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Unknown eight-oared crew with coxswain--can you help me ID this photo? MYSTERY SOLVED!! (please scroll down for info) | by The Happy Rower
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Unknown eight-oared crew with coxswain--can you help me ID this photo? MYSTERY SOLVED!! (please scroll down for info)

I bought a small photograph of an 8-oared crew team and coxswain measuring a tad over 4" x 3" in size.


I scanned the photo at 800 dpi, then cropped the center section for the above photo. The cropped section of the photo image covers 2.5" x 1.5" of the photo. Almost no detail can be seen on the actual photo by the naked eye. The high resolution scan provided the pretty detailed image above. I photoshopped it to sharpen the image and add some contrast, then digitally removed dust spots and scratches.


To see the uncropped and unedited photo scan for context, select the left caret that appears on the far left when you move your cursor over the image.


The back of the photo had "1947" written on back, as well as a comment naming the second rower from the left as "Alfred Thompson." I know nothing about the photo. I have a big collection of crew team photos going back to the 1860s, but nothing matches.


UPDATE: I found a photo of Intercollegiate Rowing Association boathouses in Poughkeepsie in 1939. The boathouse on the left is Cornell's, and the one on the right is U of Washington's.


This led me to find a PDF file of the program of the 1947 Intercollegiate Rowing Association regatta in Poughkeepsie, the annual “BCS Bowl” for college crew of its day. Therein is pictured this same crew, listed as the Washington Junior Varsity. They came in fourth in the 3-mile Second-Eights (JV) race. Cal, Navy, and Cornell came in 1-2-3. The Washington varsity team placed third in their race behind Navy and Cornell. The Washington freshman squad won their two-mile event, beating Syracuse and Navy.


This was the first Poughkeepsie Regatta since 1942, due to WWII.


The team members Left-Right are:


BOW: Fred Mitchell, age 25, class of ‘49, 175 lbs, 6’4”

2. Alfred Thompson, 25, ’49, 185, 6’4”

3. Bob Martin, 21, ‘48, 183, 6’4”

4. Bob McGoldrick, 24, ’48, 183, 6’2”

5. Don Mack, 21, ’48, 182, 6’4”

6. Bill Harrah, 23,’49, 188, 6’2”

7. Donald Dehn, 22, ’47, 180, 6’4”

STROKE: Charles Brown, 20, ’49, 180, 6’2”


CREW AVERAGES: Age 22, 182.25 lbs, 6’3.25”


(in front) COX: Allen Taylor 20, 120, 5’8”


The Washington coach was Alvin Martin (Al) Ulbrickson. He was the stroke seat in Washington’s 2nd straight Poughkeepsie win over the 3-mile route in 1924 (the last 3-mile varsity race until 1947). He also stroked to a 3rd Poughkeepsie win in 1926 (tearing his arm muscles in the final quater mile). He became freshman coach after graduating, then became head coach when coach Rusty Callow resigned to coach at Penn. He won his first Poughkeepsie race in 1936, when Washington won all events, and went on to gold medal in the eights in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. He won again in Poughkeepsie in 1937, 1940, and 1941. Ulbrickson coached Washington for thirty years, taking his crew to the Olympics three times, 1936, 1948 and 1952.




The IRA was founded by Cornell University, Columbia University, and the University of Pennsylvania. These universities wanted to form an association in order to hold a race every year in which all of the top rowing schools in the country could compete. They chose the Hudson River, outside of Poughkeepsie, as the location to hold the race. It was one of the few places that had a straightaway that was four miles long.


Today's heat elimination format differs greatly from the Regatta that was held in Poughkeepsie over a century ago. Only a single race was run to determine the championship - winner takes all. An even more significant difference is that it was a four-mile long race (through 1913, 3-miles thereafter). This fact set the Regatta apart from all other crew races that have ever been held. It is the reason why the IRA Regatta became as prestigious as it did, and why the crew team that won was nationally regarded as the best of the best.


The very first IRA race was held in 1895. It consisted of one Varsity Eight team from each of the founding schools racing four miles on the Hudson River. Cornell won the very first Regatta championship with a time of 21:25.0. The Regatta was held in Poughkeepsie almost every year until 1949 (no regattas were held from 1942 to 1947 due to WWII). During this time, it became the premier college rowing event in the country, and every college with a rowing program hoped to be invited to compete in it. The Regatta also became one of the most popular college athletic events in the nation. Eventually, it became so closely associated with its home town, that it was no longer referred to as the IRA Regatta, but was known instead as the Poughkeepsie Regatta.


In the early years the Eastern schools dominated the race. Typically only a four mile Varsity Eight race was held, but if there were enough teams entered, there was also a two mile Freshman Eight race, and occasionally a Varsity Four race. Eventually, this evolved into a format that included an annual two mile Freshman Eight race, followed by a three mile Junior Varsity Eight race, and finally the four mile Varsity Eight race.


In 1923 the University of Washington became the first Western crew team to win the Poughkeepsie Regatta. From that year on the Western schools that participated, namely the University of Washington, and the University of California, became a dominating factor. They consistently placed in the top three, and more often than not, they won. The University of Washington became the first and only school to sweep the Regatta two years in a row.


The Poughkeepsie Regatta quickly became one of the greatest sporting events to watch in the country, and put Poughkeepsie on the map. Every year tens of thousands of spectators would come pouring into Poughkeepsie to watch the races. They covered the shores next to the river, many waiting all day, picnicking on blankets, to ensure they had a good view. The railroad tracks on the west side of the river had a flatbed train which held grandstands from which spectators could watch the race. As the crews rowed up the river, the train would keep pace with them, giving the people on board the best view possible. Hundreds of boats, yachts, and occasionally even Navy destroyers sailed to Poughkeepsie, and moored on the sides of the river to watch the event.


The town of Poughkeepsie came alive on the day of the Regatta, with parades, bands, vendors, and banners. In addition, colorful pennants displaying the school colors of all the participants were flying everywhere. The Regatta was extensively covered by newspaper reporters, and as time went on it was even broadcast over local and national radio stations. But the crowds, the cheers, the reporters, parades, and pennants were not the reasons why the Regatta became so intensely popular, the explanation lay in the physical feats of the crew teams. To race at full-speed for four miles required such a breathtaking amount of strength, skill, and endurance that it was awe-inspiring to watch.


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Taken on May 9, 2014