The Alexander Channel Cup (II), Glass Plate Negative

‘The Alexander Channel Cup (II)’ was commissioned and purchased for £1200 by Alexander for the Channel Swimming Club in 1911 to replace the original 1907 cup won by Burgess in 1911.

It was a Grecian urn shape with Art Nouveau embossed design of mermaids, shells and seaweed to body, lid surmounted by an identical figure of Victory blowing a horn from the original cup, foliate handles entwined with figures of Mermen. Base with shield “The Alexander Channel Cup 1912” surmounted with flag plaques engraved ‘1875’ and ‘1911’ with a third blank.

The cup was exhibited in 1912 but it is not the cup presented to Sullvan in 1923. Whether something catastrophic happened to the cup between 1911 and 1923 is not known but its off-the-shelf replacement is hallmarked 1910 so it’s purchase must have been not long after 1911/12

The new third cup was made by Elkington & Co, Cheapside, London, hallmarked Birmingham 1910. Unlike the two previous cups, this was off-the-shelf rather than commissioned, so bears no swimming or maritime elements or motifs in its design.  The cover is mounted with a figural finial of winged Victory in Neoclassical garb holding a staff. The cup is supported by two large entwined 3-dimensional figures, one holding a triton. Height: 37 ¾ Inches. Weight: 375 Troy Ounces. The body is inscribed “The Alexander Channel Cup Presented To Henry F. Sullivan. Who Swam the English Channel, Aug. 5th & 6th 1923. From Dover, England to Calais, France. Establishing World’s Endurance Record. World’s Breast Stroke Record. 26 Hours 50 Minutes.” On a marble plinth base with silver plaque engraved ‘The Alexander Channel Swimming Cup’

The cup was sold by Skinner Auctions, Boston, Mass. for $23,700 in 2011 and then by Nelson & Nelson Antiques, New York in a 2019 private sale. The marble base seems to have been lost and was not sold with the cup at these sales

Adolph Alexander was a Jewish tailor and clothier based at 114 & 115 Cheapside in London, trading as Alexander the Great, tailors. He had branches at 58 Ludgate Hill, London, and in Hanley, Staffordshire

He was born in 1866 in the town of Sandberg in the province of Posen in Prussia, Germany, now part of Poland, the son of Jacob Alexander, tailor and clothier, and Fanny Levi. In about 1873 Jacob Alexander brought his family from Germany to Hanley in Staffordshire where he set up a tailoring business. Jacob died in 1887 leaving a small empire of tailoring shops to his sons; Theobald ran the shop in Nottingham, Isaac ran the shop in Leicester and Adolph ran the shops at Piccadilly and at Stafford St. in Hanley

In about 1896 Adolph moved to a tailor shop and warehouse in Cheapside, London, which he leased from the Merchant Taylors Company. He retained the Hanley business for some years but now lived in a suite at the Hotel Great Central in London. In 1898 Adolf Alexander of 115 Cheapside London, age 34, tailor and clothier, unmarried, became a naturalized British citizen

In November 1906 Alexander founded the Channel Swimming Club and became its first and only President, with swimmers Montague Holbein, Thomas Burgess and Jabez Wolffe as vice-Presidents. It was formed at a meeting on 16th November at the St. Dunstan Rooms, Anderton’s Hotel, in Fleet St.  Its first committee meeting was on 9th April 1907 at 9 Parliament Chambers, Westminster. Several new prizes were given by committee members to the Club for the encouragement of long-distance sea swimming and initially a ten mile sea race and a relay team crossing were to be instigated:-

 “Anyone interested in the encouragement of the practice of long-distance swimming is invited to attend the first general meeting of the Channel Swimming Club, to be held in the St. Dunstan Rooms. Anderton’s Hotel, Fleet-street. London. E.C., next Friday evening at 7.30 p.m.”.  November 12, 1906 – Sporting Life

“For over a distance of ten miles Mr. W. Proctor has presented  a Challenge Cup, another member, Mr. H. Proctor, a similar trophy for fifteen miles, while Mr. Allen (Manchester) offers a third for a 25 mile swim. The trophies are to be won twice in succession or three times in all before becoming the property of the competitor, while medals and diplomas are to be awarded for each contest. The club’s hon. treasurer, Mr. A. Jonas, has presented a challenge trophy to be known as the “Webb Memorial Shield” for a relay race across the Straits of Dover, by teams of four swimmers. In addition, there is the Alexander Channel Cup for the swimmer (amateur or professional), irrespective of nationality, who emulates the feat of Captain Webb, made 32 years ago.”

On 11th October 1927 Dorothy Logan claimed the News of the World £1000 for a successful swim but then revealed it was a hoax on the 17th October. This also threw doubt on Mercedes Gleitz’s successful swim of 7th October, which, like Logan’s, had no independent witnesses. Gleitz tried the swim again on the 21st, this time with witnesses, but failed due to conditions. The whole affair caused a furore in the press who looked for an expert to comment on swim ratification – they found Adolph Alexander, still President of the Channel Swimming Club, although as he pointed out, the club had been inactive since Sullivan’s success in 1923. Alexander said regulation and ratification wasn’t the role of the CSC, and seeing as the ASA wasn’t prepared to take on the role because competitors were mostly professional, suggested an American swimming association take charge. This caused a rift with his friend and long-time Honorary Secretary, Alfred Jonas, who resigned from the CSC to form a new Channel Swimming Association to take on the governance and ratification of swims. The Channel Swimming Club became dormant with Jonas’s resignation in November 1927 and ceased to exist with Alexander’s death in 1931

Adolph Alexander died at the Hotel Great Central on 12th February 1931, aged 65. He died unmarried and left the bulk of his estate to various Jewish charities and synagogues in London and Hanley. His brother Theobald died within days of him.


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