If you've been to the Hudson River Maritime Museum's rowing exhibit, you have probably seen this short film on the Poughkeepsie Regatta, produced by British Pathe in 1934.
The Poughkeepsie Regatta was founded in 1895 by the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA), which in turn was started to give colleges and universities that weren't Harvard and Yale an opportunity to row competitively. The first colleges to compete were Cornell University, Columbia University, and the University of Pennsylvania, where Ellis Ward of the Ward Brothers had helped start collegiate rowing (two 19th century Ward Brothers rowing shells are on display in the museum's rowing exhibit as well).
The Hudson River's wide, straight channel at Poughkeepsie made it perfect for rowing regattas, which could be up to 20 boats wide, without interrupting the navigational channel. The regatta quickly became a popular spectator sport, and in 1899, a "moving grandstand" of special railroad cars fitted with bleacher seats was developed to help people literally follow the race from start to finish - four miles long. The train cars are shown to great effect in the short film below.
Although the IRA Championship wasn't called "The Poughkeepsie Regatta" until 1922, it continued with few interruptions until the very last race at Poughkeepsie in 1949.
If you'd like to learn more about the history of the Poughkeepsie Regatta, including information on the teams, coaches, and who won which years, check out this exhibit by the Marist College Archives!
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This blog is written by Hudson River Maritime Museum staff, volunteers and guest contributors.
Hudson River Maritime Museum
50 Rondout Landing
Kingston, NY 12401
The Hudson River Maritime Museum is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation and interpretation of the maritime history of the Hudson River, its tributaries, and related industries.
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