(We invite all men in the University to submit communications on subjects of timely interest, but assume no responsibility for sentiments expressed under this head.)
To the Editors of the CRIMSON:
A bit of rowing history may interest your readers. Sliding seats date back to a time which is, as college generations go, "immemorial antiquity;" but as any one may see from the pictures in the Newell boat-house or in R. C. Lehmann's "Oarsman," that antiquity is not much over four decades. From the position of back and knees in the older pictures, one may safely infer that the seats were fixed. A few months ago, Professor John Trowbridge, for many years Director of the Jefferson Physical Laboratory, told me that, in the fall of 1871, he rowed in a 30-inch shell on the first sliding seat ever used at Harvard. Brown, then the "champion sculler of America," got the seat for him in England, and at his request. On page 22, Lehmann says that the seats were invented in America, and that they were introduced into England in 1871.
Blaikie (not William Blaikie) was the custodian of the old Harvard boat-house in 1871, and he said, in the presence of several college crews, that these seats could not prove to be of any use. In 1872, Trowbridge entered for the spring races in singles, and with him Bob Russell, the strongest oarsman of his day in college, and with a number of other men. The others failed to come to the scratch, so that the race became as it were a try-out between the new-fangled seats and the old. Trowbridge beat Russell up to the turning-stake: but the Charles in those days had a strong tidal current, and Trowbridge's out-rigger fouled the stake. That gave Russell a lead which Trowbridge could not overcome, but the beaten oarsman had at least demonstrated the value of the simple innovation. CHARLES R. LAXMAN.