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History of Open-Water Marathon Swimming With excerpts and derivations from the book… Presented by Captain Timothy M. Johnson, PE Assistant Professor Wentworth.

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Presentation on theme: "History of Open-Water Marathon Swimming With excerpts and derivations from the book… Presented by Captain Timothy M. Johnson, PE Assistant Professor Wentworth."— Presentation transcript:


2 History of Open-Water Marathon Swimming With excerpts and derivations from the book… Presented by Captain Timothy M. Johnson, PE Assistant Professor Wentworth Institute of Technology Boston, Massachusetts 02115

3 What can one expect to learn from a history book? Past history –Confirmation of knowledge –Insight on known events –Learn a personal viewpoint Enlightenment –New information –New way to interpret events –A different way to view the present –A new perspective for the future

4 History consists of recollections Sometimes our memories are blank and they need illumination.

5 Histories should answer basic questions When was the first swim? What were the events that shaped swimming? Who were the key individuals? What was their motivation? Whats changed over the years?

6 Lets look at swimming lore Discovered in the last forty years is a drawing found on the inside cover of an sarcophagus at Paestum, Italy. The drawing dates from the 6 th Century BC. The drawing is known as The Divers Tomb.

7 Earliest swimming race From the London Times, September 7, 1791, we find mention of a swimming race from the Westminster Bridge to London Bridge in the Thames River by three contestants. Neither the time of the winner nor any of the names were included in the short article; so new to newspapers was sports reporting. In fact, the event possibly would not have made any news at all except that the winner was carried on the shoulder of the crowd to a public house to celebrate where he drank so much gin, he expired.

8 A social need for learning to swim existed A family went on a picnic/vacation to a lake. When one member began drowning, family members, one by one, tried to save the first family member. Everyone in the family except the baby was drown. In 1875, a young man decided to learning to swim at the NYAC. He jumped into the water right at the club dock in the Harlem River, in view of and next to other NYAC members who knew how to swim. When he began struggling in the water, no one stepped forth to save him. Maybe they thought it was a practical joke. He drown. There was no lifeguard on duty, the people present didnt know how to rescue a drowning swimmer nor that a beginning swimmer should start in shallow water. Three couples went boating on a lake. When the boat capsized accidentally, one of the men managed to make it to shore with his wife but the other two couples perished. Four children drown while bathing in Lake Michigan. A fisherman slipped off a rock into a creek. His cousin who could swim that came to his rescue wound up in his drowning cousins grasp and both went over the falls just below their position. These and other events were the reason the New York Times wrote opinion pieces, editorials, and otherwise argued for people to learn to swim year after year until 1930 when they announced that everyone knew how to swim.

9 The first great American swimmer Capt. Paul Boyton A New Jersey lifeguards desire to save more people from drowning led him to introduce new technology in the form of a full body suit made of Indian rubber that was inflatable. Dressed in his lifesaving suit and using a paddle, he crossed the English Channel as a demonstration of its usefulness on May 29, 1875. His success launched a local hero, Capt. Webb on his crossing sans lifesaving suit on August 25, 1875. Paul Boyton traveled the world demonstrating the suit and pioneering ocean and river swims that are still duplicated today.

10 Swimming baths of the late 1800s In this drawing from Harpers Bazaar magazine we see a French bath on the Seine, meaning the rivers water flow was directed into the tank to fill it. Thus the origin of the term tank for a swimming pool. Originally, pools were nothing but tubs filled with water.

11 Swimming baths of New York Starting in the 1850s you could visit the Peoples Wash and Bath House on Mott Street and go swimming using large swimming tubs. The lure of the rivers around Manhattan served as the default swimming hole. Diving off the piers and wharfs of NY, young men and boys taught each other how to swim. The first documented swimming bath, New York Swimming Academy, opened in 1867 at 6 th Ave. and 33 rd. It had a 25 yd heated pool, changing rooms, ventilation, showers and a snack bar. This business plan for the operation sounds strangely familiar. By 1870, NY City began opening portable swimming baths. Enclosed tanks moored in slips and fed from the rivers. New York City recorded 3.4 million admissions over the summer season of 1881. Certain days were women only. The NYAC built their indoor pool on the 3 rd floor of their clubhouse on Central Park South in 1885. Photo is of the first home to have an indoor swimming pool. Built in 1581 for the family of Johann Fugger a cloth merchant in Augsburg, Austria.

12 NGOs to the rescue Non-governmental organizations (NGO) responded to this social need to teach the populace to swim over time. The agency in charge of data information for the US government doesnt even have records of drowning before 1900. The American Red Cross under the guidance of Clara Burton expanded the role of the Red Cross to include disasters. Their first official act to respond to this need was to hire Wilbert Longfellow in 1914 to promote water safety. They established standards and procedures to certify proficiency in swimming, lifesaving and water safety. The YMCA contribution was to provide the pools in which people would learn to swim. The first Y pool was the Brooklyn Central YMCA in 1885. The first mass learn-to-swim effort was organized by George Corsan in 1907 at the Detroit YMCA; his innovation was to first teach the swim strokes on land. By 1909 the Y launched the first campaign to teach every boy to swim in the US and Canada. Corsan introduced awarding buttons for proficiency. In 1910, the Kansas City Y pool installed a filtration system on their tank. William Ball, a Y National Board member encouraged the Red Cross to include lifesaving in their program.

13 Competitive Swimming Swimming contests were first organized as open-water events. In August of 1872, the swimming school of Richard Allen located at 54 th street sponsored a contest in the East River. The women swam ½ mile; boys, a mile; and men, 2 miles. The first Championship of American was held in August of 1874 between Alexander Trautz, the Champion of America, and J. B. Johnson, the Champion of England at Long Branch, New Jersey sponsored by The Ocean House. JB had defeated Frederick Cavill in a race in the Thames for the Swimming Championship of 1873. After 3 postponements due to inclimate weather on the ocean side, the race was held in the sheltered water of Pleasure Bay and Johnson easily defeated Trautz. These races were stake races. The winner picked up $2000 and a Tiffany Cup. Even when Gertrude Ederle swam the channel in 1925, the odds were 7 to 1 that she would set a record. These numbers were published in the NY Times.

14 More Competitive races The Harlem River became a popular swimming venue. The NYAC began holding their club races there and a few championships. In 1878, Dennis Butler of Brooklyn, age 22, won the first race he ever entered, a mile swim against all comers. He went on to have a minor career in swimming. One championship swimmer of 1882, Edward Cone, only had one arm but was so skillful a swimmer that he had to give everyone a head start ranging from 3 to 11 seconds for the 100 yd. For the ½ mile race, he give his opponent a 3½ minute head start. He won both races. The first AAU swimming championship was held at the NYAC Travers Island course in 1888. The winner was Herman Braun of the Pastime Athletic Club over 100 yards in a time of 1:16.2.

15 Early long distance swims in the United States Ten miles in the Delaware River was first swum in August of 1875 by JB Johnson in another Championship of America. Johnson defeated Thomas Coyle upstream from Philadelphia and picked up another easy $2000. The losing contestant complained he had been poisoned so JB swam the race a second time and watched his opponent get pulled from the water after 7 miles. Two Germans immigrants swam from Yankee Stadium in the Harlem River, down the East River, and on to Staten Island in 1878 for the Long Distance Championship of America. It was won by Kunno Dimmers, age 31, a photographer in a time of 5:36 In 1879, Capt. Webb swam 10 miles across the entrance to NY harbor, from Sandy Hook, NJ, to Manhattan Beach along Coney Island.

16 An unusual occurrence In 1864 in London, two American Indians, Tobacco and Flying Gull, swam an exhibition reportedly going 130 feet in 30 seconds leaving their British hosts far behind. Their stroke was a native American freestyle that was considered too ungentlemanly because of all the splashing. Their time was equivalent to 34.5 second for a 50 yard swim. Can you imagine the difference it would have made if their stokes had been adopted by swimmers?

17 Meet Odlums Fate or Share Brodies Fame The Brooklyn bridge was open on May 24, 1883 to great fanfare. On May 19, 1885, Robert Odium, a owner of a failed swimming pool operation in Washington, DC, needed some publicity to open another swimming establishment in Coney Island. He decided to jump off the Brooklyn Bridge. He died from injuries sustain in the jump from the span. Capt. Boytons pulled his body from the East River waters. Steve Brodie next tried the jump and was successful on July 23, 1886. He got two columns on the front of the NY Times for his effort, a wrenching jail house interview. He sounded like a sad and confused young man with a wife and family who did the jump to pay off some gambling debts. He got a job at the sideshow in Coney Island as a result. 5 jumpers followed Brodie in quick succession and all were stopped, one provided the mantra copied by the newspaper seen above. The next time we hear of Steve is in 1888, he is swimming down the Hudson River in pursuit of Boytons record. He managed 6 days and 1 hour. This is Brodies real contribution to swimming history, the first man to swim the Hudson River. Recent historian give Steve a bad rap saying he couldnt possibly have made the jump and that he swam out to where a dummy was dropped. As as you can see, visibility precludes a swim being unobserved nor could he stay in position due to the currents.

18 The rest of the story… The stint at Coney Island where he exhibited himself in a dime museum was a first step in capitalizing on his fame. Steve next opened a saloon on the Bowery and had a mural memorializing his leap hung behind the bar. He became an actor portraying himself in On the Bowery. He became financially independent and eventually moved to Buffalo, NY where he established another saloon. On September 7, 1889, Steve pushes off from shore at Niagara Falls wearing Boytons lifesaving suit and becomes the first person to survive the encounter. He was arrested, tried, and convicted in Canadian court for his actions. Testimony under oath was heard from witnesses of his actions in the trial. He left town in a hurry and was forgotten by all leaving the honor of the first to be claimed by Annie Taylor in 1901. Steve died in 1901 of tuberculosis and this might be the reason that he never protested the right to this honor. What didnt help was a stunt in 1989 where he hoaxed his own death and then reappeared in NY after the newspapers published his obituary. Steve appeared as an actor, playing himself in the play On the Bowery. He also hoaxed his death in 1898, appearing in NY after the obituaries ran. The saloon that he opened in Buffalo was next owned by the Marx Brothers who changed it into an Edison Penny Arcade.

19 Swimming Stroke improvement Year/StrokeSwimmer/location100yd time 1865/BreastBoys school/Eton1:25 1884/sideMagee/Harlem River1:21.5 1887/sideH. Braun/Harlem1:17.2 1888/sideH. Braun/Travers1:16.2* 1893/TrudgeonArthur Kenny/Montreal1:11.5 1895/TrudgeonJ. H. Thayres of England1:02.5 1900/TrudgeonFreddy Lane of England1:00 1902/Australian CrawlFred Cavill of Australia58.4 1904/Australian CrawlKiernan of Australia58.0 1906/American CrawlCharlie Daniels of NYAC56.0 1910/American CrawlCharlie Daniels of NYAC54.8

20 A Great SwimForgotten Charles Durborow,from Philadelphia tried to swim from the Battery in lower Manhattan to Sandy Hook, NJ, a distance of 22 miles in 1910. He wasnt able to complete the swim and after 3 tries he gave up. Commodore Alfred Brown of the Life-Saving Service picked up the effort in 1913 and on his 2 nd attempt on August 28, 1913, successfully made it in a time of 13:38. Two week later, Samuel Richards of Boston, managed a 8:13 on Sept. 14, 1913. Durborow was insulted and challenged his successors to a race. The New York Tribune picked up the idea and sponsored a race that occurred annual from 1914 until 1924 when the paper folded. In the first race in 1914, all the protagonists appeared with a relative youngster winning, George Meehan, age 23, in a time of 7:18 swimming sidestroke. He was followed by Samuel Richards (an hour later), then Walter Dunn also of Boston and then in last place was Charles Durborow. Four finishers out of 31 starters. Charles in 1916 would pioneer another swim, the Chesapeake Bay swim crossing the entrance from the Marylands eastern shore peninsula to Cape Henry Virginia, a 13 mile swim in 8:43; a night swim. In 1925, Gertrude Ederle, swimming solo as a warm-up for her channel crossing swam from the Battery to Sandy Hook and set a record time of 7:11. No one has swam this course since. This is a Gertrude Ederle swimming record that has stood for 81 years when Tammy van Wisse broke the record by over 2 hours on July 21, 2006 with a time of 5 hours, 6 minutes and 48 seconds..

21 The Manhattan Island marathon swim The first swim around Manhattan was on September 5, 1915 by Robert Dowling, age 18, a NYAC member. He started at the top of Manhattan at Spuyten Dyvil and swam counterclockwise around the island in 13:45. All but one swim since have taken the same direction around Manhattan. Individuals made solo swims around Manhattan sporadically until the late 1920s when a professional swimming organization ran a race around Manhattan for 3 years. To promote this swim, Bryon Summers set a record around Manhattan of 8:57 in 1927 and established a new starting location: East 96 th Street at Hells Gate. Following this there were several swims: Diane Struble in 1959 who completed the first swim from the Battery, Diana Nyiad in 1975 in a time of 7:57, and then the odd marathon swimmer or two: Tom Hetzel, George Kauffmann, and Ben Huggard. In July of 1982, Drury Gallagher made a memorial swim around Manhattan and set a record, 7:14. He announced the formation of an organization to host an annual swim in honor of his son which has made this swim the marathon swim for nearly 25 years.

22 The Manhattan swim record The annual swim is designed so the average swimmer can complete it in less than 9 hours and hundreds have taken advantage of this current assisted circumswim. The record around Manhattan is swum on fast tides, sometimes in the middle of the night. Here is the list: DateNameTimeTide 8/8/1983Paul Asmuth6:482.3 9/7/1983Drury Gallagher6:412.5 10/15/1985Shelley Taylor6:122.6 8/29/1992Kris Rutford5:542.6 7/14/1995Shelley Taylor5:452.7 10/8/2006 The next swimmers tide 2.7

23 In Summary These swim and many, many more are included in the book History of Open-Water Marathon Swimming written with the point of view that swimmers never swim alone. Their coaches, family members, and the swim organizations all contribute to the success of a well planned and thought out swim. Looking back at swimmers and swims past.

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