The First Woman to Swim the Channel Helped Search the Trinity for Drowned Victims — 1927

by Paula Bosse

swim-girl-swim_haGertrude Ederle (l) with co-star, Dallas native Bebe Daniels / via

by Paula Bosse

In 1926, Gertrude Ederle, a 19-year-old American, became the first woman to swim the English Channel — her time of 14 hours and 39 minutes was the fastest time ever. She became an instant international celebrity. When she returned to New York, she was given the very first ticker-tape parade, and over two million people turned out to see her.

After this momentous achievement, Ederle turned for a while to entertainment. She made a cameo appearance in a (now lost) silent film called Swim, Girl, Swim (which, incidentally, starred two Dallas natives, Bebe Daniels and James Hall), and she also toured for a while with a vaudeville company.

It was during one of these tours in April, 1927 that she arrived in Dallas, just as torrential rains began to fall. There was severe flooding along the West Fork of the Trinity, especially in the area of Record Crossing. The boat in which two young men were riding had capsized and they had been caught in the undertow and drowned. There had  been an unsuccessful search for their bodies, and I’m not sure who came up with the idea of contacting Miss Ederle, but someone did. Why NOT call in the world’s most famous swimmer to see if she could lend a hand while authorities dragged the river? Miss Ederle did, in fact, join in the underwater search, but the bodies were not found. I bet she never forgot that Dallas stop!

The news was reported in Time magazine:

trinity_bodies_time-mag_041827Time, April 18, 1927

While in town, Trudy also squeezed in a personal appearance at Sanger Bros., hawking what looks to be her own line of swimsuits.


ederle_sangers_dmn_041427Apr. 14, 1927


Sources & Notes

More on the Trinity River search can be found in The Dallas Morning News article “River Claims Two Victims; Gertrude Ederle Makes Vain Attempt to Recover Bodies” (DMN, April 5, 1927).

Newsreel footage of Gertrude Ederle can be seen here.

Photos of Ederle in action are here.

Ederle’s Wikipedia entry is here.


Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.