Iceboat Virtual Hall of Fame: John Buckstaff 1888-1960

Iceboat Virtual Hall of Fame: John Buckstaff 1888-1960

Carl Bernard, Camp Van Dyke, John Buckstaff, and Andy Flom sitting on the DEBUTANTE on Lake Winnebago in 1934. John Buckstaff is holding the Stuart Cup.

John Buckstaff Archives
If iceboating had a hall of fame, Lake Winnebago sailor, John Buckstaff would undoubtedly be among the first to be nominated. Buckstaff’s Oshkosh roots go back to his grandfather, who was born in 1799 and came from New Brunswick, Canada, to Oshkosh in 1850 and started a sawmill.

An early mention of Buckstaff in the Oshkosh Daily Northwestern newspaper was in 1903, when he was 14 years old and recognized as a skilled scow sailor. “His first experience was gained, when as a boy in knickerbockers, he constructed an iceboat and sailed it on the frozen surface of Lake Winnebago. Here he learned to be quick and certain with the tiller and to handle the sail and tack.”

Buckstaff was in Menominee, Michigan, when the Menominee, Marinette, Wisconsin, and Oshkosh ice yacht clubs formed Northwest Ice Yachting Association in 1913. The morning after a banquet at the Hotel Menominee, where 200 ice yachtsmen gathered for a feast, they organized the Northwest, which they patterned after the Inland Lake Yachting Association, a soft-water scow regatta still going strong today.

In addition to his Northwest victories, Buckstaff won two prestigious stern-steerer titles, the Stuart and Hearst Cups. In 1903, The Kalamazoo Ice Yacht Club in Michigan persuaded F.A. Stuart, maker of Stuart’s Dyspeptic pills, to donate a trophy for ice yachts carrying 850 square feet of sail or less. Later that year, a Kalamazoo club member wired newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst, asking Hearst if he would donate a trophy, in his name, for the ice boat race. Hearst complied and deeded a gold-lined silver cup.

Buckstaff was a stern-steerer man and would point BLUE BILL, FLYING DUTCHMAN, DEBUTANTE III to victory on the ice at the Stuart, Hearst, and Northwest regattas. FLYING DUTCHMAN has remained on her home lake of Lake Winnebago with Dave Lallier. DEBUTANTE III is in Menominee with Mike Derusha.

DEBUTANTE III was a Hudson River-style stern-steerer built in the famed Poughkeepsie, New York iceboat shop of Jacob Buckhought. The “DEB” with 600 square feet of sail was considered the most lightweight iceboat in the world per square foot of sail carried. DEB was the first iceboat to use aluminum runners, a much superior material than the cast iron runners traditionally used. The Oshkosh Daily Northwestern reported that the “DEB” held a speed record of 119 miles per hour clocked on Gull Lake in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

John Buckstaff passed away on the morning of Sunday, January 10, 1960, the weekend when the iceboating community gathered on Lake Winnebago for the Northwest, the regatta he had helped to begin. In a movie-like ending, DEBUTANTE III, skippered by E.W. Stroshine, won the Class A championship trophy that same day.

John Buckstaff Obituary

Northwest Class A Stern Steerer
1923 BLUE BILL, J. D. Buckstaff
1926 BLUE BILL, J. D. Buckstaff
1939 BLUE BILL II, John Buckstaff, Owner; Tom Anger, Skipper

Hearst
1932 (December) FLYING DUTCHMAN, OIYC, J. C. Van Dyke, J. D. Buckstaff (skippers)

Stuart
1920 DEBUTANTE III, OIYC, J. D. Buckstaff
1939 DEBUTANTE III, OIYC, J. D. Buckstaff

 

 

Wisconsin State Journal. February 14, 1935. A time when sports columnists followed the stars of ice yachting and rooted for the home team. The 4LIYC’s FRITZ with Carl Bernard at the helm won the Stuart that year. 

 

“Mary B, Madison’s Legendary Iceboat” Film Released

“Mary B, Madison’s Legendary Iceboat” Film Released

Screen shots from the documentary film.

Is there a better way to cool off on a sweltering summer day than by streaming a film about iceboating? Strap on your virtual helmet and creepers and watch Mary B, Madison’s Legendary Iceboat on demand, or order the DVD. Details here.

The 43-minute documentary film, produced by Donald P. Sanford, Gretta Wing Miller and Aarick Beher for the Ice Boat Foundation, Inc., tells the story of this Madison icon, the men who built and raced her and the efforts of the Foundation to restore and preserve her. It uses recently restored archival footage and interviews with sailors and Foundation members.

The DVD and the download include these special features:

  • The Stuart Cup
  • The Hearst Cup
  • On the Ice with Mr. Wright
The Original PRINCESS

The Original PRINCESS

PRINCESS II postcard with her namesake added, actress Margaret Sylvia. Postcard from the William & Carl Bernard Collection. 

The internet tells me that the ancient Greeks get credit for the tradition of boat-naming, a custom that iceboat builders continued. Growing up iceboating, all Four Lakes Ice Yacht Club classes carried names, even DNs. (In present times, the Estonians seem to be the only DN fleet that consistently attaches a name to a boat.)

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, Madison’s Fuller opera house hosted the latest touring plays and operas of the day. One actress made such an impression on Emil Fauerbach that he named his grand William Bernard-built ice yachts after her. All three of Fauerbach’s PRINCESS boats owe their name after Margaret Sylvia, who starred in the comic opera Princess Chic.

We don’t know if Ms. Sylvia ever knew the local fame bestowed upon her or that her namesake won several prestigious regatta titles, including the Hearst. Who knows, maybe one of the reasons William Randolph Hearst, who was well known for his admiration of actresses, donated the Hearst trophy was because Ms. Sylvia told him that a Madisonian had named his iceboat in her honor.

“The PRINCESS is named for Margaret Sylvia who stars in the Princess Chic and has played at the Fuller opera house. This is the second Madison ice yacht to be named in honor of an actress, the first one being the MAY BRETTON, owned by the Spooner Brothers.” Wisconsin State Journal, October 30, 1903

This Weekend in Iceboat History: Fauerbach Wins Hearst 107 Years Ago

This Weekend in Iceboat History: Fauerbach Wins Hearst 107 Years Ago


On March 16, 1914, Madisonians Emil Fauerbach and William Bernard brought the Hearst Trophy to Madison, one of the most sought after titles in ice yacht racing.
UPDATE 3-18: The original photo that was posted was incorrect. See more below.

Previous: Throw Back Thursday, Meet Emil Fauerbach

Emil Fauerbach, born 1870, grew up on Lake Monona near his family’s brewery and was obsessed with the beautiful ice yachts he saw flying around the lake, considered the fastest vehicles in the world at the time. One mile away from the brewery on the other side of Madison’s isthmus, William Bernard was born the same year and grew up immersed in his father’s boat livery on Lake Mendota, where he fulfilled his dream of building and designing iceboats.

 

Fauerbach and Bernard joined forces and chased one of the most prestigious ice yacht racing titles, the Hearst trophy. Newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst donated a gold-lined silver cup at the behest of the Kalamazoo Ice Yacht Club in Michigan in 1903. Emil’s idea was to challenge for the prestigious Hearst trophy, but in 1904 Emil sailing a Bernard-built boat, returned to Madison from Gull Lake, Michigan, without the title.

Fauerbach and Bernard’s obsession with the Hearst resulted in a new ice yacht explicitly designed to win the coveted cup. Bernard completed Princess II for Fauerbach in January of 1906. Princess II carried 426 square feet of sail, weighed 1500 pounds, and made of the finest white oak and spruce. Between 1904 and 1914, the two determined men traveled six times to Gull Lake, Michigan, trying to win the Hearst. Fauerbach was considered Madison’s “Sir Thomas Lipton,” after the British millionaire yachtsman famous for his five unsuccessful bids to win the America’s Cup.

1914: The Hearst Cup Finally Comes to Madison
PRINCESS II won the Northwest regatta Class A championship in 1914. Shortly after the win, Emil Fauerbach, PRINCESS II, and his crew of Andy Flom, William Bernard, and Hiram Nelson took the train to Michigan.

 

Fauerbach’s resolve to capture the Hearst for Madison was so great that he put aside his ego and stayed off the boat, turning over control to superior sailor Andy Flom. On March 16, 1914, Emil watched from the finish line as Flom, Nelson, and Bernard finally wrested the Hearst away from the Kalamazoo Ice Yacht Club. They were bringing the elegant trophy to Madison.

 

When the news of the victory reached Madison, the citizens were ecstatic. Henry Fauerbach, interviewed at Chicago’s Illinois Athletic Club, declared that his brother’s victory would be a good motivation for ice-yacht racing throughout the whole Northwest. In an understatement, Mendota Yacht Club Commodore Lew Porter told the Wisconsin State Journal, “it is possible that the Mendota Yacht Club will hold some sort of jollification as a result of the victory of the PRINCESS II.” The paper went on to write, “PRINCESS II, sailing the colors of the Mendota Yacht Club, has won for Madison the highest honors in this year’s leading American ice yacht regatta…Madison is particularly gratified at the splendid success of Emil Fauerbach’s iceboat because the game Badger skipper has tried several times to lift the cup.” Fauerbach’s win put Madison on the map as an iceboating community.

 

Sadly, Emil Fauerbach had only a short time to revel in the Hearst trophy’s prestige and honors. Fifteen months after he won the Hearst, Madisonians read the shocking news that their most famous ice yachtsman had passed away. Emil Fauerbach died on May 22, 1915, at 45, from complications of a stomach operation.

Misidentified as “Emil Fauerbach and possibly Andy Flom on PRINCESS I in front of Fauerbach Brewery on Lake Monona, Madison, WI, c.1905. Courtesy of Byron Tetzlaff.” Erich Schloemer pointed out that this boat isn’t a Madison-style boat as all PRINCESS boats were, but instead could be a John Buckstaff-built boat, possibly DEBUTANTE B. Stay tuned for more.

1952 Hearst on Lake Monona

1952 Hearst on Lake Monona

MARY B draws a crowd on Lake Monona.  Photos: Earl W Brown

In January 1952, Lake Monona delivered and the Four Lakes Ice Yacht Club hosted the Northwest regatta and the Hearst Challenge. (The Hearst trophy was donated in 1903 by newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst.) Lake Monona in the 1950s could be counted upon for sailable ice thanks to the soot pollution from the coal burning power plant on its northeastern shore. The downside for the Skeeters was that the coal dust very quickly dulled runners. Perhaps the coal cinders didn’t affect the big iron of the Stern-Steerer runners.

The three majestic Class A Stern Steerers that competed for the Hearst that year were 2 4LIYC boats and 1 from Oshkosh including the MARY B owned by O. T. Havey and skippered by Carl Bernard with crew Norm Braith and Charlie Johnson; FRITZ owned and sailed by Jim Lunder with Beauford Polglase; and FLYING DUTCHMEN owned by John Buckstaff of Oshkosh, WI and skippered by  Chuck Nevitt with crew Bud McDonald. MARY B was able to defend her title that year.The excitement of the regatta drew crowds and prompted the 4LIYC to set up a public address system at Law Park. Someone provided a play by play account during the racing.

These historic ice yachts are still with us today. Current owner of the FLYING DUTCHMEN, Dave Lallier in Fond du Lac, reminded me that FLYING DUTCHMEN is the correct name of the boat, not DUTCHMAN. The Van Dyke brothers from Milwaukee commissioned the FLYING DUTCHMEN in the 1930s, hence the plural designation. MARY B is back in Madison and owned by the Ice Boat Foundation while FRITZ is owned by Fred Stritt and is available for sale.

These color slides were originally posted on the Historic Madison, WI Photo Group Facebook page by the granddaughter of Earl W. Brown, the man who took them.

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