American, born Ireland, 1811 ‑ 1853
Augustus A. Von Smith
American, born Germany, 1816 ‑ 1859
Oakland House and Race Course, Louisville, about 1840
Oil on canvas
28 5/8 × 36 × 7/8 in. (72.7 × 91.4 × 2.2 cm.)
Purchase, Museum Art Fund Conservation supported in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, a Federal agency 1956.19
Genteel men in top hats and ladies wearing their best shawls and bonnets gather beneath the towering oak trees that gave Louisville’s Oakland House and Race Course its name. Built in 1832 and located near present-day Seventh Street and Magnolia Avenue, this horse racing facility featured a three-story clubhouse and hotel, a luxurious pavilion, and stables that housed over 100 horses. Although itinerate artists Brammer and Von Smith portray a scene of southern charm, horseracing wasn’t all elegance and refinement. During the 1830s, local residents patrolled the city’s streets at night, armed with pistols and “big hickory sticks” to ward off scoundrels and thieves who converged on the city for the spring meet.