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Stanford University

Horse Hoof Ink Well

Horse Hoof Ink Well

Artist unknown (U.S.A.), Gloucester’s Horse Hoof Ink Well, c. 1878. Silver and horse hoof. Stanford Family Collections, 1983.209

Cantor Arts Center, Stanford Family Collections

This lavishly decorated silver inkwell set within a horse’s hoof, made circa 1878, commemorates a stallion with a muddled history. In recollections of his childhood published in 1945 by his wife, Eleanor Roosevelt, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt fondly recalled Gloster as his father’s record-breaking trotter, sold to Leland Stanford Sr. for $15,000 in 1873. One story goes that Gloster died in a train wreck while being shipped to California in spring 1874, and a stable hand removed and mounted his tail and, many years later, presented it to Roosevelt in 1930, who hung it in the governor’s mansion and subsequently his White House bedroom as a memento of his Hudson Valley boyhood. In reality, Roosevelt’s father, James, sold Gloster to another New York horse breeder, Alden Goldsmith, who sent the horse out West to race against Stanford’s prize horse Occident. Gloster died of lung fever in San Francisco on October 30, 1874, after a private contest but before the public race. Thereafter, the Golden Gate Agricultural Association had one of Gloster’s hooves mounted and adorned with precious Western metals. But they neglected to pay the jeweler, and so the jeweler sold the item to a Richard T. Carroll in 1879, who in turn returned it to Goldsmith. How or when Leland Sr. acquired it, or whether this is a different hoof, similarly mounted, remains unknown.

Mikaela Berkeley and Paula Findlen