Rowing Rooms

Pic 1
‘A few of the authentic fashions the properly dressed college man should own’. As late as 1965, shops could survive selling these sort of clothes to students. Also, I am not sure that ‘wardrobing’ is a verb. Picture: theivyleaguelook.blogspot.com

Tim Koch writes:

One of the non-rowing blogs that I read regularly is Ivy Style. New York City based ‘Founder and Editor-in-Chief’ Christian Chensvold writes about ‘Ivy League’ clothing, a style of dress that I am particularly fond of. It dominated American fashion from the post-war period until the early 1960s and was most famously merchandised by the Brooks Brothers stores. Students going to college after the 1939-1945 War, (many from less wealthy backgrounds but assisted by the ‘G.I. Bill’) adopted what was then thought of as a very casual style of dress but which, by today’s standards, is anything but informal. Trousers (‘pants’) were ex-army flat fronted khakis (‘chinos’) and lace up shoes were abandoned in favour of slip on leather ‘loafers’. Much clothing was originally from Britain but was often reinvented to be made more comfortable – as when shoulder padding was removed in favour of ‘natural shoulders’. Scotland provided jackets in Harris tweed and crew neck sweaters in Shetland wool. Stiff shirts were replaced by ones of comfortable ‘Oxford’ cloth with soft, button down collars. In the late 1950s, nearly three quarters of all suits sold in the U.S. were in the Ivy League style but, with the coming of the 1960s, its popularity with young people died out within a few short years. Freshmen, who started college in 1963, would quite possibly wear a jacket and tie around campus. By the time they graduated, there was a good chance that they would be wearing jeans and T-shirts.

Christian still runs Ivy Style but has recently started a new style blog, Masculine Interiors: The Design World Of Bachelor Pads, Private Clubs, Country Estates And Supervillain Lairs and two recent posts have ‘a rowing angle’.

Pic 2
Jack Carlson at the Penn AC Rowing Club on Boathouse Row in Philadelphia. Picture: Jason Varney.

Masculine Interiors has a guest post from our friend Jack Carlson, author of Rowing Blazers, and he writes about his five favourite rowing related interiors featured in his book. He chooses the boathouse-come-frathouse of ARV Westfalen in Münster, Germany, Columbia University’s Gould-Remmer Boathouse in New York, Harvard’s Newell Varsity Lounge in Boston, the Goldie Boathouse in Cambridge and the Oriel College Boat Club Captain’s room in Oxford. The Oriel room was the subject of a HTBS post in June 2014.

Pic 3
Calum Pontin, then Captain of Oriel College Boat Club, in the Captain’s Room.

The picture above provides a nice link to the second Masculine Interiors post that includes rowing. In a piece entitled ‘Harvard Dorm Rooms, 1899’, Christian writes:

These photos are from the Harvard library’s collection of images and are circa 1899. Tradition is supplied by the furniture, wallpaper, paintings, etc., and youth is supplied by the timely ephemera tacked alongside.

One room in particular is of interest to HTBS types.

Pic 4
The Harvard ‘dorm room’ of what looks like a very successful and enthusiastic rower, c.1899. Picture: The Harvard Library.

While the above picture is charming in its own right, one small detail makes it extra special. In the top left of the fireplace is a Vanity Fair magazine lithograph of R.H. ‘Rudie’ Lehmann, the Briton who had coached at Harvard in 1896, 1897 and 1898. HTBS wrote about this in February 2014:

While the famous coach and writer on rowing matters, Rudie Lehmann is mostly remembered for coaching either Oxford or Cambridge (he studied and rowed for Cambridge, but never in a Blue boat), Lehmann also coached Berliner Ruder Klub and Harvard University. He received an invitation in 1896 from his American friend Francis Peabody, whom he had rowed with at Cambridge. The rowing at Harvard University was in disorder so Lehmann was offered the opportunity to give Harvard a helping hand, teaching the crimson crews the proper English stroke. Lehmann arrived in Cambridge, Massachusetts, for the first time in mid-November 1896. He returned to Harvard both in 1897 and 1898, and although Harvard greatly improved with Lehmann as their coach, the crimsons never won a race during this time. As the true gentleman coach, Lehmann never asked for any pay (but in) June 1897, Harvard awarded Lehmann an honorary degree…

Pic 5
Lehmann pictured by Vanity Fair in 1895. While Harvard may not have won in Lehmann’s time, he was obviously thought enough of to merit a place amongst at least one student’s collection of rowing memorabilia.

Rudolph Chambers Lehmann was a multi-talented man. Outside of rowing, he was a Liberal Party politician who was a Member of Parliament from 1906 to 1910. He was also a writer, musician and poet who most famously contributed to Punch and Granta magazines. One of his poems, “A Ramshackle Room”, has previously appeared on HTBS and goes well alongside the dorm room picture. Here are the first three verses:

A Ramshackle Room

When the gusts are at play with the trees on the lawn,
And the lights are put out in the vault of the night;
When within all is snug, for the curtains are drawn,
And the fire is aglow and the lamps are alight,
Sometimes, as I muse, from the place where I am
My thoughts fly away to a room near the Cam.

‘Tis a ramshackle room, where a man might complain
Of a slope in the ceiling, a rise in the floor;
With a view on a court and a glimpse on a lane,
And no end of cool wind through the chinks of the door;
With a deep-seated chair that I love to recall,
And some groups of young oarsmen in shorts on the wall.

There’s a fat jolly jar of tobacco, some pipes –
A meerschaum, a briar, a cherry, a clay –
There’s a three-handled cup fit for Audit or Swipes
When the breakfast is done and the plates cleared away.
There’s a litter of papers, of books a scratch lot,
Such as Plato, and Dickens, and Liddell and Scott.

Pic 6
Another view of the Captain’s Room at Oriel. There is no ‘fat jolly jar of tobacco’ and it’s not near the Cam but otherwise Lehmann could be writing with it in mind.

One comment

  1. Lehmann also coached Trinity College Dublin, and a copy of this lithograph hangs in the boathouse in Islandbridge. The Trinity captain used to have rooms in College, Number 23.01, but sadly College saw fit to repossess them some years ago with the dispersal of 100 years of ephemera and souvenirs.

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