One of my favorite 1904 photos in my Vanderbilt Cup Race book showed this fashion conscious group of men. My caption began: "In the custom of the day, the crowds typically wore their finest clothes to great public events such as the Vanderbilt Cup Race..."
The person who really stood out in this crowd was the "Man in the Leopard Coat". During many of my Vanderbilt Cup Race presentations, I have been asked to identify him. I was able to...until now.
I came across an article tonight published in the February 28, 2010 Hemmings Blog entitled Fast cars and beautiful women at Nirvana: W. Gould Brokaw, the real Jay Gatsby. The author makes the case that the inspiration for Jay Gatsby was the "now-forgotten Long Island socialite playboy and gentleman racer (sound familiar?) William Gould Brokaw." The accompanying photo of Brokaw at the 1904 Ormond Beach caught my attention. He looks very much like the "Man in the Leopard Coat".
I went to my W. Gould Brokaw file in my 24,0000 image collection and found this photo of Wiliam K. Vanderbilt, Jr. , Brokaw and race officials and owners at the 1904 Ormond Beach Race. Again, some compelling similarities with the "Man in the Leopard Coat.
Then, a Eureka moment..Check out the coat worn by Brokaw in this photo. It's a match...The "Man in the Leopard Coat" was Great Neck socialite W. Gould Brokaw!!! Photo courtesy of Joel Friedman.
Brokaw was at the 1904 Vanderbilt Cup Race as the owner of the 60-HP #11 Renault racer.
Brokaw's Renault finished 13th of the 18 entrants, twisting a shaft at Bethpage Road during lap 2.
Links to relevant posts on the 1904 Race: