A Swedish Rowing Foot Note In Philadelphia

Let us stay in Sweden for a while, or that is, with a Swedish connection.

One of the most famous rowing spots in the USA is Philadelphia with its Boathouse Row along the Schuylkill River. Of course, way back when, rowing in Philadelphia was not only about the Boathouse Row clubs, there were other rowing clubs in town, too. For a short period, between 1882 and 1885, there was even a rowing club founded by Swedes living and working in Philadelphia. Not all Swedes who immigrated to America ended up in Minnesota, many settled in the Philadelphia area.

Atlantic Works Inc., which was a machine factory in Philadelphia, had a lot of Swedes working on all kinds of levels. Stephan Rozycki, who was born in Paris by Polish parents and grew up in Sweden, was an engineer at Atlantic Works who, together with seven other Swedes in October 1882 founded The Swedish Rowing Club of Philadelphia. The Swedes shared the boathouse with an older club, The Riverside Club. Back home in Sweden, Rozycki’s sister made and sent him a flag which would be used as the club flag. The Swedes’ uniform was yellow with blue striped shirt, blue trousers, and a blue cap with a yellow star. “Svea”, their first boat, bought in June 1884, was a six-oared gig with the oar blades painted in blue with a yellow star. Later in 1884, the club acquired a coxed out-rigged four, “Göta”, and a single scull, “Thule”. All boats were frequently used by the fifteen members of the club, especially during the summer days of 1884 and 1885.

The Swedes particularly concentrated on long-distances rows on the Schuylkill, and through Point Breeze and down the Delaware River. The Swedes were known to row also during extremely hot summer days, which made spectators on the river banks cry: “There come the crazy Swedes!” According to a 1934 article by Fredrik Arsenius, The Swedish Rowing Club was invited to join the Schuylkill Navy at several occasions, but the club declined as its members were afraid that they would lose their ‘Swedishness’.

The Swedes last outing was on a very hot summer day, 17 July 1885. By then Stephan Rozycki had already left the club to join the US Navy. He was later stationed at the US Torpedo Station in Newport, Rhode Island. The Swedish Rowing Club in Philadelphia is a little foot note in the rowing history along the Schuylkill.

One comment

  1. Great story…my father is from Sweden…and we are recently a rowing family through my nephew. HE got to go down and row at Schuylkill last Oct during the Oct snow storm…

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