Rowing Around The Bay

This charming but mysterious postcard of a probably early twentieth century rowing scene is for sale from an English dealer. However, based on the below-the-knee shorts and the style of the caps, I suspect that it may be German.

27 May 2021

By Tim Koch

Tim Koch bids for your attention.

According to the not-always-reliable Wikipedia, in 1995, one of the first things sold on eBay by its founder, Pierre Omidyar, was a broken laser pointer which went for $14.83. When Omidyar contacted the winning bidder to ask if he understood that the thing did not work, the buyer explained he was a collector of broken laser pointers. The lesson learned from this is that everything is valuable to someone. This even applies to rowing-related items and a recent search of the dominant internet auction site found plenty of things that would appeal to HTBS Types.

The seller knows nothing about this nineteenth century, possibly 1870s, photograph of these confident looking schoolboy rowers. Some sport an early example of the reversed cap look. The Maltese style crosses on their vests suggest that they could be from Radley College, the public (i.e., private) school near Oxford.

Two pictures of rowing crews for sale are familiar ones from the US Library of Congress – but these have been “colourised”.

Yale 1911 shows us what they are made of.
Potomac BC 1919 forgot their boat.
A 1978 press picture of Dr Benjamin Spock taking his daily scull on Beaver Lake, Arkansas. Spock was the paediatrician and radical activist who wrote the enormously influential and later controversial “Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care” (1946). In 1924, he was in the Yale crew that represented the U.S. in the Paris Olympic Eights and won Gold.
Though not exactly “Daisy Dukes”, shorts for men in 1905 were still considered daring. “Honi soit qui mal y pense” is Old French and is usually translated as “shame on anyone who thinks evil of it”.
A postcard from 1909 showing two heroes of the hour, winners of that year’s Boat Race. Oxford’s President, Alister Graham Kirby, later competed in the 1912 Olympics and died of illness on active service during the First World War. James Angus Gillan had previously rowed in the 1907 Boat Race and had won the Stewards’ and the Visitors’ at Henley and Gold in the four at the 1908 Olympics. Later, he won Henley’s Grand and Gold in the eight at the 1912 Olympics.
A postcard showing Duke Street in Henley-on-Thames suitably decorated for the 1908 Olympic Regatta that was held over part of the Henley course.
The first boat club for Cambridge’s Trinity College, Trinity Boat Club, was founded in 1825 and was open to all members of the college. After Third Trinity BC was started in 1833 for those in college who had attended Eton or Westminster, the original club became known as First Trinity.
A well-supported local regatta sometime before the First World War. What was “FR & SC”?
Another popular Edwardian regatta, this one on the Isle of Man.
As the sign says, these sailors are members of the “Chippy Crew” photographed on 30 May 1939. The crew are, rowing historian Bill Lanouette tells us, at one of five boathouses that lined the Hudson River just south of Spuyten Duyvil, where the Harlem and Hudson rivers meet. George Washington Bridge is in the background.
A German press photograph from 1938. The information on the back says that this shows the crew from the Berlin Rowing Club “Hellas” who won the “Adolf Hitler Fours” at the “Great Berlin International Rowing Regatta” on 26 June.
A photograph showing Corpus Christi College going “Head of the River” in the 1885 Summer Eights at Oxford.
The young men from Barry Rowing Club who won “Maiden Fours” at the Taff Regatta, Wales, in 1912.
An early example of advertising using rowing to suggest that a food product promotes health and strength. “Liebig’s Extract of Meat Company” was an Anglo-German venture that was the originator of the “Oxo” products.
This scene from “An Edwardian Summer” (sometime between 1901 and 1910) shows the Boat Race finishing at Chiswick Bridge – a span built in 1933. Too late to recall the other 3,999 plates?
This promotional picture for the “Gyroducing” rowing exerciser of the 1950s indicates that it was more comfortable than today’s “Concept 2” type machines – even if a suit and tie had to be worn.


  1. The Maltese cross could also belong to Shrewsbury School. Anne Stapleton.

    Sent from my iPhone


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