Leonard King

President, Devon Horse Show

Presentation Summary
The Devon Horse Show has been in existence since 1898. It started out with agricultural interests in mind, since horses were a form of transportation in those days and hunting with horses was common. Some of the families that were involved in the first Devon Horse Show are still involved. It is one of the few horse shows in the world that is run by volunteers. There are currently over 2,000 volunteers whomake the Devon Horse Show happen. One of the most famous volunteers was Hope Scott, a prominent Philadelphia society girl whose life was the basis for the movie “The Philadelphia Story.” Hope was a generous supporter of the show and Devon is one of the few horse shows in the country where the horse has to qualify before gaining entry to the show. In addition to the more common events like jumping and hunting, we have coaching events where antique coaches used more than a century ago are driven. We also have saddle horses, ponies, dressage and jumping.

The show is so popular that acquiring box seats is impossible unless those seats are already in the family. Box seats at Devon are inherited. It is one of the few horse shows in the country that makes money. The Grand Prix event featuring Olympic level jumpers is so popular it is sold out six months in advance of the show. The show takes in more than $600,000 at the gate and contributes more than $300,000 a year to Bryn Mawr hospital.

A unique aspect of Devon is the country fair. There are 40 individual buildings for display and sale of goods associated with the show. Much of the revenue generated by the show is generated at the country fair. Currently, there is a capital campaign underway to guarantee that the show is able to continue on the 18 acres of land the show owns on Lancaster Avenue. With development pressure being what it is, it is important to raise enough money to assure its location. If we had moved the show five miles further away from the city, it would not have worked, since show attendance is highly dependent on the nearby railroad. Like the flower show and antique show, the Devon Horse Show is all about Philadelphia tradition. That tradition is embodied in the following poem:

“Philadelphia – A Poem”
I can lyricize ornately
On a city that sedately
Sits upon the western banks of the Delaware.

For I know a Lloyd and Norris,
A Rittenhouse, a Morris,
And I’m quite at home on Independence Square.

In the reign of Charles the Second,
Ere the leafy forest beckoned,
It was founded by a certain William Penn.

Whom people all speak well of
And you also hear them tell of
A Mr. Franklin, more familiarly known as Ben.

There are a lot of reckless motors
And a mob of restless voters
On streets named Market, Chestnut, Spruce and Pine

By the descendants of the Quakers,
Who shop at Wanamakers,
And know the Barclay is the place to dine.

When you cross the outer boundaries
Of the textile mills and foundries,
Fairmount Park will yield contentment for the soul.

The summers are alluring
And the roads are good for touring,
But when you cross the bridge you pay a toll.

When trees in April quicken
On the lovely Wissahickon,
Or in winter when the Schuylkill full of slush,

Cuts the city in its middle
You might even meet a Biddle,
A Cadwallader, a Schippen, or a Rush.

You should tarry here and grapple
With the mysteries of scrapple,
A conglomeration of flour, herbs and pork.

Philadelphia is not exquisite
But a pleasant place to visit,
Which is what we natives say about New York.

In an effort to provide wide-ranging views and perspectives regarding the practice of and issues surrounding agriculture, the Philadelphia Society for Promoting Agriculture (PSPA) seeks speakers representing a variety of perspectives. The statements and opinions they present are strictly their own and do not necessarily represent the views of PSPA.