Sculling on the Potomac

In time for spring and the perennial return of crew season at Georgetown, we turn to some historic pieces in the University Art Collection.

A decade ago, the Library purchased a wonderful advertising poster promoting the third Schweppes International Regatta on the Potomac in 1992, featuring a tranquil scene of rowers near Key Bridge. The spires and skyline of campus buildings can be seen in the distance.  To learn more about the regatta, I unearthed some articles in The Hoya and The Washington Post.

Schweppes International Regatta 1992 Poster

As reported in the Post by Karl Hente on April 27th (Vol. 73, No. 45, p. C2), 16 colleges including Cambridge and Oxford from the U.K. and eight high schools, competed in the Schweppes regatta. Cornell beat Cambridge to win the men’s varsity 8 race final. Due to heavy rains that weekend, there was a lot of floating debris in the water that wreaked havoc on some of the boats. The Georgetown men’s varsity boat collided with a tree branch, ending their chance to continue racing, on Sunday the 27th.  There was another upset when the boats from Oxford and UCLA collided at the halfway point near Key Bridge and a re-row was called. However, the Oxford crew didn’t agree with this call and decided not to participate for the rest of the day.

Unsurprisingly, one learns a lot more about Georgetown’s performance in the regatta from a perusal of the April 28th issue of The Hoya. The article, written by Scott Kozak, includes an overhead photo of a Georgetown boat in action. Kozak reported the junior varsity 8 “came out strong” on Sunday in first place; the Hoyas beat the George Washington University team by 12 seconds in 5:40.00.  The men’s varsity 8, which competed in the 9th through 11th seeds final, captured third place with a time of 5:44.22. The women’s teams took two second places and one fourth.  So, it pays to read the college newspaper if one is really looking for a fuller picture of the results.

Interested researchers can see this issue of The Hoya in DigitalGeorgetown. Additionally, The Hoya’s website has issues going back to 1998, and the University Archives maintains a complete bound set of Hoyas dating back to 1920 which can be viewed in the Booth reading room by appointment.

"Sculling on the Potomac" Painting

This painting, Sculling on the Potomac, dates to 1880 and depicts the newly finished Healy building on the Hilltop.  Little is known about the artist other than their signature, J. Love. The rower in the foreground, rather stiffly posed, bears a resemblance to the contemporary, stop-motion photographs of Eadweard Muybridge. The two figures in the little boat on the left are rowing over to rescue a dog swimming towards them. The scene on the river is set in front of Roosevelt Island and the Aqueduct Bridge, which was eventually taken down when Key Bridge (named for Francis Scott Key) opened in 1923. 

In their classic and timeless appeal, both the poster and painting seem to illuminate a verse from the Alma Mater:

Where Potomac's tide is streaming
From her spires and steeples beaming
See the grand old banner gleaming
Georgetown's Blue and Gray.

Sculling on the Potomac once hung in Carroll Parlor near the main entrance to Healy Hall. Today it hangs in the staff corridor of the Booth Family Center for Special Collections. The painting and the poster can be viewed by appointment.

LuLen Walker
Curator, University Art Collection