Home sought for 1909 illuminated oar

Update June 26 - the oar has found a home.  But read on to get a glimpse of Harvard rowing in 1909.

A Denver resident wants to part with an illuminated oar dating from 1909. He acquired it from an uncle, class of 1947(49); the oar  originally belonged to Elliott Carr Cutler, class of 1909.  (The relationship between Cutler and the uncle is not known.)  On the back of the oar, the initials "ECC" are lightly carved into the wood, presumably for identification while it was still in use; the inscription on the front, "E.C. CUTLER BOW" was likely added when the oar was presented.  The inscription on the blade reads,

            COLUMBIA  " " " 10 " " 13 " "

A small piece at the top of the blade has splintered off, but otherwise the oar is in very good condition for its age.  It is particularly interesting for its 19th century design.  There is a groove along the edges of the shaft, perhaps carved out to reduce the weight.  A copper sheathing tacked on to the end of the blade protects it from collisions with other blades, river banks, and the like.  The leather seems brittle but shows no deterioration; it is also secured with brass tacks and sheet copper that is screwed into the wood.

An account of the race from the Harvard Graduates' Magazine vol. 17, p. 689, appears below.  More at:




A splendid victory over the Columbia crew on April 17 has encouraged followers of the Crew to believe that this year's eight is one of the best that Harvard has ever had. The race was rowed over a course in the Charles River about one and seven-eighths miles in length, and Harvard won by six lengths. The time, 9 min., 54 sec., is the first record since the Basin was turned into a dead water lake, and so cannot fairly be compared with times made in former races with the tide.

Changes had been made in the Columbia order within a few days of the race, while Harvard had been rowing the same for nearly two months and was well together. For these reasons a victory was expected, particularly as the stroke necessary for high speed in a short race has been drilled into the crew by Coach Wray. The men rowed in splendid form for so early in the season, while Columbia was not well together until the last half mile, and was never in the lead.

The orders in the race:

Harvard. — Stroke, Sargent; 7, Waid; 6, R. Cutler; 5, L. Withington ; 4, Bacon; 3, Faulkner; 2, Lunt; bow, E. Cutler; cox., Blagden.

Columbia.—Stroke, Cerussi; 7, Phillips; 6, Ryan; S, Clapp; 4, Gatch; 3, Keator; 2, Jordan; bow, Steinschneider; cox., Rockwood.

The order of the crew in the Columbia race seems likely to hold through the season. R. W. Cutler and Withington, at 6 and 5 respectively are from the 1911 boat, and are the only new men in the shell. All of the other men, with the exception of Sargent at stroke, have been shifted from their last year's seats with the idea of balancing weight and power to better advantage. It makes a heavy crew, averaging at the time of the Columbia race slightly above 176 pounds. Since the Columbia race, distance rows at a low stroke have been included occasionally in the practice, but for the most part the work has been conducted with an eye toward the two-mile Cornell race, to be rowed on Lake Cayuga on May 31.

Coach James Wray, who has been at Harvard since 1904 as 'Varsity coach and for two years before that as Weld Boat Club coach, has been reengaged by the Athletic Committee for a five-year period. Wray's crews were victorious in 1906 and 1908, and now, with his system well established. Harvard seems to be on the way to a permanent and satisfactory basis of crew work.

E. C. Cutler, '09, of Brookline, was elected captain of the crew on Feb. 15 in place of W. R. Severance, '09, who resigned on account of a severe attack of rheumatic fever, which it was feared would prevent him from rowing at all this season. Cutler rowed last year at 2 in the Yale race, being put into the boat when Fish was suspended from College. After resigning the crew captaincy, Severance went to California for a month and seems to have recovered entirely. At this writing, however, the coach is unwilling to take the risk of reinstating him in the boat.