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Studio of American Fencing Collage #1

I love photo collages of fencers, even when I don’t know who any of the people in the pictures are.  Especially if there are lots of faces to look at.  I always find myself looking closely and wondering, “Is that….?  No, probably not.  Well, maybe…”  Last summer I visited my old friend Len Carnighan up in Portland at the Studio of American Fencing.  He had several collages up in the club and I’d seen them before.  But now, with an eye toward protecting and preserving fencing history, I saw his collages from a new perspective.  And, sad to say, they needed some help:

Carnighan Montage No.1

Pictures had come unglued or un-taped, they were sagging, and the whole thing just called out to me.  I negotiated the loan of the four collages Len had up at the salle and brought them home.

The process was a little labor intensive and I had to take care not to damage the image of any of the photos.  Some had tape on the front, all had tape on the back that had to be carefully removed.  Once all the tape was off, I scanned all the individual images so that I could manipulate them into a new file in Photoshop, roughly re-making the original layout.  Here are some of the individual shots:


From a Los Angeles open around 1980, that’s Andrea Metkus, Ruth Botengan and Debra Allen.  I wonder if any of them still have those caricatures?


Edit Kolos talks to her director, Vinnie Bradford, as her opponent gets her foil checked.


This small one is Alan Buchwald at a Santa Cruz beach tournament.


Michael D’Asaro Sr. gives Gay D’Asaro a warm up lesson.


Another collection of D’Asaros.  Michael Jr on the left, as Charlie Selberg and Michael Sr. discuss a lesson plan during a summer workshop at San Jose State.


The final evening at the old Santa Cruz Fencers Club at the Palomar Hotel Ballroom on Pacific Avenue.  I can’t identify anyone except Bob Cotter right in the center, fencing epee in the black sweatpants, possibly fencing against Debra Allen.


Len Montage no.1

Last is the final verion I delivered back to Len.  I had it printed out larger than it had been originally and laminated it to protect it a little from foil point damage.  But I’ve still got the file, so I can always print another one for him.  He also got all the original images back, so no loss to him and I get copies of everything for the Archive.  Win!

The Selberg Instructional Series

It’s funny how things have come together while gathering items for this Archive.  When I was just getting started, I went to visit Matthew Porter at his shop, American Fencers Supply.  As he is an old Selberg fencer, I went out with the intention of letting him know that I’d corralled Charlie and Julie’s scrapbooks – all 11 of them – back to Berkeley to save them from being eaten by rodents.  When I explained about starting an archive to preserve not only Charlie’s material and story but other West Coast fencing history as well, he offered up a little tidbit he had stashed in the shop on top of a shelf.

I opened up the cardboard box to reveal:

Selberg Inst.Box

Twenty plastic boxes, each titled “Modern Foil Techniques”.  Loops 1 through 20.  What the heck?  I opened one of the boxes and found these:

Selberg Inst.Cart.1

Selberg Inst.Cart.2


Now, I worked in radio and film, so I’ve seen similar cartridges before but never anything quite like this.  Some sort of film loop cartridge.  (Lucky guess?  Hardly – it’s called “Loop” on the label) I can see an exposed strip of film on one end.  8mm or Super 8 film.  No strip of magnetic or optical soundtrack, so no audio – standard for most film of that format and size.  A close inspection of the plastic case revealed the name of the manufacturer: Technicolor.  Ok, that’s a name I’ve heard before.  But still, what the heck?

Matthew, generous to a fault, handed them over to me to figure out what they were and maybe even how to look at them.

Oh, Internet… how did we ever learn prior to thee?  I looked up ‘technicolor cartridge projector’ and got a description for what I was looking for: the Technicolor 580 Super – Instant Movie Projector!  On the market in ‘66/’67, it was an early progenitor of home video.  Only film.  And no sound.  Ok, so, I knew what I needed to get my hands on.  What next?  Why, Ebay, of course!  A quick look and boom!  Three to choose from.  A cheap one, but not working.  An expensive one, refurbished.  In between, a mystery, but looks in good shape.  For $20?  You bet I’ll Buy It Now!  Here’s the little beast:


Technicolor 580.front



Technicolor 580.top

Top. So easy to use!


Technicolor 580.back

Back. Ah! That’s where the cartridges go.


It arrives in good shape, the lamp works, the motor whirrs impressively.  Seems ok!  However, I’m terrified to try to play one of the cartridges.  What if it breaks?  In such cases as these, there’s only one thing to do: Call Joe!

When I worked at Disney Animation, the Senior Film Guru (not his actual title) was Joe Jiuliano.  In retirement, he does transfers of home movies to digital files.  You know, for fun; something to keep the skillz sharp.  I send him some photos of the cartridges and the player.  He surprises me by saying he’s never seen one, but tells me to send it down and he’ll see what he can do.

After spending some time with the material, Joe tells me that he can’t transfer the film to digital without taking it out of the cartridge.  I’m scared to go this route for fear of damage, but he follows up with the news that he thinks he can take them apart, get the film out, transfer the film and then re-mount the film into the dinky little cartridge and they should play just fine.  Well, if anyone else had told me that, I’d have been skeptical.  But this is Joe.  Joe gets a green light.

Here is the flyer Charlie put together to advertise the series:

Selberg film series

Bill Snyder Films, based in Fargo North Dakota, was an industrial film production company that Charlie had worked for prior to becoming a fencing master.

Back at the Archive, I was struck by a memory of something I’d seen while going through a stack of papers and sure enough, came across the complete syllabus for the whole series.  The course is laid out for 20 sessions, with each one consisting of a topic of the day, what to do prior to running the film loop, what to say while the film loop is playing and what to practice after the film.

I get everything back from Joe.  The cartridges look just like they did before and he’s cleaned up the projector.  A disk drive contains the 20 loops, and they’re totally cool!  Charlie had worked as an Art Director for Bill Snyder Films and his attention to detail in how everything was framed, shot and titled makes every segment easy to follow.  It’s not everyday you see fencing classes run as full-on multi-media presentations, but it’s clear that this would work to introduce a class to many aspects of foil fencing.

And to top it all off, the cartridges play in the projector like a champ, just as Joe said they would!  Joe is my hero.

Here’s Loop #1: The Foil and Grip.

The Hans Box

Mark Headley and I hold the distinction of having dismantled the salle d’armes that Charlie Selberg put together in the woods of Southern Oregon.  On the outside, it looked like this:

Charlies outside

On the inside, like this:


Charlies 2

Charlies 1

Taking it all down for transport to Berkeley and safety, looked like this:

Doug at Charlies

While we were engaged in taking everything apart, we studiously avoided the dreaded bookshelf.  Understand that Rodents of Unusual Variety had taken over the salle.  The bookshelf had a gap between the shelving and the wall, so rodents, mostly mice, could get behind the books and eat them from the edge toward the binding.  There was more than one volume that had little left of substance besides a spine and an inch or two of book.

After we’d pulled down all the books, what remained was above the bookcase on a little ledge.  Knickknacks, posters, photos…. and a box:

Charlies 3

See it?  No?  Of course not!  It’s practically invisible.  However, it looks like this when you get it up close:

The Box

Here’s how the conversation went:

Doug: Hey Mark, what’s in the box up here?

Mark: What box up where?

Doug: The box above the bookcase where the Nat Geo’s were.

Mark: There’s a box up there?

Doug: Yeah, it’s on the ledge.

(Mark comes to look.)

Mark: Huh.

Mark: I’ve been coming here for 30 years.  I’ve never noticed that thing.

Doug: Huh.  Wonder what’s in it.

Mark: Me too.

So, we take the box down and go outside.  You may notice the front (and sides) are covered in leather.  The top was at one point as well, but the rodents took care of that.

It’s kinda heavy.  Certainly full of something.  I open it up.  It’s stacked with photos.  The first one I see is a little 2” x 2” snapshot of Hans Halberstadt:

Hans in the Trenches

…and there he is in the trenches during World War I.  That kind of blew our minds, just by itself.  But there was a more; family, parties, fencing tournaments, teammates, and lots and lots of women.  The story is that after WWI, Hans, product of a wealthy family, kept fencing equipment in all the major clubs in Europe  and traveled around doing nothing but fencing and partying.


Hans with family

Here he is with his younger brother and younger sister



With the whole family



In the snow



At the beach



At a party



At a tournament.  Nedo Nadi is in the front row center wearing the bathrobe with the “N” on it, squeezed in between two ladies.  Hans is 3rd from the left.


And, with his longtime friend and clubmate, Helene Mayer:


So that’s the story of The Hans Box.   There were over 1,000 images in the box.  About 200 of those had someone in them that we could identify.  There are close to 300 unsigned postcard-sized ‘calling cards’ (that were popular at the time) of ladies Hans befriended.

Safe to say, he was a popular fellow, that Hans Halberstadt.

Tronchet vs Pavese

I’ve been fascinated with Generoso Pavese since first finding his picture in an antique store many years ago.  Looking at it, I can’t resist the tug on my brain that makes me wonder about the comparison between fencers and other prize fighters like boxers and wrestlers.  The reason is plain enough:

1908 Pavese.G.Belt

It’s the belt.  On top of that, just like a boxer or wrestler, Pavese solicits any and all to come and try to win it.  Enter, Louis Tronchet.



1899 Tronchet

Tronchet taught fencing in San Francisco at the Olympic Club from 1888, having been hired after a famously victorious performance against Regis Senac.  The Olympic Club touted Tronchet as the first “classic” and only officially recognized fencing master on the West Coast.  Indeed, Tronchet was a graduate of the master’s school at Joinville-le-Pont, on the outskirts of Paris.

Pavese Imports

Pavese’s challenged, as put forth in the photo above dating from 1908, was apparently one of long standing.  Pavese was President Teddy Roosevelt’s personal fencing master:


Roosevelt was President from 1901 to 1909, but the Pavese vs Tronchet match took place in San Francisco in 1899, so clearly Pavese was looking for ‘victims’ prior to his time at the White House.


Tronchet Accepts Pavese

It seems that Pavese was traveling the country and stopping in big cities long enough to put a letter of challenge in the local paper and wait for someone to take up the gauntlet.

So it was that on Nov. 2, 1899, the two met to have it out.  The match took place in the afternoon, with the editor of the local Italian newspaper acting as umpire.  The foils match was first and was described as “furious” and must have been, as the umpire at one point stepped in to stop the action and wound up with a gash on top of the head.  At the conclusion, Tronchet was awarded the victory, 14 hits to 13.  Pavese immediately appealed in Italian that he had been robbed and proceeded to challenge Tronchet to a match with broadsword, the heavier cousin to the modern fencing sabre.  Pavese set to work with three immediate hits to Tronchet that apparently raised welts.  Tronchet returned with hits to Pavese’s head, body and glove.  The last touch to the glove gave Pavese some reason to object and after he began haranguing Tronchet, the official and the audience, Tronchet threw off his gear and refused to continue.  That drew the event to a close, even though Pavese had two additional challengers that he refused to face.

After the event, Pavese claimed that he had scored 18 foil hits to Tronchet’s 2, called Tronchet “no gentleman” and offered to meet him in mortal combat, saying he had already killed two Frenchman and would like to make it a third.

In fact, this was the title of the article written the day following the encounter:


1899 Pavese v Tronchet headline

It would seem that Pavese didn’t ease off his hot-headed ways anytime soon, as I found this from 1906:


Pavese Troublecopy

Still and all, it sounds like it was a fairly standard foil match.

The Nick Muray Medal

Nickolas Muray

Photographer, Fencer, Medal Designer

One of the first external jobs undertaken by the WCFA was documenting the collection of Halberstadt Fencers Club in San Francisco.  Halberstadt is one of, if not the oldest fencing clubs on the West Coast.  The history of Hans and the club are another story.  One of the amazing bits of fencing history at Halberstadt are a collection of four scrapbooks which include items dating back before 1900.

In the scrapbook with the oldest material, there were two programs that caught my attention:

Muray medal.1949

The inside of 1949:

1949 Nick Muray.expl

1951 outside:

1951 Nick Muray prog

1951 inside:

1951 Nick Muray prog.inside

In the crease it reads, “Solid Gold, Sterling and Bronze medals designed and donated by Mr. Muray.”

Nickolas Muray was a Hungarian-born photographer and fencer.  Here are links to his Wikipedia entry and his photography website:



The mystery for me was the description in the program from 1951 that Muray had designed a medal for presentation at the Nickolas Muray Sabre finals, fenced in a fancy pants Los Angeles hotel.

The cover of both programs have a black and white representation of the Muray-designed medal and it looks cool, but it’s tough to tell the scale because, well, black and white and printed.  Looking at the program, you can’t tell if the medal is an Olympic sized medallion, a platter the size of your head or something no bigger than a dime.  Just a few days after puzzling on this, (I had been scanning the first of the four Halberstadt scrapbooks when I came across the programs) I was delivering back to Halberstadt some of the wall photos I had removed for scanning.  One of the coaches, Marty Young, knowing I was collecting history, had a suggestion for me.

“Have you seen the cookie tin full of medals?”

“No,” I answered.  “What cookie tin full of medals?”

“It’s in the armory.  You’ll find it.”

Well, it’s not too many armories that feature a cookie tin so it wasn’t terribly hard to find.  And it was big.  And heavy.

Cookie Tin

I opened it up to find it a jumble of gold, silver and bronze medals with chest-pin ribbons.  Not new.  I knew what the Nor-Cal, Central Cal and So-Cal medals looked like going back to the 70’s, and these were all prior to that vintage.  Marty being on the board at Halberstadt, I let her know I was taking the cookie tin home to sort it out.

The following day, I started pulling them out, one by one, and matching up like designs.  There were 154 medals in all and I pinned the ones I could pin to a cork board to get a good look at them all.

The Board:

Medal full board

There were about 36 or so different designs and most had an imprint on the back of the date and event.  Sadly, no names, so I don’t know if it is the collection of one person or multiple medal winners.  Possibly it was a former wall plaque that fell apart and the medals all got cookie-tinned.  They date from the early 1940s to the early 1960s and are a nice selection of medals, mostly from So Cal and the Pacific Coast Championships, for that 20 year period.  Who knew there were so many cool medal designs?  Some are quite intricate and most have held their color pretty well; the gold medals mostly still look like a gold medal.  For some reason, no doubt due to the metals used, they’ve held their color without a great deal of tarnishing even though they’ve hardly been treated to optimum conditions for storage.

Here are a couple of the more interesting ones:

Medals 2    Medals 3  Medals 1

However, the highlight for me was this one:

Muray medal               Muray medal.1949

Here it was!  Not two days after I wondered what size and color it might be, I’m holding an original in my hand.  How cool is that?  It’s an inch and a half across, with a mark on the back: 1/20 10KG.F.   That translates to 10 karat gold on the outside, filled with another metal on the inside, and 1/20 of the total weight is 10 karat gold.  It weighs in at a solid 1 ounce, which, compared to most fencing medals, is pretty hefty.  An actual gold medal – not solid, not pure gold and definitely not the size of a platter, but still – sitting in a cookie tin inside the armory at Halberstadt… for how long?  And, with the history attached to the medal’s designer and tournament namesake, a particularly cool item.


Now why Nickolas Muray, who represented the New York Athletic Club for his entire US fencing career and who’s photography studio was in Greenwich Village, was sponsoring a sabre tournament on the west coast is another question.  He did live in San Francisco for a time.  He carried on a ten year affair with Frida Kalho, the Mexican painter, and Muray apparently lived in SF to be closer to her.   I can’t help but wonder how much time Muray spent fencing on the West Coast.

Another story for another time, I guess.

Doug Nichols

West Coast Fencing Archivist

(Footnote: Nickolas Muray represented the United States in two Olympic Games, 1928 and 1932.  The West Coast Fencing Archive has in the collection a copy of the Complete Record of the 1932 Olympic Games, held in Los Angeles.  I looked up Muray’s results, as the book has every pool sheet for every fencing event.  Muray did not compete in the individual event in ‘32, but did compete in the Team Sabre.  He won 2 of 4 bouts against the Polish team, and 1 of 4 bouts against a very strong Italian team.   The US team ended in fourth place, getting edged out on touches scored against by the Polish team, whom they tied 8 bouts to 8 in the head-to-head match.  The US lost by a single touch, 59 touches against the Poles to 60 scored against the Americans.  Muray died in 1965 of a heart attack at the age of 73 while fencing at the NYAC.)

1980 Olympic Trials at San Jose State University

I had two rolls of 35mm film, 36 exposures each, and was using a borrowed camera.  Never having shot a fencing tournament before, I didn’t have much clue as to what was best to capture.  I knew I couldn’t use a flash, so I’d have to be steady.  Also had to expect the pictures would come out a bit grainy, and they did.  What I find interesting is that I can still look at these and identify almost everyone.  Here are the best of the photos I got that day.




















George Nonumura looks serious.























Actually, I think George is serious.


Mike Marx

Michael Marx.  Also very serious.


Bob Marx

Bob Marx sitting with Debbie Waples.



Greg Massialas.


John Nonna

John Nonna.



Michael D’Asaro, Sr. relaxing with a cup of coffee.



L-R: unknown, Michael D’Asaro, Dr. William O’Brien, George Nonomura, Bruce Jugan


Bob Marx v Nonomura1

Bob Marx vs George Nonomura.  George slips Bob’s point past his arm and scores off target to the bib.


Bob Marx v Nonomura2

Bob Marx vs George Nonomura.  George on the attack.


Bob and Michael Marx confer

Bob and Michael Marx confer.


Ed Wright

Ed Ballinger attacking from the left.  Ed Wright attempts a parry.


Massialas v Donofrio

Greg Massialas vs Ed Donofrio as Michael Marx looks on.

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