Hall of Fame


dunbar w. bostwick

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Noted sportsman and innovator Dunbar Bostwick, who owned, bred and drove winning trotters, established racetracks, and played a major role in the formation of the United States Trotting Association, was born in New York City on January 10, 1908. His father, Albert C. Bostwick, held several early automobile speed records. His grandfather, Jabez Abel Bostwick, was a partner of John D. Rockefeller and a founder and treasurer of the Standard Oil Company of New York.

Bostwick was a 1928 graduate of St. Paul's School, Concord, New Hampshire and of Yale University, class of 1932. At Yale he was a member of the ice hockey team, serving as a co-captain for two years. He was chosen to represent the United States in the 1932 Olympics but declined because of his engagement and subsequent marriage to Electra Webb.

Bostwick inherited an interest in horses from his father, who drove trotters on the New York Speedway (now known as the Harlem River Drive) and four-in-hand hitches in the original Madison Square Garden, both located in New York City. After his father passed away at the age of 38, Dunbar and his siblings spent time with their uncle, the noted horseman F. Ambrose Clark. Albert "Brother" Bostwick became a skilled point-to-point rider, and George H. "Pete" Bostwick, an accomplished steeplechase jockey. In the 1930s Dunbar and Pete, who both played polo, started Bostwick Field in Old Westbury, New York, which became a venue for international polo matches. Dunbar eventually dropped out of the game with a handicap of six.

In 1932 Dunbar Bostwick and his wife moved from Westbury, New York to Bostwick Farm in Shelburne, Vermont. In the late 1930s Bostwick became interested in harness racing when Hall of Fame Immortal John Dodge, the owner of Hollyrood Farm, gave him his first horse, Hollyrood Robin, a free-for-all trotter. Soon after, Bostwick built the famous red-clay mile training track at Aiken, South Carolina. The facility was used by such prominent horsemen as Immortals E. Roland Harriman and Lawrence B. Sheppard. Among its kindergarten-class graduates were the Immortals Nibble Hanover 1:58¾ ($25,599), Victory Song 4,1:57.3 ($73,859), Spencer Scott 4,T1:57¼ ($52,742) and Adios p,5,1:57½ ($33,329), as well as champions Scotland's Comet 2:00 ($16,809) and Ensign Hanover p,4,1:59.4 ($81,070).

Bostwick owned and drove a number of exceptional horses. His first champion was Boyne 2:00¾ with whom he won the prestigious 1938 Transylvania at Lexington, Kentucky, becoming the first amateur driver to do so. Boyne held the four-heat trotting world record until it was broken in 1941 by Nibble Hanover, who had been purchased as a yearling for a mere $2,000 by Bostwick and his sister, Mrs. Ogden Phipps. Nibble Hanover also set the world record for two miles by trotting in 1:58¾ and 1:59. Another Bostwick champion was the home-bred Immortal Chris Spencer 2:00.2 ($205,520), who became lame after a successful two-year-old campaign. Bostwick brought him back to stakes-winning form by swimming him twice daily next to a small motor boat in Lake Champlain in upstate New York. Other prominent horses owned by Bostwick were the "mighty midget" Kuno 3,2:02½ ($27,661), Speedy Tomali 3,1:56.4 ($173,515) and Super Speedy 8,1:56.1 ($738,145). Immortal Harry Whitney was Bostwick's trainer of long standing. After Whitney's death, he was succeeded by Bostwick's driver, the Immortal Billy Haughton.

Bostwick served the sport in a variety of capacities. He was a member of the original group that met in November of 1938 with representatives of the National Trotting Association, the American Trotting Association, the United Trotting Association, the Trotting Horse Club of America and the American Trotting Register Association to formulate a single ruling body for harness racing. Negotiations eventually led to the creation of the United States Trotting Association (USTA) in 1939. Bostwick was its first treasurer and held that position and that of District 10 director for many years, later becoming honorary treasurer. He was a director of the Hambletonian Society until the race was moved to DuQuoin, Illinois in 1957, a director of the Trotting Horse Club of America, and a director of the Champlain Valley Exposition and chairman of its race committee. In 1940 he and E. Roland Harriman acquired the bonds to build Saratoga Raceway, where he served as a founding director and treasurer. Another accomplishment was his introduction of the magnetic snap barrier, which predated the Phillips starting gate. Bostwick was elected to the Harness Racing Living Hall of Fame in 1988.

From 1942-1945 Bostwick served abroad in the U.S. Army Air Forces, initially as a first lieutenant. He became deputy chief of staff of the Ninth Air Force and was a member of the planning staff for the Normandy invasion. Awarded the Bronze Star Medal and the Belgian Croix de Guerre, he returned to civilian life as a lieutenant colonel and became interested in civic affairs. He was a founder and trustee of the Shelburne Museum, a trustee of the University of Vermont and a trustee of Champlain College. Among the recipients of his philanthropic gifts were the Shelburne Museum, the University of Vermont, Champlain College and the Medical Center Hospital of Vermont. He also served as Shelburne's water commissioner, as a selectman, and as a justice of the peace.

Bostwick had numerous business interests including the Benjamin C. Betner Company, a paper bag company located in Devon, Pennsylvania with coast-to-coast factories, and the Aviation Instrument Manufacturing Corporation. He tested early radio navigation systems at Roosevelt Field on Long Island and was involved with the creation of an improved instrument landing device.

Electra Webb Bostwick passed away in 1981; his second wife, Jeanne White Burden died in 1995. Dunbar Bostwick had four daughters, Electra, Lillian, Dundeen and Elliot. He died at his home in Shelburne at the age of 98 on January 25, 2006.

Published in the Harness Racing Museum's 2001 book, The 2006-2009 Immortals