The Triumph of the Amateurs is the story of the lost world or professional rowing in America, a sport that attracted crowds of thousands, widespread betting, and ultimately corruption that foretold its doom. It centers on the colorful careers of two New York City Irish boys, the Biglin brothers John and Barney, now long forgotten save for Thomas Eakins's portraits of them in their shell. If the bestseller The Boys in the Boat portrayed the good guys of the U.S.’s 1936 Olympic crew, the Biglins, along with their colleagues and successors, were the Bad Boys in the Boat. Rascals abounded on and off the water, where rowdy fans often outdid modern soccer thugs in violence, betting was rampant—as was fixing—and spectators in the tens of thousands came out to see it all. The Triumph of the Amateurs traces the sport from its rise in the years before the Civil War on through the Gilded Age to its scandalous demise and eventual transition into a purely amateur sport. In addition, Barney Biglin’s later career as holder of sinecures offers a colorful glimpse into late 19th-century New York City political corruption. Illustrated with 40 black and white and color illustrations, including Thomas Eakins's famous paintings of the Biglin brothers rowing on the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia in 1872.
"An impressively detailed and informative sports history that is profusely illustrated with 40 black and white and color illustrations (including Thomas Eakins's famous paintings of the Biglin brothers rowing on the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia in 1872), "The Triumph of the Amateurs: The Rise, Ruin, and Banishment of Professional Rowing in the Gilded Age" is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to community, college, and university library 19th Century American Sports History collections."
-Jack Mason, Midwest Book Review
"Veteran journalist William Lanouette (a rower himself and a Kennedy School Shorenstein Center fellow in 1988-1989) offers interesting context on the sport’s professional origins in his new book, The Triumph of the Amateurs: The Rise, Ruin, and Banishment of Professional Rowing in the Gilded Age (Lyons Press)."
- Harvard Magazine