I’m not sure of the original source for the story, but it goes like this.  In the early days of the AFLA, precursor to today’s USA Fencing, the East Coast was in charge.  They had more fencers, more coaches, more clubs, and darn it, they started the league.  Consequently, they picked the Olympic team.  West Coast fencers were mostly shut out of the process.  This was due, in large part, to the US National Championship – the primary qualifying event – being held every year in New York City.  Anyone out west was going to have to bus, train or pony express themselves to NYC at least once a year if they wanted to attempt to qualify.  As the Pacific Coast section grew into the largest region outside Metro NY, West Coast members became more vocal about the disparity in the selection process.  In an effort to quell the dissension – and this is the part of the story that I’d like to have more specifics on – a contingent of New York fencers came out west to have a tournament with the left-coasters to prove the superior quality of the Easterners.  As the story goes, the New Yorkers were sent home with no medals in foil or epee and only a bronze in sabre to show for their trip.  Clearly, the Pacific Coast had shown up to play.  Out of this came an agreement that, for the 1932 Olympic fencing team selection, the winners of the Pacific Coast Championship in each weapon would be on the Olympic team.  (One side note: this seems to have only applied to the men.  Edith Jane, future wife of Ralph Faulkner, won the Women’s Foil Pacific Coast Championship in 1932 but was not on the Olympic team.  I’m imagining a back room deal with so much cigar smoke the guys conveniently forgot the women should be part of the arrangement.  Yeah, I call shenanigans.)

As it turned out, because the Pacific Coast Championships were in April of 1932 and the winners (the men’s events winners) would be on the Olympic team, the PCC champs would be the first confirmed selections to the US Olympic Team for the 1932 Los Angeles Olympic Games.  And the first scheduled event was the Men’s Foil.  Thus, the first selection for the 1932 Olympic team, representing San Francisco’s Olympic Club, was Ted Lorber.  That’s him on the right up top, shaking hands with teammate-to-be Ralph Faulkner.

The caption on the back of the press photo at the top of today’s story.  The “Olympic Tryouts” is a bit misleading, as the official fencing trials were the National Championships.  If it was “an Olympic Tryout” instead of “the Olympic Tryout” it would be a little more accurate.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of Ted Lorber photographs.  Still, it’s fun going through search results on Newspapers.com and reading up on his background and history.  He grew up in Zanesville, Ohio, the son of a famous designer of pottery.  Rudolph Lorber, born in Austria, worked for the Weller Pottery Company and during one period of his career produced masterworks of the Arts & Crafts era.  He developed a number of pottery lines and unique glazing techniques during his years with Weller.  There are some terrific examples of his work available on Ebay, by the way.  I may have to start a new collection.  Zanesville, the Lorber’s home town, is just a short hop to a town very well known to today’s competitive fencers – Columbus, Ohio.  Home of Ohio State University.  It’s no surprise, therefore, that OSU was Ted’s choice for college.

Headline from Zanesville’s Times Recorder dates from March of 1927.

Lorber captained – and coached! – the OSU fencing squad for his junior and senior years (1927 and 1928) and traveled to New York for the Intercollegiate Fencing Championships in 1928, where he finished seventh in a field dominated by the winner, future multi-Olympian and National Champ Dernell Every from Yale. (Multiple articles list Lorber as “runner up” at the IFA’s of 1928, but that’s playing a little loose with the results as printed in the New York Times.) I’ve been trying to determine who would have put him on the right path to an Olympic berth in fencing as a young man to no avail.  The earliest coach at OSU that I can find a record of is one Dr. Frank Reibel, circa 1941.  There has to be a longer history than that, but I’m still in the dark about it.  Interestingly, the OSU’s regional championship was the Western Conference.  What schools were in that league in the 1920s, I wonder?  Ok, back to what I do know.

Not only was Lorber a competitor and coach, but an organizer as well.  He petitioned – successfully, I believe – to start a Columbus division of the AFLA.  Detroit is mentioned toward the end of the article above, which was, at this time, the Midwest powerhouse due to the presence of Bela de Tuscan.  Salle de Tuscan produced a whole bunch of regional and national champions for several decades and Bela coached collegiately at Syracuse, University of Michigan and Wayne State.  Not all at once, I imagine.

It’s clear that the local paper in Zanesville was touting Ted as an Olympic hopeful in 1928, and that’s not a terribly outrageous statement to make.  However, in the final tally, he wasn’t really pushing for contention until the following Olympic cycle.  Somewhere in between Lorber’s 1928’s graduation from OSU’s College of Commerce and the year 1932, Lorber moved west.

Ted went into the family business as the West Coast Rep for the Weller Pottery company.  Weller was established in 1872 and lasted until 1948.  They were a large producer of art pottery, making scads of vases, sconces and the like, and they are considered to be one of the top ten US producers from the Arts & Crafts period.

Lorber was briefly in Los Angeles before settling in the San Francisco area.  Since he wasn’t staying in LA, the LAAC folks were kind enough to direct him to the Olympic Club, which had a long history with fencing.  Depending on when Ted got to SF and whether he was taking lessons or not, he may have been learning from Leon Pequex, who’s name came up recently on this site because of his challenge to Charles Vical for a duel.  (See the full story here.)  Pequex taught at the OC from 192 until retiring in 1931, to be followed by one Edward Calmer.  Calmer’s professional fencing name was “Remlac” and therefore is someone I can’t begin to take seriously.  He seems to have lasted at the Olympic Club less than a year before being replaced by John Lincoln Raymond, yet another Bay Area teacher who’s reputation and skill level I’m needing to research.  (My thanks to Harold Hayes for donating some papers from Arthur Lane who, in the mid-50s, was trying to run down a complete list of the fencing masters and coaches who had ever worked in the Bay Area.)

The above is from the Akron Beacon, so Ted was still making the news in Ohio after he’d removed to the coast.

The thing that seems pretty clear, unless new information comes my way, is that Lorber did not have the benefit of a known coach or mentor.  Hopefully I’ll be proven wrong on that front, if only because I like it when new information comes my way to make me re-think previously established ideas.  But if it’s true that he learned by doing, and not by benefit of a trained master, the guy did extremely well for himself.  As a case in point, in 1933, after the dust had settled from the Olympics, Lorber was in New York for the US Nationals and claimed 5th in the sabre final.

Helene Mayer’s title defense at the 1932 Olympic Games didn’t go as planned.  Also, note the lack of inclusion of the name Edith Jane in the list of the ladies representing US hopes.  And for some reason, the center column of this article is all wonky.  Somebody re-arranged the type without double checking to make sure it still said what they meant it to say.  Here is how it should read:

“With the exception of Fraulein Helene Mayer of Offenbach, Germany, who won the women’s foils championship in 1928, none of the other individual champions of 1928 will appear in the Xth Olympiad. The great Lucien Gaudin of France who won the individual Olympic honors in both foils and dueling swords in the Olympiad of 1928, will not take part this year, although he is expected to be present at the Games.  The spectacular Tersztyanszky of Hungary, who won the saber championship in 1928, was killed a few years ago in a motor accident.

The important note – for me – in the article above is the confirmation of Henri Uyttenhove’s appointment as Olympic coach, if only for his guys from the LAAC.  However, Hal Corbin actually was only really coached by Captain John Duff during Corbin’s time at UCLA.  By 1932, Duff had moved from Los Angeles and he had told Corbin before leaving not to let anyone change his game.  Corbin had a unique and effective epee style, so he didn’t take lessons from Uyttenhove, but did fence at the LAAC.  Once the US squad gathered in Los Angeles to prepare for the Games, George Santelli tried to turn Corbin into a ‘normal’ epee fencer.  By the time Corbin hit the piste for the individual event, he was so confused he didn’t know what was what and got blown out.  Although he did defeat Duris de Jong, who was also fencing at the LAAC at that time.

Ted Lorber was a shade over six feet tall, but this long, thin news photo makes him look like a giant.  Lorber only competed in Los Angeles in the individual foil event and was eliminated in the first round.  He needed one more bout victory and some help with indicators to advance and it just didn’t happen.  Qualifying one spot ahead of him and moving to the next round was Duris de Jong of The Netherlands who was living, fencing and teaching in Los Angeles in 1932.

Lorber wasn’t used in the team event, which meant that of the seven foilists the US squad carried, he was the only won who did not receive one of the team foil bronze medals the Americans took home from the 1932 games.  The exact same thing happened? was purposely done? to Hal Corbin, one of the other Pacific Coast champs that qualified to the team.  The exclusion is hard to understand.  If they could only carry 6 fencers on the team squad, that’s one thing.  But if you’re going to put someone into the individual event, why would you not also carry them as a member of the team and keep your squad number to 6?  My guess is that New York didn’t like having to give up any slots to the West Coasters and so carried an additional team member from their cadre of friends to displace the West Coasters from the team events where they could.  Even in that, it wasn’t done consistently.  Lorber and Corbin were kept off teams that medaled.  Both the epee and foil teams from the US got bronze in 1932. Ralph Faulkner, fencing sabre, was held out of the individual event, but did get a shot in the team.  He was thrown to the wolves against the Hungarians in a match the US knew they would lose.  The US team took 3 bouts from the Hungarians of the 16 fenced – they fielded teams of four fencers per match – and Faulkner got two of the three victories.  Then, when matched against the Polish team for the bronze medal, did they use the guy who’d taken two bouts from the near-unbeatable Hungarians?  You know, go with the hot hand?  They did not.  The US squad finished tied with the Poles 8 bouts to 8, and lost the bronze medal by a single touch.  A guy who could beat Aladar Gerevich just might have been able to help.

The Pacific Coast champions of 1932.  From left: Ted Lorber, Hal Corbin and Ralph Faulkner.

After his 5th place finish in sabre at the 1933 US Nationals, Lorber pretty much dropped out of site in the fencing world.  Whether he lost interest or got busy with life, career and family, I just don’t know.  I have a lot of news clippings from the mid-1930s, but after 1933, Lorber’s name only appears once, in 1937, taking the gold medal at a San Francisco open foil event.  He was representing the Olympic Club, so presumably he was still fencing to some extent.  At least enough to maintain his membership.  I’m not sure how their rules work.  It would stand to reason that if a member gained an Olympic team berth, the Olympic Club would let them hang around just as long as they wanted to, assuming dues were paid on time.  I don’t imagine even the title “Olympian” got you a pass on membership fees.  Not even if you were the very first one selected.

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