(boat race) Hurricane (1932), &c.

George Thompson george.thompson at NYU.EDU
Wed Nov 5 16:12:52 UTC 2003

Barry posts, from GOOD ENOUGH FOR GRANDPA... by Curt Gerling, Webster, NY: Plaza Publishers, 1958.

> Pg. 122:  He doesn't know it's "smart money" or that the affair is a "boat
> race" (fixed race).  (The HDAS has "boat race" from 1917--ed.)

Boat races were a popular recreation and also a spectator sport in early 19th C NYC.  In the early decades the best oarsmen were professional boatmen -- men who rowed people across the rivers or out to ships anchored in the harbor.  If they rowed for a prize, it was money put up by local boat-builders.  By the mid-century, the oarsmen were professional competitors;  the events were big gambling occasions and the oarsmen often did not try their best.  This didn't escape the notice of the spectators and bettors, so I would suppose the "boat race" meaning a fixed contest may be decades older than 1917.

[a rowing match off Hoboken, between John Tyler, Jr. of Boston, young but promising, and Walter Brown of Portland, "a slippery and unreliable customer".  Tyler beat Brown on the 17th at Philly going 3 miles around 1 turn in record time, but Brown may have "thrown the race for the purpose of getting the odds heavy against him"; Tyler beats Brown in 2 miles, going down stream]  N-Y Times, June 25, 1868, p. 8, cols. 2-3


George A. Thompson
Author of A Documentary History of "The African Theatre", Northwestern Univ. Pr., 1998.

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