Fine Art & Foul Play

21 October 2021

By Göran R Buckhorn

Do not miss Bill Lanouette’s book talk about his The Triumph of the Amateurs when he visits the East Coast at the end of October.

Rowing historian William ‘Bill’ Lanouette is a well-known name on these pages. He has contributed several articles to HTBS, and since he published his The Triumph of the Amateurs: The Rise, Ruin, and Banishment of Professional Rowing in the Gilded Age on 1 April this year, HTBS has published reviews and excerpts from the book and an interview with Bill. Read those articles here.

Bill Lanouette

In The Triumph of the Amateurs, Bill Lanouette tells the story of the professional rowers in America, among them the famous Biglins and Wards, and the rivalry between the American Charles Courtney and the Canadian Ned Hanlan.

Before any other professional sport of today, like baseball, football and ice hockey, professional rowing was America’s most popular and lucrative sport. However, it was ruined by foul play – reckless betting, greedy financiers and easily corrupted athletes. Several other national professional sports have suffered scandals, but only professional rowing was banned.

This led to the spread and popularity of amateur rowing at colleges and clubs around the USA. Among those who were plying their oars were also women, who now out-number men as competitive rowers in North America.

Few things remind us today about the professionals, with one grand exception: Thomas Eakins’s Rowing Pictures, which are capturing the energy of the Biglin brothers’ racing on the Schuylkill in Philadelphia. Eakins was a sculler himself and admired the physical strain of the sport.

About the professionals, Bill Lanouette will be holding an illustrated book talk via Zoom from the Princeton Public Library at 7 p.m. on 29 October. This event is sponsored by the library, Princeton University Art Museum and Labyrinth Book Store where copies of the book will be available for sale. (Labyrinth Books will offer a 10% discount in conjunction with this event. Please enter the discount code: Lanouette.)

To register for the Zoom talk, go to

Those of you interested can simply check the link to the public library. Then, as the date approaches, the library will send you a link to the Zoom talk.

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