Scotland with little prospect (as a later-born son) of inheriting the family estate of Crossbasket. He is thought to have arrived in the American colonies in 1745. He and his wife, Elizabeth Scott (1744-1812), had 10 children, of whom seven survived to adulthood.

Thomas and Martha Peter also had 10 children, of whom five reached maturity. Britannia (1815-1911), the youngest of these, inherited Tudor Place.

 

 

It would be more than a half century after the Meridien Hill sale before the rustic, under-populated District overtook (and, in 1851, incorporated) its more prosperous neighbor, Georgetown. The property Mayor Peter sold to Washington’s agents later was the site of a 19th-century society “castle” and is now a renowned park.

And here’s another ‘Flashback’ to a later land deal by Robert Peter: