Washington Rowing - The 100+ Year History
Newest Update 3/15/22:
In honor of Women's History Month, our new Women's History section is now
officially launched! Photos, videos, interviews and more of the Washington
women's program over the last fifty years are here -
Washington Women's Rowing
History; also with links to the early years here -
1900's Women and 1910's Women.
Welcome to the History of Washington Rowing! This is the continuously updated published history of the Washington Rowing program... more about who we are is here - About Us
With the huge success of Daniel James Brown's bestselling non-fiction work The Boys in the Boat (link to our section on the 1936 team is here - The 1936 Olympic Rowing Team), we have seen thousands of new readers come to the pages here to learn more about the traditions and people that have been a part of this team over the years. From Hiram Conibear to Dolly Callow; from Al Ulbrickson to Jan Harville; from Bobby Moch to Mary Whipple... it is the strong, dedicated people that have shaped our program into what it is today.
As the tradition continues at Washington, we welcome you to these pages to learn more about our past and the people and events that have shaped us. At Washington, our values begin with our past and the lessons that rowing teaches. George Pocock, in his address at the 1965 Varsity Boat Club Banquet said this: "Harmony. Balance. Rhythm. These three things stay with you your whole life..." These are the words that shape who we are. Enjoy!
A note to our readers: An abridged version of this history can be found at washingtonrowing.com, the excellent, official site of the Washington Rowing program. This site - Huskycrew.org - is focused solely on our history and is consistently updated when new historical material comes in.
One of the real advantages to publishing on the web is the flexibility to add new material, and the ability to include videos, and audio interviews. The downside to publishing on the web is the ease to which material can be used without consent. Please respect the effort and time that our authors, photographers, and contributors have put into this body of work, and if using any material published here, please contact us first.
All material on the
Huskycrew.org website, including all writing, photos, video, and audio, are
copyrighted. For questions, comments, or history additions, please contact Eric
Cohen at: webdev (at) huskycrew.org. Thank you.
Introduction and Table of Contents
The University of Washington campus as we know it was less than ten years old when the first students took to the water to row. The shores of Lake Washington that bordered the 600-acre campus were a natural draw to the students and faculty. Still heavily forested, most access around the lake was by dirt logging roads and trails with travel by horseback (if you were lucky) or foot down to the pristine water. (Click here --> UW Early Years on Union Bay for an overview of campus at the turn of the century.) Yet given the natural limitations of an age when Seattle was striving to be viewed as more than a pioneer town, an estimated 5,000 people showed up on shore and by boat to watch the first intercollegiate rowing race between California and Washington in 1903.
Although it looks very different today, little has changed in the caliber of athlete or the community support that Washington Rowing enjoys. From the very beginning Seattle embraced - in fact virtually demanded - the sport. The men and women that participated, although not privy to weight rooms, ergometers, indoor training facilities or sports medicine, trained extensively and with an ethic that lives on today.
The history that is presented here tells the story of Husky Crew supported through pictures. Many of them are your pictures - pictures taken by fellow athletes, friends and parents that ended up in scrapbooks or in boxes, but that now tell a story of amateur athletics in the purest form.
We would like you to participate with us in this history. We welcome any personal photographs or memorabilia you can share (see below), and also encourage you to write down a memory or two about the more personally important events that shaped your rowing experience at Washington. Pick out a particular race, a particular event, a particular practice, or a special memory and get it to us. We will post under the year that it relates. Please email us at webdev (at) huskycrew.org with your memory!
This project is an open book. It is a work in
progress. We hope you visit it often to read what your classmates and
friends have to say and to enjoy the new pictures/videos/stories that will be consistently
added. Like walking back into Conibear Shellhouse after being away for a
decade, the history of Washington Crew is not about someone else. It is
about you - our alums, our friends and our fans. Thank you for a
spectacular 119 (and counting) - years!
|1900-1909 men - The first years, including Coach James Knight, trips to California via steamship, Hiram Conibear, and a number of power crabs, broken boats, swampings and sinkings.|
|1900-1909 women - The women at the University embrace the sport from the beginning, setting the stage for an explosive rise in popularity under the progressive and passionate (and controversial) leadership of Hiram Conibear.|
|1910-1919 men - The Varsity Boat Club is born, a world renowned boat building business is born, and national coaching stars are born. Tragically however, a legend dies.|
|1910-1919 women - A decade where the sport becomes the most popular on campus for women, mostly to the chagrin of the University establishment, and only through the leadership of a number of women on campus and the commitment of Hiram Conibear.|
|1920-1929 men - Ed Leader and Rusty Callow take the reins from Conibear and build a dynasty on the west coast.|
|1930-1939 men - Al Ulbrickson guides Washington through a decade of boat racing at the highest level, culminating in the now legendary Olympic victory in pre-war Germany.|
|1940-1949 men - Both before and after a war that would forever change the landscape of intercollegiate sport, Washington produces some of the finest crews in the history of the program.|
|1950-1959 men - An IRA sweep and a stunning victory behind the Iron Curtain bookend a decade of Washington dominance on the west coast, ending with the retirement of two of the greatest coaches in rowing history.|
|1960-1969 men - Some of the toughest men to wear the purple and gold continue to control the west, and compete in a sport undergoing rapid change - along with everything around them.|
|1970-1979 men - The program drops the IRA and adds a permanent, international dimension under the guidance of Dick Erickson, a tireless man with an unwavering vision of what the sport could bring to the young men at Conibear.|
|1980-1989 men - A decade of wild ups and downs, but also a decade of fierce and varied competition - the strongest field on the west coast in the history of the sport testing the very core of the tradition at Washington.|
|1990-1999 men - Bob Ernst takes a stair-step approach to the re-development of the program, gradually building the crew into a national contender again, leading into an era on the west coast reminiscent of the early/mid-century.|
|2000-2006 men - Cal begins the decade in dominant fashion, yet the Washington/California rivalry is still as competitive as ever, leading to both teams matching speed on the national level.|
|2003-2012 men and women - Huskycrew.org was the primary source of race information prior to the mainstreaming of social media. Our race result pages are archived and provide detailed historical perspective on the years that have yet to be officially covered here. Please note that many of the newspaper articles from these years have since been removed by the content providers originally publishing them (unfortunately beyond our control), but all of the photos, interviews or videos we posted directly still work. Below are links to each available year:|
|In addition, news surrounding the program was consistently updated from 2003 - 2012 here: Washington Rowing News 2003-2012|
Less frequently, but news from 2013-2018 was also updated here: Washington Rowing News 2013-2018
More about the Varsity Boat Club and the history and tradition that defines it: The Varsity Boat Club
The history is being done in two steps. The first step, a summary of each of the last 100 years through 2006, is completed for the men's side. The women's side is in the process of being written. The second step - and this is the fun one - is to build on what we have. That includes you sending in pictures, and your best memory, from your days by the Washington docks. See the above link for details.
The text has not been professionally edited. The project has been done on volunteer time, with the goal to re-connect our friends and alums to a program that has had such a broad impact on our community. And there is still a lot to add; our goal is to include videos, interviews, and all submitted stories as the months/years progress.
It is not perfect! There have been over 10,000 young men and women participate in the program over the century. If we got a name wrong, or left somebody out, let us know. Our goal is to be as accurate as possible. Thank you for reading - we hope it takes you back!
More about this website, and the authors Eric Cohen and Ellen Ernst, can be found here: About Us
Eric can be
contacted at webdev (at) huskycrew.org.
This website, and all history and other content are copyrighted © 2001 - 2022 by Eric Cohen. Sources and pictures are credited, and any reproduction must be approved by the owner.
The Husky Rowing Foundation is a non-profit 501 C (3) corporation supported by volunteers, and all proceeds from donations go to the Washington rowing team. Thank you for supporting Washington Rowing.
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