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Buster Crabbe Second from left, with Duke P. Kahanamoku, far left , Harold "Stubby" Kruger, far right, and an unidentified Red Cross boy scout, at the Olympic tryouts, Cincinnati, Ohio.

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Crabbe, Buster (07 February 1908–23 April 1983), athlete and motion picture actor, was born Clarence Linden Crabbe in Oakland, California, the son of Edward Crabbe and Agnes McNamara. When Crabbe was two, the family moved to Hawaii, where his father was overseer of a pineapple plantation. There Crabbe’s natural abilities in many sports brought him the lifelong nickname of “Buster.” He earned sixteen sports letters in high school, set thirty-five national and sixteen world swimming records during his years in sports competition, and was a member of the U.S. swimming team for the Olympics of 1928 (Amsterdam) and 1932 (Los Angeles). He received a B.A. from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles in 1932. In the Olympics that same year he crowned his athletic career by winning the gold medal for the 400-meter freestyle event, coming in first by one-tenth of a second. “That one-tenth of a second changed my life,” he said ( ...

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Crowninshield, George, Jr. (27 May 1766–26 November 1817), merchant and yachtsman, was born in Salem, Massachusetts, the son of George Crowninshield, a merchant, and Mary Derby. Though never married, he had one daughter, Clarissa (called Clara), whose mother was Elizabeth Rowell. The Crowninshields, among the richest Salem merchant families, gained their wealth through privateering and in the Far Eastern trade for which Salem was famed in the later eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. After studying navigation and going to sea as a captain’s clerk, Crowninshield commanded a ship to the West Indies in 1790 and, according to records, commanded the ...

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Daniels, Charles Meldrum (24 March 1885–09 August 1973), swimmer, was born in Dayton, Ohio. Nothing is known of his parentage or early education. His Olympic career began at the 1904 Games in St. Louis, Missouri, where he won three gold, one silver, and one bronze medal. The gold medals came for his performances in the 220-yard freestyle, the 440-yard freestyle, and on the winning 4 ×  50-yard freestyle relay team; the silver medal was won in the 100-yard freestyle, behind Hungary’s Zoltán von Halmay; and the bronze was earned in the 50-yard freestyle behind von Halmay and the American J. Scott Leary. Daniels also competed in the Intercalated Olympics of 1906 in Athens, where he won the 100-meter freestyle. He defended that title at the 1908 Olympics in London and added another bronze medal in the 4 ×  200-meter freestyle relay....

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Duryea, Harmanus Barkulo (13 December 1863–25 January 1916), sportsman, was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Harmanus Barkulo Duryea, a lawyer and politician, and Mary Peters. Having inherited wealth, Duryea would spend his life engaged in a variety of sporting pursuits....

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Freeth, George Douglas (08 November 1883–07 April 1919), surfer, was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, the son of an English sea captain and a Hawaiian princess whose names are unknown. At the time of his birth, New England missionaries had succeeded in banishing surfing from most of the local island population. A noticeable exception to the surfing ban were members of the royal Hawaiian family. Given his royal status (Freeth’s mother was raised by Queen ...

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Duke Kahanamoku. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-115293).

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Kahanamoku, Duke Paoa (24 August 1890–22 January 1968), Olympic swimming champion and world-recognized surfer, was born and raised in the old Kalia District of Honolulu near the present location of the Hawaiian Village Hotel, the son of Halapu Kahanamoku, a police officer, and Paakonia Lonokahikini Paoa, or Julia. He was named after his father, who had been christened “Duke” by Princess Bernice ...

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Kealoha, Warren Daniels (03 March 1904–08 September 1972), Olympic gold medal swimmer, was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, then a territory of the United States, and was adopted by Kaio and Kaai Kealoha, who were relatives of his Hawaiian mother. His father was a foreigner or “haole,” surnamed Daniels. Kealoha attended St. Louis and Punahou Schools and learned to swim in a pond known as “Blue Pool.” Some biographies have erroneously referred to him as the brother of Pua Kealoha, also a gold medal swimmer from Hawaii in the 1920 Olympic Games, but the two were not related....

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Kelly, John Brendan (04 October 1889–20 June 1960), athlete and businessman, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of John Henry Kelly, a woolen mill worker, and Mary Ann Costello. Both parents were Irish immigrants, and “Jack” Kelly was the youngest boy in a family of ten children. From modest beginnings, the Kellys of Philadelphia’s East Falls, a working-class neighborhood near the Schuylkill River, went on to enjoy unusual success in business, entertainment, and sports. Among Kelly’s brothers were ...

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Kelly, John Brendan, Jr. (24 May 1927–02 March 1985), businessman and athlete, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of John B. Kelly, Sr., a businessman, and Margaret Majer. The brother of actress Grace Kelly, he was the only son of parents who had distinguished themselves in sports prior to their marriage. His mother had been a competitive swimmer and had earned her college degree in physical education, while his father had won three gold medals in rowing at the 1920 Olympics in Antwerp, Belgium....

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Kiphuth, Robert John Herman (17 November 1890–07 January 1967), swimming coach and athletic director, was born in Tonawanda, New York, the son of John Kiphuth, a mill hand, and Mary Benin. After graduating from Tonawanda High School in 1909, he became physical education director at the Tonawanda Young Men’s Christian Association. He studied physical education at Harvard in the summer of 1912....

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Kurtz, Frank (1911–31 October 1996), athlete, military aviator, was born Frank Allen Kurtz in Davenport, Iowa, the son of Frank Kurtz, Sr., an insurance salesman, and Dora Kurtz (maiden name unknown). His parents divorced shortly after he was born. Kurtz ran away from home at the age of twelve to hawk newspapers in Kansas City, Missouri. Possessed of youthful dynamism, he was soon featured in the ...

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Pilkington, James (04 January 1851–25 April 1929), athlete and sport administrator, was born in Cavendish, Windsor County, Vermont, the son of Thomas Pilkington and Ann Cusack, farmers. Tall and especially mature for his age, Pilkington dropped out of high school and on 5 June 1863 joined the Union army as a bugler in the Twenty-fourth Independent Battery of Ohio Volunteer Light Artillery. After the war the 6′ 2″, athletically inclined Pilkington joined the New York City police force and immediately became a champion amateur boxer, wrestler, and club rower. In 1877 he married Constance Burke; they had one child. As a member of the Broadway Police Squad, Pilkington helped found the Police Athletic and Empire Athletic associations. On 11 March 1882 the old Madison Square Garden hosted the national amateur heavyweight boxing and wrestling championships, with Pilkington winning both events....

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Stevens, John Cox (24 September 1785–10 June 1857), yachtsman, was born in Hoboken, New Jersey, the son of John Stevens, an attorney and locomotive inventor, and Rachel Cox. Stevens grew up with his ten siblings on the Stevens family estate in Hoboken. After graduating from Columbia College in 1803, Stevens invested in the development of steam-propelled water vessels. In 1809 he married Maria C. Livingston, a member of the wealthy and prominent Livingston family of New Jersey. Stevens and his wife divided their time between the Hoboken property owned by the Stevens family, a mansion in Manhattan, and a large farmhouse on the western end of Long Island. In 1827 he and his brother ...

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Vanderbilt, William Kissam (12 December 1849–22 July 1920), railroad capitalist and sportsman, was born on a farm near New Dorp, Staten Island, New York, the son of William Henry Vanderbilt and Maria Louisa Kissam. He was the grandson of “Commodore” Cornelius Vanderbilt. William studied with private tutors and later attended a school in Geneva, Switzerland. At nineteen he was sent to work in New York City as a clerk and bookkeeper under Charles C. Clarke, the treasurer of the Hudson River Railroad, a line his grandfather had controlled since 1865. The Commodore believed that only hard work would keep his grandsons from becoming spoiled. William worked his way up various clerical grades in Clarke’s office....

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Johnny Weissmuller Renewing his Red Cross Life Saving Corps membership, with Marian Levin of the Chicago Chapter of the Red Cross at left, and Weissmuller's coach, William Bachrach, at right, 1925. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-113058).

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Weissmuller, Johnny (02 June 1904–20 January 1984), swimmer and actor, was born Janos Weissmuller in Freidorf, Romania (then Austria-Hungary), the son of Peter Weissmuller, a miner, and Elizabeth Kersh, a cook. The Weissmullers immigrated to the United States with seven-month-old Janos, renaming him Johann. After a short time in Windber, Pennsylvania, the family moved to Chicago. When Weissmuller qualified for the 1924 U.S. Olympic team, Illinois congressman Henry Rathbone questioned his citizenship. Using his brother’s Pennsylvania baptismal records, the champion swimmer obtained his American passport under the name Peter John Weissmuller. His given name and European birth remained largely unknown until after his death....