University of Minnesota
In December, 1894, the first class in fencing was formed. Actually
it was a class in club swinging (singlestick), and seemed to have
been a lowbrow affair. The instructor was D.F. Grass, a sophomore in
the medical school. This class does not appear to have lasted past
the end of winter quarter, 1895.
In February, 1897, another fencing class was organized. Again, this
was a small, private undertaking, with the only connection to the
University being the use of space on campus. E. Postel was hired as
instructor. Postel had coached fencing at Yale during the 1893-94
season, and seems to have had a good reputation in the fencing
community of that time. He was also the top rated fencer in the Twin
Cities area. Unfortunately, Postel did not last very long. He died
suddenly of a heart attack in early February 1898, scarcely a year
after he began teaching here.
Fencing classes at the University continued after Postels death.
Sometime in 1898, A.L. Queneau took over the instructors duties.
Queneau was a former resident of Paris, France, and appears to have
been an excellent fencer. He did not stay very long, though.
Probably only to the end of the 1899 season.
The next coach who appeared on the scene was Maestro Peter
Carciofini. Like his predecessors, he was hired to teach boxing and
wrestling as well as fencing. Most American fencing masters of the
time were also adept in these other two arts. He also appears to
have been the first instructor hired by Dr. Cooke to teach
University sanctioned classes. Maestro Carciofini had arrived in
January 1900, and brought with him a rather impressive resume,
including a three year stint as boxing and fencing instructor at
West Point (1893-96).
In April, 1902, two years after he began teaching classes at the
University, Maestro Carciofini was publicly challenged to a duel by
one F.R. LeRoux. LeRoux had recently arrived in the Twin Cities and
would eventually become the fencing master at a fencing club in
Minneapolis. The challenge was, in LeRouxs words: To combat, either
public or private, for money or honor, within a week or a month,
rules for professionals strictly enforced. The duel was to twenty-
five touches, with LeRoux spotting Carciofini six touches. According
to LeRoux, his spotting those touches was to make the duel more
fair, because ... the practice of boxing and wrestling greatly
interferes with the finger movements of fencing. Personally, I think
LeRoux was insulting Carciofinis fencing ability. As of this
writing, I have not discovered the result of this duel, or whether
it even took place.
It was also in the spring of 1902 that Maestro Carciofini began
organizing a new athletic club for wealthy young men in Minneapolis.
He left the University later that Summer to pursue this venture. Dr.
Cooke hired Professor Jules Laselaby to replace him. Professor
Laselaby was the first fencing instructor at the University who had
the idea of fielding a team for varsity competition. Unfortunately,
it does not appear he ever got a team together during his time as
instructor here, although he can be credited with organizing the
first womens fencing classes at the University.
In the fall of 1903, fencers at the University began to act on the
idea of forming a fencing club. Such clubs were a regular feature at
most east coast and some west coast colleges. When fall quarter 1904
began, the groundwork for forming a club was in place. Professor
Laselaby had left the University earlier in the year, so the first
coach of the new club was Roy Penwell. Penwell was a freshman
student at the University, but had recently been a professional
fencer in Chicago before coming to Minnesota.
He was also hired by Dr. Cooke to teach the University fencing
class, and like todays class, it had nothing to do with the club.
The fencing club was officially organized on Wednesday evening,
October 5th, 1904. The first practice was held six days later, at
four in the afternoon, in the band room at the Armory. The club was
open to beginners as well as experienced fencers, and the only
expense was that of personal equipment.