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Penn Varsity: 1914

Summer 1914. "Penn varsity crew team in Poughkeepsie." Bain News Service glass negative. View full size.

Summer 1914. "Penn varsity crew team in Poughkeepsie." Bain News Service glass negative. View full size.


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Double take

I assume we're all looking at the same thing...

... the coxswain dressed all in black.

The future they did not expect

Since this is the varsity team, I'm guessing each of these nine men is around 22 years old. Most likely for them, the years just before and after the turn of the last century were pretty good in terms of peace and prosperity. Their futures were bright.

But the summer of 1914, when this photograph was taken, is when World War I broke out in Europe. In four more years, the United States would join the English, French, and Russians to fight the Germans and Austro-Hungarians. As American soldiers crossed the Atlantic they very likely took what would be called the Spanish Flu with them. Young people in the prime of life was who the Spanish Flu killed most. But at least American forces and weapons helped bring the war to a close in November 1918 and by early 1920 the Spanish flu was done.

Then, as these nine men entered their thirties a very vocal group shamed enough elected officials about the evils of alcohol that the Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was passed, effective January 1920. For the families of these nine young men who made their incomes from the manufacture or sale of alcohol or from restaurants or hotels for which alcohol was and still is a major profit center -- they very likely faced bankruptcy.

The Boys, the Boat & the Book

Though taken 20 years earlier, this image reminds me of one of the most compelling and inspiring books I've read recently, The Boys in the Boat, which is about the hardscrabble group of young men who comprised the 1936 Olympic rowing team. The individual stories are so engrossing that competing at "Hitler's Olympics" is not the climax of the book. The author also adapted the original book to a middle school audience, and it has been a favorite among the students at my school for several years, as well as an object lesson in how one chooses to confront the inevitable obstacles the life presents.

Another great photograph

This is a great photograph on a few levels. Compositionally it is very interesting because of all the vertical and horizontal plains created by the oars, the bridge and the dock. The little guy dressed in black who I think would be called the coxswain anchors the bottom of the photo. The rowers are all rather glum looking while the guys in the background with the white hats and shorts look like a hive of activity. Another thing which is a little eerie is that all the rowers have a timeless look about them. They all look like the photo could have been taken last week. Considering that this photo is almost a hundred years old.

More Support

Actually, the jockstrap dates back to 1874, invented by the good people at Bike:


From, history of clothing: In 1920, Joe Cartledge, the owner and founder of the Guelph Elastic Hosiery Company, invented the first jockstrap or athletic supporter, marketed under the name Protex.

Hmm again

They have all been looking at Rosie O'Donnell.


Glad I'm not the only one who noticed the budget cut.


Looks like Penn cut the jockstrap budget that year.

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