Helene Madison papers, 1914-1972  PDF

Overview of the Collection

Collector
Madison, Helene, 1913-1970
Title
Helene Madison papers
Dates
1914-1972 (inclusive)
1929-1932 (bulk)
Quantity
2 boxes, (.84 cubic feet)
Collection Number
1970.5051 (collection)
Summary
Photographs, papers, ephemera and realia documenting the career of the Seattle swimming champion and 1932 Olympic gold medal winner
Repository
Museum of History & Industry, Sophie Frye Bass Library
Sophie Frye Bass Library
Museum of History & Industry
P.O. Box 80816
Seattle, WA
98108
Telephone: 206-324-1126
Fax: 206-780-1533
library@mohai.org
Access Restrictions

The collection is open to the public by appointment.

Languages
English.


Biographical NoteReturn to Top

Seattle swimming phenomenon Helene Madison (June 19, 1913 – November 27, 1970) had already broken all sixteen world freestyle records and most of the American freestyle records before going on to win three gold medals at the 1932 Olympics Games in Los Angeles at 19 years old.

Born in South Bend, Washington, Madison began swimming in early childhood, after the family relocated to Seattle when Madison was two years old. When she was six, the family moved to a home a block away from Green Lake, where Helene swam regularly and participated in the Parks Department swim programs. With the help of Green Lake coach Jack Torney, Helene developed an effective racing technique, began competing locally, and soon outgrew the competition. Winning the Seattle Post-Intelligencer swim carnival in 1928, Madison caught the eye of Ray Daughters, coach at the Crystal Pool, who recruited her for his team. Swimming competitively under Daughters for the Crystal Pool team and later, for the Washington Athletic Club, Madison developed her extraordinary talent in the freestyle to the point of being virtually unbeatable. Within sixteen months in 1930-1931, Madison broke all sixteen world freestyle records in various distances, sweeping the freestyle events at various national championships. She traveled to New York for the Olympic swimming trials at Jones Beach, winning first place in the 100 meters and 400 meters freestyle, and qualifying for the American women's team.

Competing in the tenth Olympiad in Los Angeles in August 1932, Madison won three gold medals in the freestyle--in the 100 meters, 400 meters and 400 meter relay. Madison was honored upon her return by the largest ticker tape parade in Seattle history and a banquet in her honor at the Civic Auditorium. The 1932 Olympics, however, marked the end of Madison's amateur swimming career. In order to contribute to the family's finances, especially after they had committed substantial resources to support her swimming, Madison had already decided to pursue the apparently lucrative opportunities created by her fame.

During the Olympics, several athletes were wooed by Hollywood executives, and Madison had accepted a motion picture contract even before Games had ended. She starred as herself in the unsuccessful Mack Sennett comedy "The Human Fish" in 1932 and performed in an uncredited role in the 1933 "The Warrior's Husband"; a brief career as a nightclub entertainer followed. These roles and her paid performances in swimming exhibitions, while not providing the substantial financial compensation Madison had hoped for, nevertheless officially ended her amateur status, precluding Madison's participation in the 1936 Olympic Games. Retired from competition and disqualified from teaching by the Seattle Parks Department policy of not hiring female swim instructors, in 1936 Madison worked selling hot dogs at a confectionary stand at Green Lake bathing beach in order to earn some money. Soon after, Madison decided to enter training at Virginia Mason Hospital to pursue a career as a registered nurse. While in training, she met Luther C. McIver, an executive at Puget Sound Power and Light, while he was one of her convalescing patients. Madison married McIver in March 1937, and the couple had a daughter, their only child, Helene Jr. ("Junie"), the following year.

Madison continued to appear in newspapers, largely in relation to her earlier accomplishments and those of swimmers who were beginning to break her records, as well as in occasional public appearances. Her direct involvement in swimming was minimal until the late 1940s or so, when Madison opened a swimming school at the Moore Hotel pool, coaching male and female swimmers, including future Olympian Nancy Ramey. By the late 1950s, however, Madison's health had begun to decline, and the school closed in 1958. Already diagnosed with diabetes, Madison developed throat cancer in the mid-1960s; she died, after a long and painful illness, in her Green Lake basement apartment in November 1970 at age 57.

Today, Seattle has two Helene Madison pools, a Seattle Parks and Recreation pool on Meridian Avenue North, dedicated in 1972, and a pool at the Washington Athletic Club in downtown Seattle. Helene Madison was posthumously inducted into the US Olympic Hall of Fame in 1992.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The collection consists of photographs, personal papers, ephemera and realia. The photographs document Madison's swimming career from her first competitions in 1929 through the Los Angeles Summer Olympic Games in 1932. The photographs depict Madison swimming, at poolside, and with team members and coaches. An album of photographs, probably put together by Madison, contains photographs (many autographed) of other swimmers, probably at the 1932 Olympics. Other photographs depict Madison in Hollywood settings, and in her later years.

Papers and ephemera include school and swimming certificates, high school yearbooks, and programs. A series on Madison's Olympics participation includes two daily programs, Madison's qualifying certificate from the New York Olympic trials and an autograph book containing signatures of other athletes.

Clippings document Madison's rise as a swimming champion, from her early races through the Olympics, as well as her later careers in nursing and coaching. The realia series includes 22 medallions from FINA (Fédération Internationale de Natation) marking Madison's world records in the freestyle set in 1930-1931.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Alternative Forms Available

View selections from the collection in digital format by clicking on the camera icons in the inventory below.

Restrictions on Use

The Museum of History & Industry is the owner of the materials in the Sophie Frye Bass Library and makes available reproductions for research, publication, and other uses. Written permission must be obtained from MOHAI before any reproduction use. The museum does not necessarily hold copyright to all of the materials in the collections. In some cases, permission for use may require seeking additional authorization from the copyright owners.

Preferred Citation

Helene Madison papers, Museum of History & Industry, Seattle

Administrative InformationReturn to Top


Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

The following section contains a detailed listing of the materials in the collection.

Photographs, 1914-1960sReturn to Top

86 loose photographs
1 album of 90 photographs
Arranged roughly chronologically. A photograph album from 1929-1932 is at the end of the series.
Container(s) Description Dates
Box/Folder
1/1
4-8: Helene Madison as a child
5 photographs
8: Alfred Prather (photographer)
Images of Madison from age 13 months to approximately 10 years old.
Copy negative on file for 1970.5051.8.
circa 1914-1924
Fleishhacker Pool, San Francisco
These images are probably related to the Far Western Swimming Championships at the Municipal Swimming Pool at Herbert Fleishhacker Playfield in San Francisco, September 6 and 7, 1930. Madison, then of Crystal Swimming Club under coach Ray Daughters, competed in the 100 and 200 meters free style races. At the time of the race Madison was already holder of all the world free style swimming records.
1930 September
Box/Folder
1/2
9: Bird's-eye view of Fleishhacker pool
Fred Mae, San Francisco (photographer)
1930
1/2
10: Fleishhacker pool swim team and coach Charlie Fisher posed at poolside
Fred Mae, San Francisco (photographer)
Inscription on photograph: "To Helene, with all good wishes from Charlie Fisher and the Fleishhacker boys and girls."
1930 September
1/2
11: Charlie Fisher and his bulldog is his office
Fred Mae, San Francisco (photographer)
Inscription on photograph: "To Helene, wishing you all the good luck, health and happiness in the world, Sincerely yours, Charlie Fisher"
1930 September
1/2
12: Charlie Fisher helping Helene Madison out of pool
Fred Mae, San Francisco (photographer)
1930 September
1/2
13:  Helene Madison and Charlie Fisher
Fred Mae, San Francisco (photographer)
1930 September
1/2
14-15: Helene Madison and Charlie Fisher
Joe Marron (photographer)
1930 September
1/2
16: Charlie Fisher, Helene Madison and 3 female swimmers
Joe Marron (photographer)
1930 September
1/2
17:  Helene Madison seated at poolside, probably at Fleishhacker pool
Joe Marron (photographer)
Copy negative on file.
1930 September
1/2
18: Helene Madison swimming, probably at Fleishhacker pool
Joe Marron (photographer)
Copy negative on file.
1930 September
1/2
19:  Helene Madison on ladder in pool
Fred Mae, San Francisco (photographer)
1930 September
1/2
20: Helene Madison eating hot dog in pool, probably Fleishhacker pool
Fred Mae, San Francisco (photographer)
Copy negative on file.
1930 September
1/2
21: Swimmers, coach Charlie Fisher, and spectators gathered around corner of pool
Fred Mae, San Francisco (photographer)
1930 September
1/2
22-25: Helene Madison with baby zoo animals
4 photographs
Fred Mae, San Francisco (photographer)
Images depict Madison, probably at Herbert Fleishhacker Zoo (now the San Francisco Zoo), with a baby gorilla and a baby elephant. Madison's coach Ray Daughters appears in two of the images.
circa 1930
Box/Folder
1/3
26: Helene Madison and coach Ray Daughters at desk
Alfred Prather, Seattle (photographer)
Copy negative on file
circa 1930
1/3
27: Helene Madison in Washington Athletic Club swimsuit at poolside
Alfred Prather, Seattle (photographer)
circa 1930
1/3
28:  Helene Madison and five Washington Athletic Club teammates around table
World Wide Photos, San Francisco Bureau (photographer)
circa 1930
1/3
29: Helene Madison in canoe at poolside
World Wide Photos, San Francisco Bureau (photographer)
circa 1930
1/3
30: Helene Madison shaking hands with another swimmer
World Wide Photos, San Francisco Bureau (photographer)
circa 1930
1/3
31: Helene Madison with WAC teammates and other swimmers at poolside
F. Billie Wilcox, Centralia, Washington (photographer)
circa 1930
1/3
32: Helene Madison and 3 teammates in WAC swimsuits posed with elderly couple on lawn
F. Billie Wilcox, Centralia, Washington (photographer)
circa 1930
1/4 1930 July 29
1/4
34: Helene Madison in warm up suit at indoor pool
circa 1930
1/4
35:  Studio portrait of Helene Madison in swimsuit
Grady, Seattle (photographer)
circa 1930
1/4
36-38: Helene Madison dressed as cowgirl for parade in Ellensburg, Washington
3 photographs 2" x 3"
circa 1930
Return from Women's National Championship in Miami Beach
These photographs depict Helene Madison after her return from the Women's National Championship at Miami Beach in March 1930, where she won every freestyle event and broke six records.
1930
Box/Folder
1/5
39: Helene Madison with Ray Daughters and unidentified man receiving trophy in Portland
1930 March 26
1/5
40: Airplane West Wind and crowd at Boeing Field, Seattle
Helene Madison and Ray Daughters arrived in Seattle on the West Wind on the last leg of their trip home from Miami, flying from Tacoma to Seattle.
1930 March 27
1/5
41: Helene Madison and her parents in group posed in front of Civic Auditorium, Seattle
Frank Perkins, Seattle (photographer)
Helene Madison was feted at a banquet in her honor at the Civic Auditorium on the evening of her return from the Miami Beach championship.
1930 March 27
1/5
42-43:  Helene Madison in dress posing with a young woman indoors
Presumably taken shortly after Madison's return from the Miami Beach championship as one of the images depicts the women with the trophy that Madison received in Portland.
probably 1930 March
Box/Folder
1/6
44-45:  Helene Madison posing for art classes
45: Fred Mae, San Francisco (photographer)
circa 1930
Olympic Games, Los Angeles
1932 August
Box/Folder
1/7
46: Helene Madison in Olympic warm up suit with spectator bleachers in background
2" x 3"
Photo with Olympics themed border
1932 August
1/7
47: Helene Madison swimming
Fred Mae , San Francisco (photographer)
Caption on verso: "'Sister to the flying fish' Helene Madison, champion of Olympians, as she appears, swimming the 400 meter swim, her crowning achievement in the Olympics. Aug. 13, 1932."Additional photographer's stamp on verso: Alfred Prather, Seattle, Washington.
1932 August 13
1/7 1932 August
1/7 1932 August
1/7
50:  Helene Madison and Georgia Coleman in street clothes sitting on wooden horse
Keystone Photo Service , Los Angeles (photographer)
Copy negative on file.
probably 1932 August
1/7
51-54:  Olympians with Hollywood celebrities
Hollywood celebrities entertained the Olympic athletics before the games began. Three of these photos show Helene Madison, Georgia Coleman and another woman with Frederick March and another man. One image (54) depicts swimmers in a pool and at poolside with others, and possibly depicts a Hollywood-hosted event, but may be unrelated.
1932 August
1/7
55:  Ticker tape parade on University Street between 4th and 5th Avenues, Seattle
Walter P. Miller , Seattle (photographer)
Seattle held the largest ticker tape parade in its history in honor of Helene Madison upon her return from the 1932 Olympics. This photograph shows huge crowds lining University Street with a platform set up in front of the Metropolitan Theatre.
Copy negative on file.
1932 August
1/7
56:  Helene Madison waving to crowd in ticker tape parade.
Alfred Prather , Seattle (photographer)
Copy negative on file.
1932 August
Hollywood
Madison remained in Los Angeles for 2 weeks after the Games ended, apparently meeting with individuals from the movie industry, and some of these may have been taken at that time. Some may be related to Madison's brief acting career, primarily in the 1932 movie "The Human Fish." A few of them depict other swimmers with Madison as well as people who appear to be related to the movie industry.
circa 1932
Box/Folder
1/8
57: Group, including Madison, posed around desk
The group includes young women recognizable from other collection photos as swimmers, as well as men and women who appear to be actors and actresses.
circa 1932
1/8
58-59:  Madison and six other women posed in street
These groups includes include the young women swimmers in the previous photo, and so probably on the same visit.
circa 1932
1/8
60: Helene Madison and four young women near mail slots
World Photos , San Francisco Bureau (photographer)
This photo depicts some of the same women as in the previous photos.
circa 1932
1/8
61: Helene Madison, Ivan Kahn (manager), Al Mannon and John Clein (producer) outside John Clein Productions building
Woodbury , Los Angeles (photographer)
2 copies
circa 1932
1/8
62: Head shot of Helene Madison with platinum blond hair
Maurice Seymour (photographer)
circa 1932
Helene Madison and other swimmers
12 photographs 5' x 7" and smaller
This group of smaller photographs depicts Helene Madison, often with other swimmers, in unidentified situations. All of the photographs are dated circa 1930-1932; some may have been taken while Madison was in Los Angeles for the Olympics
circa 1930-1932
Box/Folder
1/9
63-64: Helene Madison, Georgia Coleman and 2 other women near train wreck
circa 1930-1932
1/9
65: Helene Madison at poolside with man from German press
circa 1930-1932
1/9
66: Helene Madison on boardwalk
circa 1930-1932
1/9
67: Helene Madison with three women in car
circa 1930-1932
1/9
68: Helene Madison standing in pool
circa 1930-1932
1/9
69: Helene Madison sitting on edge of pool with three men (possibly Olympic swimmers?)
circa 1930-1932
1/9
70: Helene Madison standing at poolside with man in hat
circa 1930-1932
1/9
71: Helene Madison with man (ship's captain?) on deck of boat
circa 1930-1932
1/9
72: Georgia Coleman and heavy man near building
circa 1930-1932
1/9
73: Helene Madison and Georgia Coleman in dresses near edge of pool
circa 1930-1932
1/9
74: View of crowd on waterfront from boat
circa 1930-1932
Box/Folder
1/10
75-76:  Helene Madison and two men near car outside Eldridge Buick Co., Pike Street, Seattle
75: Alfred Prather , Seattle (photographer)
76: Webster & Stevens , Seattle (photographer)
circa 1932
1/11
77:  Helene Madison in nurse uniform seated a desk
Associated Press (photographer)
Copy negative on file.
circa 1936
1/12
78-79: Helene Madison with Ann Curtis
78: International News Photo , San Francisco (photographer)
79: Gerald Beadin Photos , Seattle (photographer)
These images show Helene Madison, in street clothes, shaking the hand of swimmer Ann Curtis after Curtis broke the American record for the 220-yard freestyle relay event
Copy negative on file for 79
1946 April 14
1/13
80-82: Helene Madison coaching young female swimmer (her daughter?) at indoor pool
Copy negative on file for 82.
1948 March 6
1/13 1952 February
1/14
84: Head shot of Helene Madison
Jack H. Johnson (photographer)
1961
1/14
85: Helene Madison
Forde photographers (photographer)
circa 1960s
1/13
86: Ray Daughters holding framed photo collage of himself with young swimmers, standing with Helene Madison and three unidentified women
Seattle Times (photographer)
circa late 1960s
Miscellaneous
Box/Folder
1/15
87: Duke Kahanamoku lying on sand in Waikiki
Writing on photo: "Compliments of C.E. Kinnear"
1931
1/15
88: Men's (swimming?) team in "Florsheim" warmups
undated
Box/Folder
1/16
89: Photograph album
90 photographs
Includes photographs of Madison and others swimmers, some wearing swimsuits with "C" logo, probably the "Flying C" logo from Crystal Swimming Club; Madison with family and friends; Madison's coach Ray Daughters; swimming events; one photo of Madison leaning out the window of the airplane West Wind (1930); and Madison wakeboarding.
Autographs on photos: "Wally" Colbath, Georgia Coleman, Mickey [Riley}, "Dutch" Smith, Johnny Riley, Leonard Spence, A. Zonittz (?), Maiola Kahli, George Kojar (?)
circa 1929-1932

Personal papersReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Correspondence
1932-1947
Box/Folder
1/17
Correspondence regarding "Wheaties" endorsement
9 items
1936
1/18
Miscellaneous
13 items
1932-1947
Certificates
Box/Folder
1/19
Seattle Public Schools perfect attendance certificates
1924-1926
1/20
Camp Fire Girls Certificate of Rank
1926
1/21
Seattle Post-Intelligencer Master Swimmer's certificate
1931
1/22
Amateur Athletic Union American Record Certificates for various events
23 certificates
1931-1932
1/23
Moore Pool swimming team Amateur Athletic Union membership certificate
1931 July 17
Programs
Box/Folder
1/24
Far Western Swimming Championships, Fleishhacker Pool, San Francisco
1930 September
1/25
Helene Madison Memorial Pool Dedication
1972
Lists
Box/Folder
1/26
Titles, Records and Championships
List of Madison's American and World Swimming records, listing distance, time, location and date, as well a list of her first place Olympic victories
undated
1/26
List of trophies loaned to Gimbel's for use in window and store displays
1933
Lincoln High School
Box/Folder
1/27
Totem (Lincoln High School yearbook)
1929
1/28
Totem (Lincoln High School yearbook)
1930
1/29
Commencement program
1931
Olympics, Los Angeles
1932 August
Box/Folder
2/1
Olympics tryouts certificates
From tryouts in New York City. Certificates indicate that Madison won 1st place in the 100 meters and 400 meters free style
1932
2/2
Swimming stadium platform badge
1932 August 11
2/3
Official programs
1932 August 11 and 12
2/4
Autograph book
1932 August

ArtworkReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Box/Folder
2/5
Portrait of Helene Madison by newspaper artist Tom Renton
circa 1932
2/5
Watercolor paintings by Helene Madison
One painting of a poinsettia plant and one cityscape
undated

EphemeraReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Box/Folder
2/6
Poster for demonstration by Madison at Sherbrook St. Baths, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
1931 April
Publications containing articles about Madison
Box/Folder
2/7
The Swimmer, Toronto, Canada
1931 April
2/7
Brooklyn Central, Brooklyn, NY (YMCA publication)
1931 April 10
2/7
Gantner Swimming News, San Francisco
1931 January
2/7
Washington vs. Oregon (football game program)
1931October 10
Box/Folder
2/8
 Helene Madison and Ray Daughters at train, circa 1929
 Helene Madison waving from train steps, circa 1929
 Studio photo of Helene Madison in swimsuit, circa 1929
 Swimming coach Ray Daughters in swimsuit, circa 1929
 Helene Madison sitting with coach Ray Daughters and her mother at the Moore Hotel pool, circa 1929
The scrapbook also includes 6 8" x 10" photographs: Helene Madison boarding a train; Madison on train holding hand of Ray Daughters, on platform below; studio photo of Madison in swimsuit; Ray Daughters in swimsuit; Madison seated with Ray Daughters and Maud Daughters; Madison posed sitting on diving board.
1929-1930
2/9-11
Clippings
3 folders
1930s-1960s
Container(s) Description Dates
Box/Folder
2/12
World record medallions
22 medallions
22 diamond shaped cloth medallions, with red trim and red and blue FINA (Fédération Internationale de Natation) emblem in center, embroidered with world free style records, including distance, time and date, set by Helene Madison.
1930-1931
2/13
Dance card for Order of DeMolay Temple Chapter Fall Informal
1930 October 25
2/13
Program on scroll for "Cinderella Ball" at the Civic Auditorium
1934 December 14th
2/13
Lincoln High School "L" patch and pin
Inscribed on paper mount: "Miss Helene Madison, 1st Honorary Member, Lincolnelle, May 18, 1961."
1961 May 18

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

  • Subject Terms :
  • Olympic Games (10th : 1932 : Los Angeles, Calif.)
  • Swimmers--Washington (State)--Seattle
  • Personal Names :
  • Coleman, Georgia--Photographs
  • Daughters, Ray--Photographs
  • Madison, Helene--Photographs
  • Geographical Names :
  • United States--Washington (State)--Seattle
  • Form or Genre Terms :
  • Ephemera
  • Photograph albums
  • Photographic prints
  • Other Creators :
    • Personal Names :
    • Mae, Fred (photographer)
    • Marron, Joe (photographer)
    • Prather, Alfred (photographer)