These unbearably cute orphans seen above were lined up to go to the National Horse Show at Madison Square Garden which began on November 15, 1913. These are of course the days of the Garden down at the northeast corner of Madison Square, the glorious McKim, Mead and White structure topped with a glittering statue of Diana.
Once inside, the children were witness to a marvelous variety of events, including horse racing, pictured here:
Here’s another view of an earlier event from 1910:
The National Horse Show was one of New York’s big society events, as much a see-and-be-seen spectacle as the opera. Did anybody care about the dressage, the equestrian excellence? Perhaps some. But many were just there for the fashion show as society doyennes and big-money mogul strutted the latest styles.
“If you wish to learn which horses are entered in the harness classes of the Horse Show, your quest will entail the mild labor of turning over the pages of the official catalogue. If, on the other hand, you wish to see the entrants in a far larger “harness” class than anything the horses have to offer, all you need do is turn your head from the promenade of Madison Square Garden to the boxes and then back to the promenade again.”
From the Nov. 17th Evening World
From the Nov. 21st Evening World
So how did a group of poor orphans get invited to high society’s big event? It was a gesture of charity by the Vanderbilt family — Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt* was president of the horse show — who invited 3,000 orphaned children from around the city to sit in the balconies.
“The city’s little wards have looked forward to this occasion for many months. They always do. They know Santa Claus Vanderbilt. After the show each of them will leave the Garden with a substantial present. It is their Christmas Day.” [source]
* Two years later, Mr. Vanderbilt would die in the sinking of the RMS Lusitania.
Photographs at top courtesy the Library of Congress