Gifts and Acquisitions
It’s been a bit since our last update and I will say from the get-go here that we’ll have a pretty big announcement coming soon to this page, but not yet. Not yet.
In the interim, I thought it might be fun to share some recently passed-into-my-hands items from a few different sources.
Let’s begin with some interesting tid-bits hauled down from online bidding websites. Let’s go oldest to latest!
This little tyke – he’s only about 3.5” across and 5” high – is a 1911 Murad Tobacco collectible. I guess smoking was a big thing for the class of 1911’s fencers. Well, no. Actually, the Murad company issued a set of 10 sport silks for a variety of universities, Stanford being one of several. Each school’s set had the same figure for each of the ten chosen sports, so the Stanford fencer looks just like the Yale fencer looks just like the Johns Hopkins fencer, just with different color schemes in the surround. There are usually several on Ebay at any given time. You can search for your alma mater!
The back of this photo is dated 1923, and there’s the rub. In an earlier post that you can find here: http://www.westcoastfencingarchive.com/2015/02/23/uc-berkeley-1917/, I had a series of photos that were dated 1917 and taken at the University of California at Berkeley. The above is suspiciously similar. In fact, the ladies standing around in the background here are look-alikes for ladies standing around in the background of photos in the earlier post. (Why are they standing around? Shouldn’t they be lunging or something?) So, I’m pretty sure the photos were taken at the same time, but how to resolve the discrepancy in the dates? The above is a press photo, and it may be the date was stamped when the photo was used, and not when it was taken. It happens. I’ll often see the backs of press photos with several dates from different uses in print. Whenever it’s from, I like the above not only for the black split skirts, but also for the transitional figure-8 guard. It’s in between the classic French figure-8 and the bell guard, with a ring around the 8. I’ve only seen one or two similar guards over the years.
Edith Jane, wife of Ralph Faulkner, taught dance at the Falcon Studios where Ralph taught fencing. The above photo is from 1930. The photo titles her as “Miss Edith Jane”, but from what I’ve gathered, she and Ralph formed Falcon around 1929, and other sources reference her as his wife at that time. Do I know for sure? I do not. The photo goes on to list her as a former Pacific Coast champion. If I’m reading the back correctly, this was taken at the Mid-winter Invitational at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, February 22, 1930.
Edith Jane again, but this time with backup. This group is preparing for the Pacific Coast Championships of 1932, an Olympic Trial event to be held at the Los Angeles Athletic Club, April 15 thru 17, 1932. Left to right are: Betty Orb, Nanette Rittler, Edith Jane and Johana Orb. I’ve only ever heard of Edith before. The other three are new names to add to the list of ‘fencers I’ve never heard of.’
Alright, this one’s for you Pacific Nor’westers, particularly those in Portland and the surrounding region. The above lunging fencer is one John (Jon?) Gusick. From what I’ve been able to track down by going through my searchable .pdf versions of The Riposte and American Fencing magazines, Jon was a New York fencer who moved west. He seems to have competed a bit in the San Francisco area, then moved to Portland. This photo, dated August of 1940, says John was the new fencing instructor at the Multnomah Athletic Club. (Hence, Portland, as Multnomah is a suburb or district therein.) There are later references in online newspapers of him teaching in Phoenix and Prescott, Arizona, but not much in between. Anybody know about Mr. Gusick?
The above is both a hit and a miss. I was bidding on this photo and a book at the same time. The book was inscribed, like this photo, to Frank Saylor from Hans Halberstadt. I missed on that, but I did score this great portrait photo of Hans dated 1948. I don’t know who Frank Saylor was. A fencer, I must assume. At the time this was taken, Hans had been in the US for 8 years and had his own club for 6. In 1948 he was 63 years old.
“Our Man Flint” with James Coburn came out in 1966. I have a couple of interesting items in the Archive that relate. James was taught fencing for the film by Joseph Vince at his Joseph Vince Studio in Hollywood. (Actually, I think they were in Westwood, which is ‘Hollywood adjacent’, as they say. Hollywood sounds better, I reckon.) The studio that made the film, 20th Century Fox, bought the outfit from Vince as well. In the material the Archive acquired from Heizaburo Okawa were the purchase records and invoices for a number of Hollywood transactions, including the equipment and lessons invoices for one James Coburn, circa 1966. Also interesting is that the background of this photo, while not taken at the Vince Studio (I’m pretty sure) is dressed in a similar style, particularly in light of the wall-hung shield with mask. Vince had a several of these types of decorations hanging on the walls of his salle. Several now grace the inside of my garage, awaiting a more permanent storage situation.
That’s 1956 Olympian and two-time National Champion (epee ‘54, foil ‘56) Skip Shurtz sorting trophies while his daughter peeks her eyes over the top of the table. This was taken in 1968, and I don’t know if Skip was sorting through his old trophies or putting together an awards table for an upcoming event, but I’m intrigued by the different fencer trophy toppers in evidence here. The modern items that you can purchase as the top of a fencing trophy are, let’s be generous, not very good. Ok, let’s not be generous. They mostly look like they were sculpted by someone who’d never seen a fencer before. And they’re usually plastic. I’ve got some engraving being done right now at a local trophy shop and the guy doing it is ordering me the only metal fencer topper on the market, so I’m going to see what’s up with it. I’ve got this hairbrained notion that getting a quality fencing pose sculpted up at trophy scale, then molded and cast, couldn’t be that hard. Could it? Then the question would be, would anyone want them? Is there a market there? Do tournament organizers still even want to do trophies?
The Halberstadt Fencers Club in San Francisco for many years had a poster sized version of this photo of the 1976 West German Men’s Foil team on the wall. I fear it probably succumbed years ago to a profusion of whacks and tears from being too close to the side of the strip, but I’ve always liked this image. This is a French sports card, bigger than an American baseball card, with lots of info on the back in French. The strange thing is that I can’t figure out the logic for the order of the fencers names. They’ve put: Hein, Sens-Gorius, Reichert, Bach and Behr. If you’re going left to right, the first and last are correct, but it gets messy in the middle. Let’s do it this way, instead. Front L-R: Harald Hein (who passed away in 2008), Thomas Bach (current president of the International Olympic Committee), Matthias Behr. Back L-R: Erk Sens-Gorius, Klaus Reichert. There. That’s better.
All of the above are recent purchases for the Archive, but the below, the last of the day in the place of honor, was a digital gift from Edwin “Buzz” Hurst, former Stanford University fencing master.
The Stanford Fencing Squad, 1980. That’s long-time coach Jean Helliwell on the far left and Maestro Hurst is on the far right. In between are the members of the 1979/1980 Stanford team. How do I know? I was on the 1979/1980 San Jose State team and many of the above faces I can vividly picture more effectively if I imagine the mesh of a mask covering their faces. By this time, varsity fencing programs on the West Coast were becoming more and more rare. Most had become ‘club’ teams that may not even have been eligible for the NCAA’s, even though they were still fielding fencing teams and the school had other NCAA programs. Cal comes to mind, and SF State. I don’t remember Cal qualifying anyone to NCAA’s, but I may be mistaken. At any rate, during the year of the fencing team pictured above, Stanford and SJSU were breathing down one another’s necks to win the NorCal championships and Westerns. Ah, that’s another tale, I suspect. I need a beer to talk through that bit of history and there’s none in the house. Jean Helliwell coached at Stanford from 1964 until her retirement in 1982. She passed away in 2001. Like every other Stanford fencing coach before her, Jean was home-grown – a Stanford fencer who became the coach – until Buzz Hurst joined the staff. I think this, 79/80, was his first season. Maybe second. Maestro Hurst now resides down in San Diego and teaches at Cabrillo Academy of the Sword and he is an excellent storyteller. I need to get down that way and find a beer for the two of us. Thanks for the above memory, Buzz!