Guide to the A.C. Cunningham Fencing Scrapbook, 1904-1905; 1909
A collection in the
Special Collections & Archives Department,
United States Naval Academy
589 McNair Road
Annapolis, MD 21402-5029
Prepared by: David D'Onofrio
Special Collections & Archives Department
United States Naval Academy
Andrew Chase Cunningham, born in New York, entered the United States Naval Academy on June 9, 1874. After completing his academic courses and two years of mandatory sea service aboard U.S.S. Shenandoah, Cunningham officially graduated from the Academy on June 10, 1881, after which he was assigned to the training ship U.S.S. Saratoga. Less than three years after graduation, Cunningham resigned from the U.S. Navy on February 1, 1884 with the rank of Ensign.
Fourteen years after tendering his resignation, Cunningham rejoined the U.S. Navy as a Civil Engineer with the relative rank of Lieutenant (junior grade) on September 29, 1898. Initially assigned to the Bureau of Yards and Docks, Cunningham transferred to the Naval Station in New Orleans on November 9, 1901. On April 13, 1903, Cunningham was assigned to the United States Naval Academy. During his two years at the Academy, Cunningham served as manager for the Academy's fencing team. In June 1905, he returned to the Bureau of Yards and Docks for another two-year tour of duty, before transferring to the Norfolk Navy Yard on April 8, 1907.
After his time at the Norfolk Navy Yard, Cunningham was appointed as inspector of public works for the Navy on February 10, 1910. Three years later, in July 1913, he was transferred to the Portsmouth Navy Yard to serve as public works officer for that facility. On July 20, 1915, Cunningham was attached to the Radio Station at Point Isabel, Texas. This duty was short-lived however, as Cunningham was placed on sick leave in December 1916. On January 13, 1917, Andrew Chase Cunningham, having attained the relative rank of Lieutenant Commander, died in Washington, D.C.
Scope and Content Note
The A. C. Cunningham Fencing Scrapbook spans from December 1904 to April 1905, with two items from April 1909. The scrapbook focuses on the 1904-1905 season of the United States Naval Academy's fencing team, and to a lesser extent, advances in the sport of fencing and the role of swordsmanship and bayonets in the Armed Forces.
The scrapbook is composed of press clippings, incoming and outgoing letters, event programs, score cards, lineup cards, photographs, event schedules, handwritten entries, and other ephemera.
The Fencing Scrapbook is the product of Cunningham's service at the Naval Academy as Civil Engineer, during which time he served as manager of the Academy's fencing team. Much of the first half of the scrapbook concerns the teams' practices and non-intercollegiate fencing matches, such as those with the Washington Fencer's Club (page 31); attempts to enter and invitations to attend the Cassini Cup Tournament (pages 20-22 and 33); and the Academy's Annual Swordsmanship Contests for the Colonel Robert M Thompson and Navy Athletic Association Medals (also referred to as simply the annual fencing competitions) (pages 95, 101, 126-127 and 129). Interspersed throughout are hand-drawn brackets representing the results of the team's informal competitions. Also included in the first half of the volume are materials pertaining to more general aspects of the Academy's fencing program and fencing in general, such as rules for a saber melee (page 26); Naval Academy fencing rules (pages 45-48); the Navy Athletic Association's annual report on fencing (page 61); a visit to the United States by French fencer Lucien Merignac (pages 30 and 32); the Amateur Fencers League of America schedule and fencing rules (pages 41-44); and excerpts from The Illustrated Sporting News, including an article entitled "The Present-day Method of Fencing" and a pictorial of fencing attacks and parries (pages 70-83).
The second half of the scrapbook focuses largely on the fencing team's intercollegiate competitions. Included among these competitions are bouts against the University of Pennsylvania, Columbia, and Cornell (pages 64-65, 86-87, and 98). The materials also focus heavily on the Intercollegiate Fencing Tournament in New York City, in which the Naval Academy's foil squad defeated the team from West Point (pages 105-112, 121, 123, and 128). In addition to discussions of Navy's fencing team, the second half of the scrapbook also devotes a number of pages to the military value (or lack thereof) of the sword, saber and bayonet; and the effectiveness of the rod bayonet and its suggested replacement (pages 66, 100-103, and 130-132). Also located throughout the second half of the scrapbook are photographs of the Navy fencing team, including midshipmen Harry G. Knox (Class of 1906), Alexander Sharp (Class of 1906), Grattan C. Dichman (Class of 1907), Russell S Crenshaw (Class of 1907), and Roy L. Stover (Class of 1907); Sword Master A. J. Corbesier; Assistant Sword Masters George Heintz, J. B. Retz, and George Heintz, Jr.; and manager A. C. Cunningham (pages 16, 115-120, and 134).
Several other items appear to bear no relation to the fencing team, including a 1907 Army-Navy football game lineup card (page 30) and a Columbia Bank one dollar note (page 52).
Other fencing related materials held by Special Collections & Archives include two instructional works by Naval Academy sword master A. J. Corbesier: Principles of Squad Instruction for the Broadsword (U870.C7 1869) and Theory of Fencing; with the Small-Sword Exercise (U860.C79 1873).