The Library of Nineteenth-Century Photography

Fred Archer

Fred Archer

A cabinet card portrait of flat race jockey Frederick James (‘Fred’) Archer (1857-1886), who has been described as ‘the best all-round jockey that the turf has ever seen.’ He committed suicide in 1886, aged only 29. The photograph, which shows a portrait of the jockey framed by a horseshoe, was produced shortly after his death.

He was Champion Jockey for 13 consecutive years until 1886, riding 2,748 winners from 8,084 starts. In 1885 he rode 246 winners, a record that wasn't broken until Gordon Richards' 1933 season. He won the Epsom Derby five times and won a total of 21 classic races.

On 8 November 1886, aged 29 and at the height of his fame, he put a revolver in his mouth and pulled the trigger. He had been suffering from a fever for several days but, more significantly, he had been struggling with depression since the death of his beloved wife Helen (‘Nellie’) during childbirth some two years earlier. His excessive dieting, necessary on account of his height, has also been put forward as a contributing factor. The jury at the inquest into his death ruled that ‘the deceased committed suicide whilst in a state of unsound mind.’ He left a fortune of £66,662 (equivalent to about £6.5 million today) to his only daughter, Nellie. He was buried with his wife in Newmarket Cemetery.

Photographed by William Luks.


Code: 126793
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