The fabled Lawn Jockey has a long and illustrious history that goes all the way back to George Washington. There are three versions of the American Lawn Jockey and there are two distinct historical time frames associated with it.
1) 1776 to 1913: the original versions were made of solid iron or zinc and weighed 300-400 pounds and were designed for functional use, tying horses. The one pictured above may be from this time period. (This one is on Ebay right now)
2) 1913-present: reproductions were made of hollow iron (weighing about 150 pounds), concrete, plastic or aluminum. These were made for decorative use.
The fabled "21 Club" in New York has a wide array of reproduction "Cavalier" Lawn Jockeys.
There were three versions of the the Lawn Jockey. Two you have probably seen before, but there were other versions too. The three manufacturers that had catalogs and marketed their products were JW Fiske and JL Mott of New York City, and Robert Wood and Co. of Philadelphia. The makers mark was usually stamped on the top of the base.
There is a story about the "Faithful Groomsman" that could be fact or fiction, it is unclear. But the original Lawn Jockey was indeed a "Faithful Groomsman" who worked with General George Washington. The story goes that a 12-year old slave named Jocko Graves stayed on the shore of the Delaware River that famous night when Washington crossed the Delaware. He held a lantern to mark the location but he froze to death later that night. To honor him, Washington commissioned a cast iron statue of Jocko holding a lantern and called it "The Faithful Groomsman." There is no existing record, however, of there being a statue like this at Mt. Vernon. But there are records of many "Faithful Groomsman" statues existing.
In a somewhat related story, legend has it that the Faithful Groomsman statues were used to point the way to freedom for the Underground Railroad. According to oral tradition, if no slave hunters were near, the sympathetic agent lit Jocko's lantern or tied a bright cloth to his arm to signal that it was safe. Some records point to the use of red or green lights or fabric.
Up until around 1860, there was likely only one version of the Lawn Jockey, "the Faithful Groomsman." After 1860, two new versions emerged:
"Jocko" as it came to be known was a caricature version of "The Faithful Groomsman." This version was never copyrighted or patented. (This one is a reproduction. I prefer the older Jocko statues).
The "Cavalier" is today widely reproduced and an unpainted cement version can be purchased for less than $200. This version was copyrighted in 1871 and patented in 1872.
The term "Lawn Jockey" is rather recent originating in the 1940's.
It is not uncommon to see these painted in farm colors.
You can purchase these today from various places, order it unpainted or custom in whatever colors you desire. You can find the older ones on Ebay, at auctions and in antique stores but be prepared to write a big check for the old ones, if you can find one.
I'm loving these Lawn Jockey canasta cards:
Next time you spot a Lawn Jockey on someone's farm, I hope you will enlighten them to the unique history of this fabled statue with a past.