Henry Sullivan, Channel Swimmer. Presentation of Alexander Cup
Prize Giving. Crowd gathered for the presentation of the Alexander Cup for the cross-channel swimming contest from Dover to France to Sullivan, August 5th & 6th, time 26hrs 50mins, by Alderman James W. Bussey J.P., Deputy Mayor.
Sullivan’s wife is behind the cup and his daughter is being held by Mr. Alexander. On his left in bow tie is Alfred Jonas, both of the Channel Swimming Club, and behind him, leaning on the pillar, is Dover Mayor, R.J. Barwick
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:-
“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.”
‘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
A fourth cup was not purchased by Alexander and the Club fell largely into abeyance after 1923