The 1935 North American Figure Skating Championships

You might not have known it was The Great Depression. In the weeks leading up to February 21 and 22, 1935, people scrounged together their coins to go see Barbara Stanwyck star in the film "The Lady In Red". They amused themselves with the brand new Parker Brothers board game "Monopoly" and tapped their toes to Cole Porter's hit "I Get A Kick Out Of You". Perhaps most importantly, they queued up by the thousands in Montreal, Quebec when the biggest names in both Canadian and American figure skating squared off at the North American Figure Skating Championships.

A who's who of figure skating at the 1935 North American Championships. Left to right: (top row) Roger Turner, Polly Blodgett, Robin Lee, Veronica Clarke, Osborne Colson, Ardella Kloss, Joseph K. Savage; (second row) Roy Hunt, Donald B. Cruikshank, Estelle and Louise Weigel, Wingate Snaith, Louise Bertram; (third row) Nettie Prantel, William Bruns, Suzanne Davis, Frederick Goodridge; (fourth row) George E.B. Hill, Maribel Vinson, Mrs. William Bruns, Mrs. Margaret Davis, Frances Claudet, James Lester Madden, Grace Madden, Stewart Reburn; (bottom row) Prudence Holbrook, Melville Rogers, Guy Owen, Constance Wilson-Samuel and Bud Wilson. Photo courtesy "Skating Through The Years".

The 1935 North American Championships - a two-day affair held on a Thursday and Friday - was held nearly a month after that year's Canadian Championships and one week prior to the U.S. Championships, giving Canadian skaters the further advantage of being well-rested... on top of skating on home ice. School figures were contested at the Montreal Winter Club and free skating at the Montreal Forum. Charlie Morgan Rotch, Joel B. Liberman and Lillian Cramer acted as the three American judges. Canada's trio of judges were Allan E. Howard, Norman V.S. Gregory and Norman Mackie Scott. The referee was former Canadian Champion Douglas Henry Nelles. Let's take a look back at how things played out!


Bud Wilson skated his way to his fourth consecutive North American men's title in Montreal, easily besting Robin Lee, James Lester Madden, Roger Turner, Osborne Colson, Geddy Hill, Guy Owen and Wingate Snaith. Bud's four men's titles at North Americans were a record at the time... but he went on to win another two in 1937 and 1939. In the history of the event, no other man was able to win four... let alone six!


Bud Wilson's sister Constance also set a North American record no other woman was able to beat in 1935. She claimed her fourth consecutive North American women's title, ahead of Maribel Vinson,
Suzanne Davis, Veronica Clarke, Louise and Estelle Weigel and Frances Claudet.

Maribel skated uncharacteristically poorly in the women's event in Montreal, faltering on one of her figures and falling on a reverse jump in her free skate. Constance, on the other land, included a double jump in her winning free skate... a rarity in those days. Estelle Weigel and Frances Claudet both wore shorts for their figures, which caused quite a stir as compared to the red dress of Maribel, blue dress of Constance and brown dress and beret of Veronica.


Redeeming herself after her performance in the women's event, Maribel Vinson and partner Geddy Hill became the first American pair to win the North American title since Theresa Weld Blanchard and Nathaniel Niles exactly ten years prior. Constance and Bud Wilson, who had won the event the last three times, settled for silver.

Constance and Bud Wilson (left) and Maribel Vinson and Geddy Hill (right)

Louise Bertram and Stewart Reburn, Grace and James Lester Madden, Frances Claudet and Donald B. Cruikshank, Polly Blodgett and Roger Turner and Eva Schwerdt and William H. Bruns rounded out the unusually deep pairs field. The February 23, 1935 issue of "The New York Times" described Maribel and Geddy's performance thusly: "Skating almost as one, they swirled around the ice, each figure being executed with grace. A series of difficult jumps which brought rounds of applause from a crowd of 5,000 climaxed their performance."

The Minto Four (Margaret Davis, Prudence Holbrook, Melville Rogers and Guy Owen) were the clear winners in the fours event. The New York Four (Nettie Prantel, Ardelle Kloss, Joseph K. Savage and Roy Hunt) placed second and the Boston Four (Suzanne Davis, Grace Madden, Geddy Hill and Frederick Goodridge) placed third.

During the computation of the marks, there was an informal Waltzing contest. The judges selected their top four after an elimination round and the audience's applause for each couple determined the skate order in the finals. The winners were Louise Bertram and Stewart Reburn.

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