With the 2018 Winter Olympic Games underway, this is a good time to highlight a recent acquisition in the Institute Archives and Special Collections: a lacrosse uniform worn in the XIV Olympiad in the summer of 1948!
A few months ago the son of an RPI lacrosse player donated his dad’s uniform consisting of a pair of shorts, a jersey (#23), and sweatpants. These items were worn by Robert J. Webb, a midfielder on the team that competed in a demonstration game against English all-stars in the London Olympics. (For information on that event check out our April 2008 and July 2012 posts.)
The jersey is particularly cool – instead of the usual “RPI” or “R” on the front, this one has “USA” emblazoned below the school letters. All that was needed to convert the school colors to those of the nation were the addition of a blue neckband and blue stripes on the sleeves. Voila – suddenly RPI represented the entire country!
The inside of each item holds additional information. Webb’s name is printed on small labels sewn into the clothing, no doubt to ensure players got the right shirt, shorts, and sweats after laundering. The original store labels indicate the uniform came from Cahill’s, a sporting goods shop that’s still in business in downtown Troy – seventy years later!
One of my favorite photos of Robert shows him and another player standing under the outstretched arms of their tallest teammate, Robert Frick. All three are proudly wearing their USA jerseys. I also like an individual photo of Webb from a program that was sold to help fund the team’s trip. In it Webb wears his regular RPI jersey instead of the “RPI USA” uniform the team wore that summer.
It’s hard to imagine that players from a single college team would be selected to represent the United States in the Olympics, but clearly things were different in 1948. I’m very excited to add tangible evidence of this unique event to our collection, thanks to a generous donation from the family of Robert Webb.