E. Carroll Schaeffer (USA)

Honor Swimmer (1968)

The information on this page was written the year of their induction.

FOR THE RECORD: WORLD RECORDS: 5 (freestyle); AMERICAN RECORDS: 37 (freestyle) – held every American record from 20 yd. to 1 mile; NATIONAL AAU CHAMPIONSHIPS: from 100yd to 1 mile. All of his records were set while attending University of Pennsylvania 1898 to 1902; he retired undefeated after his college graduation.

E. Carroll Schaeffer was the first great college swimmer, setting all 37 of his American records and 5 world records while attending the University of Pennsylvania.  Schaeffer, later a successful lawyer in his hometown of Reading, Pennsylvania, attended Penn from 1898 to 1902, holding every American record from 20 yds. to 1 mile, retiring undefeated after his college graduation in 1902.  Ironically, he never seemed interested in international or Olympic competition, preferring to spend his summers in Maine on his summer job.  He did win the Canadian championship in 1899 in the Ottawa River and, on a 1904 trip to Europe, two years after his retirement, he defeated both the French and English champions in match challenge races.

Schaeffer’s world record for 10 yds. straight away (1:05.3), stood for 17 years.  His open water mile time was 28:37.6 and his 220 time 2:37.4.  Other world marks included 1:02.6 for 100 yds. (indoor); 200 yds., 2:29: 440 yds., 6:18.2: and 50 yds, backstroke, :36.5.

Called “Midget’ because of his small stature, Schaeffer swam his way back from polio and weighed a scant 118 lbs. when he began his brilliant swimming career in college.  Besides being a speed swimmer, he held the American record for swimming underwater (232 ft. 11 in).  He also was a Metropolitan (N.Y.) diving champion, an accomplished cyclist, boxer and water polo player.

The University of Pennsylvania swimming team was organized under Coach George Kistler, later known as the mainland coach of Duke Kahanamoku, in 1899, the year after E. Carroll Schaeffer entered college.  If Kistler was skeptical when the tiny Schaeffer reported for the team he got over it.  Coach Kistler said of Schaeffer’s phenomenal feats in the swimming pool: “Schaeffer never had to extend himself in the middle distance events so I never did find out just how fast he could swim.”  Coach Kistler, who had been the world mile champ at one time himself, took Schaeffer under his wing and gave him special instruction.  Within two weeks, Schaeffer could “double lap” his tutor, and could swim the 100 yd. dash in 62 1/2 seconds, 2 seconds better than the existing world mark.

During the Sportsmen’s Show in Philadelphia in 1899, a mammoth swim meet, Schaeffer put on an unprecedented performance of carrying off 13 first places in 3 successive nights.  In 1900 the Philadelphia and New York papers were full of statements to the effect that Schaeffer would be sent to England to compete in the Olympic Games.  The project failed, however, when no organization could be found to finance Schaeffer’s trip to England.  No one will ever know just how good Schaeffer might have been.