1901 Season

Andrew O'Dea
Andrew O'Dea
  William J Gibson
William J Gibson
 Results | Summary | W Winners 

Season Results


Season Summary

In The Badger 1903, Captain William J. Gibson (No. 5) authored “A Review of the Season.” He wrote, “In the early part of our training season the prospects for a fast crew were anything but promising. We were favored, however, with an abundance of new material, having the championship freshman crew to draw from.”

The Daily Cardinal of October 10, 1900 reported the following paraphrased account:

To control the expenses of the training tables of the football and other athletic teams, the boathouse was identified as a part of the solution. Since built by the University Boat House Club in 1893 and the subscribers took shares of $5 each, no divident had ever been paid. As a result, the Athletic Association had recently had little difficualty in persuading shareholders to transfer their shares to the Association inreturn for a former shareholder’s being able to keep their boat in the boathouse. Enough stock had been trandsferred to the Association for it to have control. Different fraternities own between seventy-five and a hundred shares and these owners too are expected to give over their shares.

Thus, when the Association gets control of the boathouse, the second story of the boathouse will be made over into training quarters. The Association will then hire a cook and run their own table, thus saving considerable money. Any profit will then be retained by the Association, rather by hotelkeepers. The lower floor would be used as berfore for a boat house.

In the April 30, 1901 Daily Cardinal, an interest in women’s rowing at the university was noted, as rowing has been adopted with great success at Vassar, Wellesly and Milwaukee Downer College. A freshman and sophomore class crew is expected. Women’s rowing at UW was inaugurated in 1896 according to an account in the May 3, 1901 Daily Cardinal (p.1).

For the benefit of the crew, the Naval Ball was held on Saturday, May 11, 1901 at the gymnasium. Acting President and Mrs. E.A. Birge; Dean and Mrs. Johnson and Mrs. R. N. La Follette are expected to attend. Tickets were $1 last year. “The Naval Ball has been for several years one of the pleasantest social events of the colege year.”

Saturday, May 4, the freshmen raced the junior law crew on a one-mile course on the south shore of Lake Mendota, ending at the baothouse. The two crews left the boathouse just after 11:00 am, follwed by a launch containing Coaches O’Dea and Frosh coach, W. C. Sutherland (Class of ’00), Commodre Haskin, Vice Commodore Bergstrom and a Daily Cardinal reppresentative. The start was opposite the farm buildings, with the junior law crew in the outer course. For the first quarter mile, the law and frosh boats were nip and tuck, first one boat then the other poking its nose to the lead. At about the observatory, the frosh had gained the adantage, the frosh cox had the bow of the junior law shell. Before long, there was open water between the two and the frosh eventually won by three lengths. The frosh boating was: Mark Banta (bow), Hobbins, Kimball, Kleth, Potter, McComb, Kruger, Thom (stroke) and Matrin (cox).

Coach O’Dea wrote an article in the Daily Cardinal of Friday, May 10 saying because the freshman

stroke lacked initiative and seven did not follow up well. Two (others) showed a a lack of harmony between body and limbs and the balance and rythum of three was conspicous by its absence.”

Changes in the freshmen boatings were then announced. The varsity training table started at the house of Mrs. March at Langdon and Lake.

The following men have been ordered to report: Quigley, Gaffin, Stevenson, Gibson (Captain), Jordan, Levisee, Lounsbury and Trevarthen.

O’Dea went on to encourage those in the second varsity boat to keep working as...

The final order of the crews is by no means decided. Good second crews certainly improve the regular crews, so let us have more spirit in the second boats. If you can help along the first crew by five or ten seconds, it may certainly be the means of winning their race. And the conscientious second boat man can, with justice lay a good deal of the credit to his own unselfish exertions for the success of his mates in the first boat. He need not fear that these efforts are unrecognized or underappreciated.

May 18, 1901, the Daily Cardinal reported the first women’s crews were out in the eight-oared gigs, with two freshman shells and one sophomore boat. The women’s crews plan regular afternoon workouts under Miss Harris and Assistant Coach Stillman.

On the same day, the college paper described the morning’s handicapped one-mile race among the varsity, freshmen and junior law crews.

The Varsity was on scratch giving the freshmen two lengths with the laws two lengths ahead of them. It was an exciting contest throughout. The freshmen eight got in their work early and at once began to crawl up on the law shell ahead. Before the first quarter was over, the bow of their shell was even with the coxswain of the leading boat, while the Varsity boat had made up only about half the distance.

The Varsity was gaining steadily, however, and by the three-quarter mile mark,, the nose of their boat was even with the bow oar of the freshman shell and the law oat had dropped back into a close third. In a final effort th finish line was crossed with the nose of the freshman boat about opposite with the bow man on the Varsity.

The varsity boating: Trevarthen (bow), Lounaburg, Kevessee, Jordan, Gibson, Stephenson, Gaffin (stroke) and Sawyer (cox). The freshmen: Banta (bow), Hobbins, Potter, Keith, Kimball, Thom, Christman, McComb (stroke) and Jackson (cox).

Frosh Captain Walter H. Thom, writing in the December 1901 The Christmas Cardinal, reviewed the prior 1900-01 crew season:

The form of the (freshman) crew was an object of universal comment, though it was probably inferior to that of “the crack freshman crew,” that of (the Class of) 1903. In races with the ‘varsity crew, the freshman were usually defeated by about a length, and this fact, together with rumors of the great strength of the St. John’s crew, led to some apprehension as to the result of the race with the military academy. The 1903 crew (the freshman of 1901) had several times beaten the ‘varsity over a course of a mile, and if the 1904 could not do this, and the St. Johm’s crew were so strong, there was certainly some cause for alarm.

The event, however, proved the fears groundless.

The day of the race was cold and windy. Our men were eager enough to beat the St. John’s crew, but they did not exert their full power, partly because of the weather, and partly because of the certaintly of the outcome after the first mile. The start was good, despite the wind, and our crew gained steadily until the last half-mile, after which no gain at all was made. The crew was not exhausted when it came in, so that it is reasonable to suppose that the victory could have been won by more than the actual five and one-half lengths.

The reasons that the crew was not present East were two in number: First, the necessary funds were not raised; secondly, at the last moment, owing to a different interpretaton of the rules in the East and at Wisconsin, it was discovered that two of the crew men were not eligible to row. These two were McComb and Hobbins, who were taking special freshman work in the university. Crippled thus at the last moment, the (freshman) crew was not sent East. (Though) Coach O’Dea had received a telegram from the Board of Stewards not to disband the (freshman) crew, but two of the men had broken training a day or two before, and nothing more was done about taking the men east, Arthur Christman, Earl V. McComb (Stroke) and Hal Martin (Coxswain).

The history of the 1904 (freshman) crew is not as brilliant as that of its immediate predecessor, but it is, nevertheless very crediable.

The frosh boating: Mark Banta (Bow), Walther H. Thom, John C. Potter, R. Rollin Caskey. Frank Kimball, Jas. Hobins (sic)

Gibson continued,

For the three weeks before we left for the East, we covered the four-mile course on Lake Mendota twice a week, and it was there we made the fastest time for four miles that had ever been made by a Wisconsin crew on dead water.

Gibson was the half-uncle of future Badger rower and coach (1942-43) George Rea; they shared the same maternal grandfather. “Will” Gibson rowed for St. John’s Military Academy before coming to Madison. While there, he won a Winchester rifle for his great marksmanship. Gibson later settled in Milwuakee, having graduated from UW as a mechanical engineer.


At the IRA’s:

Commodore Haskin had been busy June 13 finishing up the subscription lists, with most of the money for the trip collected. The UW crew left Madison Wednesday morning, June 26, 1901.

Syracuse competed in its first IRA in 1901.

UW Captain Gibson’s account continued,

We left Madison June 26 th and arrived the following afternoon at Highlands on the Hudson, whose great bridge marks the beginning of the last mile of the varsity course. (1902 Captain C. H. Gaffin wrote the crew stayed at the “Cannon House.” The Poughkeepsie Regatta Program of 1899 shows a picture of the Cannon House. The tissue map indicates this private home was on the Poughkeepsie side of the river, south of the railroad bridge and not far from UW’s boathouse.)

We were the last crew to arrive on the scene of the contest, several of the other crews having been on the river for two or three weeks before our arrival. This is a greater handicap than many people imagine. The other men have an opportunity to get acquainted with the situation in general and, particularly, are able to accustom them selves to the rowing with the tide, which sometimes is a great factor in the race. Combined with the change in the climate there is a change from dead to running water, and the only way we can avoid the results of a long trip and these disadvantages is to spend a longer time on the river before the race than we have been doing in the past.

At the (lane) drawing, we were very fortunate being placed between Cornell and Columbia, the two crews we most feared. Just before the varsity race the wind changed and swept strongly down stream. When we were at the stakeboat ready to start, Columbia’s launch ran in close to the start, breaking the Cornell’s stakeboat loose from its moorings, Cornell for that reason being forced to request delaying start. The delay from this accident was very wearing on the nerves of our oarsmen and the result contributed a great deal to the poor start that we secured and our first three or four strokes not being taken together, as they should have been. The wind, which was blowing down stream, combined with the strong tide, proved a disadvantage to Wisconsin, as our stroke was one that was long and powerful and calculated to be rowed at 32 or 33 to the minute. We were forced to carry the stroke higher than we had been accustomed to doing. The race itself, according to all the critics, was the finest exhibition of its kind ever seen on American waters. Wisconsin for the first three miles of the course was second and not until the spurts in the last mile did the superior endurance of the Easterners enable them to draw away from us.

(The finish was Cornell (18:53.2), Columbia and Wisconsin, followed by Georgetown, Syracuse and Pennsylvania.)

The day before the race, the July 2, 1901 New York Times (p.1) covered the lead-up to the races. Under the paragraph heading “Wisconsin Mystery of Race” the article continued, “Wisconsin is still the mystery of the river, and much comment has been indulged in because of the attitude of the Westerners and their universal desire to keep quiet. Their manner has at times been particularly objectionable to some who attempted friendliness and lately they have been left strictly alone. Their crew is the heaviest on the river, though the men have gone off in weight, and O’Dea, the coach, constantly wears a serious look.

Wisconsin’s ‘Varsity crew is four pounds per man heavier than Cornell, and th experts this morning were using that as an argument that Wisconsin will land first place in the ‘Varsity because, as they contend, her superior weight on the leverage of the oar will do for her in a four mile race, which is one of endurance, what it would not do in a two-mile race. No one here discounts this Western crew, and they are equal favorites with the betting element with Cornell and Columbia.”

In the front page coverage of the IRA results, the New York Times of July 3, 1901 reports, “Cornell Victorious in a Glorious Race…Columbia was responsible for most of the magnificent struggle (in the varsity eight race). Her crew disputed every inch of the course with the Ithacans and, with the Wisconsin eight, which finished third. Columbia and Wisconsin rowed in fine form, but Columbia was more than too much for the “Badgers,” and after hanging on the blue and white for three miles, Wisconsin dropped away and Columbia had her boat clear before the finish was reached.

Finish in the varsity eights: Cornell (18.53.1, the record, through 1926, on the 4 mile course), Columbia (18.58), Wisconsin (19.06.8), Georgetown, Syracuse and Penn. UW’s boating: D. Trevarthen (Bow), B. f. Lounsbury, L. H. Levisee, E. L. Jordan, W. J. Gibson (Captain), R. G. Stevenson, C. H. Gaffin, Earl V. McComb (Stroke) and J. F. Sawyer (Coxsain). Substitutes: Port – A. J. Quigley; Starboard – B. M. Palmer and M. Banta.

In the varsity fours: Cornell, Penn and Columbia.

In freshman eight event: Penn, Cornell, Columbia and Syracuse.



Walter P. Hirschberg
Frederick A. Little
T. F. Sawyer


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