George Herbert "Pete" Bostwick (August 14, 1909 - January 13, 1982) was an American court tennis player, a steeplechase jockey and horse trainer, and an eight-goal polo player.
He was born in Bisby Lake, New York to Mary L. Stokes and Albert Carlton Bostwick. His grandfather, Jabez A. Bostwick, was a founder and treasurer of the Standard Oil Company of New York and a partner of John D. Rockefeller. His grandmother, Helen C. Bostwick, left upon her death in April 1920 a sum of $1,156,818 to him and similar amounts to his siblings. Among his cousins were the cross-dressing woman speedboat racer "Joe" a/k/a Betty Carstairs and the pilot Francis Francis.
Pete Bostwick's inherited wealth afforded him the opportunity to pursue a number of sporting interests. His father was a horseman and polo player and Pete Bostwick become one of a leading steeplechase owners, trainers, and riders. Pete Bostwick was a member of The Jockey Club and a patron of the National Tennis Club.
He rode Thoroughbred steeplechase horses from 1927 to 1949 both in the US and Grand National in the UK and also rode in flat racing. In flat racing he finished 4th in the 1928 running of the Belmont Stakes aboard Whisk Broom, owned by his uncle F. Ambrose Clark.
At Belmont Park in 1932 he became the second jockey (after Jockey W. C. ("Bill") Clancy in 1895) ever to ride a flat and steeplechase winner on the same day a feat which he repeated again within two weeks. Initially he rode to victory at Belmont Park aboard Thomas Hitchcock's Silverskin in a steeplechase and Latin Stables' Ha Ha in a flat race on the same day. Then repeated the feat two weeks later in the Metropolitan Driving Club, a 1-1/16-mi. flat race on J. F. Byers' Glaneur then won the Chamblet Memorial steeplechase on Mrs. Ambrose Clark's Madrigal II the same day.
As a trainer, in 1962 Bostwick became the first steeplechase trainer to have horses win more than $1 million in a single year. His horses were voted the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Steeplechase horse on six occasions: Oedipus (1950, 1951), Neji (1955, 1957, 1958), both of whom were voted into the United States Racing Hall of Fame, and Ancestor won the Eclipse Award in 1959.
Bostwick was a resident of Old Westbury, Long Island, Gilbertsville, New York and Aiken, South Carolina. First riding at the age of 7 his horseman roots were at the famed Aiken Preparatory School where his aunt, Mrs. Thomas Hitchcock known as the "mother of U. S. polo", taught him and many leading polo players of the era their skill. His talents attested to ultimately reaching an eight-goal rating. "Polo for the Public" was his motto at the Bostwick Field on Long Island, New York and polo for a purse was also inaugurated there. In his later years he maintained an immaculate polo field and stables [extant today] at his sprawling farm in Gilbertsville, New York under the name of Village Farms. Bostwick also owned Haig Point Plantation on Daufuskie Island off of Hilton Head in South Carolina which he bought from Stiles Harper of Estill, SC in 1961 for $143,000.
Pete skipped attending college remarking: "There is no use sitting in school when one can sit on a horse and go somewhere."
The New York Times reported Bostwick's wedding to Laura Elizabeth Curtis on 7 October 1933, and their divorce about 16 years later. At the wedding, at Roslyn, Long Island, NY, the rector of the Parish Church presided. The bride wore a white satin gown cut in simple lines, with a long train. Her veil fell to the end of the train from a cap held in place by small white orchids. Her bouquet was of white orchids with pendant buds on satin ribbons.
Mrs. Lewis T. Preston of Jericho was matron of honour and Miss Georgette Whelan was maid of honour. The other attendants were Miss Pauline Curtis, younger sister of the bride, who was flower girl; and Miss Helen Whitney Bourne, Miss Lila Vanderbilt Webb, Miss Janet White of Providence, RI; Mrs. Philip Inglehart and Mrs. Benjamin C. Bettner Jr.
Albert C. Bostwick was best man for his brother and the ushers included Dunbar W. Bostwick, another brother, Robert V. McKim, a brother-in-law, Stewart Iglehart, Philip Iglehart, Lyman Wright, Stephen Carlton Clark Jr, Robert L. Gerry Jr, John R. Fell and James F. Curtis Jr, brother of the bride.
After the ceremony Mr. and Mrs. Bostwick were driven to the reception at Willowmere, the country home of the bride's parents at Roslyn Harbour, overlooking the water, in the historic black and yellow coach, drawn by four horses and trotted by Mr. Bostwick's uncle, F. Ambrose Clark of Westbury.
The report of the divorce reads under the heading "Bostwicks are Divorced - Wife receives custody of the 3 children at Reno", and it is datelined Reno, Nev 11 April 1949. Mrs. Laura Curtis Bostwick of New York received a divorce here to-day from George H. (Pete) Bostwick the well known gentleman jockey on the grounds of mental cruelty. Mrs. Bostwick had filed a cross complaint to that of her husband, who last week charged extreme mental cruelty. An agreement gives Mrs. Bostwick custody of their three children, George H. Jr, James and Laura, and a property settlement provides for their support.
Pete was married April 26, 1949 to Dolly Van Stade at the home of her parents in Old Westbury, Long Island. Dolly on her the maternal side was a grand daughter of Charles Steele, partner of J. Pierson Morgan. Her father was a noted polo player in the early days of the game on Long Island.
His sister Lillian Bostwick married renowned horseman, Ogden Phipps. His brother, Dunbar, was also active in amateur polo and held a six-goal handicap. In the 1930s, Pete, Dunbar, and Lillian built and operated Bostwick Field in Old Westbury, New York where international polo matches were held. Pete Bostwick's name is engraved six times on the U.S. Open Championship trophy.
At the Aiken Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame and Museum there is a permanent exhibit dedicated to his accomplishments. In 1968 Pete Bostwick was inducted into the United States' National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame and following its formation, posthumously into the Museum of Polo and Hall of Fame in 1996. In 2006, he was inducted into the Nassau County Sports Hall of Fame.
Pete Bostwick died of a heart attack in 1982 while playing polo. He was survived by his wife, Dolly Von Stade Bostwick (1921–1998), four sons and three daughters.
Son Pete Jr. was one of the best and most versatile amateur sportsmen in American history who won two National squash titles and hard racquets Open Championships and who also excelled at golf, ice hockey, court tennis and Lawn Tennis.