The oars were presented to Harvard’s winning crew by then-future US President General Franklin Pierce in 1852 and were rediscovered about 30 years ago in Medford, MA.
Gamze Kazakoglu & Nicole Rodriguez
In May, Sotheby’s, one of the world’s largest fine art and luxury goods brokers, will hold an online auction for the 1852 Yale-Harvard Regatta trophy oars, estimated at between $3 million and $5 million. .
The Yale-Harvard Regatta, commonly known as The Race, is America’s oldest college athletic competition. Since its inception in 1852, the race has hosted male heavyweight crews from Yale and Harvard every year, with exceptions such as major world wars and the COVID-19 pandemic. Since 1878, The Race has taken place in New London, CT, where Yale and Harvard have permanent compounds. The Gales Ferry Boathouse at Yale is located 84 km from New Haven and the Red Top Boathouse at Harvard is 173 km from Cambridge. The 1852 oars were presented to Harvard’s winning crew by General Franklin Pierce, who became the 14th President of the United States a year later. After being lost to history and rediscovered some 30 years ago, the oars will appear at auction for the first time in May.
“These trophy oars mark the beginning of American intercollegiate sports and are an important relic of American history,” wrote Richard Austin, Sotheby’s Head of Books and Manuscripts, in a press release. “These sporting icons predate the Civil War, and their incredible serendipitous rediscovery four decades ago saved them from forever loss. Sotheby’s has a long tradition of providing the most important sporting artifacts, and we are delighted to once again present for sale a historic piece of American sports history.
In 1843, Yale University founded the first collegiate crew team in the United States. Harvard University followed a year later by founding its yacht club. Although both organizations served primarily social purposes, in 1852 Yale rower James Whiton suggested a race between Yale and Harvard to test the “power” of rowers from both universities. Whiton met with Boston, Concord and Montreal Railroad Superintendent James Whiton, who also encouraged the proposal for a run.
In May, Sotheby’s will auction the 1852 trophy oars from the first Yale-Harvard regatta. Founded in 1744, Sotheby’s is a British-based American multinational corporation, one of the world’s largest brokers of fine, decorative and luxury art. Sotheby’s operates through auctions and buy-it-now channels, including private sales, e-commerce and retail to preserve fine art and rare objects, promote access and knowledge .
The auction of the lot is worth an estimate of three to five million. The oars were discovered 30 years ago in the basement of a house in Medford, Massachusetts. Since then they have remained in the family’s private collection.
The online sale will be open for the auction period from May 17 to 24. There will be an exhibition at Sotheby’s York Avenue Galleries open to the public from May 19-23.
After a three-year hiatus, the next Yale-Harvard Regatta will take place June 11 in New London, CT.