A Family That Skates Together Stays Together

In an opulent Victorian estate on Pond Street in Boston lived William Rotch, his wife Mary (Eliot) Rotch, their four children William Jr., Charlie, Edith and Clara and their servants Lese. Henrietta and Jessie. William was a graduate of the École Imperiale Centrale des Arts et Manufactures in Paris. He served as the chief engineer and superintendent of the Fall River Water Works system, a director of the Walker Company which installed electricity in the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York, the engineer of the commission which established the boundary line between Massachusetts and Rhode Island and the first president of the New Bedford Union for Good Works. The extremely busy Mr. Rotch also wrote various reports on railways and water works, had ties to the local whaling industry and even started his own scholarship for architects.

However, even Mr. Rotch's incredibly impressive life's work would arguably pale in comparison to the accomplishments of three of his children in the world of figure skating. Charlie, Clara and Edith Rotch were among the most successful members of the Skating Club Of Boston and Cambridge Skating Club of their era. Let's meet those skating siblings!


Mr. and Mrs. John W. Horton, Edward W. Atkinson, Edith Eliot Rotch and Eleanora R. Sears skating at the Cambridge Skating Club

Born August 11, 1874, Edith Eliot Rotch shared the distinction with her brother Charlie of being one of the first fourteen skaters in America to pass a formalized figure skating test on February 2, 1900. In 1914 at the age of forty, she placed second in the senior women's event to Theresa Weld Blanchard at the international competition held in New Haven, Connecticut now recognized as the first U.S. Championships.

Iceland Rink. Photo courtesy New York Historical Society.

Six years later at the age of forty six, Edith placed second in the junior pairs event at the U.S. Championships at the Iceland Rink in New York City with Sherwin Badger, twenty seven years her junior. In 1922 and 1926 she won the women's free skating competition at the Cambridge Skating Club. Throughout the twenties, she amassed dozens of medals in pairs and Waltzing competitions. Among her partners were brother Charlie, Arthur M. Goodridge, George Von L. Meyer and Jimmie Madden.

Edith Eliot Rotch and F.F. Munroe

When she wasn't skating, Edith was busy sitting with Paul Armitage, Theresa Weld Blanchard and Nathaniel Niles on the USFSA's Publications Committee that led to the publication of "Skating" magazine. Her partner Arthur M. Goodridge fondly recalled, "Miss Edith was the outstanding lady skater at the [Cambridge Skating] Club during the nineteen hundreds. It was she who taught Edward M. Howland and Nat W. Niles most of what they learned about figure skating until Mr. [George H.] Browne took them over." She never married and passed away at the age of ninety five in December 1969.


Clara and Charlie Rotch

Clara Morgan Rotch was born February 17, 1881. At the age of twenty five on March 2, 1907, she married Channing Frothingham, Jr., an eminent physician at the Boston City Hospital. Clara gave birth to no less than seven children between 1907 and 1926. Sadly, her son Timothy Gerrish Frothingham passed away when he was only five, the year after she made her competitive debut as a skater at the 1918 U.S. Championships in New York City, where she won the junior women's event and finished second in senior pairs with Sherwin Badger.

Clara's private loss only fuelled her public ambitions and in 1921, she returned to competition with her brother Charlie and won the bronze medal in the senior pairs competition. From 1922 to 1936, she amassed medal after medal in Waltzing and ice dancing at the U.S. Championships, including two gold medals with Geddy Hill (Maribel Vinson's pairs partner) in 1920 and 1922. Among her many partners were Roger Turner, Jimmie Madden, Teddy Goodridge, Robert S. Coit and Ashton Parmeter. Clara and her brother Charlie were also one of the first three pairs teams in history to medal at the North American Championships in 1923.

After retiring from competition, Clara became one of the first Gold Dance test judges in America. However, her reputation as a judge wasn't exactly glowing. Her paintings of marine scenes were held in higher regard. Sadly, she passed away on September 5, 1976, also at the age of ninety five. 


Charlie Morgan Rotch. Photos courtesy "Skating" magazine.

Born May 19, 1878, Charles 'Charlie' Morgan Rotch married his first wife Helen (Bradley) in 1925. Together, they had five children. When Helen passed away in 1939, he remarried a Mrs. Louise Sprague from Milton.

As a skater, Charlie's accomplishments were every bit as impressive as his both of his sisters. In addition to the aforementioned medal wins at the U.S. and North American Championships, he won the Cambridge Skating Club's men's free skating competition in 1922, the silver medal in the Waltzing competition at the 1923 U.S. Championships in New Haven with Theresa Weld Blanchard and countless other medals in ice dancing competitions during the early twenties.

Charlie later turned his attention to judging and refereeing, acting as an American official at the 1924, 1928, 1932 and 1936 Winter Olympic Games and countless other national and international events of the period. In 1924, he was elected as the President of the Skating Club Of Boston and from 1932 to 1937, he served two terms as the President of the USFSA. The year he was first elected, his former competitor and dear friend Nathaniel Niles passed away. Determined to better the sport in his friend's memory, he supervised the first judging school in America in 1936. During his reign as the USFSA's President, summer skating in America began to thrive, the first Midwestern Championships were held, the first club from the Pacific Coast joined the USFSA and open marking was introduced at the U.S. Championships. He later chaired the USFSA's Judges Committee and passed away in February 1964 at the age of eighty six. Benjamin T. Wright recalled, "He was pretty much the mentor of Sherwin Badger and many other Boston skaters who competed before the War... Actually, there's a whaling ship at Mystic Seaport named Morgan and that's the family."


Incredibly, Edith, Clara and Charlie weren't even the only skaters in their family! In 1938, yet another descendant of the Rotch clan, William Penn-Gaskell Hall Jr., won the silver medal in pairs with his wife Annah Colket McKaig at the Eastern Championships in Lake Placid, New York and the gold medal in junior pairs at the U.S. Championships in Philadelphia. Annah McKaig's father Edgar S. McKaig was once President of the Philadelphia Skating Club and Humane Society, tying together two of the two of the most historic skating clubs in American skating history by marriage... and giving a new meaning to the skating family. 

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating and archives hundreds of compelling features and interviews in a searchable format for readers worldwide. Though there never has been nor will there be a charge for access to these resources, you taking the time to 'like' on the blog's Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/SkateGuard would be so very much appreciated. Already 'liking'? Consider sharing this feature for others via social media. It would make all the difference in the blog reaching a wider audience. Have a question or comment regarding anything you have read here or have a suggestion for a topic related to figure skating history you would like to see covered? I'd love to hear from you! Learn the many ways you can reach out at http://skateguard1.blogspot.ca/p/contact.html