Almost everyone, regardless of where he lives, has at one time or another driven past a wide, green lawn on which stands a boy-size hitching post in the form of a cast-iron jockey. Some lawn jockeys hold lanterns, others just stand there with outstretched arm, doing nothing at all. Most such jockeys are uniform in color: red jacket, red-peaked yellow cap and yellow cuffs and buttons. Well-known stables around the country have their own figures, but these wear their owner's colors. It is quite likely that exact duplicates of such stable-owned jockeys stand outside New York's "21" Club, where it all began.
You must go back 35 years to trace that first cast-iron jockey, a gift in 1931 to Mrs. Payne Whitney of Greentree Farm, whose fine colt, Twenty Grand, had just won a record-breaking Kentucky Derby. The gift was from Charlie Berns and the late Jack Kriendler, founders of "21," whose choice clientele included such famous racing names as the Whitneys, the Vanderbilts and the Wideners. When Mrs. Whitney's Twenty Grand was retired to stud he turned out to be sterile, but cast-iron jockeys multiplied outside "21" at an astonishing rate. As big races were won, stables were honored with a replica of the little hitching post, painted the proper colors and inscribed with the owner's name or stable. Then the public got into the act, and jockey-making, along with jockey ashtrays ($16.50 apiece) and sets of double old-fashioned glasses with jockeys cut into them ($36 per dozen) became a profitable sideline, handled by a "21" affiliate named the Iron Gate Products Company, which owns the original mold of the jockey presented to Mrs. Whitney. The affiliate takes its name from the iron gate that stood in front of "21" (then the Puncheon Club) on West 49th Street. Moved intact in 1930 to its present location at 21 West 52nd Street, the New Orleans-type grille now fences in the club and the unused terrace, at the second-floor level, on which most of the 48-inch-high colorful little jockeys stand. Others mount the steps, and still more stand around on the inside.
The Stardust Hotel in Las Vegas has recently ordered 14 jockeys to enhance the horsy decor of its new bar. The popularity of these mini-jockeys is not limited to the United States; one-third of the orders come from England.
Jockeys cost $135 plus shipping charges, with an additional $25 required for colors other than the standard red and yellow. Orders or inquiries should be sent directly to the Iron Gate Products Company, 424 West 54th Street, New York, N.Y. 10019.