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How Kentucky Became Southern: A Tale of Outlaws, Horse Thieves, Gamblers, and Breeders (Topics in Kentucky History) Hardcover – September 1, 2010

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Product Details

  • Series: Topics in Kentucky History
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: The University Press of Kentucky; First Edition first Printing edition (September 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0813126053
  • ISBN-13: 978-0813126050
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #728,874 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Named a Choice Outstanding Academic Title for 2011." --

""One of the best studies ever on the history of the horse in Kentucky. Wall combines her abilities as a prizewinning journalist and a trained academic to craft a readable, pathbreaking history. Focusing on the period immediately after the Civil War, Wall shows how Kentucky almost lost its preeminence in the horse-racing industry and how it regained that position.... It is a story peopled with colorful characters and filled with insights." -- James C. Klotter, State Historian of Kentucky" --

""This is a remarkable work. Many authors, myself included, have addressed the development of the Bluegrass region as the Thoroughbred capital of the nation, but I have never seen a treatment that tells the story with such depth and thoroughness. -- Ed Bowen, President, Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation" --

""Maryjean Wall has hit a home run in a very clear and concise way! This is a 'must read' for every Kentuckian who cares about our complicated and intriguing past."--Brereton and Libby Jones, owners of Airdrie Stud" --

""The historian and former Herald-Leader turf writer offers a look at how Kentucky went from an underdog, post-Civil War border state to the center of the billion-dollar Thoroughbred industry."-- Lexington Herald-Leader" --

""With superb research, fluid prose and an eye for detail, Maryjean Wall has you re-thinking all sorts of popular notions about Kentucky and its place in the world of horse racing and breeding. This is a fine blend of sports and sociological history."--John Eisenberg, author of My Guy Barbaro and The Great Match Race" --

""To those who know, the raising of champion blood horses in this part of the country is not simply the product of custom. According to Maryjean Wall, in her vivid book... very soil lends itself to the cause."-- BookForum" --

""Serious and casual railbirds will delight in Wall's historical perspective, detailing the post-Civil War effort to restart Kentucky's thoroughbred industry and showing how it has survived."-- Louisville Courier-Journal" --

""This book... is a fitting tribute to her adopted home and the great sport she has reported on for 35 years. Horse racing history buffs will find this book interesting and should enjoy it."--" --

""The finished book is a remarkable page-turner that earned glowing cover blurbs from some of the best historians of Kentucky and Thoroughbred racing."-- Points of Interest" --

""When the nation's attention focuses on Churchill Downs again next spring and Louisville turns on the charm, we will now know... what exactly it is what we're drinking to when we raise that first mint julep."-- Wall Street Journal" --

""The author brings an tremendous wealth of knowledge and insight into the history of the horse industry, both on a national and a Kentucky/regional level."-- Kentucky Ancestors" --

""The award-winning Herald-Leader racing writer, who retired to finish her doctorate in history, tells the fascinating story of how Kentucky became the world's Thoroughbred breeding capital after the Civil War. You will learn a lot from this book, even if you have lived here [in Kentucky] all your life."-- Lexington Herald-Leader" --

""To what extent any of this stereotypical imagery is representative of reality, and to what extent it plays into the notion of being 'Southern,' is explored in detail in this fascinating--and groundbreaking--study."-- Weekly Standard" --

""Photographs enhance the text and notes and bibliography provide thorough documentation for this excellent study, revealing a new perspective on the history of our state."-- Kentucky Libraries" --

""Wall's fascinating epic, complete with vintage photos, reveals a wealth of information."-- Kentucky Living" --

""The author's ability to draw together disparate fields, disciplines, and resources to make this compelling argument is masterful, while situating the era's revisionist potrayal of Kentucky in its horse breeding industry is both insightful and intriguing."-- Choice" --

""Former reporter Wall will shock lifelong Kentuckians who believe Kentucky is and always has been southern. In this exhaustively researched, discerning book, the author crafts a finely tuned documented history of Kentucky from Civil War times through the Gilded Age and into the 1910s... The author's ability to draw together disparate fields, disciplines, and sources to make this compelling argument is masterful, while siuating the era's revisionist portrayal of Kentucky in its horse breeding industry is both insightful and intriguing."-- Choice" --

""An important volume for anyone interested in the history of Kentucky after the civil war and what has shaped it to become the place it is today.... This is a great story and a book worth reading."--The Irish Field" --

""Eminently readable and well-researched"--Courier Journal" --

""Those of us who wouldn't miss the Kentucky Derby each first Saturday of May have some sense of Kentucky as a focal point of Thoroughbred breeding and racing. But author Mary Jean Wall broadens our understanding by showing the state is so much more."--History Wire" --

"" How Kentucky Became Sourthern presents an impressive synthesis of socio-economic history with the development of a horse industry in both Kentucky and the Northeast... Wall's work addresses the complex issue of the state's changing identity in the aftermath of war, as it was expressed and informed by the racehorse industry, and as it influenced the lives of Kentuckians across the decades." -- Ohio Valley History" --

""Maryjean Wall has succeeded rather admirably in crafting what should come to be regarded as a standard, possibly even definitive, history of the Thoroughbred industry in the post-bellum United States--a powerful tale with rogues' gallery and then some of intriguing characters, in which the restoration of Kentucky horse racing's antebellum prominence is the central theme." -- Arkansas Review" --

""Wall... ably connects this history of the thoroughbred industry to larger developments in American culture. In so doing, she expounds on a crucial aspect of Kentucky history, engages a growing academic literature on the fashioning of the state's neosouthern identity, and should thus serve as a leading scholarly guide on the topic for the freseeable future." -- Register of the Kentucky Historical Society" --

""A welcome addition to the literature of the history of Kentucky and details how the Bluegrass horse-racing industry helped shape the state's identity and destiny.... one hopes it will awaken greater curiosity and apprecitation of the Thoroughbred's role in shaping the history and perception of Kentucky."-- Journal of Southern History" --

""'How Kentucky became Southern' offers an accessible inside look at the Thoroughbread industry and its place in Kentcuky history." -- Paintsville Herald" --

About the Author

Maryjean Wall served as the turf writer for the Lexington Herald-Leader for thirty-five years. She recently received her doctoral degree in history from the University of Kentucky.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Layman Follower on October 31, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Very well written history of the horse farming and racing environment that led to Kentucky's becoming the "Horse Capitol of the World." The details appear to be very well docuemented, and the author does an excellent job of presenting these details in a capturing fashion that make the reader want to read on, and on and....

And, it's not just about horses; rather, it's mostly about people and the growth of the racing sport. Most of the names are well known, but before reading this book most readers will not have realized just how involved many big-named people were in this sport and its development. In turn, many of these same people came to Kentucky to establish today's Bluegrass horsing industry. Many of the names are still there, as are the amazing homes and farms.

This is all exceptionally well done. The only reservation I have involves the title, and the expectations I had when I bought the book. "How Kentucky Became Southern" is really more about the Bluegrass region and the growth of the horsing industry and racing. It doesn't cover how the larger balance of the state's geography is also considered "southern." While Kentuckians never totally bought into the "Lost Cause", many historians feel there was a justifiable reason for Kentucky "having joined the Confederacy after the war", and horses didn't seem to be near the head of that list.

I expected more history following the title of the book, rather than of the Bluegrass region and that area's horsing development.
But again, it is a well written and very interesting page turner.
I recommend it to all who may be so interested.
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Format: Kindle Edition
Unbelievably well-researched and entertaining beyond compare!

A fair, subjectively-objective and fascinating work that is a masterpiece and missing piece of scholarship of deep import for horse racing, Kentucky, The Reconstructiom, race relations, and America.

Reads like a novel and the people described are treated with due respect and acceptance worthy of an omniscient narrator.

The excerpt about the Harper lunching should be required reading in any African-American studies program
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By Louisville, KY on August 16, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This was a good historical account of how the state of KY came into existence. I was even surprised at some of the details.
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By Jim Elliott on December 31, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Good history, well told. The research is excellent, and the perspective on Central Kentucky's "Southerness" is fascinating.
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