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Hopkinsville Museum Shares Latest Featured Artifact, Historic Racing Silks

The Museums of Historic Hopkinsville Christian County's racing silks were originally owned by Henry G. Adcock.
Alissa Keller
Hoptown Chronicle
The Museums of Historic Hopkinsville Christian County's racing silks were originally owned by Henry G. Adcock.

In the next installment of Museums of Historic Hopkinsville-Christian County Executive Director Alissa Keller's collaborative series with the Hoptown Chronicle, "Snapshots in Time," Keller features historic racing silks used in Christian County harness races in the mid-20th century. Keller speaks to Austin Carter about the artifact and its original owner.

"This month, I took on the [artifact] that inspired me to do the whole series," Keller began. "It's this red and cream satin, shiny jacket that has a belt and a matching hat with a little bill and big bow." Keller said that when she went to find the artifact again, she couldn't find it because it was hiding in the women's clothing section of the museum's collection, not the sporting section.

"People in Christian County had a big business of racing thoroughbreds in the late 19th and early 20th century. But the horses that were used for harness racing are American standardbred horses. That was a big industry as well. We would have been breeding and raising these horses and racing them too. Our fair would have had a whole harness racing event."

"When the Pennyroyal fair in Hopkinsville opened in the 1950s, there wasn't a [harness racing] track," Keller explains. "So, a man named Henry Adcock worked hard to make sure there was a harness racing track at our fairgrounds. There would be two days and three nights of racing. It was by far the biggest attraction. I'm not sure when they stopped doing harness racing. From my understanding, it had this big resurgence in the '50s and '60s, but we don't do it anymore."

"This silk belonged to Henry G. Adcock, and it was quite the treat to dive into how we got it. It came to the museum as an artifact donation, and when artifacts are donated, they're deeded over, so they became 100 percent our property. The deed was signed by one woman, but she listed a total of five women on it, and they were the five daughters of Mr. Adcock. They donated the driving silk to us just after he passed away in the early 1990s. He was the one driving the train. He was on the original fair board for the Pennyroyal Fair in the '50s."

Keller said that he also had the nickname "Superintendent of Speed." "We have pictures of him in the newspaper wearing this driving silk that we have in the museum collection now after he had won a harness race with one of his horses," Keller says. "Her name was Lady Goose, and Lady Goose held a track record for a number of years. He also owned a horse named Visalia Abbe, that was a movie star. The horse starred in the movie called The Great Dan Patch. So, we have some new local notables to add to our list."

"It was really fun to find a picture of him with the horse in the newspaper wearing the silk and to really highlight this one little blip of our local fair history and how that connects Hopkinsville to greater communities in the region and beyond. Mr. Adcock was known throughout the eastern seaboard on into Canada as being a premiere breeder and racer of the standardbred horses in harness racing."

You can read more featured stories about Christian County history in the Hoptown Chronicle. For more information on the museum, visit its website.

Austin Carter is a Murray State grad and has been involved with WKMS since he was in high school. Over the years he has been a producer for WKMS and has hosted several music shows, but now calls Morning Edition his home each weekday morning.
Melanie Davis-McAfee graduated from Murray State University in 2018 with a BA in Music Business. She has been working for WKMS as a Music and Operations Assistant since 2017. Melanie hosts the late-night alternative show Alien Lanes, Fridays at 11 pm with co-host Tim Peyton. She also produces Rick Nance's Kitchen Sink and Datebook and writes Sounds Good stories for the web.
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