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 A Brief Time-Line of Rowing

Thomas E. Weil © 2000-2005

            Or you can jump to Time Periods (thumbnails Þ larger images)
                      Beginning - 1849
    1850 - 1899
    1900 - 1949
    1950 - 2000

This chronology highlights some of the significant dates in the evolution of rowing as the first modern sport, and has been prepared as part of a larger project for the Friends of Rowing History and the National Rowing Foundation. The number of references to races before 1840, which is by no means comprehensive, is intended to give some indication of the extent to which rowing contests preceded other team sport activities in the United States. Several items were drawn from the "Selected Chronology" in Chris Dodds STORY OF WORLD ROWING (1992). I am grateful to Chris for his permission to use those references, which are noted. My thanks also to Bill Miller for his contributions relating to the development of rowing technology, which are also noted. Finally, all history raises questions, and some of the dates and events presented below are subjects of debate among rowing historians - caveat reader! Any mistakes are my responsibility alone. Proposed corrections or suggestions for this timeline may be sent to



B.C. · Oared vessels began to be used for transport, commerce, fishing, life-saving and war, but, while there are occasional references in classical texts to boat racing, rowing primarily for exercise, non-ceremonial recreation or competition was not common before 1800.

Lenormant Relief c. 400 B.C. - Acropolis Museum, Athens

1274 · The first reference to a "regata" appeared in Venetian documentation; Venice’s dependence on water transport provided a natural venue for the evolution of medieval and Renaissance water festivals. By 1315, the Venetian regata included boat races among other forms of aquatic display and entertainment [Dodd].

1454 · The first Lord Mayor’s water procession was held in London [Dodd], which was to grow to include numerous magnificent guild barges, and to continue for over four centuries, until 1856. The colorful annual event, with its pomp and ceremony and liveried watermen, undoubtedly contributed to the interest taken by Eton boys in aquatic activities and to the initiation at Eton in 1793 of the Procession of the Boats.    

Illustrated by Brian Allderidge
from State Barges on the Thames

1715 · Thomas Doggett established a prize for watermen in their first year of apprenticeship, to be raced for on the Tideway in London (August 1), that is now one of the oldest, continually running athletic contests in the world. The Coat and Badge that were awarded brought fame, though little fortune, to the wearers, who were also eligible to man the Royal Barge on state occasions.

                        Thames Waterman
                                                 Doggett's Badge

1756 · A race in New York between a Cape Cod whaleboat and a New York pettiauger was won "with the greatest ease" by the former (April).

1768 · A regatta was held at Walton-on-Thames [Dodd].

1775 · A major water festival and regatta, described in a paper of the day as a "novel amusement recently introduced from Venice," was held at Ranelagh Gardens at Chelsea on the Thames (June 23). An event like this could now draw royal patronage and commissions, such as the engagement of Handel to compose his "Water Music."

1788 · Two eight-oared cutters, the Chatham and the Invincible, engaged in a race from Westminster to Richmond on the Thames (September 8), which became the first boat race recorded in Englands ANNUAL REGISTER.

1790 · The Star Club and the Arrow Club were active on the Thames in London.

1793 · The first recorded Procession of the Boats was held at Eton College, England’s leading boy’s private school located outside London on the Thames at Windsor, and the custom of organizing groups of boys from the same master’s house to obtain a boat for pleasure, exercise or a contest with another house became institutionalized.

Procession of Boats c. 1850

1805 · The first boat race was held in Australia [Dodd].

1807 · A boat race took place in New York over a course from the Whitehall Stairs to Blackwell’s Island and return.

1811 · Two New York Whitehall fours, the Knickerbocker and the Invincible, raced from Harsimus, New Jersey to the Battery flagstaff.

· The first records of boating appear at Westminster School in London.

1814 · A regatta held in Chester included a race for women for a two guinea prize.

1815 · The first college boat club was organized at Oxford University, and the first recorded contest among the Oxford college boat clubs for Head of the River was won by Brasenose.

The start of the Oxford bumping races prior to 1825

1816 · The first Canadian boat race was held in St. John’s Harbor, Newfoundland (August 10), and continues today as the "Quidi Vidi" regatta.

1818 · The Star and Arrow boat clubs joined to form the Leander Club in London.

· The four-oared American Star beat the New York in a race from Williamsburg, Long Island to Castle William, Governors Island.

1822 · The earliest team rowing print shows a boat race at Oxford.

1823 · The Knickerbocker Club became the first boat club to be organized in the United States.

· Two four-oars, the Whitehall and the Richmond, raced from Robbins Reef Light to Castle Garden, the Whitehall victorious.  

1824 · The Whitehall boat American Star, manned by four New York watermen, defeated the Certain Death from the British warship Hussar, racing four miles from the Battery flagstaff to Hoboken Point and back for a $1,000 prize before 50,000 spectators (December 9); the winning boat was presented as a gift to the Marquis de Lafayette on his farewell visit to New York the following year.

The 1825 four-oared Whitehall Victorious

1826 · A regatta was held in Halifax, Nova Scotia (July).

1827 · The first college boat club was organized at Cambridge University, and the first recorded contest among the Cambridge college boat clubs for Head of the River was won by Trinity.

Boat Races On The Cam, 1837

1828 · Anthony Brown of Newcastle-on-Tyne, England, developed a form of outrigger for racing boats [Dodd].

1829 · In their first contest, Oxford defeated Cambridge in eight oared cutters before 20,000 spectators at Henley-on-Thames, England (June 10), where the river offers about a mile and a quarter of straight course. Ultimately known simply as the Boat Race, this fixture of the British sports scene and summer social calendar moved to the Tideway for the second contest, in 1836, where it has been an annual event, with few exceptions, each March or April since 1839.

The Oxford Crew of 1829

· Eton commenced a storied boat race rivalry with Westminster School in London (July 27) that marked the beginning of inter-mural schoolboy rowing.

· Regattas in England were held in Portsmouth, Southsea and Gosport [Dodd].

1830 · The Wingfield Sculls were first contested for the amateur sculling championship of the Thames.

1831 · The first English professional sculling championship race was held between two watermen, C. Campbell and J. Williams, in London.

1833 · Seven eights and four sixes raced in a Philadelphia regatta (November).

Schuylkill Regatta c. 1835-1840 - Undine Barge Club

1834 · Durham Regatta in England was founded after almost 20 years of aquatic festivities celebrating the victory at Waterloo.

· WALKER’S MANLY EXERCISES, the first book to extol the virtues of rowing for fitness and health, was published first in London, then in Philadelphia (1836).

Title Page

· The first rowing association, the New York (or Castle Garden) Amateur Boat Club Association, was organized.

· A double-scull defeated a pair-oar in what became known as the "Jersey Blue Race" from Jersey City to Robbins reef and return.

· Regattas were held among established clubs in Philadelphia.

· In a New York Harbor contest of two six-oars manned by Whitehall watermen, the Wave bested the Eagle (July 21). The Wave was again victorious in the first regatta of the New York Amateur Boat Club Association (September 19), held at Castle Garden.

1836 · Lyrics and music titled "Light May the Boat Row" were published in honor of the New York Boat Clubs (the Wave won again, in a nine-boat race on September 19); sheet music with rowing related themes or illustrations appeared for the next century.

· Hamburg RC was organized as the first boat club for Germans [Dodd].

Hamberger Ruder Club racing an English Rowing Club, 1844

1837 · Two pair-oared match races were held in New York (July 18 and 19), followed by two four-oared races (August 4 and 13). Ten thousand spectators watched the six-oared Wave three-peat in the third New York Amateur Boat Club Association regatta (September 25), while the six-oar Disowned won a match for $2,000 over seven miles against the Geo. Washington (September 26). Newburgh, New York began sponsoring regattas for six-oared boats, and added four-oared events in later years (1839, 1841 and 1842). Poughkeepsie also held a regatta for six-oars on the Hudson River (August 13), followed by an 1839 regatta for six-oars and four-oars.

· The Canton Regatta Club was formed in China [Dodd].

1838 · The Societe Havraise de l’Aviron became the first French rowing club [Dodd].

· Match races in New York included the victory of the six-oar Wizzard-Skiff over Kosciusko (June 1), the triumph of the four-oared Whitehall over the Passaic (June 11), the defeat by the four-oared Shamburgh of Whitehall of the Independence of Newark in a five mile race from Robbin’s Reef to Castle Garden for $2,000 (September 10), the loss of $1,000 by the Disowned to the Spark in a five mile race, and the victory of the four-oared Fairy over the Brooklyn.

1839 · The first Henley Regatta was held, establishing the "Henley" distance of about a mile and a quarter as the principal alternative to the four mile "classic" distance. The Regatta received Royal sponsorship in 1851.

Henley Regatta broadside - 1839

· Match races in New York in 1839 included the suspicious victory of the four-oared Shakspeare over the Shamburgh over a course from Robbin’s Reef to Castle Garden for $2,000, perhaps the first fixed race in U.S. rowing (June 2), the victory of the four-oared Duane over the Willis over a two and a half mile course down the Hudson from Washington Market, and return, for $500 a side (August 1), and the victory of the six-oared Ann, of Peekskill, manned by professionals, over the amateurs of the Wave, its first defeat ever (October 1), before a crowd of 15,000. In a same day re-match, the amateurs turned the Wave over to a crew of Whitehallers who bested the Ann in a race from the Battery to Bedloe’s Island and back for $1,000. In Philadelphia, 7,000 viewed a six-oared regatta on the Schuylkill (July 18).

1840's · Illustrations of boat races first appeared in English newspapers and magazines.

1841 · The Newburgh, NY regatta for eight six-oars featured the first elimination heats in a U.S. regatta (July 14); a race among nine four-oars followed the same day.

1842 · The first publication devoted to rowing as a sport, A TREATISE ON THE ART OF ROWING AS PRACTISED AT CAMBRIDGE, appeared in England.

· Four eight-oared boats raced over the Chelsea course in a regatta in East Boston (August 3).

1843 · In one of the legendary contests in the sport, following the illness of one of their crew, seven Oxford oarsmen, stroked by the brother of author Thomas Hughes, defeated a Cambridge eight over the Henley course.

· The first U.S. collegiate boat club was organized at Yale (May 24).

· The Royal Thames Regatta was organized as the first of several annual contests for professional crews on the Tideway at London.

· Stephen Roberts claimed the singles championship of New York after defeating Sydney Dorlon in two of three races (September 29).

1844 · A racing single with outriggers and an inboard keel made its appearance on the Thames [Dodd].

· The first boat club was organized at Harvard.

1845 · Out-rigged racing boats, most effectively modified by Harry Clasper, professional waterman from Newcastle-on-Tyne, appeared on the Tideway.

· The first modern sport and the eventual "national sport" shared common ground as a four-oared regatta was held (September 22) at Elysian Fields, Hoboken; that same year, the Knickerbocker Base Ball Club was formed, and their playing grounds at the Elysian Fields became the birthplace of baseball.

1846 · The Ghent club was organized in Belgium [Dodd].

· The Arrow Club was formed in St. Petersburg, Russia [Dodd].

1849 · Henry David Thoreau published A WEEK ON THE CONCORD AND MERRIMACK RIVERS, the chronicle of a trip with his brother in an oared boat in 1839; numerous journals of oared travels appeared over the next four decades, culminating in the classic THREE MEN IN A BOAT, published by Jerome K. Jerome in 1889.

1850's · Illustrations of boat races were first published in U.S. newspapers and magazines.

1851 · Gothenburg RC was established in Sweden [Dodd].

1852 · Harvard defeated Yale in an eights race on Lake Winnepesaukee in the first intercollegiate athletic contest in the United States (August 3). This boat race has been held annually, with few exceptions, since 1864 and on the Thames River at New London, Connecticut since 1878.

First intercollegiate contest of any sport - 1852

1853 · Bachelors Barge Club was founded in Philadelphia (July 4), followed in May 1854 by the University Barge Club, and in May 1856 by the Undine Barge Club, all of which are active today.

1854 · The first Boston City regatta, typically celebrating Independence Day, was held.

Boat Race in Boston - 1857

· Writing under the pseudonym "Oliver Optic," William Taylor Adams published THE BOAT CLUB, a story involving a group of boys who band together for rowing exercise and competition, which became one of the most influential juveniles of the 19th century.

· Matt Taylor built the keelless four that carried the Royal Chester Rowing Club to victory in the Stewards and the Wyfolds at Henley in 1855; thrilled, they returned in 1856 in a Taylor made keelless eight to take the Grand and the Ladies.

Matt Taylor with his keel-less four, Victoria, 1855

1855 · The Neptune from St. John, New Brunswick emerged victorious from the first U.S.-Canadian rowing contest, spurning coxswain or rudder to defeat the coxed J.D.R. Putman of New York for $2,000 on the Charles in Boston.

1857 · J.C. Babcock of New York adapted a form of slide in a single; he subsequently outfitted a six-oar with slides in a race in May 1870.

1858 · Brown, Harvard, Trinity and Yale boat clubs planned the first inter-collegiate regatta, to be held using six-oared boats in Springfield, Massachusetts, but it was canceled after the Yale stroke drowned.

· The crew was the first Harvard team to use red (later crimson) as a school color (June 19).

Note - A Worcester, Mass. newspaper reported the day after the 1868 Harvard victory that a crowd of jubilant supporters celebrated well into the night and "painted the town red". Thus, an American expression was coined.

· The Schuylkill River Navy was formed by several Philadelphia boat clubs (October 5).

Schuylkill Navy Flags - 1870
from The Annual Illustrated Catalogue and Oarsman's Manual for 1871 - Waters, Balch & Co.

· The first international boat race between French and English boat clubs took place in Paris [Dodd].

· THE ROWER’S MANUAL, the first nominally American rowing text (although it drew heavily upon English precedents), was published; it includes a section advocating rowing for women.

1859 · Melbourne University Boat Club was established in Australia.

· The Schuylkill Navy held its first regatta (June), in which six-oared boats predominated.

· Josh Ward won the U.S. professional single sculls title (October 11).

1861 · The BRITISH ROWING ALMANACK commenced publication. In the same year, Thomas Hughes published TOM BROWN AT OXFORD (a sequel to his immensely successful TOM BROWNS SCHOOL DAYS), with the first widely disseminated descriptions of rowing at Oxford and Cambridge.

· The Civil Service Rowing Club was formed in Cape Town, South Africa, as well as the Canterbury Rowing Club in Christchurch, New Zealand [Dodd].

1862 · James Hamill defeated Josh Ward on the Schuylkill for the U.S. professional single sculls title (August 13).

1863 · Boat clubs were established in Austria, Italy and Switzerland [Dodd].

· A German, Dr. Schiller, reported developing a slide using wheels [Dodd].

· Tynesider Robert Chambers defeated the Australian Green in the first international world championship professional sculling contest.

1865 · The Ward brothers were victorious over the Biglin brothers for the professional four-oared championship of America (September 25).

Hank, Josh, Gilbert, Ellis Ward

1866 · James Hamill of the U.S. lost twice on the Tyne to Henry Kelley, the English champion, in the first trans-Atlantic professional rowing contest (July 4th and 5th).

· Rowing clubs were organized in Denmark, Japan and Portugal [Dodd]. The Danish club continues to flourish today as Roforeningen Kvik.

· British rowing eminence Edwin Dampier Brickwood called for the establishment of formal and exclusive standards for amateur status in the sport.

1867 · The first trans-Atlantic race between professional crews took place in Paris (July 7), where four Canadian oarsmen from Saint John, New Brunswick defeated all comers at the Exhibition regatta.

The Saint John, New Brunswick four became known as the "Paris Four" (NAC C14065)

1868 · "Guts" Woodgate introduced the coxless-four at Henley by devising a foot steering mechanism and having the coxswain leap out after the start (Miller).

· The Saint John "Paris" four defeated the Ward brothers boat at Springfield, Massachusetts (October 8).

1869 · Oxford defeated Harvard in coxed-fours on the Thames in the first trans-Atlantic amateur boat race before 500,000 spectators; broad news coverage of the race was soon followed by an explosion of interest in rowing and in the formation of hundreds of boat clubs in the U.S.

Oxford (left page) - A.C. Yarborough, S.D. Darbishire, J.C. Tine (ctr.), F. Willan, Hall
Harvard (right) - J.S. Fay, W.H. Simmons, Capt. A.P. Loring, F.O. Lyman, A. Burmingham

Currier print -1869

1870's · Schoolboy rowing programs were established in the U.S. at schools such as St. Paul's.

1870 · The control of river traffic by the Thames Conservancy during the Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race inaugurated a useful custom of race day cooperation between regatta officials and municipal authorities.

· Yale was the first U.S. college crew to use a slide, utilizing greased runners in the Harvard-Yale boat race.

· A Tyneside four led by Renforth, who had captured the sculling championship in 1868, defeated the Saint John "Paris" crew at Lachine, Canada; in a re-match on the Kennebecasis River in New Brunswick in 1871, Renforth collapsed during the race, and died shortly thereafter.

1871 · Thomas Eakins finished "Max Schmitt in a Single Scull" (also known as "The Champion Single Sculls"), the first of his groundbreaking paintings of amateur and professional oarsmen.

Thomas Eakins - The Champion Single Sculls

· Amherst, Brown, Bowdoin and Harvard formed the Rowing Association of American Colleges. Massachusetts Agricultural College defeated Harvard and Brown on July 21 in a three mile race for six-oared crews on the Connecticut River near Springfield, Mass. (the victorious shell is now at Mystic Seaport).

Brown Freshman six - 1870                                                         

· The Ward brothers defeated two English and three American fours in an international four mile turn race at Saratoga (September 11).

· The October regatta of Harlem’s Empire City Rowing Club included a double sculls race for women, an image of which was published in Harper’s Weekly.

1872 · Questions about the amateur status of several of the oarsmen in a Philadelphia regatta sponsored by the Schuylkill Navy (June 13-14) prompted debate throughout the U.S. rowing community, and lead to the establishment of The National Association of Amateur Oarsmen (which became the United States Rowing Association a century later), the first national amateur team sport organization in the United States (August 28).

· Three modern eights purchased from the London Rowing Club by three Philadelphia boat clubs reintroduced eights racing to the U.S. in a Philadelphia Thanksgiving regatta (November 28); among those oarsmen was the future noted illustrator A.B. Frost. One of those eights is depicted in the background of Eakin’s two 1873 watercolors of John Biglin.

1873 · Bob Cook, the Yale captain, learned the English style of stroking at Oxford, and introduced it to U.S. college rowing, where it became the dominant stroke in college programs through the end of the century.

· Both Oxford and Cambridge used sliding seats in the Boat Race for the first time.

· Rowing clubs were formed in Argentina, Peru and Poland [Dodd].

1875 · Wellesley College established the oldest surviving organized women’s rowing program, while Charles Courtney began training women to row at the Union Springs seminary.

Wellesley College c. 1900

· U.S. professional Michael Davis patented the swivel oarlock [Miller].

W.F. Davis patent #165,072, June 29, 1875 - Improved rowlock

1876 · Rowing was one of three sports (the others were yachting and riflery) included in the U.S. Centennial celebration in Philadelphia. Edward "Ned" Hanlan, an unheralded oarsman from Canada, won the singles championship, and the Beaverwyck four from Albany, New York defeated the London Rowing Club in the amateur championship fours event.

The 1876 Centennial Regatta, International Fours Race
"The London crew winning sixth heat"
from Frank Leslie's Illustrated Historical Register of the Centennial Exposition 1876

· Harvard and Yale adopted the eight-oar over the six-oar, and began racing at the four-mile distance. Yale withdrew from the intercollegiate regatta. Harvard withdrew in 1877, and, for the next decade, while Harvard and Yale waged their annual contest in eights (moving from Springfield to the Thames at New London in 1878, in which year the first observation train was run), most other rowing colleges contested in fours.

· Two women raced single sculls over a mile on the Mohongahela River at Pittsburgh.

· Michael Davis patented a sliding rigger [Miller].

M.F. Davis patent #209,960, Nov. 19, 1878 - Sliding rigger/foot-board

1878 · Columbia was the first U.S. crew to win at Henley, taking the Visitors Challenge Cup for coxless-fours.

Columbia College Henley Crew - 1878

· The North German Regatta Association adopted the 2,000 meter distance for racing [Dodd].

1879 · The first Childs Cup, named after a prominent Philadelphia publisher, was won by a Pennsylvania four; the regatta switched to eights in 1889.

· A restrictive definition of "amateur" was adopted by the Henley Stewards and the newly formed Metropolitan Rowing Association.

1880 · Ned Hanlan, the "Boy in Blue," generated unprecedented international news coverage as a sports figure in beating the Australian Edward Trickett for the first professional rowing "World Championship" to be contested in England, remaining undefeated until his loss to William Beach on the Paramatta in Australia in 1884.

Edward Hanlan - Toronto, "World Champion"

Hanlan  defeats Laycock - London, 1881 (from Harper's)

· Michael Davis patented the "Leg-O-Mutton" blade, a predecessor design to today’s hatchet shape, as well as a steering footstretcher [Miller].

M.F. Davis patent #231,016, Aug.10, 1880 - "peculiar form" oar and scull

1882 · The Amateur Rowing Association was formed by the Oxbridge wing of English rowing.

1883 · Rowing colleges other than Harvard and Yale joined to establish an Intercollegiate Association rowing in fours.

1885 · Charles Courtney took full-time charge of the rowing program at Cornell, becoming the first professional oarsman to successfully transition to permanent employment as a college coach.

Charles E. Courtney - early 1890s

1887 · Allen & Ginter, a Virginia tobacco company, issued the first set of sport cards as premiums in packs of cigarettes; the first 50 champions included ten professional oarsmen and ten professional baseball players - no other sport had as many.


1889 · The other U.S. rowing colleges followed Harvard and Yale to rowing in eights and racing in New London.

1890 · Reform minded English oarsmen established the National Amateur Rowing Association (NARA) as a more inclusive body than the ARA. The NARA merged with the ARA in 1955, bringing to a close a bitter debate over amateur status that had plagued British rowing for almost a century.

1892 · ZLAC, the first U.S. womens rowing club (named after four of the founding members, Zulette, Lena, Agnes and Carolyn), was established in San Diego, California.

· The Federation Internationale des Societes dAviron (FISA) was formed as the first international amateur team sport governing body.


1893 · FISA held its first European rowing championships, in Orta, Italy.

· The first womens collegiate "boating society" was organized in England, at Cambridges Newnham College.

· The Boston Athletic Association sponsored rowing programs for seven Boston schools, expanding to 13 schools the following year.

1895 · The newly formed Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) began holding its four mile championship races for eights on the Hudson River at Poughkeepsie, New York. In 1952, after two years on the Ohio River at Marietta, the event moved to Lake Onondaga, at Syracuse, New York. The Cooper River, Camden, NJ is now the site of the IRA

Varsity Challenge Cup                      IRA finish at Poughkeepsie - 1913                            

1896 · Professional rowing events were eliminated from the Boston City regattas, signaling the end of professional competition in the U.S.

· Rowing events were scheduled to be held at the Greek port of Pireaus in conjunction with the first modern Olympics in Athens in 1896, but were canceled due to bad weather at the site; rowing has been in every Games since then, and is the only Olympic team sport with that record of longevity and continuity.

Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the modern Olympic Games, at Ouchy © Archives IOC

Pierre de Coubertin quotation - 1911 "When, 25 years ago, I was seeking something on which to base the revival of sport in schools, it seemed to me that rugby and rowing were best suited to play the most important roles.  A team of rugby players or a crew of highly trained and well drilled oarsmen embody those qualities of energy, endurance, patience, unselfish effort, self-effacement and disinterest concerning the final outcome which make for all that is most admirable and profitable in sport."

· Two fishermen from New Jersey, Harbo and Samuelson, rowed from New York to Ireland in an open boat.

· F.J. Furnivall founded the Hammersmith Sculling Club for Girls and Men due to his belief that "the exclusion of women from aquatic sport was pernicious"; he encouraged working women to row, and espoused sculling over sweeps.

Hammersmith S.C. - Founded by F.J. Furnivall, b. 1825 - d. 1910

1897 · Edward H. Ten Eyck became the first American to win the Diamonds at Henley.

E.H. TenEyck at Henley - 1897

· The Sedgeley Club was established in Philadelphia for rowing women.

1900 · The Paris Olympics included six rowing events; the first Olympic eights contest was won by the Vesper Boat Club on the Courbevoie course on the Seine.

1903 · The American Rowing Association was formed with the goal of creating an American Henley regatta in Philadelphia.

· The first Pacific Coast Intercollegiate Regatta took place between Washington and California in Seattle.

1904 · The only foreign boat to medal in the St. Louis Olympics rowing at Creve Coeur Lake was the second place Canadian eight; Vesper again won gold in that event.

· Hiram Conibear, an athletic trainer with no rowing experience, took over the rowing program at the University of Washington, and, after being joined by professional watermen George and Dick Pocock, developed a dynasty famed for turning out many of the prominent U.S. coaches of the 20th century.

Hiram Conibear in 1914, Univ. Washington

1906 · The Grand Challenge Cup was won for the first time by a foreign crew, from Belgium, and London newspapers mourned the death of English rowing.

1908 · The U.S. did not send any boats to Henley, the rowing venue for the London Olympics, where the home club, Leander, won the eights. Guy Nickalls, one of the Leander crew, the oldest (41 years) oarsman to ever win Olympic gold, concluded a career that placed him in the pantheon of British rowers, including seven Stewards, six Goblets, five Diamonds, four Grands and four Wingfields.

1912 · The U.S. was again not represented in the rowing events at the Stockholm Olympics, and Leander again won the eights.

· The Pococks began building racing shells in their Seattle boat shop [Miller].

Goeorge Y. Pocock, in the 1940s (Life Magazine photo)

1914 · The Harvard junior varsity was the first U.S. crew to win the Grand Challenge Cup; 50 years later, every member of that crew returned for a reunion row.


1914   -   Harvard Junior Varsity   -   1964

1914-18 · Most boat racing was suspended during World War I.

1916 · Lightweight rowing was first introduced to U.S. colleges by Joe Wright at the University of Pennsylvania.

Post WWI · Among the imperial icons under attack in the wake of the First World War was the classic "orthodox" style of rowing taught at Eton. Steve Fairbairn of Jesus College, Cambridge was the leading iconoclast, and while his teachings were often Delphic in comprehensibility, his coaching was consistently successful.

1919 · The first womens collegiate eight-oared race took place in England between Cambridges Newnham College Boat Club and the London School of Medicine for Women.

1920 · The Antwerp Olympics, during which the rowing events were contested in Brussels, featured wins by Jack Kelly in the single and (with Paul Costello) double, a Navy win in the eight, and a silver in the coxed-four. The eights title began a run of U.S. victories in that event that lasted until another U.S. Naval Academy eight lost in Rome in 1960 (Yale won in 1924 and 1956, Cal-Berkeley in 1928, 1932 and 1948, Washington in 1936, and Navy in 1952), marking a domination of one Olympic rowing event by one country that has not since been equaled.

John B. Kelly, Sr. - won two Olympic Gold Medals within an hour

1920 Olympic Gold Medal Eight - U.S. Naval Academy Varsity

1922 · The first Harvard-Yale-Princeton 150 lb. race was held (May 20).

1923 · A western crew (Univ. Washington) won the IRAs for the first time (June 28).

· The Womens Amateur Rowing Association was formed in Britain.

1924 · Jack Kelly added a victory in the 1924 Olympic double to his two 1920 wins, and Yale (with future best-selling baby doctor Benjamin Spock aboard) won gold in the eights on the Seine course at the Paris Olympics. The Swiss won the coxed-pairs and fours and the British won the single and coxless-four.

1924 Olympic Gold Medal Eight - Yale Varsity

1926 · Steve Fairbairn established the Head of the River Race on the Thames.

· The Oxford University Womens Boat Club was formed.

1927 · The Boat Race was first broadcast by the BBC, and Oxford women first raced against Cambridge women.

· With its entry in the Thames Cup, Kent School provided the first U.S. schoolboy crew to race at Henley; two years later, Browne and Nichols School became the first U.S. schoolboy winners at Henley, in the same event.

· The Stotesbury Cup Regatta for interscholastic crews was organized in Philadelphia.

1928 · On the Sloten course at the Amsterdam Olympics, Paul Costello became the first American to win rowing gold in three consecutive Games (double in 1920, 1924 and 1928), while Cal-Berkeley continued the string of U.S. wins in the eights.

Chas. McIlvaine and Paul Costello - 1928 Olympic Gold

1929 · Columbias entry in the Thames Cup marked the first appearance of a lightweight crew at Henley.

· One of the first womens international rowing races took place in Poland with the contest between Londons Ace L.R.C. and the Warsaw womens rowing club.

1930 · The first Womens Head of the River Race was held on the Thames.

· Frederick Brittain wrote OAR, SCULL AND RUDDER, the first bibliography of rowing literature.

1932 · A Cal-Berkeley crew nipped Italy and Canada for the eights title at Long Beach Marine Stadium at the Los Angeles Olympics; the U.S. also triumphed in the coxed-pair and the double, while the British won the coxless-four and pair.

1932 Olympic Gold Medal Eight - Cal. Berkeley

1934 · The Dad Vail Rowing Championships, named after a professional sculler and Wisconsin rowing coach - Harry Emerson "Dad" Vail, were established to accommodate more equitable competition for smaller collegiate rowing programs, and have been held on the Schuylkill in Philadelphia since 1953.

1935 · The Scholastic (prior to 1976, "Schoolboy") Rowing Association of America was organized (May 14); women started competing in 1974.

1936 · A German sweep of the Berlin Olympics rowing events at the Regatta Pavilion at Grunau was averted only by a University of Washington win in the eights, and the British triumph in the double (which marked Jack Beresfords fifth medal (and third gold) over a span of five Olympics). Beresford, who ranks with Nickalls and Redgrave as one of Englands finest oarsmen, also accounted for seven Wingfields, four Diamonds and two Grands.

1936 Olympic Gold Medal Eight - Univ. Washington

· Parliament broke the A.R.A.s grip on the definition of an amateur, opening the doors for broader participation at home and better British results abroad.

1938 · Ernestine Bayer founded the Philadelphia Girls Rowing Club.

· Joe Burk won the Diamond Sculls in record time at Henley and won again in 1939, and received the Sullivan Award in 1940 as the outstanding amateur athlete in the U.S.

Joseph Burk receiving Wreath of Victory from Phila. Mayor Wilson, 1938

· Although the BRITISH ROWING ALMANACK ceased publishing records of professional scullers in 1930, at which time Phelps held the world professional sculling championship on the basis of his victory over Barry, perhaps the last world class oarsman to claim that championship was H.R. "Bobbie" Pearce, an Australian oarsman who, after winning the Olympics singles gold in 1928 and 1932, first won the professional title by defeating Phelps in 1933, and the American Bill Miller in 1934, then lost it in 1937, but regained it from Paddon (September 9). Others contested the title at least as recently as 1952, when Saul claimed it from Paddon after a race in Australia.

1941 · The Cambridge University Womens Boat Club was formed.

1941-45 · Competitive rowing was generally suspended during World War II.

1946 · The Eastern Sprints were first held, in Cambridge for lightweights and in Annapolis for heavyweights. Not until they moved to Lake Quinsigamond in Worcester, Massachusetts in 1960 did both groups start rowing 2,000 meters at the same venue on the same days.

1947 · John B. Kelly, Jr., brother of actress Grace Kelly (who was to become Princess Grace of Monaco), won the Diamond Sculls at Henley (avenging his fathers exclusion from that event when he was the premier sculler in the world in the 1920's), for which he received the A.A.U.'s James E. Sullivan Award as the nations outstanding amateur athlete.


· The New England Interscholastic Rowing Association held its first regatta, on Lake Quinsigamond.

1948 · Henley was again the rowing venue for the London Olympics, and the Cal-Berkeley eight harvested gold for the third time. The U.S. also won the coxed-four, while Britain was victorious in the coxless-pair and the double. Joe Angyal, the first great U.S. club lightweight, who dominated his class over 15 years, won 22 national titles (in the days before junior and senior classes, and with WWII interrupting his prime years), made the 1948 Olympic team in the double, setting a precedent for such subsequent "mighty mite" U.S. Olympians as Tony Brooks, Chuck Hewitt, Bill Belden and Larry Klecatsky. The first exhibition of rowing art and memorabilia was held at The Drill Hall in Henley in conjunction with the Games, leading to an appeal for a permanent rowing museum.

· Results of the British Womens Amateur Rowing Association regattas were published for the first time in the BRITISH ROWING ALMANACK.

1950 · 40,000 people watched Mervyn Wood of Australia defend the Philadelphia [Gold] Challenge Cup against John B. Kelly, Jr. and Englands Anthony Rowe for the world amateur sculling championship over 2,000 meters on the Schuylkill.

1950's · Two major developments in Europe revolutionized rowing. While German Karl Adams and his Ratzeburg crews produced victories with harder training and higher ratings, the East European rowing countries, particularly East Germany and the U.S.S.R. developed national sport policies and national teams with international agendas.

1951 · The first FISA sponsored regatta for women was held in conjunction with the mens European Championships in Macon, France.

1952 · Thomas Price, age 19, from Rutgers, began rowing in January, sat in a pair for the first time in May, and won gold in the U.S. Olympic coxless-pair in Helsinki in July; Navy won the eights for the second time.

1952 U.S. Gold Medal Pair - C. Logg & T. Price

1954 · The first European rowing championships for women were held, in Amsterdam, and were swept by the Russians. The Russian squad, together with two Swiss rowers and a Yugoslav, also dominated the medals awards at Henley.

· Magdalen College, Oxford experimented with one of the first fiberglass hulls, and the Bedford sliding rigger was championed by British Olympian, author and BRA editor Richard Burnell.

1956 · Yale rowed itself out winning the eights at Lake Wendouree at Ballarat during the Melbourne Olympics, which was boycotted by the Swiss, Dutch and Spanish teams because of the Soviets' actions in Hungary. The U.S. was also victorious in the coxless and coxed-pairs. The Soviets won the single and the double.

1956 USA Olympic Gold Medal Eight - Yale Varsity, (photo - Sports Illustrated)

1959 · The tulip blade was popularized at the European Championships in Macon.

· Oxford won despite its first "mutiny" led by Yales Reed Rubin.

1960 · Oxford introduced spoon oars to the Boat Race.

· The Rome Games witnessed the first defeat of a U.S. eight in Olympic history, as Navy lost to the Germans, who also won the coxed-fours and pairs. The Soviets won the coxless-pair and single, while the U.S. won the coxless-four.

1960 U.S. Olympic Gold Medal Four - Lake Washington
(J. Sayre/R. Wailes/T. Nash/A. Ayrault)
photo - United States Olympic Book, U.S. Olympic Committee

1961 · Cambridge trained for the Boat Race utilizing an unwieldy and primitive device developed in Australia and called an "ergometer."

· The Western Sprints were first held.

1962 · One of the oldest records in sport fell when Yales Boyce Budd weighed in at 15 stone 1 pound for a victorious Cambridge crew, breaking the mark for the heaviest Boat Race oarsman, held since 1829 by Oxfords Rev. Toogood at 14 st. 10 lb.

· Stuart Mackenzie, Australia, won his sixth straight Diamonds, a record not since matched.

Stuart MacKenzie, Australia congratulated by Ivanov, USSR

· The first FISA world rowing championships were held, in Lucerne, Switzerland.

· The National Women's Rowing Association (NWRA) was formed by Joanne Wright Iverson (Philadelphia Girls Rowing Club), Ted Nash (Lake Washington Rowing Club) and Ed Lickiss (Lake Merritt Rowing Club).

1963 · British rowing took several important steps forward with the appointment of its first director of training and of its first national coach, and with the integration of the Womens Amateur Rowing Association into the ARA.

· Harry Parker began his career as the head coach at Harvard with an upset victory over Yale, the first of a string of 18 H-Y wins, and the beginning of a career as the most important U.S. college coach of the second half of the century.

Harvard & Coach Parker, Sports Illustrated - June, 1965

1964 · The spare from the 1914 Harvard crew that won the Grand set a record for frustrated patience as the entire crew returned to row the Henley course after 50 years; there was still no place for the spare in the boat.

· On the Toda course in Tokyo, Russian sculler Viacheslav Ivanov won his third consecutive single sculls Olympic gold medal; the Soviets also took gold in the double. The U.S. (Vesper) recaptured the eights title, and (Stanford Crew Assn.) won the coxed-pair.

1964 US Olympic Gold Medal Eight - Vesper B.C. © Archives IOC

1965 · The first Head of the Charles was held in Cambridge/Boston, Massachusetts, and has since grown to be the biggest regatta in the U.S.

1966 · The East German men took five Henley titles, followed by a chaser of three golds at the World Championships at Bled, ending a decade of dominance of the international rowing scene by the Russians.

· Two British Marines, Ridgway and Blyth, rekindled interest in trans-oceanic crossings by rowing from Cape Cod to Ireland in three months; another crew attempting the same feat, Johnstone and Hoare, were lost at sea.

· The National Rowing Foundation was established to support U.S. rowing.

· The first National Women's Rowing Association (NWRA) National Championship was held in Seattle Washington.

1967 · The first FISA Junior Regatta was held, in Ratzeburg, Germany.

James W. Dietz, NYAC - 1967 FISA Junior Singles Gold Medal

· Philadelphia Girls Rowing Club sent the first U.S. representative womens eight (as well as a quad) to a FISA championship.

1968 · The West German eight was victorious at Xochimilco at the Mexico City Olympics; Harvard was the last non-national team eight to represent the U.S. at the Games, the first in which a competing U.S. team did not win a single event. The East Germans won the coxless-pair and four.

1969 · Tom McClean completed the first solo trans-Atlantic rowing eastward crossing from Newfoundland to Ireland, and John Fairfax completed the first solo trans-Atlantic rowing westward crossing from the Canary Islands to Miami.

· Arthur Martin launched the Alden Ocean Shell and started a movement toward recreational sculling.

Arthur Martin - designer/manufacturer of the Alden Ocean Shell

1970 · The introduction of the Gamut ergometer to U.S. circles initiated changes in training and selection processes in most rowing programs.

· The East Germans took gold or silver at every event at the World Championships.

1972 · Harry Parker conducted the first selection of a U.S. national camp eight and coxed-four. A New Zealand eight beat the U.S. to the finish in the Munich Olympics. The East Germans won the coxed and coxless-pair and four, while the Soviets won the single and the double. 

· The passage by the Congress of Title IX of the Omnibus Education Act of 1972 changed the face of womens rowing in the United States.

· John Fairfax and Sylvia Cook completed a years rowing odyssey from San Francisco to Australia.

· German manufacturer Empacher Bootswerft pushed the frontiers of shell construction with the successful utilization of composite materials [Miller].

1973 · The U.S. entered its first national womens squad in the European rowing championships.

1974 · The initial San Diego Crew Classic was held, establishing an event which provides the first major competition of the spring season for collegiate crews.

· The first FISA world championships for women and for lightweight men were held, in Lucerne. The womens distance was set at 1,000 meters. The U.S. men won the eight and the single (Bill Belden).

· Kent School coach Hart Perry was the first foreigner elected a Henley Steward.

Coach Hart Perry, HRR Steward

1975 · The U.S. womens eight, coached by Harry Parker, was first selected based on a national camp system.

1976 · The Montreal Olympics, held on the Notre Dame course, had the first womens Olympic rowing, at a 1,000 meter distance, and U.S. women won silver in the single (Joan Lind) and bronze in the eight; the East Germans won both the mens and womens eights, as well as the mens coxless and coxed-pairs, the coxless-four, and the quad, and the womens single, coxed-four and quad. Bulgaria won the womens double and coxless-pair, and the U.S. men avoided their first Olympic rowing medal shutout ever with a silver in the coxless-pair.

Joan Lind,  photo - S Jonik

· The Yale womens crew made national headlines with their Title IX protest strip.

1977 · The Dreissigackers began production of light, durable composite material oars [Miller].

1980 · The U.S. boycotted the Moscow Olympics over the invasion of Afghanistan, while the East German men and women again took both eights titles, as well as the mens coxless and coxed-pairs and fours, and the double and the quad, and the womens coxless-pair, coxed-four and quad.

1980 U.S. Olympic Eight at Henley

1980's · Vespoli boats became the standard of choice for most U.S. rowing programs.

1981 · Steering Oxford to victory, Sue Brown became the first woman to take part in the Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race.

· Henley Royal Regatta initiated its cautious experimentation with womens racing.

· The Concept II erg was put on the market; the institution of the first CRASH-B Sprints at Harvards Newell Boathouse on January 20, 1982 gave meaning to winter training, and additional selection criteria to coaches [Miller].

· The NAAO changed its name to the United States Rowing Association and major constitutional changes were ratified.


1983 · The appointment of Polands Kris Korzeniowski by the USRA as the first National Technical Advisor and full-time national coach introduced European techniques to U.S. rowing.

1984 · As the Eastern bloc boycotted the Los Angeles Games, Finnish sculler Pertti Karppinen won his third consecutive Olympic single sculls title, Canada won the mens eight, and the U.S. won the womens eight and the mens double at Lake Casitas. Romania won every other womens gold. UCSBs David Farmer organized the first major U.S. exhibition of rowing art and memorabilia.

1985 · The first FISA women's lightweight world championships were held (in conjunction with the mens championships at Hazewinkel), and the FISA and Olympic course distance for women was increased to 2,000 meters.

· The USRA moved from Philadelphias Boathouse Row to Indianapolis.

1986 · The NWRA dissolved in recognition of the assumption by the USRA of responsibility as the national governing body for womens rowing.

1987 · Oxfords second "mutiny" led to books, a movie and a victory without U.S. oars.

1988 · The West German men and East German women were the victorious eights on the Han River at the Seoul Olympics, and the DDR men also won the single and the coxed and coxless-fours, and the women also won the single, the double, the coxed-four and the quad. The Italian men won the coxless-four and the quad.

· The first Womens Henley Regatta was held.

1990 · The World Cup was established by FISA for mens and womens singles.

1991 · "hatchet" oar blades were first introduced by the Dreissigackers [Miller].

1992 · The Canadian mens eight and the womens coxless-pair, four and eight were triumphant and an amazing comeback by severely injured Silken Laumann, Canada, for the Bronze Medal on Lake Banyoles at the Barcelona Olympics, while the Germans took the mens single and quad and womens double and quad, and the Australians won the mens double and coxless-four.

Silken Laumann, Canada - Olympic Bronze Medal and one of the great stories at Banyoles
 photo - Dominik Keller

1993 · Thomas Mendenhalls history of the Harvard-Yale boat race represented the first major scholarly work published on U.S. rowing.


1996 · The Atlanta Olympics had the first mens and womens Olympic lightweight rowing; Steve Redgrave won gold in his fourth consecutive Olympics with a victory in the coxless-pair, the only gold won by Britain in the entire Games. The Netherlands mens eight and the Romanian womens eight, as well as their lightweight double, brought home golden memories of Lake Lanier. The Swiss men were victorious in the single and the lightweight double.

· Yales Helen Cooper organized the first exhibition devoted to Thomas Eakins rowing images, at the National Gallery, Yale and the Cleveland Art Museum.

1997 · The first woman was elected a Henley Steward, and women were admitted as members at Leander Club.

· Womens rowing became a National Collegiate Athletic Association sport.

1998 · The quest for a rowing museum was realized when the River and Rowing Museum at Henley was formally opened by Queen Elizabeth (November 6).

River & Rowing Museum, Henley-On-Thames, photo © 1998 Jaap Oepkes

1999 · The U.S. men's eight, stroked by Chris Ahrens and coached Mike Teti, won their third consecutive World Championship Gold Medal.

2000 · The amazing Steve Redgrave commanded huge media coverage rowing in the British coxless-four and winning his fifth Olympic Gold Medal in five consecutive Olympics, an accomplishment never before achieved in any endurance sport.

Steve Redgrave - GB



Tom Weil is a partner in Skadden Arps' Houston office. He rowed at Andover and Yale, and has collected rowing books, prints and memorabilia and written and lectured on rowing art and history for over thirty years. He is a life member of the United States Rowing Association, the North American Society for Sport History and the Leander Club. Along with the Friends of Rowing History, Tom has been active with the River Rowing Museum in Henley where he is a trustee.


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