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Florida State University Tarpon Club Collection

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MSS 2005-011

Scope and Contents

The Florida State College for Women/Florida State University Tarpon Club Collection consists of club records documenting its administration and activities, such as minutes, constitutions, correspondence, and financial records; scripts; performance materials such as programs, publicity, and choreography notes; photographs; newspaper clippings, video recordings, scrapbooks, and club ephemera from its establishment to its disbandment, such as the first sketch for the Tarpon pin and 40th and 50th anniversary celebration guest books.

The collection also contains materials from its founding group, the Florida State College for Women's Life Saving Corps (1931-1936), including programs from the first aquatic exhibitions put on by the Corps and materials documenting Montgomery Pool activities from 1932-1933.

The collection is valuable to researchers studying the history of U.S. synchronized swimming and collegiate synchronized swimming organizations, as well as the history of FSCW/FSU.

Online Copies Available

  • Photographs: Select photographs from this collection have been digitized and are available through the FSU Digital Library as part of a larger photograph collection.
  • Film: Select films from this collection have been digitized and are available through the FSU Digital Library as part of a larger A/V collection.
  • Dates

    • Created: 1931-1994
    • Other: Majority of material found in 1931-1994

    Conditions Governing Access

    Collection has access restrictions. Please ask Special Collections staff for details.

    Conditions Governing Use

    To request permission to quote, publish, broadcast or otherwise reproduce from the archives, please contact Heritage & University Archives, Florida State University Libraries, Tallahassee, Florida. Researchers must obtain separate permission from the copyright holders of material held within University Archives collections for which the institution does not hold copyright.

    Biographical or Historical Information

    The Tarpon Club began during the early 1920s as the Florida State College for Women (FSCW) Life Saving Corps. The Life Saving Corps began holding exhibitions in the Montgomery Gym indoor pool demonstrating aquatic skills during the 1930's. These exhibitions featured form swimming, figure swimming, speed swimming, lifesaving techniques, diving, and canoe handling. In the spring of 1937, members of the Corps under the direction of Betty Washburn formed the Tarpon Club, choosing the tarpon fish as its mascot due to its reputation of being an acrobat of Florida waters. The club presented its first "water pageant" in the fall of that year featuring swimming stroke demonstrations and floating patterns performed with musical accompaniment.

    In 1938, the Tarpons initiated its first group of "Minnows," or first year members, and established the tradition of requiring Minnows to participate in the club and improve their skills until they were judged eligible to become full-fledged Tarpons. The Club continued to perform at least one production per year, with each show containing a central theme, until its disbandment in 1994. During its long existence, the Tarpon Club garnered a number of awards and received invitations to perform at national and international aquatic exhibitions. The International Academy of Aquatic Art and the National Institute for Creative Aquatics recognized the Tarpons' skill through the years with numerous awards, and the club also received an award for its performance in the United States Synchronized Swimming Collegiate National Championships.

    Notable sports writer Grantland Rice featured the Tarpon Club three times in his "Sportlight" series of short films produced by Jack Eaton: "Aqua Rhythm," filmed in Wakulla Springs in 1941, "Campus Mermaids," also filmed there in 1945, and "Water Symphony," filmed in both Wakulla Springs and Cypress Gardens in 1953. The Florida Department of Commerce filmed the Tarpon performance "A Dip in Dixie" in 1964 to promote tourism in the State of Florida. Some Life Saving Corps and Tarpon Alumni continued their film roles. Corps member Martha Dent Perry served as the character Jane's stunt double in "Tarzan's Secret Treasure" filmed at Wakulla Springs in 1941, and Tarpon member Jean Knapp served as Jane's stunt double in "Tarzan's New York Adventure," also filmed at Wakulla Springs in 1942. Tarpon Nancy Tribble served as an underwater double for actress Anne Blythe in the 1953 film "Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid," and designed the famous mermaid logo for the mermaid attraction at Weekiwachee Springs with Sis Myers, another Tarpon alumna. Tarpon member Sherry Brown also swam in the chorus of the 1953 Esther Williams film "Easy to Love." Another notable Tarpon alumna, 1943 FSCW graduate Nancy Kulp, starred in several television shows, films, and theater productions. Also of note is Katherine Rawls, a swimmer in the 1936 Corps and a two-time Olympic swimmer and diver in the 1932 and 1936 summer games. Rawls would go on to be a member of the Women's Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS) during World War II.

    When the Club disbanded in 1994, it was the Nation's oldest continuously active collegiate swim group as well as the oldest club on the Florida State University campus.


    37.52 Linear Feet

    Language of Materials



    The FSCW/FSU Tarpon Club Collection contains materials documenting the synchronized swimming team's activities and performances. Materials include club documents, photographs, choreography and scripts, newspaper clippings, video, alumni notes, as well as other ephemera documenting the organization's history.

    Arrangement Note

    Each subject is organized alphabetically and then chronologically. Because of the age of the records, storage issues, and changes in club administrations, some gaps in chronology are evident within the records.

    Physical Access Requirements

    Tarpon Club Media in Series 8 consists of reel-to-reel films and tapes that are being assessed for preservation issues and are not currently available to researchers. They are located in off-site cold storage.

    Method of Acquisition

    Donated by Mary Lou Norwood and Alicia Crew.

    Processing Information

    Collection processed by Erin VanClay and Christine Bethke

    Florida State University Tarpon Club Collection
    Erin VanClay and Christine Bethke
    Description rules
    Describing Archives: A Content Standard
    Language of description
    Script of description
    Code for undetermined script
    Language of description note

    Repository Details

    Part of the FSU Special Collections & Archives Repository

    116 Honors Way
    PO Box 3062047
    Tallahassee FL 32306-2047 US