We are very lucky at the Kentucky Derby Museum to have a great variety of artifacts. We have a wide range of trophies, a number of saddles, and silks in every possible color. Despite the fact that the collection is varied and numerous, I still have a few favorite objects.
I am in love with Kentucky Derby Mint Julep Glasses. The glasses came to the scene in 1938 and local legends suggest that they were used as water glasses. Many patrons at Churchill Downs could not resist the urge to take them from the tables in the track’s dining room. Churchill Downs decided to capitalize on this thievery and began charging patrons an additional .25 cents to each meal if folks wanted to keep the glass. A design was born for the glass in 1939 and they became an official souvenir. This souvenir has changed considerably over the years. In the early 1940s track management sought to reduce the amount of hazardous broken glass found in the infield, thus the aluminum tumbler was introduced. However, World War II brought with it a large increase in the price of aluminum and a ceramic-type tumbler was introduced in a variety of colors including: red, orange, blue, grey, pink, brown, black, and white. These glasses, produced by the Beetleware Company, have to be some of my favorite objects in the museum. They have a unique appearance that transcends both time and trends.
A tour of Kentucky Derby ephemera would not be complete without mentioning advertising signs. My favorite signs are the ones that date from the early 1960s though the 1970s. They typically are fashioned from embossed cardboard and feature winning horses in a relief detail. Generally these signs were used to advertise vices like cigarettes or alcohol. They have a charming almost folksy look to them and we house many in our collection.
Another one of my favorite objects is the 1925 Kentucky Derby Trophy; Flying Ebony won this trophy in a year for the record books. It was the first year that the Kentucky Derby was broadcast over the radio and it was the first year that the term “The Run For The Roses” was coined. 1925 was also the year that a very expensive colt won the Kentucky Derby. Flying Ebony was purchased for $21,000, which was a fortune at that time. After his victory in the Kentucky Derby he went on to lose every race after for the remainder of the season. He did have a great career as a stud and we are pleased to celebrate his history with his Kentucky Derby Trophy. The trophy is crafted out of 14k yellow gold and it sits on a beautiful jade base. It is currently on display in our museum and we are so proud of it.
Another fantastic object is a traditional Japanese geisha doll. This doll was given to the museum as a gift from Fusao Sekiguchi. Mr. Sekiguchi was the owner of the 2000 Kentucky Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus. The doll is enclosed in glass and she is dressed in a lovely, colorful kimono. The Kentucky Derby Museum has all this and more, won’t you come and visit? With the exception of Thanksgiving and Christmas, we are open every day of the year.
The Kentucky Derby Museum
704 Central Avenue
Louisville, KY 40208
(502) 637-7097 Info
(502) 637-1111 Office