The Fading Horse

The rise of the automobile and the corresponding decline of the horse was well underway by 1909, especially in urban areas. The Omaha Daily News of August 22, 1909, noted that this change was reflected in the fading Omaha Horse Show and said, “If one were to demonstrate to what extent the automobile has usurped the place of the fashionable driving horse, let him take a census of the directors of the sometime Omaha Horse show. . . . Owners of the finest horses in the country were numbered among these people. Now but one of these directors has remained true to the tenets of the boulevard and the stable. This is F. A. Nash-the rest chug around in motor buggies or use the street cars.”

The News recalled the glory days of the Omaha Horse Show, when it was an “affair of nation-wide interest, and its horses took away ribbons in the first show rings of the land. . . . Nowadays a conspicuous turnout is the exception. Even W. H. McCord, whose horses took first prizes all over the country, who has a record of thirteen firsts, nine seconds and four thirds, has sold his string and has only a riding horse now.”

The News pondered the fate of Omaha’s “showring champions of other days” and found: “A few go east, to the stables of the folk who insist on keeping horses in spite of tendencies of the times. Some grow old and in time draw cabs and milk wagons. . . . Who knows-an automobile truck was yesterday seen hauling a load of hay into Council Bluffs-maybe the horses will be crowded out of the humbler and less showy trades, also.” 

The News in picturesque style portrayed the humiliation of the horse owner by the automobile driver: “It is a fine morning. You are trotting along briskly behind your bright bay, sitting haughtily in a road wagon with rubber tires and yellow wheels. What a figure you cut! Presently up behind you thunders a sixty-horsepower touring car with its impudent honk. Like a streak of red and brass it roars past, frightening your high strung stepper and covering him, his gold mounted harness, his driver and the vehicle with a cloud of gray dust. . . .

“Soon another car whirls by and you begin to feel faint hearted. What pleasure is there when everything passes you on the road? After a few mornings you cease to take your recreation in that way. You leave the horse in the stable and go for a walk. Then the chances are you buy an automobile.”

Photographer John Nelson depicted a horse and buggy on a city street about 1907-1917. NSHS RG3542.PH:126-08

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