The Brockmans' collection is displayed in two Tennessee corner cupboards and atop a Sheraton style sugar sideboard. While the Brockmans own an 1848 snuffbox, far more typical forms seem to have been water or cream pitchers, goblets, and beakers. In fact the latter became so associated with horse races (and the popular mint, sugar, and bourbon concoction served at those events) that they are now commonly called julep cups.
Two of the Brockmans' favorites are goblets by unknown makers, presented by the Georgia and Alabama Agricultural Society, one for the "Best Collection of Southern Made Plows," adorned with a repoussé rendition of a plow, the other for "Best Blooded Stallion," bearing the image of a horse. Both were awarded at the same event in October 1852, but went to different recipients. Hank found the first goblet at Alderfer Auction in Pennsylvania and twelve years later was delighted to find the second at Brunk Auctions in NorthCarolina, at the sale of the Bill and Florence Griffin collection.
"I collect for the inscriptions more than the makers," Hank explains. "I love to see what they prized: the best pacing gelding or largest imported mule, clover hay, brogan shoes, quilts, plows. I even recently acquired one from [Nashville dealer] Michael Hall for the best blanket and jeans, dated 1857, which may be one of the earliest references to blue jeans. The South is no longer a mainly agrarian society, so I'm intrigued by the story these tell."
Mary Brockman participates in the occasional fox hunt through Tennessee's horse country, but for Hank the thrill of the chase usually takes place at antiques shows and galleries, and with a bid paddle rather than a riding crop. It remains for both, however, an unbridled pursuit.
1 Robert Hicks and Benjamin Hubbard Caldwell Jr., "A short history of the Tennessee sugar chest," The Magazine Antiques, vol. 164, no. 3 (September 2003), p. 130. 2 John Hervey, Racing in America: 1665-1865 (Jockey Club, New York, 1944), vol. 1, p. 17. 3 Ibid., vol. 2, p. 339. 4 Anna Wells Rutledge, Artists in the Life of Charleston: Through Colony and State, from Restoration to Reconstruction (American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia, 1949), p. 157. 5 Charles E. Fairman, Works of Art in the United States Capitol Building Including Biographies of the Artists (Government Printing Office, Washington, D. C., 1913), p. 71. 6 Michael D. Zellman, 300 Years of American Art (Wellfleet Press, Secaucus, N. J., 1987), p. 452. 7 Information provided by the Kentucky Derby Museum, Louisville. See also Jim Bolus, Derby Magic (Pelican Publishing, Gretna, La., 1997), p. 103. 8 Thomas Shelby Watson and Perry A. Brantley, Confederate Guerilla Sue Mundy: A Biography of Kentucky Soldier Jerome Clarke (McFarland and Co., Jefferson, N. C., 2008), p. 74. 9 Maryjean Wall, How Kentucky Became Southern (University Press of Kentucky, Lexington, 2010), p. 85.
SARAH CAMPBELL DRURY is a scholar, writer, and appraiser in Nashville, Tennessee. She is Vice President of Decorative Arts at Case Antiques, Auctions, and Appraisals.