Graceland Museum

Tom Bass

This page is a project of the Missouri State University Agricultural History Series.
Tom and his mother
Tom and his mother
Tom Bass
Mr. Thomas Bass

Tom Bass

If Mexico, Missouri was the Saddle Horse Capital of the World, then Thomas Bass must have been its king. Tom's story is one of the great tales of success in Missouri's history. Unfortunately, its one that has sometimes been ignored.

Tom was born to a slave girl in the 1850's on the huge Bass Plantation south of Columbia, Missouri in Boone County. Tom's grandfather was Presley Grey, who was an expert with the fine horses raised on the plantation. Tom was fortunate to grow up with so many opportunities to work with the best horses in Missouri. Tom's father, William Hayden Bass, was the son of plantation owner, Eli Bass. Tom apparently inherited a good eye for champions from his father.

It appears that Tom may have left the Bass Plantation for Mexico, Missouri as early as 1870. Mexico was definitely the place to be, if one wanted to work with the very best horses. Quickly Tom had found a home, and before long, Tom had a reputation as a gentle, but effective trainer of even the most difficult horses.

By the 1890's Tom's reputation was recognized worldwide as one of the absolute best horse trainers. He won world championships, met five presidents and rode in inaugural parades. He remained humble through it all. Tom never became wealthy, but he was honest and admired by nearly everyone in the horse show community.

Like George Washington Carver, Tom Bass refused to let race be a barrier to his success. Tom loved his horses and it appears that some of them such as his favorites, Columbus, Miss Rex and Belle Beach loved him in return.

Follow the links to the left to learn more about the places, people and particularly the horses in Tom Bass' life.

Tom and Belle Beach
Belle Beach, Tom Bass up

Trophies, cups and many of Bass's ribbons are now displayed at the American Saddlebred Horse Museum in Mexico, MO. The display also includes clothes, Masonic items and other Bass memorabilia.

There is also a nice display of Tom Bass items at the American Royal Museum in Kansas City.

Photo Credits: American Saddlebred Horse Museum, Mexico, Missouri, and Audrain County Historical Society.

This page was designed by Dr. Lyndon Irwin.