Back in January I posted a story about the match between Generoso Pavese and Louis Tronchet in San Francisco that took place in 1899.
This time I’d like to focus on the San Francisco career of Louis Tronchet.
A brief re-cap on Tronchet. A French-trained Master, he was hired to teach in San Francisco after a representative of the Olympic Club in SF saw his victorious performance against Regis Senac in New York. Tronchet accepted the position and moved west in 1888. In addition to the Olympic Club, he also taught at a new establishment reserved strictly for fencing, the San Francisco Fencing Club, located at 124 O’Farrell Street. The original building is long gone and there now stands the Union Square Macy’s. There were 25 members in 1889, all “well-known gentlemen” of the city.
An excellent written portrait of Tronchet can be found in the December, 1894 edition of “Overland Monthly” magazine. He not only taught and performed various demonstrations of the sport, but also was quite generous in assisting others in starting new clubs. The writer, Henry Ansot, was taught fencing by Tronchet and started his own club, the California Fencers’ Club, in 1890. Another, a former French Army instructor named W. B. Easton, taught at the Olympic Club under Tronchet until removing to Seattle to start a club there and later moved to Portland to do the same. There was also an Italian Club in San Francisco, and they retained the services of various Italian masters who sometimes ran up against Tronchet with – apparently – little success.
Tronchet seems to have done due diligence to get into the paper on a regular basis. Whether advertising a demonstration of fencing with students, or a match against a visiting swordsman, he seems to have been able to be a well-regarded fixture in the community. Thus, who better to present a photo essay on self-defense in the name of public safety than a highly trained and proven swordsman?
There is no indication of who played the part of “the foodpad” in the above. I hope he wasn’t hurt badly. In the last frame, Tronchet seems to be throttling him with a joyful abandon.
For all that he could handle himself against a man with a gun, he did have some set-backs, as indicated by this article from 1895.
Tronchet’s position at the OC seems to have been a victim of economic travails rather than unhappiness with his work. His private club continued, as did his schedule of demonstrations. However, in one such, he faired poorly, victimized by a student.
The picture of Tronchet with a bandage around his head as he receives aid and comfort from his attacker is pretty priceless. I can only assume that the two photos were staged after the fact, but classic nonetheless. The above is from 1900. Three years later, he had another injury to contend with, this time one that was a topic of great discussion throughout the Bay Area.
If nothing else, it would seem that we have Louis Tronchet’s actions in 1903 to have been the event that necessitated the signage at all such electric rail lines for pedestrians to keep off the tracks and, in particular, not to touch the rail carrying the juice. But, really, walking in a marsh, hopping a fence and crossing an electric train rail in soggy trousers? Seems like asking for trouble to me. Maybe just not yet being used to the power of electricity.
Tronchet’s obituary from the San Francisco Call’s November 29, 1905 edition, notes that he was in the South Bay region at the time of his death at the age of just 51 years. At least he was avoiding Marin and its dangerous street car line.
I continue to search for more information on Tronchet. The local papers, while containing numerous notices, don’t give a very full picture of the man himself. The writings of Ansot are the best source for a description of the man, but the scope is limited. Perhaps there are some Imhofs living in the region that may have some additional info on this significant figure in the history of San Francisco fencing.
However, Tronchet is not the only pre-1900 Fencing Master from the San Francisco region. Coming soon, I hope, I’ll have the story of Colonel Thomas Hoyer Monstery, whose picture should be in the dictionary under “larger than life”.