Sep 07 2010

Was the “Man in the Leopard Coat”  the Inspiration for Jay Gatsby?

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:

1904 Vanderbilt Cup Race


Sep 13 2010 Robert E. Richer 8:38 AM

Wonderful piece of detective work, Howard.  Great fun!


Sep 15 2010 Tom 11:03 AM

Who did you originally think it was? Otherwise great to hear and identify the actual person. That is some coat!

Sep 15 2010 Howard Kroplick 4:30 PM

Hi Tom:

I had no idea. Many high-society spectators and friends of the Vanderbilts wore their lastest fashions at the races.


Sep 15 2010 W.Denis Basson 9:15 PM

In one of your pictures of Vanderbilt cup races you show a Christie car No17 as being the 1906 car is this correct? as I thought that the 1906 Christie was the first V4 racer can you confirm which is correct please.
i am in the process of writing an article for a car club magazine on J Walter Christie

Cheers for now


Nov 06 2011 Chad Riddle 10:16 PM

Just discovered recently, after my mother passed away, a large two-handle silver cup with the engraving “Compliments of Capt. W. Gould Brokaw to Captain Stephen W. Roach For Saving Schooner Viator And Crew On October 10, 1894”.  My mother was part of the Roach family…early ship-building magnates in the U.S.

Nov 07 2011 Howard Kroplick 8:09 AM

Hi Chad:

Welcome to!

According to the World Almanac, on October 10, 1894, “a severe storm played havoc with yachts. Dilemma, the first fin keel craft owned by Lathm A. Fish, was totally wrecked. Amazon, Blond and brunette, Hoodoo, Banshee, naphtha launch Florence and Phoebe were wrecked at New Rochelle and Larchmont.”

Here is a link to a photo of Viator:—3


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