1895 Season

Andrew O'Dea
Andrew O'Dea
  Oscar Rohn
Oscar Rohn
 Results | Summary | W Winners 

Season Results


Season Summary

On Saturday, September 22, fifteen men reported for freshman crew practice. When crew practice is organized it will be allowed as a substitute for gymnasium practice.

The October 25, 1894 Daily Cardinal (p. 3) announced crew captain Rohn was having a rowing tank constructed. This will put Wisconsin’s crews on the same footing with the eastern colleges in the matter of training during the winter.

About the middle of February, Coach O’Dea took charge of the men and they went on to the machine. They have one great advantage over last year that is the machine has been in better shape and has enabled the men to accomplish better work and this year the coach had charge of the men as soon as they went onto the machine and was able to criticise their faults at the start; whereas last year the coach did not come until the men had been on the water several weeks.

In the spring, a letter was received from Penn’s Captain Bull announcing their racing committee would like to arrange a race with Wisconsin in or near Philadelphi in early June. It seems likely this race may not have been held, tough no reason is known.

The crew first got on the water on April 16 of 1895.

April 25, 1895 the Daily Cardinal (p. 2) announced the death of of Britisher Rev. W. R. Fremantle, the first winning coxswain in the annals of university boat racing, the Henley Regatta of 1829.

In 1895, a new boat - a cedar shell from Davies of Cambridge - was secured from generous donations and subscriptions from contributors in Milwaukee and Oshkosh, including a donation from Senator Sawyer of Oshkosh. “The boat arrived and was used for the first time by the ‘varsity crew on Monday, April 29.”

A new coach - Andrew M. O’Dea from Australia - was signed and took charge in mid-February. They immediately went to the machine. The men will go to the training table the first of next term. The place has not been selected yet but wherever it is it will be run after the plan of a club, a cook will be hired and the expense will be proportioned to the men.

A new “Shell Fund” is being organized to acquire “as fine a racing shell as could be possibly be built for the purpose. The cost was to be about $650. This amount is three or four timns as large as ever before waqs attempted to reach by subscription among students at one time. With careful advance planning, the idea of a solicitation directory was brought into use. One man would be given from 1 to 250 on State Street for instance and another would be given from 250 to 400.

The shell was completed, accorrding to the Daily Cardinal of May 25, 1895 (p. 1), but had not yet ben delivered. The names of all the donors as of May 10 were listed with thanks from Oscar Rohn, Charles C. Case and Lewis Alstead.

At 8:05PM on May 27, 1895, the new Davy shell arrived in Madison and “was removed to the gymnasium for temporary storage. The boat is 61 feet 9 inches long and weighs only 230 pounds, 70 pounds less than the shell received second hand a short time ago. It is probably the lightest cedar shell of the same stiffness that has ever been built.”

June 5, the inter-class regatta was scheduled. “The regatta comes upon the next to last day of the convention of Odd Fellows and that of the Modern Woodmen, which meet in Madison this week. It seems probable that 30,000 people will be on shore and course to see the events take place.

The event which has been planned with special care is the final one – the salute of the ‘varsity crew (a pre-cursor to the Grand Row?). It is an event which is perhaps unique in this country – the idea being borrowed from the formal salute with oars, which is in use in some navies of the world. After the crews of the last gig race have crossed the line, all craft on the lake will be marchalled in line extending from the boathouse pier down the lake towards the city boathouse, where the ‘varsity crew will be stationed. As the cardinal pennant of the U.W. navy runs up the boathouse flag staff, the ‘varsity will start and row toward the line of boats. The university band will strike into some stirring air. As the ‘varsity reaches the first of the line of boats, all crews and boats will salute – raising the oars vertically, turning the flat of the blade toward the ‘varsity. The ‘varsity will then respond to the salute by raising the four waist oars in the saqme way and will start down the line, bow and 2 and 7 and stroke rowing – the four waist oars remaining vertical. As the ‘varsity reaches the middleof the line the music will stop and the university yell will be given with a tiger from the steamer.

The salute of the ‘varsity crew will make a very pretty picture, and one which the owner of a camera will wish to perpetuate.”

The inter-class regatta was actually held June 6 in fine wather. In the eight-oared handicap shell race among the ‘varsity, second varsity and freshmen, the second varsity won. The boatings – Varsity: Alexander (bow), W. Alexander, Day, Weber, Austin, McConville, Capt Rohn, Seymour (stroke) and Crandall (coxswain); Second varsity: Fuller (bow), Kinnard, Smith, Daniels, Schmidtmann, Dietreich, Onstad, De Foy (stroke) and Peterson (cox); and the Freshmen: Campbell (bow), Glesse, Duke, McGee, Forrest, Marshall, Foster, Street (stroke) and Suhr (coxswain).

On the last day of examinations, Friday, June 14 th, the Delaware-Wisconsin eight-oared shell race occurs on Third Lake. Two years ago, it was necessary for Chicago crews to practice whenever Lake Michiga was quiet enough. This was not very much of the time. Mow, however, the crews are able to practice daily inside the breakwater at Lincoln park and consequently are rowing in much better form than ever before.

Incorporating Coach O’Dea’s “Kangaroo stroke,” the UW, in their first race of 1895, vanquished by two lengths their old foes from Chicago, the Delawares, in spite of an accident to No. 5’s oar. “The Delaware race was rowed Saturday, June 14, on Lake Monona. The water was quite rough on account of a strong northeast wind. The start was made at 7:30, and the Delawares had the best of it at first, as the ‘Varsity did not hear the starter’s ‘Get Ready.’ The Delaware crew led for the first half mile, rowing at 44, while Wisconsin started with 40 but soon dropped to 36. At the half-mile, the Delaware were overtaken and it was even for about a quarter miles, when the ‘Varsity increased the stroke to 38 and left the other crew behind. About a half a mile from the finish, Weber (5 seat) broke his oar and the crew finished with seven men. Toward the finish the ‘Varsity spurted with a stroke of 40 and finished about a length and a half ahead.

The Wisconsin crew was made up as follows: A. F. Alexander ’98 (bow), Walter Alexander ’97, John Day ’98, L. F. Austin ’98, Myron L. Weber ’97, Curran C. McConville ’98, Oscar Rohn ’95, M. E. Seymour, ’98 (stroke) and H. R. Crandall ’98 (coxswain).”

The Delaware boating: Weinhard (bow), Patten, Gillen, Vickers, Reeding, W. Lau, M. Lau and Comiskey (stroke), Frantz (cox). This was a very strong Delaware crew made up of very good oarsmen. The winning four and two others in a winning double crew in the Mississippi valley races were in the boat.

In a May 6, 1952 interview in the Wisconsin State Journal, Walter Alexander, Captain in 1896, remembers, “Half-way down the lake, we heard an oar snap, but we kept in rhythm and won. But when we sailed past the finish buoy, we all shouted: ‘Who broke the oar?’ Would you believe it…it was Myron Weber, the lightest man on our crew. And it was the first time any of us ever pulled hard enough to break an oar.”


The Second Annual Minnesota Boat Club Race

On June 22, 1895, Wisconsin’s varsity faced the Minnesota Boat Club for the second time. “The race started at 6:30 in smooth water. Wisconsin took the lead at once with a 44 stroke, Minnesota rowing at 39. Wisconsin soon dropped to 36, but continued to gain steadily and when the milepost was reached was a good length ahead. After the first mile Minnesota increased the stroke and began to pull up but could not pass Wisconsin until the last quarter-mile post was behind. During the last quarter, Minnesota ( 10:22) made a magnificent spurt and crossed the finish line three-quarters of a length ahead. A. F. Alexander nearly fainted just before the finish, but pluckily managed to row out the race.

The Wisconsin crew was the same as against the Delawares; the Minnesota crew was H. Bend (bow), J. Penegre, T. L. Wann, E. Halbert, A. B. Buffington. P. H. Houghton, L. Mahen, N. P. Langford (stroke) and W. H. Yardley (coxswain).

In the evening, a reception and dance was given to the crews at the Hotel Lafayette.

When the Varsity began practicing at Lake Minnetonka, there was much unfavorable comment from the St. Paul and Minnesota press, as the Wisconsin men appeared much smaller than their opponents. This opinion was changed before the race and there was no over-confidence in the power of the Minnesotas to win. After the race, the following from the city papers will show their opinion of our crew:

It (the race) has shown that there is brawn in the Nothwestern colleges worthy of the best athletic training as well as the brain to master the science of the oar. In eight weeks the Wisconsin boys had acquired such a proficiency in the skillful stroke of old Harvard that they were able to give fierce battle to men larger in frame, older in training and longer in water practice. The green timber of a college. much of it entirely without scientific training until the beginning of the school year, was set against the seasoned fiber of an old and well kept rowing club, and for two miles was able to hold its own, or nearly so. What can be done with the crew in another year remains to be seen, byt there is good reason to believe that Wisconsin can take, before the end of the century, a good rang in college aquatics (Minneapolis Times).

It was a close shave for a victory and as the gun fired the finish it was a question as to the winner (Minneapolis Tribune).

It was a long hard pull. Never were the muscles of the Minnesota men strained to their utmost as they were in that memorable contest of yeaterday. It was their reserve strength and thae spurt at the last that saved hem the day, for the Wisconsin lads led nearly all the way, and rowed like a piece of machinery. The superiority of the famous Yarra Yarra sttroke was demonstrated to the satisfaction of every oarsman who witnessed the race (St. Paul Globe).

The Wisconsin crew rowed a splendid race and the men are well satisfied to have come so near beating the crack amateur crew in the country (Minneapolis Journal).

Coach O’Dea later described the race,

Featherweights as University crews go – only averaging 153 pounds and rowing two miles on Lake Minnetonka, Minnesota, in 10 minutes 23 seconds, a record which still stands (for a college crew, presumably) after a little more than a decade.” Wisconsin’s Centennial Sports Summary in 1848 summarized the race as follows: “The ‘Varsity (with 10:23, the fastest two miles recorded to date by a college crew), however, with five freshmen in the boat, lost by a third of a length to the Minnesota Boat Club (10:22) again that year by three-quarters of a boat length, after leading most of the way.


In the IRA’s:

The first Poughkeepsie Regatta (later the IRA’s), organized by Columbia, Cornell and Pennsylvania, was held on the Hudson River on a 4-mile course. The race was held over the famous four-mile straight-away below Krum Elbow. Scheduled for Friday, June 21, 1895, the race was postponed until Monday, June 24 after New York Governor Levi P. Morton’s tug washed Penn’s shell against a float and damaged it beyond immediate repair. The event consisted of only a varsity race, with the organizer schools, Columbia, Cornell and Pennsylvania finishing in that order.

More than 30,000 spectators crowded into Poughkeepsie by train on the Friday morning of the day the race was first scheduled and made a holiday of it. The West Shore Railroad had provided an observation train made up of grandstand seats on flat cars and this accommodated some 3,000 of the spectators, with thousands more on excursion steamers and yachts which lined the lower stretches of the course.

When the race was finally rowed on the following Monday, the crowd was as large as it had been three days earlier but the conditions were far from perfect. The favored Penn crew swamped in the rough water halfway through the race and Columbia and Cornell fought it out to the finish with Columbia the victor. The celebration that followed in Poughkeepsie that night has become legend, especially the stories of the part played by Hamilton Fish, the Columbia captain who only three years later, as one of Theodore Roosevelt’s Rough Riders, was killed in the charge of San Juan Hill.

Thomas Mendenhall (The Harvard-Yale Boat Race, Mystic Seaport Museum, 1993) had this to say:

(On June 24, 1895) Four days before the 1895 New London race (the last Harvard-Yale dual match before being suspended for two years), Columbia, Cornell and Penn, finally united in the Intercollegiate Rowing Association, held their first four-mile at Poughkeepsie under most inauspicious circumstances. The Penn shell was so damaged by a spectator tug boat’s wash (one carrying New York Governor Levi P. Morton) that the race had to be postponed a day, but the next day’s weather proved extremely stormy. Penn led until their shell was submerged half-way through the race; Cornell swamped just before the finish line; Columbia stayed afloat to win.

A July 4, 1895 race was scheduled between Wisconsin and the Duluth crew in Duluth. The same article mentioned, In 1890 the "greatest" regatta ever held in America was arranged by the two Lake Superior cities (of Duluth and Superior). It is unclear whether the UW-Duluth Boat Club summer of 1895 race was ever held.



Lee F. Austin
George P. Barth
Samuel Cady
John Day
Curran C. McConville
Oscar Rohn
Marshall E. Seymour


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