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 William Buckingham Curtis

William Buckingham Curtis

Birth
Salisbury, Addison County, Vermont, USA
Death 30 Jun 1900 (aged 63)
Coos County, New Hampshire, USA
Burial Bronx, Bronx County, New York, USA
Memorial ID 105483214 · View Source
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Sports Personality. Curtis was the son of a Presbyterian minister and college president. In 1847 he contracted tuberculosis, and his parents in an effort to speed his recovery, sent him to his step mother's family in the cooler weather in the mountains of Manchester, Vermont. While in Manchester he enrolled in Burr's Seminary and strengthened himself through a regimen of mountain climbing, walking and other sports. Through these arduous exercises he not only regained his health, but had a physique that equaled his work ethic. In 1850 his father accepted an assignment at Chicago's First Presbyterian Church, and as a result the family moved to Chicago. The following year he enrolled at Wabash College in Indiana where he excelled in such sports as gymnastic, rowing, weightlifting and sprinting. In 1852 he began a twenty year unbroken string of victories in the one hundred yard dash. In 1852 he withdrew from Wabash and enrolled at Bell's Commercial College in Chicago, where he studied business. In 1853 at his first competition in the games of the Chicago Caledonia Club he won nine events. At the beginning of the Civil War he joined the Nineteenth Illinois Volunteers and served until 1863. In 1866 he moved to New York City and in 1868 founded the prestigious New York Athletic Club. He continued to advise and help create "pure amateur" model clubs across the country. When he moved back to Chicago in 1870 he opened new sports facilities, including the Chicago Athletic Club in 1872, designed after Ottignon's Metropolitan Gymnasium in Chicago, which he helped establish in 1860 with Hubert and Charles Ottignon. Ottignon's was a clearinghouse that verified national sport records and set early national sporting contest, both professional and amateur. In 1879 he moved back to New York to edit the sporting newspaper "Spirit of the Times." He publicly rejected the artificial and elitist social boundary between amateur and professional athletes. He objected to the New York Athletic Club becoming dominated by rich people who were more concerned with socializing and status than participating in sport. He believed honesty and character were more important that a person's professional or amateur status, but opined that pure amateur sport could help athletics attain high moral standards by eliminating gambling and fraudulent show business from sporting events. He was relentless against impure sport, including numerous editorial attacks against sporting violations. He became more mellow later in life, since he had come to grudgingly accept that the business of professional sport was winning over amateur sport. He was particularly irritated by "money-grabbing" athletes and never wavered in his support of amateur athletics and what he felt made the amateur athlete the better citizen. On June 30, 1900 he and some members of the "Fresh Air Club" which he founded, attempted to scale Mount Washington in New Hampshire. He went without a coat because he claimed to have never worn one. He ignored warnings of an impending blizzard and continued to ascend the mountain. The storm intensified, and after a severe struggle died from exposure a short distance from the summit house. He was one of the first who made physical fitness a "way of life" proving it's benefits when at age forty he ran the one hundred yard dash in 10.8 seconds. He departed this life known as the "Father of American Amateur Athletics". The New York Times wrote in his obituary that at his death "the career of America's most honored athlete was closed."


Inscription

–"He was a man. Take him for all in all. I shall not look upon his like again."


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  • Created by: Saratoga
  • Added: 19 Feb 2013
  • Find A Grave Memorial 105483214
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for William Buckingham Curtis (17 Jan 1837–30 Jun 1900), Find A Grave Memorial no. 105483214, citing Woodlawn Cemetery and Conservancy, Bronx, Bronx County, New York, USA ; Maintained by Saratoga (contributor 46965279) .