From the professional ranks, racing spread to the universities and clubs. Eton School began rowing in 1793. In 1778 the first 8 race took place in London. Naval officers returning to college from the Nepolianic war continued races as they did in the Brest Blockade fleet in ship boats called "coques". Oxford established rowing in 1822, Cambridge in 1827, and first raced each other in 1829. The English Henley Royal Regatta started in 1839. The first International Regatta took place in 1825 between England's Thames watermen and the New York rowers in the American Star. The first International Amateur race took place in 1858 between England and France. The first keelless outrigger eights were raced in 1852.
The first organized boat races in the U.S. took place in New York in the mid 1700s by professional bargemen. Amateur boatclubs were formed in Boston, New York, and Philadelphia in the 1830s. University of Pennsylvania (then known as The College, Academy and Educational Trust) rowing history dates back to 1760, when a challenge was issued to New York to a 6 mile race. The first organized regatta sponsored by the Amateur Boatclub was held on the Schuylkill Nov 12, 1835, in which the Blue Devil club rowed its boat of that name, and seven eight oared barges took part. Another race took place between Devil and the Imp Barge club in 1839. The same year, two four withs rowed from New York to race on the Schuylkill. Some sources indicate that earlier contests had taken place between the University of Pennsylvania and the Atlanta Boat Club of New York City. Rowing started at Harvard and Yale in 1843 and 1844 respectively, they raced each other in 1852.
In 1859, the first Schuylkill Navy Regatta was held, and continued every year except during the Civil War Era. The first National Regatta was held in Philadelphia in Oct 9, 1873, with three events; single, double and fours. (It is believed to be the first U.S. Regatta where heats were required, and also the first time locally where an eight race was held, between Undine, Crescent, and West Philadelphia Boatclubs.)
The first international race was held in Philadelphia in conjunction with the Centennial Exhibition of 1876, when the Beaverwycks B.C. of N.Y. beat Yale and London B.C. in the fours. In 1877 the first student only race was held between University and College B.C. In 1879 the first Child's Cup between Columbia, Princeton and the University of Pennsylvania was held. In 1859, a three day regatta featured the first single championship and was won by Max Schmitt, a friend of the painter Thomas Eakins. In 1872, the first pair race in the U.S. for a $2,000 purse, was rowed over a 5 mile course from the Columbia to Girard Av. Bridges and back. The famed professional oarsmen, John and Barney Biglin beat the challengers Coulter and Cavitt by nearly one minute, and were proclaimed World Champions. The first Dad Vail regatta was held in Philadelphia in 1934, and was won by Rutgers.
THE DISTANCE for boatraces in Philadelphia from 1859 to 1869 was three miles, from Turtle Rock near the present lighthouse to the lower end of Peter's Island and back. The course was later shortened to turn below the Columbia Railroad bridge. In 1866 the course was from William Tell Rock below Falls Bridge to Rockland at Columbia Bridge and back. In 1872 the course was reversed. In 1874 to 1895 the distance was 1 1/2 mile from Falls Bridge to Columbia. In 1896 the distance was 1 mile. From 1899-1910 the distance was again a mile and a half. In 1911 the National Course was established as one and a quarter mile. In 1937 the distance was 1 mile, after which it was maintained as a mile and 5/16. In 1964, 2000 meters became the standard distance.
THE PROFESSIONALS Early rowing races were often accompanied by heavy betting, and professional rowers began to dominate rowing much as they do today in other sports. (A 1874 poster in #4 boathouse Row advertised a first place prize of $4,000!) Rowing was threatened by gamblers who saw a rowing race as a sure bet if a little bribery was used to fix the outcome. For example, some Philadelphia amateur crews were reinforced by hiring shad-boat fishermen from the Kensington neighborhood known as Fishtown. By the 1890's, professional rowing began to be eclipsed because of the introduction of bicycles and the growing popularity of baseball, football, and horse racing as spectator sports. Some of the professional rowers took to full time coaching of college crews, and was a significant factor in the development of American collegiate rowing. Some prominent professional rowers were James Hamill of Pittsburgh, the brothers Joshua, Henry, Gilbert and Ellis Ward, from Newborn N.Y., Fred Plastid, John and Bernard Biglin, Charles Courtney, Edward Hanlan, and Frenchy Johnson, an early black professional sculler.
THE AMATEURS Bill Curtis, considered the father of American athletics, and James Watson issued a booklet "What is an Amateur?" The success of this book laid the base for the acceptance of amateurism in sports. The Schuylkill Navy was organized in 1858 to eliminate gambling and its abuses and to promote amateurism on the river. The rules of the Schuylkill Navy expressly prohibited rowers from accepting any wagered money.
THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF AMATEUR OARSMEN In the first National Regatta in 1873 in Philadelphia, rejection of entries because of the Schuylkill Navy's amateur rules underscored the necessity for a national organization to regulate the status of oarsmen. The Schuylkill Navy sent invitations to 350 boatclubs to attend a meeting to regulate the status of oarsmen. 100 replies were received and 22 clubs attended the meeting in New York, where the National Association of Amateur Oarsmen (NAAO) was formed, and the Schuylkill Navy's amateur rules of rowing were adopted. The West Phila Boat Club's delegate to the Convention presented the following resolution which was adopted August 28, 1872:
"That they will be considered professionals who, shall openly and publicly row any match race for money or who shall be announced as open to row any such match race with designated organizations, crews, or individuals in general terms waterman who have rowed for hire trainers, employees of boat builders, or in any way has ever at any period of his life taught or assisted in the formation of athletes exercises as a means of livelihood".
Non-adherence led to expulsion from the NAAO and contributed to the extinction of professional rowing. In 1887, the Secretary of the Schuylkill Navy, W. T. Wallace, and the president of the New York Athletic Club met to adapt amateur rules of rowing to track and field. The Schuylkill Navy Commodore, Harry McMillan, was elected the first President of the Amatuer Athletic Association (AAU). Although amateur regattas had been held since 1837 in England, the Schuylkill Navy amateur rules spread worldwide and led to the renewal of the Olympic Games in 1896. England's A.R.C. was founded in 1882. FISA was founded in 1893.
THE SCHUYLKILL NAVY was founded in 1858 by nine Philadelphia boatclubs. It is the oldest sports governing body in the US. The Navy's restriction of contestants from remuneration contributed directly to clarifying the distinction between amateur and professional sports.
The Navy had participated in a number of municipal functions of outstanding importance. On November 11, 1872, fourteen boats from the Schuylkill Navy formed a rowing escort for the funeral solemnities of General George Mead, the victor at the battle of Gettysburg, to his burial site in Laurel Hill Cemetery. In 1876, in conjunction with the Centennial Exposition in West Park, the NAAO held the first International Regatta on the Schuylkill, and it was the largest regatta in the country up to that time. On April 27, 1878, at the request of the Commissioners of Fairmount Park, the Schuylkill Navy staged a rowing demonstration in honor of the President of the United States, Rutherford. B. Hayes. An open Regatta was held in 1882 in conjunction with the Bi-Centennial Celebration. An inter-city regatta was a feature of Founders Week Celebration in October 1908. A demonstration "The Schuylkill Navy on Parade" was held in conjunction with the Democratic National Convention in 1936. Early in the history of the Schuylkill Navy it was customary to hold in connection with the annual Regatta a rowing review. On these occasions all the clubs turned out in holiday attire, each club having their own distinctive uniforms, and executed complicated fleet maneuvers below Girard Avenue
THE PHILADELPHIA BOATCLUBS did not tolerate the elitism of their English counterparts, and artisans, laborers and gentlemen rowed together. The Club's membership made expensive equipment available to those who could not afford them. Pleasure boating was a prominent feature of early Philadelphia boatclub activities, a favorite pastime being a leisurely row up the river, pausing for a refreshing plunge in the cool uncontaminated waters above Columbia, and then proceeding to Peters Island, or the mouth of the Wissahickon, or stopping at the Falls of Schuylkill near Midvale to patronize the well known resorts such as Bobby Arnold's, Tissots, Smith's Falls Hotel, Riverside, Strawberry, or Rialto House Tavern owned by Chris Dusch, for a dinner of fried catfish, waffles and mint juleps, with a romantic moonlight journey home. Bachelors and Undine had their own upriver clubs, to overcome the problem of lack space and privacy at the taverns.
The old Robert Morris hotel at Landing and Fairmount Av. was often used by the Boatclubs for their meetings. There was a short canal south of the Morris estate which led eastward to the Morris and Tasker Iron Foundry. In the shelter of this canal an old English sailor by the name of Charlie, had a boathouse and kept a score of row boats for hire, and a medium size sail boat. In 1881, George Popp's maintained a floating boathouse. Mr. Thomas Willing maintained pleasure barges for recreation.
All the present boathouses were built to replace the original ramshackle boatsheds. The Philadelphia Girls Rowing Club is the oldest building, built as a Skating Club in Italianate style in 1860. Next, four early houses replaced structures with stone Victorian Gothic style buildings required by the Park Commission: Quaker City (#2), Bachelors (#6), (now replaced by a Mediterranean style building), College (#10), and Penn AC (#12). After this point the Park allowed other than Victorian style architecture.
The founding member clubs of the Schuylkill Navy were Chebutco, Camilla, Falcon, Independent, Keystone (all of who dissolved during the Civil War), Bachelors and Undine. Later to join were Union, American, Neptune, Nautilus (all which also dissolved during the war), Quaker City (absorbed by Fairmount in 1932), Amateurs (later absorbed by Bachelors), Pennsylvania (becoming the United Sates Rowing Society), Philadelphia (later absorbed by University). After the Civil War, Pacific, Washington, Iona, Alantic (all which later dissolved), Crescent and Malta joined. Keystone joined in 1870 and dissolved the next year. West Philadelphia Boat Club joined in 1875, their name changed to Penn AC in 1924.
Fairmount Rowing Association (#2 Boathouse Row) was organized in 1870, and procured the boathouse and equipment of the Pacific Boat Club in 1916. They later absorbed the Quaker Boat Club (#3) which was originally know as the Camilla Boat Club. The present Georgian Revival building was built in 1904, and is now connected to the Victorian Gothic Quaker house.
Fairmount had more entries in the Schuylkill Navy Regatta than any other clubs, with a total of 343 entries and 103 victories. They won the Caldwell trophy three times, 1940 to 43. Tom McDonough won the Championship Single belt in 1957-58. They also have over 50 National Championships . They won the cross country trophy 15 times, and the basketball championship 3 times. Teresa Bell was 2nd in the lightweight double in the 1996 Olympics.
Pennsylvania Barge Club (#4)was founded in 1861 and joined the Schuylkill Navy in 1865. The present building is modified Eastlake style architecture. Penn Barge had the four with in the 1920-24-28 (both fours) and the pair with in the 1932 Olympics. They won the Cross Country Run in 1901-02-09-14-15-19-21-24, and had 5 first places. Penn Barge had 359 entries and 106 victories in the Schuylkill Navy races. Hugh Sharp won the cross country race in 1946, and Penn Barge won the Basketball league in 1926. After WW II, the club was not able to rebuild its membership lost to the service. The building became United States Rowing Society headquarters in 1955.
Crescent Boat Club (#5) was organized in 1867, combining members of the Pickwick and Iona BC and occupied space in the Camilla BC. They joined the Schuylkill Navy in 1916. Crescent had 257 entries and 62 victories in the Schuylkill navy races. Mike McCreeshwon the Championship single belt in 1942. They won the Cross Country Run in 1900-04-05, and 1941-42-47-48. Crescent won 3 team prizes and 5 individual prizes in the Cross Country Run. In basketball Crescent won 4 league championships. From 1951 to 1960 the club was known as the LaSalle Rowing Association.
Bachelor's Barge Club (#6) founded in 1853 and joined the Schuylkill Navy in 1859. It is the oldest club in the US in existence today. Bachelors founders belonged to the Phoenix Fire Co. and carried over the fireman's tradition of giving nick names to their members. They kept a four oared barge "Hesperus" at Charlie's, until a lean-to boat shed was constructed in 1854 on a dock opposite the Fairmount Rolling Mills owned by Charles Smith. Their first boat was the six oared Tholepin barge named "Linda" built by Albertson & Sons for $175. A stone building was constructed in 1860, and the present Mediterranean style building in 1893. The upriver Buttons Club was built in 1882. In 1866, in a tragic collision with a canal barge, the Bachelor's four "Echo" was sunk with the loss of Fred Goodwin. Bachelor's first recorded race was in 1859 against Quaker City and Independence Barge, Bachelors won the 3 mile race with a turn in 22 minutes. Also this same year Bachelors rowed the 'Linda" through the locks to the Delaware River to Trenton, through the Riratan canals to New York and raced the Atlanta Club of New York and returned by steamer. Bachelors had 283 entries and 78 victories in the Schuylkill Navy races. Bachelors also had the four with in the 1924 Olympics, the single in 1924-28 Olympics, and won the double in 1932 Olympics.
University Barge Club (#8) was founded in 1854 as a club for undergraduate Penn students, and is considered the earliest organized athletics program at Penn. It joined the Schuylkill Navy in 1858 as a founding member. Their first boat was the 'Hesperus' purchased from Bachelors, and housed at Sailor Charlie's boathouse. This boat was lost during a dramatic rescue effort of Sailor Charlie's sailboat which was swept over the dam. The stern post and rudder of "Hesperus" were preserved at the club. Their second boat was the "Lucifer". Along with Undine Barge Club, University rented space from the Skaters and Humane Society, now the Philadelphia Girls Rowing Club. They built a semi-attached 'Second Empire' style boathouse in 1870 with the Philadelphia Boat Club (founded in 1862, formally the Panola Boat Club, and built on the former site of the Washington Boat Club). Almost all of the racing crew's members entered the service during the Civil War, two falling in action, three wounded, and one held prisoner. University holds two Schuylkill Navy rowing records, and had141 entries and 47 victories in Schuylkill Navy races.
Malta Boat Club (#9) was formed in 1860 and was first housed on a barge on the Delaware River at Smith's Island, before purchasing the Excelsior Club on boathouse row in 1863. They joined the Schuylkill Navy in 1865 In 1873 they erected a semi-attached ornamental Victorian Gothic house with Vesper BC. Later additions were in modified Eastlake style. Malta won the Cross Country Run in 1931-32, and had 12 first places. Malta had 431 entries and 107 victories in the Schuylkill Navy races. Harold Finigan Sr won the Championship single belt in 1943-46, and Frank Sheperdson in 1942-50. Malta holds 7 Schuylkill Navyrecords. Malta won the Cross Country race 20 times, and won the basketball league in 1927. Fred Duling Jr was in the lightweight pair at the worlds in 1996.
Vesper Boat Club (#10) was founded in 1865 and joined the Schuylkill Navy in 1870. Originally named the Washington Boat Club until 1870, and shared a house with the Philadelphia Barge Club. With Malta, they built a semi attached ornamental Victorian Gothic building. Vesper holds the record of 580 entries and 296 Schuylkill Navy Victories, and 8 rowing records, and won the Caldwell Trophy from 1946 to 1958. They have had four championship single belt winners, Jack Kelly, Jr. 9 times, Joe McIntyre twice, Charles McIntyre in 1949, and Bill Knecht in 1951. They won the eight in the 1900-04-64 Olympics, and the double and single in 1920, they had the single in three Olympics, 1948-52-56, and the pair with in 1948. They were second in the 1905 Royal Henley. Vespeer won the single and 8 in the 1955 Pan Am games. Vesper won 93 National Championships, and the Barnes trophy 7 times. In 1958 the Vesper 8 won the Nationals, Canadian and European Championships. Vesper won the basketball championship 11 times, 1945 to 51.
College Boat Club (#11) Penn students at University Barge founded College BC in 1872 shortly after Penn moved from center city to West Philadelphia. They joined the Schuylkill Navy in 1875. The original ornamental Victorian Gothic section was built in 1874 by unknown architects (although almost a duplicate of #12, West Phila BC which was designed by the Wilson Bros.), with utilitarian additions added in 1969, and 1980. College BC had 58 entries and 32 victories in the Schuylkill Navy races. In 1951 Penn won the Thames Cup at the Henley, and was undefeated and again won the Henley in 52. In 53 they were only defeated by Princeton, ending a streak of 23 consecutive victories. In 1955 Penn won the Grand Chalange Cup at Henley, and went on to win five races in Europe. Penn won the IRA in 1963.
Undine Barge Club (#13) was formed in 1856 and joined the Schuylkill Navy in 1858 as a founding member. Frank Furness and Evans designed the Club in 1882 which started a movement away from Gothic into more eclectic styles. Undine is named after the "Story of Undine" by Friedrich Baron de la Motte Fouque' book about the spirit of the babbling brook . They first rented ground from William Kern, and erected a wood boathouse near a cove with good depth of water a few hundred feet down river from their present location. Their first boat was the four oared barge, 'Fawn', They sold this boatshed in 1860 for $10, and rented the Keystone Boat Club. Later they rented space in the Skating Club until 1882. The upriver "Castle Ringstetten" was built in 1876. Undine had the pair without in the 1932 Olympics, and the double in 1936. Undine had over 588 entries and 254 victories in the SN Regatta, Al Vogt won the championship belt in 1938-40, and Jim Barker in 1951.Undine holds 13 Schuylkill navy rowing records, won the Cross Country From in 1912-13-16-20-22-23-25-26-27-28-29-30-33, and finished first 4 times. Undine won over 91 National Championships, and won the Barnes Trophy 6 times.
Philadelphia Girls Rowing Club (#14) was organized in 1938 by Ernestine Bayer, and other rowing "widows". The present stone Italianate building was constructed in 1860 as house for the combined Skating and Humane Societies which merged in 1861. The National Women's Rowing Association (NWRA) was organized in 1966, and the first women's Olympic rowing took place in 1976. PGRC has won many local and national titles.
The Sedgley Club (#15) was first organized as the Zlac Club, the first Womens rowing club. The present building was designed by Arthur H. Brockie using both elements of Colonial and Georgian revival, and was built around a decorative light house erected when the Park was formed in 1867.
The West Philadelphia Boat Club (#12), the predecessor of Penn AC, was founded in 1871 and incorporated in 1873. The first boat "Intrepid" was purchased from Crescent BC for $60. The second boat was purchased new and named "Minstrel". The third boat was a 4 oared gig, and was ordered with sliding seats for an additional $10.
The original 60 by 16 foot boathouse was built for $290 on the west bank of the lower Schuylkill River between Grays Ferry and the Willows, near the Bergen phosphate factory. Swimming in the Schuylkill was an important activity to the early members. Minstrel plays and Drawing Room entertainment were sponsored by the Club.
In 1873, the University of Pennsylvania indicated their intention of building at the site of the West Philadelphia Boat Club, and the club appointed a committee to confer with the University (Rowing) Club to choose a new site for a building. The Club solicitor, Mr. Stuart, reported on the difficulty of obtaining loans or mortgages from building associations. A proposal to consolidate with the Woodland Boat Club was initially defeated because it entailed assuming all debts of the Woodland Club. At this time the West Philadelphia Boat Club prepared a charter of incorporation in the state of Pennsylvania, and they also joined the Schuylkill Navy. In a meeting of March 18, 1873 the consolidation with the Woodland BC was approved and their property purchased for $200, and their members joined West Philadelphia Boat Club. Mr. Julius Barnes, who later donated the Barnes Cup that is awarded to this day to the club accumulating the highest number of points at the national rowing championships, guaranteed the mortgage on the house.
A proposal was made to purchase ground from the Reading Canal Co. across from Boathouse Row, however this would have required a bridge over the canal and tow path. An alternative proposal to merge with the Pacific Boat Club fell through. In 1873 a subscription was raised with the help of the Richarson family, to build a handsome stone building at a cost of $12,000. This ornamental Victorian Gothic 1 1/2 story building built was built in 1878 and designed by the architectural firm of the Wilson Brothers, who also designed the Drexel Building and the Reading Terminal. (They also probably designed the neighboring College BC,) In 1873, the West Philadelphia Boat Club joined the Schuylkill Navy. In 1883 alterations were made to the boathouse to extend the river end to accommodate the new 8 oared shells. In 1968, a modern unsympathetic utilitarian ground level boat bay was added, and a second story locker room was added in 1981.
In the first recorded race, West Philadelphia Boat Club placed third in a four oared gig race in 1872. The first recorded victory was in the Schuylkill Navy Regatta of 1882, in the pair oared cup race. West Philadelphia Boat Club again won this cup in 1883-84-85 and 91 and also won the Double Shell race in a time of 10:28. West Phila BC had 127 entries and 26 Schuylkill Navy rowing victories. West Phila BC was 2nd in a 8 race in 1879. Bill Benerman won the Jr single in 1882. West Phila BC was 2nd in the pair without in 1882-83, and Bill Benerman and L. Cottingham were 3rd in the double. In 1884 J. Campbell won the Jr single, and Benerman and Carrigan won the pair without. In 1885 they again won the pair without and the Jr four was 4th. In 1886, Tom and Harry Hurley were 2nd in the double. In 1887 Cottingham and Adam were 2nd in the pair without, and Bill Benerman were 2nd in the Sr single. In 1890, West Phila was 2nd in the Jr four. In 1891 Fred Troy and Bill Meyers won the pair without. Bill Myers was 3rd in the Jr single in 1892, the Jr four was 3rd, and 5th in 1893, 4th in 1894, 2nd in 1895, 2nd in 1896, and A.C. Kapella was 3rd in the Jr single. W. Myers and Bill Blackburn won the doubles and 3rd in the Jr four in 1897. R. Lockwood and W. Purvivance won the Int double in 1899.
In 1900 the West Phila Jr double was 3rd and the Jr 8 was 5th. In 1902 W. West won the Jr dash, and was 3rd in the Jr 4. In 1903 West Phila won the Jr 4, and Bill West was 2nd in the Sr four, and 4th in the Sr single. In 1904 R. Dooner was 3rd in the dash, and 2nd in the Jr 8. In 1905 E. Kieffer was 4th in the Jr dash, J. Doyle 4th in the Sr single. The West Phila Jr 8 won, Walter George, E. Harris, W. Crouse, C. Parker, H. Brodhead, C. Williams, S. Wragg, and L. Gorman cox. n 1906 E. Kiefeer won the Jr single, and the pair without J. Doyle and W. George were 2nd. The Jr 8 was 2nd. In 1907 W. George was 2nd in the dash. The Jr double J. Fleith and Yates Hickey won. The Sr double and Jr quad were 2nd. The Jr 8 won, G. Brownell, C. Doan, W. Hall, P. Ford, J. Trimble, L. Campbell, E. Doering, H. Mishenheim, and G. Flood cox. In 1908, G. Brownwell was 2nd in the Jr single. The Jr 8 and Jr quad were 3rd. In 1909, the Sr pair won, J. Doyle and G. Allison, the Jr quad was 3rd. The Jr 8 won, C. Brey, L. Hubbs, F. Williams, F. DeVoll, W. Fulmer, T. Thomsom, W. Simons H. Lizenberg, and C. Flood cox.
In 1910, Doyle and H. Litzenberg were 2nd in the Sr pair without. The Jr quad was 3rd. In 1911, J. Doyle and Harry Weaver were 2nd in the Sr double. The Jr quad was 4th. In 1913 the Jr double was 6th. In 1914, Bill McCormick was 4th in the dash. The Jr 8 was 5th, and the Jr double 3rd, and Jr four 5th. In 1915 McCormick and McInerney were 4th in the Jr double. In 1916, the Jr quad was 2nd, L. Whitby, H. Spuhmer, W. McInerney and F. Williams. The Jr double was 4th. In 1918. Comber was 4th in the Jr single. The quad was 2nd, j. Doyle, G. Darrow, W. McCormick, and W. McInerney. In 1919 the Jr quad was 2nd. In 1921, the Jr four was 2nd, W. Wood, J. Walsh, J. McNichols, Ray Comber, and Merkhoffer cox. The Int four won, L. Barry, J. Kelly, R. Regon, A. Cunningham, and, A. Fitzpatrick cox, and the Jr quad also won, L. Barry, J. Kelly, R. Regan, and A. Cunningham. The Jr 8 was 4th. In 1923 the Jr four was 4th, and the Sr four was 2nd. J. Kelley, John McNicholas, John Walsh, and Bob Regan. The Int four won, W. Wood, W. McCormick, Ed Hefferman, Ed Deff, and George Fitzpatrick cox. In 1924 Bill McCormick won the dash, and John McNicholas was 2nd in the Sr single, and won the Int double in the Nationals of 1908. This was the last recorded race for the West Philadelphia BC. They had over 361 entries and 176 victories in Schuylkill Navy Regattas. From 1895 to 1899, Gordon S. Carigan served as the first Commodore from the West Philadelphia Boatclub. Robert C. White was President of West Philadelphia Boatclub from 1920-25.
Continue to the next section, Part 3 - Penn AC is formed
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