The Stotesbury Cup Regatta

Established 1927

The 2003 Stotesbury Cup Trophy

The Stotesbury Cup Trophy, inscribed



Inter-Scholastic Eight-Oared Shells




The Early Days of Rowing on the Schuylkill

. . . in those primitive days the river, before the advent of the Park Commission's plan for artificial adornment, was a far more lovely spot than it is to-day. Its natural beauties at that period. . . could hardly be improved upon. Instead of its being a thronged pleasure-ground, what is now the park was in comparative solitude, and, but for the canal boats drawn by teams of mules, gliding smoothly and silently along, there was little beyond the faintly tinkling bells upon the mule teams to break the solitude. . . . A favorite programme for the afternoon's amusement would be to form a crew in the afternoon of a summer day, and proceeding leisurely up the river, pause for a period at an ice-house wharf, immediately north of the Columbia bridge, where the depth of the water was sufficient to admit of a plunge in the river, and there strip off our uniforms and spend half an hour or more in a delicious bath in the cool, pure, uncontaminated waters of the river. Resuming our course, we would row up to the Falls of the Schuylkill and at the well-known resort kept by Bobby Arnold, celebrated for its cat-fish and waffle suppers, replenish the inner man with those dainties, supplemented by moderate libations of mint juleps, rum punches and the like, seat ourselves in the summer-house overlooking the river, enjoy our cigars and pipes until the shades of night had fallen. . . . The charms of a moonlight night on the return trip from Arnold's to the boat-house cannot be exaggerated.

--From a paper prepared by the late John B. Thayer and read at the fiftieth anniversary of the University Barge Club, that was celebrated by a garden-party at The Lilacs in June of 1904. Reprinted in The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, 1905, 29, 3, page 282.

The Schuylkill Navy

Although rowing on the Schuylkill River occurred as early as 1732, it did not achieve a more organized status until just prior to the Civil War. In 1858, the Schuylkill Navy was founded by the following Philadelphia boat clubs:

  • America Barge Club (dissolved during the Civil War)
  • Bachelors Barge Club (founded 1853)
  • Camilla Boat Club (later absorbed by the Fairmount Rowing Association)
  • Chebucto Barge Club (dissolved during the Civil War)
  • Falcon Boat Club (dissolved during the Civil War)
  • Independent Barge Club (dissolved during the Civil War)
  • Keystone Barge Club (dissolved during the Civil War)
  • Undine Barge Club (founded 1856)
  • University Barge Club (founded 1854)

The first Schuylkill Navy regatta was held in 1859, and the first national regatta was held in 1873. The National Association of Amateur Oarsmen was founded as a result of this national regatta, and the Schuylkill Navy's amateur rules of rowing were adopted by this organization. Since that time, the Schuylkill Navy has grown to help sponsor many important amateur rowing events.

Sources: Rowing and Track Athletics, by Samuel Crowther and Arthur Brown Ruhl, Macmillan Co. 1905, and the Pennsylvania Athletic Club Rowing Association.

Stotesbury and the Bachelors Barge Club

In 1887, E.T. Stotesbury was elected to membership in the Bachelors Barge Club, one of the early rowing clubs in what is now Boathouse Row on the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia. Founded in 1853, the Bachelors Barge Club reigns today as the oldest continuously operated rowing club in the United States. Its original founders were members of a volunteer fire fighting organization known as the Phoenix Engine Company. One of the traditions of such organizations was to give every member a nickname; E.T. Stotesbury's nickname was "Gum." Although Stotesbury was just a social member and not a rower (he was thirty-eight when he joined), he eventually assumed a leadership role in the organization. He was elected Vice President of the Club in 1924, and served as President from 1927 until his death in 1938. It was during this period that the Bachelors Barge Club won medals for the single and the four in the 1924 Olympics, the single in the 1928 Olympics, and the gold medal in the men's double sculls in the 1932 Olympics. It also was during this period that olympic rower and fellow club member W.E. Garrett Gilmore asked E.T. Stotesbury to sponsor the youth rowing regatta that today is known as the Stotesbury Cup Regatta.

Stotesbury and the Regatta

In 1927, Bachelors Barge Club President E.T. Stotesbury sponsored the award for the scholastic eights race in the first high school rowing regatta competition in the country. The regatta was held on the Schuylkill river near Boathouse Row. The award was a large sterling silver trophy, and the first winner was a crew from West Catholic High School. West Catholic won the race again in 1928 and 1929, which entitled them to retain permanent ownership of the trophy according to the regatta rules at that time. When West Catholic won the race again in 1930, 1931 and 1932, they retained permanent ownership of the second Stotesbury Cup. After that, Stotesbury announced that the rules would be amended and a new sterling silver Stotesbury Cup would be used as a permanent trophy. Since that time, the Stotesbury Cup Regatta has grown to become the largest high school rowing competition in North America.

The 2003 Stotesbury Cup Presentation

The awarding of the 2003 Stotesbury Cup to Holy Spirit High School