A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006. Now a Popeyes fast food restaurant on Google Maps.

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Entry from August 09, 2019
Mrs. Astor’s Plush Horse (Mrs. Astor’s Pet Horse)

Caroline Schermerhorn Astor (1830-1908) held at annual fancy dress ball at 842 Fifth Avenue. Her husband, William Backhouse Astor Jr. (1829-1892) was a racehorse breeder/owner. The term “Mrs. Astor’s pet horse” (or “Mr.s Astor’s plush horse") meant to dress up, in an ostentatious style displaying extreme wealth.

“Everybody was dressed like Mrs. Astor’s pet horse in 1901 models” was printed in the Denver (CO) Post on November 15, 1915. “Everybody was dressed like Mrs. Astor’s plush horse” was printed in the Chicago (IL) Sunday Tribune on February 8, 1920.

Newspaper editor Stanley Walker (1898-1962) wrote the book Mrs. Astor’s Horse (1935). A show titled Mrs. Astor’s Pet Horse was produced by Billy Rose (1899-1966) in 1942. The reference to “Mrs. Astor’s pet/plush horse” is dated and is mostly of historical interest today.

(Oxford English Dictionary)
plush horse, n. and adj.
A toy horse made from plush. Also: the type of something ostentatious, luxurious, etc.; frequently in dressed (up) like (Mrs) Astor’s plush horse and variants (see quot. 1937).
1891 Boston Daily Globe 6 Dec. 17 (advt.) 15 styles Skin and Plush Horses.
1903 Post Standard (Syracuse, N.Y.) 5 Dec. 5/5 Real skin horses, plush horses, trotting horses, rocking horses, [etc.]
1913 Daily Northwestern (Oshkosh, Wisconsin) 7 Jan. 6/6 In contrast with these is the senator himself, of slight physique, kindly of mien, and to all appearances as approachable as a plush horse.
1920 S. Lewis Main St. xxviii. 332 How’s the kid? All dolled up like a plush horse today, ain’t we!
1920 Chicago Tribune 8 Feb. vi. 2/3 The opening was really too brilliant. Everybody was dressed like Mrs. Astor’s plush horse.
1937 N. Johnson Mrs. Astor’s Horse 8 It was in the late nineteenth century that the gilded, overstuffed magnificence of Mrs. Astor led the peasants to say of any one who was rather ostentatiously dolled up: ‘She is dressed up like Mrs. Astor’s plush horse.’

Wikipedia: Caroline Schermerhorn Astor
Caroline Webster “Lina” Schermerhorn (September 21, 1830 – October 30, 1908) was a prominent American socialite of the second half of the 19th century who led the Four Hundred. Famous for being referred to later in life as “the Mrs. Astor” or simply “Mrs. Astor”, she was the wife of businessman, racehorse breeder/owner, and yachtsman William Backhouse Astor Jr.. She was the mother of five children, including Colonel John Jacob Astor IV, who perished on the RMS Titanic. Through her marriage, she was a prominent member of the Astor family and matriarch of the male line of American Astors.

31 August 1911, Los Angeles (CA) , pt. 1, pg. 16, col. 4 ad:
All fussed up like a plush horse, eh!
(A. K. Brauer & Co., taylors.—ed.)

4 December 1911, Lincoln (NEW) Evening News, “Getting Styles in Fiction: Herbert Corey Advises Writers to Note the Changes in Bohemia,” pg. B3, col. 2:
And without question they dress up like a plush fire horse—at least when they are in funds.

Chronicling America
9 December 1913, Bridgeport (CT) Evening Farmer, “Rural Swains Sic Skunk On City Chap,” pg. 1, col. 6:
Also he was dressed up like a plush horse.

15 November 1915, Denver (CO) Post, “Fay Becomes Sore on Humanity after Third Degree Trick Party” by Fay King, pg. 4, col. 1:
Everybody was dressed like Mrs. Astor’s pet horse in 1901 models.

13 October 1917, Denver (CO) Post, “Fay Has Got a Terrible Worry Over Her Stunt as an Actorine” by Fay King, pg. 5, col. 1:
Same with me an’ this actin’ business. I usta think it would be so swell to come out on the stage all dressed up like Mrs. Astor’s pet horse, and see all the people an’ the lights an’ everything, but you never can tell till you tried, an’ believe me, Stell, this job suits me more than ever.

10 January 1920, Columbia (SC) Record, “The Play Last Night” by Jack Young, pg. 8, col. 2:
The girls of the chorus were good looking, young, and dressed as fancifully as Mrs. Astor’s pet horse on parade.

8 February 1920, Chicago (IL) Sunday Tribune, “The Last Word in Paris Fashions” pt. 6, pg. 2, col. 3:
“Everybody was dressed like Mrs. Astor’s plush horse.”

16 May 1921, Parsons (KS) Daily Sun, “In Society,” pg. 3, col. 4:
Depot Master All Dressed Up.
Depot Master Brannan is all dressed up. In fact the saying “All dressed up like Mrs. Astor’s Plush Horse” would apply to Mr. Brannon this morning.

31 July 1921, Sunday News (New York, NY), “What Society is Doing” by Angela, pg. 24, col. 1:
Horses Prized Then. There were no automobiles then and the handsome equipages were drawn by proud equines harnessed with clanking silver chains and other bright caparisoning that bespoke the owner’s position in the social world at that times.

“All dressed up like Mrs. Astor’s pet horse” was the witticism that was coined in the years when the fast or high stepping horses were check-reined and ornamented with such fancy looking harness that they paraded the avenue like dudes or dandies, as they called flashily dressed persons.

24 September 1921, San Francisco (CA) Examiner, “Kramer Cops Decision Over Floyd Johnson” by Bill Yeager, pg. 15, col. 3:
OLD Dreamland Rink, all dressed up like Mrs. Astor’s pet horse, opened its doors to a fight crowd last night for the first time in more than a year.

Chronicling America
2 October 1921, The Sunday Star (Washington, DC), “The Modern D’Artagnon,” pt. 3, pg. 3, col. 7:
“I honestly don’t see how they did it, year in and year out,” said (Douglas—ed.) Fairbanks. “How any man could waste two valuable hours a day dressing himself up like Mrs. Astor’s pet horse is too deep for me.”

19 August 1922, Perth Amboy (NJ) Evening News, “Monday at the Ditmas,” pg. 2, col. 5:
“It’s a relief to get out of the fancy clothes. Usually, when you are dressed up like Mrs. Astor’s pet horse the part doesn’t give you any chance to act.”
(Spoken by Helene Chadwick.—ed.)

OCLC WorldCat record
Mrs. Astor’s horse
Author: Stanley Walker; Rouben Mamoulian Collection (Library of Congress)
Publisher: New York, Frederick A. Stokes Company, 1935.
Edition/Format: Print book : Biography : English

OCLC WorldCat record
[Mrs. Astor’s pet horse
Author: Milton Ager; Richard Rodgers; Charles L Cooke; James S Toliver; Billy Rose
Publisher: [1942]
Edition/Format: Musical score : Manuscript Archival Material : English

25 August 1942, Chillicothe (OH) Gazette, “Manhattan” by George Tucker, pg. 9, cols. 2-3:
If this horse business seems confusing, listen...The name of Billy Rose’s new show is “Mrs. Astor’s Pet Horse.”...It’s the nostalgic (with whipped cream) reminiscences of Pansy the old hack horse who stands in front of the Plaza hotel. She likes to discuss faded moments of old glory with the cab driver. Pansy tells him that, actually, she used to be a race horse but was left at the post one day when a handsome horse came by and she couldn’t take her eyes off the nag...Her furious owner sold her to the circus, and when Mrs. Astor saw her John Ringling presented her to Mrs. Astor as a gift. She then took Mrs. Astor everywhere she went and became her pet horse. Hence the name.

Kmart Home
#Style Tip of Week: “Simplicity is the key. It’s not good to be dressed up like Mrs Astor’s plush pony,”
8:53 AM · Jul 19, 2010·Hootsuite

Nathan Empsall
“And I don’t like to even wear my one old fur coat, because I don’t want to look like Mrs. Astor’s pet pig.” Haha, my Grandma is awesome!
8:40 PM · Feb 5, 2011·ÜberSocialOrig

Richard Medhurst
Try using this in conversation: “Look at her swanning about in all her furs and jewelry, like Mrs. Astor’s pet horse.”
1:14 AM · Mar 1, 2019·Twitter Web Client

A Way with Words
Mrs. Astor’s Pet Horse
Posted by Grant Barrett on July 27, 2019
Julie in Greenwood, Indiana, says her mother was fond of the expression Mrs. Astor’s pet horse, meaning “someone who dresses ostentatiously.” The phrase refers to Caroline Webster Schermerhorn Astor, from the ultra-wealthy Astor family, who was known for throwing parties so lavish that even her horse got dolled up. The expression was repopularized in the 1940s by a traveling musical revue called Mrs. Astor’s Pet Horse. Other variants include Mrs. Astor’s plush horse, pet horse, billy goat, and pet cow. This is part of a complete episode.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityNames/Phrases • Friday, August 09, 2019 • Permalink