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Inspiring Canadians - In Sport and Life

Honoured Member

ROBERT FULTON

Inducted in 1956

Member Details

Date of Birth: 1845
Place of Birth: Saint John, New Brunswick
Date of Passing: February 22, 1906
Sport: Rowing
Member Category: Athlete

Career Highlights

1863-1876

Rowed with the Saint John Four, later dubbed the Paris Crew

Undefeated, except in one race which was lost due to flooding

1865

Won New Brunswick's provincial title

1867

Defeated European crews at Paris Exposition regatta, declared Rowing Champions of the World

1868

Defended World Title against the Ward brothers, America's best crew

Honoured Member ROBERT FULTON
Inspire

Story

The Paris Crew was the first rowing team to bring international glory to Canada. The ink on the papers of Confederation had barely dried when these rowers took Europe by storm and claimed the world rowing title for our newly-established nation. Before they were dubbed the "Paris Crew," Robert Fulton, Samuel Hutton, George Price, and Elijah Ross made up what was more simply called the Saint John Four. These men made their living on the waters of New Brunswick, three as fishermen, and one as a lighthouse keeper. They won their first race in 1863 and remained undefeated until 1876, with the exception of one race, which they lost due to a flooded boat. In 1865, the Saint John Four claimed the provincial title, making them heroes in their home town. Rowing was such a highly-valued sport in the Maritimes that when the chance came for the four to compete at the 1867 Paris Exhibition, the provincial government and the people of Saint John were quick to provide the $6,000 needed to cover the cost of the trip. When the Saint John Four arrived in Paris, they felt and looked like fish out of water. As one newspaper remarked, "with their flesh-coloured jerseys, dark cloth trousers, leather braces and bright pink caps, they were in striking contrast to their neat competitors." Their homemade boat, which weighed a good 50kg more than one of the elegant European vessels, was described as a "Chinese puzzle painted green." The English criticized their rowing style, while all opponents were taken aback when they discovered that the Canadian team rowed without a coxswain. Those who scoffed, however, were put to shame when they saw what the crew from New Brunswick could do in competition. Though it was a close race, the Saint John Four came out victorious over Paris's own Gesling Crew. The following day, they crossed the finish line a full minute ahead of the nearest English team and claimed the world championship title. The Saint John Four were thereafter dubbed the Paris Crew for their superb victories on the Seine River. Their title as world champions, however, was not acknowledged by everyone. The Americans were quick to point out the United States had not sent a team to compete in Paris, and if they had, they surely could have beaten the Canadians. A challenge was soon issued, and the Paris Crew took on the Ward brothers, America's best crew, in 1868. True to form, the Canadians beat them in a six-mile course, reinforcing their titles as rowing champions of the world. The four rowers returned to Canada where they were hailed as heroes. In bringing international renown and respect to our country in its infancy, the Paris Crew stirred feelings of national pride, connected citizens of this new nation from coast to coast, and helped forge a collective identity for Canadians.


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