“The sport is widely in vogue”: Fencing Comes to Rice, 1924

For reasons too strange to go into here my attention was recently drawn to the history of fencing at Rice. Over time its popularity here has waxed and waned but it seems that once it arrived in 1924 there was a nearly constant presence either as a team or a club sport. Here’s the November 1924 article that heralded the organization of the first club:

Fencing Nov 14 1924 051

With a quick peek into the photo files  I discovered that almost all the images were from the 1950s, apparently a heyday of fencing here:

Fencing 1955 Charles Reed 046

Fencing 1956 Charles Reed 047

Look at this beauty, which looks to have been taken during a gym class in 1958:

Fencing 1958 outdoor class 049

Here’s the 1956 team with Coach Harold Van Buskirk:

Fencing 1956 Coach harold vanbuskirk 048

I was quite taken with Van Buskirk, who has a distinct look about him, and suspected he was behind the Rice team’s successes during this era. Indeed, it turns out that he was a fine coach and before that a fine competitor himself. A 1915 architecture graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, Van Buskirk was a member of the United States fencing team at the 1924, 1928, and 1932 Olympics as well as the US National Champion with épée in 1927. (He was also, rather unexpectedly, head of the US Navy camouflage section during World War I.) He coached at Rice for over twenty years.

If you’d like to see a clip of him fencing at the height of his powers (and really, why wouldn’t you?), here you go:


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10 Responses to “The sport is widely in vogue”: Fencing Comes to Rice, 1924

  1. Bill Peebles, Hanszen '70 says:

    Slime Bell?

  2. I don’t mind being your “strange attractor”.

    The Van Buskirk Tournament was held at Rice for many years. I took photos of the tournament at least one year. Fencing was one of the units in the freshman PE class rotation.

    Raquetball was another–always wondered if Hackerman had a hand in that one.

    Pre-tournament coverage from March 1977:


    If you want to find actual tournament coverage, “van buskirk” is a pretty danged good search term.

  3. Jeff Ross says:

    My roommate, Michael Ytterberg (1975), fenced while at Rice. I think he made a movie of the coach for a film class.

  4. Nancy Burch says:

    Fencing was one of the sports included in the required freshman PE class. As a left-hander, I found it difficult.

  5. nburch2 says:

    Fencing was one of the sports in the required freshman PE class. As a left-hander, I found it difficult.

  6. Owlcop says:

    Sorry, the link didn’t copy.


  7. francis eugene 'gene' pratt says:

    The Fencing Team pics are loaded with men from the 1956 Rice Institute Class.
    They could really fence and several were champions.

    They were very poor drinkers, however.
    And though Fred tried out for the Pimpernel role, he did NOT get it. He claimed it was discrimination.

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