Beautiful Jim Key

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Jim Key at the 1904 World's Fair

Beautiful Jim Key was a famous performing horse around the turn of the twentieth century.[1] His promoters claimed that the horse could read and write, make change with money, do arithmetic for "numbers below thirty,"[2] and cite Bible passages "where the horse is mentioned."[3] His trainer, "Dr." William Key, was a former slave, a self-trained veterinarian, and a patent medicine salesman.[1] Key emphasized that he used only patience and kindness in teaching the horse, and never a whip.[4]

The horse became a celebrity thanks to the progressive promotion of A. R. Rogers. The horse performed at large venues from Atlantic City to Chicago.[1]


Beautiful Jim Key and his trainer periodically toured the United States in a special railroad car to promote the fledgling cause of the humane treatment of animals. They performed in venues in most of the larger American cities, including New York’s Madison Square Garden. The horse was among the most popular attractions at the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair. Beautiful Jim Key was supposedly intelligent enough that he could calculate mathematical problems, possibly even trigonometry.

William Key

President William McKinley saw Beautiful Jim Key perform at an exposition in Tennessee and declared, “This is the most astonishing and entertaining exhibition I have ever witnessed.” The President also commented that it was an example of what “kindness and patience” could accomplish.[5]

Cruelty to Animals[edit]

The horse was made an honorary member of George Thorndike Angell's American Humane Association.[6] He also got 2 million kids to gather to pledge never be mean to animals.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Hunt, Paula (July 17, 2005). "Accepting author swallows incredible horse's tale". San Antonio Express-News.
  2. ^ "Jim Key Does Sums for 8,000 Children". The Minneapolis Journal. Journal Print. Co. 1906-04-04. p. 10. ISSN 2151-3953. LCCN 83045366. OCLC 1757631. Archived from the original on 2020-05-28. Retrieved 2020-05-28.
  3. ^ Rogers, Albert R. (1901). The Story of Beautiful Jim Key.
  4. ^ "Beautiful Jim Key". Boston Daily Globe. proquest historical newspapers. October 24, 1901. p. 3.
  5. ^ Mim Eichler Rivas (2005). Beautiful Jim Key: The Lost History of the World's Smartest Horse. William Morrow. p. 155. ISBN 9780060567040.
  6. ^ Mim Eichler Rivas (2005). Beautiful Jim Key: The Lost History of the World's Smartest Horse. William Morrow. p. 197. ISBN 9780060567040.
  • “A Tribute to Jim Key,” Atlanta Constitution, December 23, 1898

External links[edit]