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Sporting Art, Horses, Racing, Gambling, Antique Print, 1890


Lights and Shadows of Horse Racing: A Soft Thing for the Public
Joseph Koehler, New York: 1890
Lithograph, uncolored
23.5 x 29.75 inches

Allegorical anti-gambling broadside illustrating animal characters, mingling with humans, betting at the horse racetrack. Sly foppish foxes, elegantly dressed in sporty clothing, take bets from foolish donkeys, dressed and posed in caricature as everyday people. The donkeys are shown following their gambling habits down the road to financial ruin. The center of the print is a racetrack scene, the foreground of which has numbered scenes captioned in the lower margin. Insets around the periphery show the miseries of compulsive gamblers, drawn as if on dogeared handbills: poverty, neglect of family, crime, jail, heavy drinking and suicidal thoughts. In contrast, a group of foxes enjoy a “Champagne Supper at Players Expense.” One inset illustration promotes a positive alternative: “Happy Home/ No Horse Racing” shows a prosperous and attractive human family gathered in front of a hearth.

Product description continues below.


Horseracing was a popular entertainment of the late Victorian era, but had its critics who felt that it was a bad influence on behavior and a scheme for wealthy racehorse owners and professional gamblers to prey upon the delusions of working people who could least afford to lose their money. The New-York Historical Society has an example of this print in its advertising ephemera collection and exhibited it in Advertising in the Age of the Ashcan Artists (2007-08).

Joseph Koehler was a lithographer active in New York City from around 1890 to around 1911. The firm published continuous tone and halftone lithographs, photo cards and chromolithographs. Koehler was a major publisher of postcards and greeting cards and is noted for the distinctive style and high quality of his chromolithographs, including “hold to light” postcards, which were seen to best effect when viewed in front of a strong light source. He is also among the best known of the printers who acquired Currier & Ives’ lithography stones after the company closed, and issued restrikes of their prints.

Captions, lower margin (Note: there is no No. 7.):

No. 1. Bookmaker.
No. 2. See the advantage, 30 to 1.
No. 3. Let me have $10 worth.
No. 4. Once more for Good Luck.
No. 5. sure the best thing I had in a long time was lunch, a 12 to 1 show.
No. 6. Och Gott ein freund von mine told me to play Bustle and he came in behind.
No. 9. A Legal Turf Adviser says to Nos. 8 & 10, “Why it’s a cinch that Hickory Jim at 140 lbs. can beat Kingston at 95 lbs.”
No. 11. A straight tip from one who slept with the horse.
No. 12. No more funds we will have to foot it.
No. 13. The good thing went wrong.

Full publication information: “Entered according to the Act of Congress, in the year 1890, by Jos. Koehler, 150 Park Row, N.Y.”

Condition: Generally very good, recently professionally cleaned and deacidified, with minor remaining light toning, wear, soft creases. Rebacked on Japanese tissue to fix a few scattered short marginal tears.


“Frequently Asked Questions About Currier & Ives Prints.” American Historical Print Collectors Society. 2 June 2006. (9 February 2011).

“Hold to Light Koehler Chicago Postcards.” Chicago Postcard Museum. 2007-2011. February 2011).

“Life’s Pleasures: The Ashcan Artists’ Brush with Leisure, 1895-1925 and Advertising in the Age of the Ashcan Artists.” Traditional Fine Arts Organization, Inc. 2007. (9 February 2011).

Additional information


19th Century