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Olympic champion crew team, University of Washington, 1936 MOHAI, Seattle Post-Intelligencer Collection, 2000.107.224.18.01

Through June 2, 2024

Pulling Together: A Brief History of Rowing in Seattle

In 1936, the University of Washington men’s rowing team did the unthinkable: despite injuries and illness, they defeated British, German, and Italian crews and brought home a gold medal at the Berlin Olympics. In celebration of the film The Boys in the Boat, directed by George Clooney, MOHAI is proud to display a selection of rare artifacts and photographs related to the 1936 champion crew which offer a look into the rich history of rowing in Seattle.

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On view at Seattle’s Museum of History & Industry (MOHAI) November 24, 2023-June 2, 2024, Pulling Together explores how the sport of rowing has united the city around the shared values of teamwork and inclusion and connected us to the world beyond.

About this Exhibit

This exhibit is organized by MOHAI in collaboration with:

A historic black and white photo of the University of Washington Men's Crew Team carrying oars from the boathouse to the water.

University of Washington crew in front of shell house, 1939
MOHAI, Seattle Post-Intelligencer Collection, 1986.5.15874.1

Related Exhibit Events

Rowing at the University of Washington

Rowing was added to the University of Washington’s sports curriculum in 1903. UW was the first college on the Pacific Coast to adopt a rowing program. By the 1920s, the men’s team had become a serious challenge for the eastern universities, which had dominated the sport for decades.

Under coach Al Ubrickson, UW rowing continued to improve and in 1936, the UW rowing team went to the Summer Olympics in Berlin. “The Miracle 9” won the gold medal in the eight-oared competition. The winning team included Don Hume, Joe Rantz, George “Shorty” Hunt, Jim McMillin, John White, Gordy Adam, Charles Day, Roger Morris, and Bob Moch.

Learn more about the history of UW rowing.

George Pocock posing for a photo with a piece of bent wood.

George Pocock, rowing shell builder, Seattle, ca. 1928
MOHAI, Seattle Post-Intelligencer Collection, 1986.5G.2411

The Pocock Legacy

George Y. Pocock (1891-1976) and his brother Dick arrived in the United States after finishing apprenticeships building boats and racing sculls on the River Thames in England. In 1912, George was recruited by UW rowing coach Hiram B. Conibear to build shells for the UW rowing team and became instrumental in the program’s success.

Possessing a deep appreciation for the art and beauty of rowing, George continued boatbuilding for fifty years, providing shells for most racing colleges in the country and many overseas as well. Pocock Racing Shells continues today and is run by Bill Tytus and his son John.

Pulling it all Together

The Return of the Husky Challenger

Built by Pocock Racing Shells in the late 1950s, the Husky Challenger was a successor to the Husky Clipper, which UW rowed to a gold medal at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. The Challenger was engineered in the same groundbreaking style as the Clipper, which dominated rowing throughout the 20th century.

At 64 feet in length, the eight-oared Challenger represents an innovative design tradition born in Seattle, using Northwest wood to create sleek and efficient shells. The boat’s skin is 3/16′ thick old-growth Western red cedar; the keel is sugar pine; and the shoulders are ash. Serving UW for many years, the Challenger was carefully restored in the early 2000s by Tuf as Nails master’s women’s rowing team.

In October 2023, the UW men’s rowing team rowed the Challenger across Lake Union to MOHAI, where it now serves as the focal point of the exhibit.

Special Thanks

MOHAI would like to thank the following for their help with this exhibit.

  • Al Mackenzie
  • Al Ulbrickson III
  • Alan Forney
  • Anna Cummins
  • Betsy Beard Stillings and John Stillings
  • The Center for Wooden Boats
  • David Eskenazi
  • Diane Lander
  • Dianne Roberts
  • Edward Ives
  • Eric Cohen
  • Judy Rantz Willman
  • Julie Morgan
  • Katie Kusske
  • Lenville P. O’Donnell
  • Marylin Oliver Bard
  • Nicole Klein
  • Rat Island Rowing & Sculling Club
  • Rinda Ulbrickson
  • Ron Jackman
  • Shyril O’Steen
  • Steve Chapin
  • Tacoma-Pierce County Sports Museum
  • Ted Shouldberg
  • Theo Mittet
  • The Hume family
  • The Moch family
  • The Morgan family
  • The Ulbrickson family
  • The W.R. Jackman family
  • Tuf As Nails Crew

Generous support for this exhibit was provided by:

  • Mike and Kathy Stanley
  • David Law and Kristin Stockard
  • MOHAI Exhibits Fund

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