Keeping History Alive on Mercer Island  

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Mercer Island Historical Society

Founded 1954

Keeping History Alive on Mercer Island

A Washington State Non-profit Charitable organization with 501(c)(3) status.

How There Came to Be Boys in the Boat

On December 15, 1899, students at the University of Washington accepted an offer from developer and rowing aficionado E. F. Blaine to help establish a rowing club on campus. Within a year enough money was raised and support garnered to build two four-oared rowing gigs (light narrow boats built for speed), a boathouse and a dock and float for the boats. Crew racing gained official (if unfunded) university recognition in 1903.

A few years later, UW hired Hiram B. Conibear as its first salaried rowing coach, assisted by Cornell University oarsman Mark Odell. In 1912 Conibear recruited English boatbuilding brothers Dick and George Pocock to make a racing shell for his varsity crew. The Pococks later went to work for Boeing, building pontoons for seaplanes, but continued to build racing shells, for both the UW and for other rowing programs.

After World War I, the rowing crews began using a converted seaplane hangar as their shell house, which soon also housed George Pocock's workshop. Dick Pocock left Seattle in 1922 to build shells for Yale, but George -- after quitting his job at Boeing later that same year -- remained at UW and devoted the rest of his life to building racing shells, later joined by his son, Stan Pocock. In 1923, a Pocock shell propelled UW's varsity crew towards their first national championship when they defeated Navy in the 1923 Poughkeepsie Regatta.

In 1936 Husky oarsmen made history winning gold medals at the Berlin Olympic Games. Their story is told in Daniel James Brown's award-winning book, The Boys in the Boat and the film adaptation of the book opens on Christmas Day.

MOHAI has a new exhibit, “Pulling Together: A Brief History of Rowing in Seattle.” The exhibit runs from November 24 - June 2, 2024

Article and information courtesy of HistoryLink.

All Aboard!

The Washington State History Museum's 27th annual Model Train Festival returns on December 22 in Tacoma, and will be on view until January 1. Every floor of the museum comes alive with trains, and train operators will be on hand for questions and conversations.

"History at your fingertips!"

Thanks to community donations, we have digitized 26 years' worth of the Mercer Island Reporter, accessible for free on-line -- at The years currently digitized--and key-word searchable--are: 1968-1985, 1994, 1995, 1997-2000, 2004, and 2005.

A special thank you to the donors who've contributed to our digitization project thus far: Cyclemates Bike, the Kiwanis Club of Mercer Island, the Mercer Island Rotary Club and the Mercer Island Community Fund. We welcome individuals' donations on our "Donate" page.