Monday, August 05, 2013
This fine fellow is Friedrich Wilhelm Viktor Albrecht von Preußen, better known as Kaiser Wilhelm II, the last German Emperor.
Back in 1905 he presented a solid gold trophy, the Kaiser's Cup, for a race across the Atlantic Ocean from Sandy Hook to the Lizard Light. The race was won by the American yacht Atlantic in a record time of 12 day 4 hours 1 minute and 19 seconds, a record which was not broken by a monohull until 1997.
Atlantic was owned by Wilson Marshall but skippered by the famous Captain Charlie Barr, already at that time a three-times winner of the America's Cup.
What a glorious summer that was for American yachting. Atlantic won the Kaiser's Cup. And Fred A. Mabbett sailing on Iroquois won the Canada's Cup.
Except that somebody in this story cheated.
It wasn't Wilson Marshall.
It wasn't Charlie Barr.
And it certainly wasn't Fred A. Mabbett.
It was Kaiser Wilhelm.
You see his "sold gold" trophy wasn't really solid gold at all.
Wilson Marshall lost a son in the Great War (as it was called then) and soon after he decided he didn't want the Kaiser's Cup any more. So in 1918 he donated the trophy to raise money for the Red Cross. It was auctioned and re-auctioned and returned to the Red Cross a number of times, raising a total of $125,000. Eventually at a Red Cross rally in the presence of President Wilson it was smashed with a few blows of a hammer, with members of the audience paying $5 each to come on stage and witness the destruction.
The scrap metal was sent to a dealer to raise more money for the Red Cross. It was then discovered that the Kaiser's solid gold trophy wasn't solid gold at all. It was actually pewter with a thin veneer of gold. Far from being worth $5,000 it was only worth $35 to $40. See New York Times article.
In 1918 Kaiser Wilhelm had somewhat weightier issues to deal with than being caught out as a cheat and a fraud in the matter of a yachting trophy. Later that year, at the end of the war, he was forced to abdicate and he spent the rest of his life in exile in Holland, dying in 1941.
And now a bonus question for my clever readers...
How many degrees of separation was Charlie Barr from Fred A. Mabbett?
Posted by Tillerman at 7:09 AM