Celebration marks return of horse painting to Maine

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Lost Trotting Parks Heritage Center's creative director, Stephen Thompson, with the 1873 painting of King William. Photo:  Lost Trotting Parks Heritage Center
Lost Trotting Parks Heritage Center’s creative director, Stephen Thompson, with the 1873 painting of King William. Photo: © Lost Trotting Parks Heritage Center

An organisation that works to preserve the rich harness racing heritage of Maine is celebrating the return to the American state of a 141-year-old painting of one of its most famous horses.

The painting represents an important part of the story of Maine’s harness racing history.

King William was a blood bay horse described as having a very heavy black tail and mane. He was bred in 1866 by Colonel Golder, of Phipsburg, Maine, and matured to 16 hands.

In 1873, George H. Bailey completed the painting of King William. That same year, J.W. Thompson picked the artwork to become the front engraving in his important 1874 publication, Noted Maine Horses.

George H. Bailey's painting of the famous trotter, King William. Photo: © Lost Trotting Parks Heritage Center
George H. Bailey’s painting of the famous trotter, King William. Photo: © Lost Trotting Parks Heritage Center

The painting will now take pride of place in the Lost Trotting Parks Heritage Center, which works to preserve the stories and images of Maine’s harness racing heritage.

The painting was bought through a Georgia art dealer, Joe Hughes.

Hughes and the center’s creative director, Stephen Thompson, agreed a price of $US2000, which the center then needed to raise.

When Hughes decided to move to Oklahoma, the pair agreed the artwork should hang on the wall of an Atlanta, Maine, law firm, Lipman and Katz, while the money was raised.

Donations hit the target, guaranteeing the painting a permanent home in Maine.

A small celebration was held last Wednesday at the offices of Lipman and Katz before the painting was formally handed over.

Thompson told Horsetalk that he hoped to one day find out the path of ownership of the painting over the last 141 years.

It was bought by Hughes at a auction in South Carolina.

The auction house told Thompson that the owner of the painting had lived in northern South Carolina and moved to Virginia.

“In that move this painting was left behind for the real estate agent to put into an auction.”

Maine has a rich trotting heritage and boasted more than 100 trotting tracks in the past.

The Lost Trotting Parks Heritage Center works to ensure that the history of Maine’s harness racing, lost trotting parks, fairs, agricultural societies and Granges is not lost.

Find out more about the Lost Trotting Parks Heritage Center in Hallowell, Maine, here

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