Vintage Photographs of Moscow 1909
Visit my museum exhibit Empire and Empathy to view all of my great-grandfather’s 1909 photographs and for more information about the trip.Murray is one of 5 photographers featured in the book Twilight of the Romanovs: A Photographic Odyssey Across Imperial Russia the book is being printed in both German and English.

In 1909 my great-grandfather accompanied a group of American champion trotting horses on an exhibition tour Moscow, Russia with stops along the way in Germany, Austria and other European spots circa 1909. The Horses were owned by C K G Billings, founder of Union Carbide. Murray is in the Harness Racing Hall of Fame as a writer for the Horse Review. His books Stable Conversation, and The Trottin Hoss Excuse Book were extremely popular racing satires.

During the trip, he took over 400 pictures with a Graflex box camera, wrote articles for The Horse Review, and was arrested several times in Russia and Germany for taking unauthorized pictures. 38 Photograpghs (out of over 400) became a museum exhibition titled Empire and Empathy - Vintage Photographs of Russia.

I inherited the original photographs in a leather bound album titled Snap Shots Along the Invasion Route by an American Queen and Her Court. The American Queen was the horse Lou Dillon, the first harness horse to break the 2 minute mile. I also inherited the negatives and glass lantern slides.

From the 1914 magazine Men and Methods:

TWO hundred and fifty thousand troops were in formal review before the Kaiser. Suddenly a tall, sloping shouldered foreigner stepped into the open, leveled his graflex and snapped it. "Take me to the official photographer," he suggested, when, the next instant, astounded sword bearers fell upon him from every quarter.

A few minutes later, he had the official picture maker deep in an enthusiastic conversation over some prints showing his work on another day, when foggy weather had foiled the official camera.

After that, it was merely human nature for the Kaiser's photographer to have his Yankee friend released, and gracefully to exchange prints with him. Over the Czar's borderline, the same diplomatic triumph became settled routine for the traveler. Whenever, as happened some twenty-five odd times, the big-fisted, steady-eyed American snapped his camera without license, he calmed the local authorities by merely explaining, urbanely and in perfectly good transatlantic sporting slang, the mechanism of his nihilistic appearing box—or by generously and confidentially allowing his captors to peer into the ground glass while at no waste of films, he snapped the mayor or judge. Straightway—a verdict of acquittal, with due apologies. Flattered and interested human nature again.

..... That Murray Howe could bring his collection of unauthorized snapshots out of German and Russian officialdom evidences an intuitive mastery of human nature ......

There was a return trip in 1912 that Murray could not attend because he had become head of the advertising department for Union Carbide (founded by the owner of the horses). Here is what was said about Murray in an article by the journalist that replaced him on the 1912 trip:

----In closing I must add that there is mourning in the land of the Czar at Murray’s non-appearance. When the natives learned that the Billings stable was to return, it was supposed, of course, that he was to return with it, and the fact that he was not would undoubtedly cause the city to be draped in crepe, were it not for the fact that the Imperial Majesty himself is due for a visit in about two weeks, in consequence which the entire population is engaged in a perfect orgie of activity with paint, calsomine, gold leaf and upholstery, streets are being repaved, windows polished, droshkies refurbished and harnesses besilivered, regardless of expense. The Czar however, will depart May 21st (May 8 Russian style) and thereafter nothing will dispel the pall of gloom – for Murray is recorded in local history as the greatest Russian-American that has ever appeared in the shadow of the Kremlin. Innumerable legends exist regarding his prowess in the consumption of vodki and sakouski, of the famine in caviar and sterlite that followed his departure, and the drought in the wine cellars at the Metropole, the National Continental, the Imperial Club, and at “The Yards”. There is a Murray Howe Memorial Society, composed exclusively of chefs, butlers, matres-de-hotel, waiters and bell boys who are still living in luxury from the shower of rubbles and kopeks that made his trail luminous. There is a similar society composed of droshky and troika drivers and owners; that portion of the citizens that habitually depends upon largess for their sustenance hold periodical mass meetings upon the plaza in front of the Grand Opera House and petition the Czar to issue a ukase demanding his return: while night before last, at the performance by the Imperial Ballet of “La Belle au Bois Dormant” when the premier danseuse, the beauteous and sprightly Mlle Balaschova , learned that the American trotting legation was present and that Murray Andreyvitch was not among them, she was so overcome with grief that she was obliged to omit her grand climactic “pas-seul” in the last act, and a physician had to be hurried to her dressing room.

But the biggest gloom prevails in the Thieves Market, where the most affectionate remembrances exists of the tall Americanski’s fraternal visits. The king of pickpockets has been inconsolable ever since he was told that his comrade from across the seas would probably never return to his old haunts, where, three years ago, they used to foregather with much mutual enjoyment.

From all which it will be understood that such an ineffectual understudy as myself is laboring under disadvantages impossible to overcome. ----

For information about the trip or to inquire about use of the images, contact Murray's great-grandson:

Andrew Murray Howe V
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