MIT Institute Archives & Special Collections

Photograph: Junior Varsity Crew, 1924

Athletic activities have been a part of life at MIT since its early years, though rowing was not formally among them until shortly after the arrival of Richard Maclaurin as president of the Institute in 1909. This event coincided with the completion of the dam creating the Charles River Basin, which meant that potential rowers were no longer at the mercy of tides, channels, and mud flats. Maclaurin encouraged the growth of the sport, helping to raise money for equipment.

Crew struggled in its early years, suffering from a lack of equipment, experienced coaches and rowers, and appropriate training. But slowly, with years of effort, increasingly better equipment, and improved coaching, things began to change.

The crew season of 1924 was memorable in large part because of a new head coach, William Haines, who worked hard to hire assistant coaches, purchase equipment, and recruit crew candidates. Haines had formerly been a coach at Harvard and an oarsman himself. He rallied the students, over 200 signing up to try out for a place, and put them through rigorous training. Three teams were formed: the Varsity, the Junior Varsity, and the 150-pound, having a remarkably good season for a newly reorganized program.

Since those early years, crew has become part of the culture at MIT. Among the many highlights in the history of rowing at MIT is the winning of the Thames Cup Challenge by the MIT 150-pound crew at the 1954 Henley Regatta.

Additional information about crew, as well as athletics at MIT, can be found in the records of the MIT Athletic Association (AC 70) in the Institute Archives and Special Collections, Room 14N-118.

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Object of the Month: October 2003, October 2009

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