S otheby’s is proud to present the Trophy Oars from the inaugural 1852 Harvard–Yale Regatta, in a single lot sale, open for bidding 17-24 May 2022.
The rivalry between Harvard and Yale is an institutional staple, marked by competitions each year—including the annual football match, “The Game,” and the annual hockey match—but its origins lie in the oldest American intercollegiate athletic competition: “The Race.” First contested in 1852, the inaugural Harvard-Yale Regatta predates “The Game” by 23 years, and it remains one the most venerable contests in this storied rivalry. The Trophy Oars from this inaugural race—now the oldest continual intercollegiate athletic competition in the United States—were presented by future President Franklin Pierce to Harvard, whose Oneida prevailed over Yale’s Shawmut on Lake Winnipesaukee.
The 1852 Harvard-Yale Trophy Oars: The Birth of American Intercollegiate Sports
But “The Race’s” debut was more than the first sporting match between the two universities—it was the very inception of organized American intercollegiate sports, now a pillar of the college experience. The camaraderie and intense rivalries born out of the intercollegiate spirit shape not only students’ and alumni’s lives, but have come to define the world of American sports—and American culture at large. These rivalries are legendary—whether it be Alabama-Auburn, Michigan-Ohio State, North Carolina-Duke, or Army-Navy—and their annual matches are an essential platform for Americans to celebrate their regional, national, and collegiate identities.
Sotheby’s is honored to present this relic of American sports history, continuing its long-standing tradition of offering the most important artifacts of sport, including the Olympic Manifesto—the foundational document outlining the birth of the modern Olympic Games—which sold for $8.8 million, making it the current world auction record for any piece of sports memorabilia; The Founding Rules of Basketball by James Naismith, which sold for $4.3 million in 2010; and Michael Jordan’s Regular Season Game Worn Nike Air Ships, which sold for $1.47 million in 2021, marking a world record for the highest price achieved for a pair of sneakers at auction.
Banner Image: Henry S. Peck/Manuscripts and Archives/Yale University