Historical Context

Guelph Turf Club President Ribbon.jpg

Guelph Turf Club Summer Races 1894 President Ribbon (Guelph Civic Museum, 2016)

The Guelph Turf Club is a venue that in of itself holds much historical significance in the city. The 1894 Summer Races ribbon was a part of the valuable Sleeman collection. The name Sleeman is synonymous with Guelph in many ways. The Sleeman family had a major impact on the city; they were considered Guelph elites and were largely responsible for putting the city on the map. George Sleeman Sr. served two terms and Guelph mayor from 1880-1882, and 1905-1906 (Kidd, 2005).

He was also very involved in the city’s sports scene and was responsible for leading everything from baseball clubs to race tracks. Sleeman was the sitting president of the Guelph Turf Club at the time of the 1894 summer races event (Kidd, 2005). He was also a racing enthusiast and a man of prominence, he could afford to have his horses run in several events at the club (Thorning, n.d.). Horse racing at the time was a very popular sport among Canadians. Most sportsmen at the time were from the merchant or upper strata of society or garrison officers. Many of the sporting events that took place at that time were established within communities and catered to certain classes of society (Lindsay & West, 2010).

Horse racing generally catered to upper class men, the gentlemen of society who came from prominent backgrounds. However, there were some events for example like the 1864 running of the Queen’s Plate at the Guelph Turf Club that attracted all classes in society. There was everyone from pretentious young men, horse-racing aficionados, women and rowdy young teenagers (Thorning, n.d.).

The track was believed to be located on Eramosa Road, located conveniently next to a tavern, these were events that were considered pleasantries must like sports today (Thorning, n.d.). The ribbon itself very likely could have belonged to George Sleeman Sr. himself. However, a separate ribbon with ‘President’ distinction on it can be sourced. George Sleeman Sr. was the sitting president of the time; it remains unclear if he was also the sitting director or who the director was at the time. These types of events encouraged competition and recreation and were undoubtedly useful in forming relationships among sportsmen and Canadians but also helped shape the culture of Guelph as a city.         

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