Helene Mayer was born in Offenbach, Germany, in 1910. At 13, she began an unbroken string of German championships that continued until she left for the 1932 Olympics and college in the US. At 17 she won gold at the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics and became a celebrity, appearing in newspapers, magazines and on collectible sports cards.
After competing at the Los Angeles Olympics in 1932, she remained in Southern California to pursue a college degree and began a long career of dominating women’s foil in the US on both the regional and national level. After college, she took a job at Mills College in Oakland, teaching languages and fencing.READ MORE...
In 1936 she was the only Jewish athlete to compete for Germany at the Olympic Games where she finished with the Silver Medal. Without her participation, it’s likely the US would have boycotted the Games. In addition to her Olympic triumphs, she was World Champion three times and US National Champion nine times. She represented three clubs during her time in the US: the Los Angeles Athletic Club, the Funke Fencing Academy and the Halberstadt Fencers Club. Hans Halberstadt and Helene had trained under the same fencing master in their home club in Offenbach and likely met before Helene was in her teens. They remained steadfast friends until her untimely death at the age of 52.
The Latin meaning of that, according to Google Translate, is “Wine of the Spirit”. As a philistine in the ways of Latin, I’ll have to accept it. No clue. Truly.
A number of people over the years have done impersonations of the inimitable Hans Halberstadt and they range wide in both style and substance. Charlie Selberg knew Hans well and would often quote him during fencing lectures or footwork drills.
I’ll say up front that I’m sick of my desk and computer. I still spend long parts of my day here, but motivation to string my thoughts together in a coherent way have been sparse.
A number of things have come my way recently through various paths. Taken individually, they add to the collection in nice ways, but don’t necessarily give me the grist to crank out a full story around them.
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.
The above picture has been assumed to be Hans Halberstadt for a very long time. I thought so myself, even after scanning it (thanks Kathy Krusen!) at high resolution and having every opportunity to review it with a critical eye.
One of my favorite subjects to write about it the famous foilist and Olympic champion, Helene Mayer. There are numerous photographs of her in the Archive collection and since she was based in California for many of her competitive years, her story fits my focus.
After spending the better part of this week running down stories that haven’t yet fully revealed themselves, I thought I’d revisit one of my many favorite subjects: Helene Mayer. There are a lot of photographs of Ms. Mayer out there, but several of the following are, I believe, unique to the interwebs until now.
A recent gift to the Archive has me dumbfounded. It’s existence was something I had speculated about in a vague way, but never dreamed of finding proof for. Much less, having the proof come directly to me as a donation to the Archive.
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