How Edward T. Stotesbury Started World’s Biggest High School RegattaThe Stotesbury Cup dates from 1927. By then, its donor, the 78-year-old Edward T. Stotesbury, was one of Philadelphia’s wealthiest and most accomplished men. He owned a 100,000 square foot mansion in Philadelphia’s northern suburbs. Whitemarsh Hall had 147 rooms and 28 bathrooms not to mention 300 acres of land cared for by some 70 gardeners. He had had a huge career, as senior partner of Drexel & Co. as well as J.P. Morgan.
Besides that he was civic-mind and had served a president of the Fairmount Park Commission for 26 years.
But little known and largely unheralded was his membership in the Bachelors Barge Club, which he had joined at age 38, even though he did not row. It was a social thing.
By the 1920s, great rowers were emerging on Boathouse Row who were dominating world rowing (including John B. Kelly Sr. and Paul Costello). Stotesbury’s clubmate, Garrett Gilmore had won the silver single sculls medal in the 1924 Olympics, and like Kelly, he wanted to encourage youth rowing so Philadelphia could maintain its global clout.
So he turned to the wealthy Stotesbury to donate a cup for a single “school boys” race. And so it began. Today the Stotesbury Regatta is the largest high school race in the world, with more than 5000 rowers, both male and female.
(Published May 5, 2017)