US Fencing Historical Find

Discussion in 'Fencing Discussion' started by Ancientepee, Oct 2, 2018.

  1. Ancientepee

    Ancientepee Podium

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    Medals (click to view)
    bothner medals.jpg

    Charles George Bothner (*1861-09-08 in New York, NY - †1928-02-29 in New York, NY) has the distinction of being the only fencer to have won all three of the epee, foil, and sabre individual U.S. national championships in the same year: 1897. In a way, this was not too surprising because he had won the epee championship in 1895 and would win it again in 1904. He won the foil championship in 1894 and would win it again in 1904 and 1905. He had won the sabre championship in 1891, 1895, and 1896. He would also win gold medals in the epee team event in 1906 and 1907, the first two years that team championships were held.

    But his 1897 accomplishment was still a unique and historic event in US fencing and so, when an auction house in New Zealand contacted the USFA’s historian, Andy Shaw, to tell him that they were holding an auction in New Zealand on September 21 and one of the lots was four medals won by Charles Bothner including the three that he won in 1897, Andy contacted me and asked me to do the bidding for him because I have more experience than he does with auctions.

    We agreed on a maximum price which I submitted to the auction house and, since they were also conducting the auction online, I logged on to their online auction on the evening of September 20 (they’re 16 hours ahead of us) and followed the bidding. Our bid won and I arranged for payment and shipping. Yesterday, October 1, the medals arrived at my home. I’ll be taking them to the JOs in February to hand deliver them to Andy so that he can display them in his Museum of American Fencing in Shreveport, LA. So, if you want to see these unique medals in person, you can track him down at the JOs or visit his museum later.

    The 1885 medal on the far left may look like a fencing medal because of the two crossed swords in the middle, but the dangle hanging from the top bar has “56 LB” engraved on it and is in the shape of a 56 pound weight that is used in indoor track & field competitions primarily in North America instead of holding a hammer throw event. The bar on the top has Bothner’s name and “First Prize” lightly engraved on it and so it seems that he might have been a weight thrower before becoming a fencer though I haven’t found any newspaper accounts of this. View attachment 7167
    [​IMG]
     
  2. sdubinsky

    sdubinsky DE Bracket

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    That's really cool! Is there any record of how the medals ended up in New Zealand?
     
  3. mfp

    mfp Podium

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    It's hard to see the details on the 1885 medal -- does it have a full first name or initials in addition to Bothner? Charles' younger brother George Bothner was a famous wrestler and Pastime A.C. member. Wrestling seems closer to weight tossing than fencing.
     
    Last edited: Oct 2, 2018
  4. Ancientepee

    Ancientepee Podium

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    It says "Won By C. G. BOTHNER". I found a really strong magnifying glass and that ball has 16 LB engraved on it and so is probably a shot for the shot put. The two crossed objects that I thought were swords with basket hilts are really poles with balls attached to the end and they're also engraved 16 LB but what event they would be used for is a mystery to me. . The two runners on the bottom and the winged foot on the top would also indicate track&field.
     
  5. jkormann

    jkormann Podium

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  6. Ancientepee

    Ancientepee Podium

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    How and when the medals ended up in New Zealand is a complete mystery to Andy and I. They are quite impressive looking and there are people who collect interesting medals. The auction was primarily for coins but there were a number of other medals being sold and one of the other lots was a pair of NZ Humane Society medals and that lot sold for over $20,000 USD.
     
  7. mfp

    mfp Podium

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    The typical weight tossing related events from that era look to have been tossing a 56-lb weight for distance, tossing a 56-lb weight for height, tossing a 16-lb shot, and tossing a 16-lb hammer. When the hammer is being swung, the wire for it is straight out and the thing does kinda look like a ball on a pole. Wonder which of those event(s) C.G. actually won.

    Here's a link to a "Spalding Athletic Library" handbook from the early 1900s that includes games rules, competition outlines, and coincidentally, lots of athletic equipment, clothing and shoes the Spalding company just happened to be selling:

    http://docshare03.docshare.tips/files/3425/34250599.pdf
     
  8. mfp

    mfp Podium

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    A different Bothner fencing medal was auctioned off in NY on Oct 2, 1993 (exactly 25 years ago today):

    https://www.lotsearch.de/en/lot/19th-century-gold-fencing-medal-23036676

    Perhaps some or all four of these medals' routes involved US auctions at some point.
     
  9. Ancientepee

    Ancientepee Podium

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    The mystery of the objects on the 1885 medal has been solved. I doubted the explanation of the poles being straight wires because the triangular handle is missing from the other end. It turns out that there's another (older?) version of the "hammer" that uses round weights on wooden poles. That version is still used in the Scottish Highland Games.
    upload_2018-10-4_11-58-16.png
     
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  10. mfp

    mfp Podium

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    I haven't found any accounts involving Bothner and weight throwing either. But I did come across mentions of Bothner serving on the Pastime Athletic Club games committee. Maybe Bothner ended up with a Club championship medal from a weight throwing event the same way I ended up with a medal from a saber event at tournament I helped run. Duly entered and won of course, but helped by the lack of other entries.

    I wonder if there's any connection between this amazingly elaborate and impressive 1885 club games championship medal design and Charles Dieges, another Pastime Athletic Club member. Dieges specialized in weight-throwing and worked as an apprentice designer at a NY jewelry firm around then. Dieges later went on to found Dieges & Clust, a firm that became a leading and famous manufacturer of medals, trophies, World Series rings, plaques, etc. Hmmn. Could this be a Charles Dieges influenced design, from early in his career pre-Dieges & Cust, for his favorite sport?
     
  11. jdude97

    jdude97 Podium

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    I only noticed it now on my third inspection that the bottom of the three 1897 medals say swords, foils, sabers respectively. Did "swords" differ at all from modern epee (other than being dry, of course) and when did epee come into parlance?
     
  12. mfp

    mfp Podium

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    The AFLA fencing rules for 1897 are in the document in post #7 above.
     
  13. Strytllr

    Strytllr DE Bracket

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    That's awesome! Hahaha! a 3 page rule book. how absolutely quaint. ;) Sometimes, it would be nice to go back to a simpler time...

    but I am curious if any of you can help me understand how they award these points?
     
  14. Ancientepee

    Ancientepee Podium

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    Epees were actually called "dueling swords" but that was too long to fit on the medal. Likewise sabres were usually called broadswords during that time period (because the blades were noticeably wider). The conversion to using the French names in the US was probably influenced by the coverage of the Olympics where the French terms were used exclusively.
     
  15. Ancientepee

    Ancientepee Podium

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    The "rules book" for the 1896 Olympics was even shorter. While it was 9 pages long, only about 2 pages dealt with what we could today consider fencing rules and even then they're very vague. They also contained an amusing typo. Article 13 on page 8 says that fencers using Italian foils cannot use foils longer than 0.85 centimeters (rather than meters). That's about a third of an inch.
     

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  16. Ancientepee

    Ancientepee Podium

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    I believe that the first published set of fencing rules to be used for a competition in the United States are in a flyer for a multi-sport competition held in 1878. Only foil was being contested. I included them in this brief write-up I wrote about fencing in the US before the ALFA/USFA was founded.
     

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  17. mfp

    mfp Podium

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    Below is a link to a retrospective article on early "Fencing in America" that was published in The Outing Magazine vol 61, sometime between October 1912 and March 1913.

    It's "A Glance at the Development of the Knightliest of Sports in the United States" and includes mentions of Bothner and commentary on rules and judging. Looks like some things are still the same ...

    "The American rules for the épée are fairly simple, those for foil complicated, while the sabre regulations are so fearful and wonderful that even their authors surely cannot interpret them."​

    http://library.la84.org/SportsLibrary/Outing/Volume_61/outLXI03/outLXI03k.pdf
     
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  18. Strytllr

    Strytllr DE Bracket

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    Haha, this whole article reads like a treatise on why classical fencing is better than the "crap that is done now" ;)
     
  19. neevel

    neevel Armorer

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    Fencing seems especially prone to having a succession of lawns that the current generation of each era must get off of.
     
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  20. Inquartata

    Inquartata Podium

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    Ow, ow, ow, ow... :(
     

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