Harris Olney

Harris was born in Manchester, Iowa in 1865 to Edward and Colestra Olney. Edward and Colestra were both born in New York. He had at least one older brother, Walter or Waldo (1863), and one younger sister, Mary (1869).

Harris Olney became an American horse jockey. He was sent to England to work and train with Jacob Pinkus in about 1880. After a few years he found work with the famous Pierre Lorillard IV in New Jersey. Harris Olney (along with his brother - "Walter" Olney) were listed among the guests at the 2nd annual "Red and Blue Social" held by the Red and Blue Social Club at Toni Dugan's Assembly Rooms at the Brooklyn Jockey Club Hotel on Ocean Parkway in Sheepshead Bay, New York. This was in 1884.

At age 20 he won the "Suburban Handicap" (1885) at Sheepshead Bay Race Track at the Coney Island Jockey Club in Sheepshead Bay, New York. For the race he rode a four year old horse named "Pontiac" owned by the Rancocas Stable and trained by Matthew Byrnes. Rancocas stable, located in Jobstown, New Jersey, was a well known horse training stable owned by Lorillard.


Pierre Lorillard IV - Harris Olney's employer - circa 1885.

I haven't learned the details of career after 1885, but it seems that things may have declined - at least somewhat. In 1889 he was living with his mother and brother in Passaic, New Jersey. Both he and Walter were working as horsemen, probably trainers. In 1894 he was still on 28 years old, quite young and with the possibilities of a promising career ahead of him. And yet, on October 17, he was found dead - in an apparent double suicide - at the Metropolitan Hotel in Brooklyn. With him was another man, age unknown, named James Dalton. He was also described as being familiar with the horse tracks.


Southeast corner of Kent Avenue, Brooklyn today.

The Metropolitan Hotel #22-24 on the southeast corner of Kent, opened in 1871 and was remodeled in 1886. Dieterich Allers & Sons were the proprietors. It was demolished several years ago, but I do not have the date yet - possibly not long after the suicide in 1894 as I haven't yet found a record of the hotel more recent then that, and the current building on the site (which couldn't be the same as it is only 1 story) seems to be quite old itself.


Newspaper Articles:

Middletown Daily Argus (Middletown, New York) - 1894, October 18

Probably a Double Suicide

Harris Olney and James Dalton were found dead in a room at the Metropolitan hotel, Kent avenue and Grand street. They had retired leaving the gas turned on full head. Olney, who was 2[8?] years of age and resided in Brooklyn was at one time a jockey, and Dalton was connected with race tracks.

New York Times (New York, New York) - October 18, 1894

Asphyxiation Ended Two Lives

Cyrus Olney, twenty-eight years old, at one time well known as a jockey, and James Dalton, twenty-five years old, who was a frequenter of race tracks, were asphyxiated in their room on the third floor of the Metropolitan Hotel, corner of Kent Avenue and Grand Street, Brooklyn, yesterday morning.

The two men had been to the Maspeth race track on Tuesday, and did not return to the Metropolitan Hotel until late at night. Both were under the influence of liquor. Olney rode Pierre Lorillard's famous horse Pontiac when he won the Suburban race.


"Cherry and Black: The Career of Mr. Pierre Lorillard On the Turf" by W. S. Vosburgh

Harris Olney, who rode so many races for the Lorillard stable, was born at Manchester, Iowa, in 1865, and learned riding under Jacob Pincus. He, Olney, rode his first race for Hon. Perry Belmont on Ada, 82 lbs., in 188o, and came to Mr. Lorillard in 1881. In 1882 he won 6 out of 35 races; and in 1883 he won 17 out of 68. His light weight gave him plenty to do in the stable riding exercise, trials and races."

Census Records:

Newmarket All Saints, Cambridge, England - 1881
[Living/working for Jacob Pinkus, age 42. He was one of 12 servants - all grooms and jockeys. Mr. Pinkus was a horse trainer.]

Olney, Harris, Servant U 16 born Iowa, US Jockey.

City Directories:

Clifton District, Passaic, New Jersey - 1889

Olney, Harris - horseman bds opp Erie station
Olney, Waldo - horseman bds opp Erie station
Olney, Mrs. C. D. - h opp Erie station

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