The Hobbs Trophy

Just two years after The Great War ended, a group of winter sports enthusiasts in Lake Placid, New York formed an organization called the Sno Birds. The Sno Birds aimed to organize and promote figure and speed skating, skiing, tobogganing, curling and other popular winter sports in the area, and were affiliated with the various national governing bodies of winter sports at the time, including the U.S. Figure Skating Association. A man named Ernst des Baillets, who had served on the executive of similar Winter Sports Clubs in Caux, Les Avats and Chamonix as well as the Tuxedo Club in New York, served as the organization's director in its infancy.

Charles Buxton Hobbs

One of the more important goals of the Sno Birds was to organize winter sports festivals... which included figure skating competitions. The first of these festivals took place in 1920, the year the club was formed. That same year, Charles Buxton Hobbs, a well-to-do Virginia born Yale and Columbia grad who worked as a lawyer at the New York City firm Gifford, Stearns, Hobbs & Beard, donated The Hobbs Trophy to the group.

Much like the Hippodrome Challenge Cup which had been much sought after during wartime, the figure skating competitions for The Hobbs Trophy drew a veritable who's who of American figure skating to Lake Placid. Skaters from as far away as Boston, New Haven and Philadelphia - many of the same skaters who vied for top honours at the U.S. Championships during the roaring twenties - made the trek to the village to vie for the prize. Though they competed in separate classes, both men and women were eligible for The Hobbs Trophy. In order to earn permanent possession of the Trophy, all they had to do was win their class of competition at the annual Lake Placid figure skating competition on three separate occasions.

Ethel Bijur, Bedell H. Harned, Mrs. and Mr. Henry Wainwright Howe, Virginia Slattery and Ferrier T. Martin skating in Lake Placid in 1925. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

In 1925, Beatrix Loughran won the senior women's competition for the third consecutive year and became the first person to be able to take to take the Hobbs Trophy home and rest it on her mantle. Her ownership of the Trophy was short-lived. In 1926, George Braakman defeated Ferrier T. Martin and Heaton Ridgway Robertson to win his third consecutive men's title and earned his right to the coveted prize. That same year, Cecil Smith of Toronto defeated Ada Bauman of New York to become the first Canadian skater to win the women's contest. Over fifty skaters from Canada and the U.S. competed in the event that year. Writing in "Skating" magazine, M.L. Wright recalled, "Stars And Stripes, Union Jacks and Canadian flags floated in the snowy air above the glistening ice as the skaters glided about, their dark formal costumes outlined against the high banks of snow around the rink. Low temperature prevailed and a considerable snowfall added to the picture... Miss Smith gave a more remarkable exhibition than heretofore seen on the Club rink." She defended her title the following year.

The figure skating competitions in Lake Placid during the twenties and thirties also featured competitions for pairs, junior men and women and contests in Waltzing, the Tenstep and the Fourteenstep. Many skaters who medalled at the U.S. Championships during the era, including Roger Turner, James B. Greene, Rosalie Dunn, Gail Borden II, Dr. Hulda Berger and the Weigel Sisters all struck gold in Lake Placid. By the thirties, Mrs. R.W. Allen (who had competed against Beatrix Loughran for the Hobbs Trophy in 1925) had donated a platter for skaters who won their class twice as opposed to thrice. Bedell H. Harned and Henry Wainwright Howe, who both won dancing titles in Lake Placid during the roaring twenties, also donated cups as prizes. 

As all of these contests were held outside, skaters of course had to contend with Mother Nature. Hothouse skaters and seasoned pond skaters alike struggled in 1924. The dance events had to be postponed when temperatures dipped as low as minus twenty nine Celsius. They were back on when the temperatures rose to a not so balmy minus twenty three. In 1936, Boston's Polly Blodgett struck gold in the women's event, her dress caked with snow from an ensuing blizzard.

Though the 1932 Winter Olympic Games have (rightfully) garnered much more attention than these early contests in Lake Placid, it's important to consider that with the cast of characters present, these events were every bit as important historically as the early U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating. Over ten years, the blog has featured over a thousand free articles covering all aspects of the sport's history, as well as four compelling in-depth features. To read the latest articles, follow the blog on FacebookTwitterPinterest and YouTube. If you enjoy Skate Guard, please show your support for this archive by ordering a copy of the figure skating reference books "The Almanac of Canadian Figure Skating", "Technical Merit: A History of Figure Skating Jumps" and "A Bibliography of Figure Skating":