George Corsan on Nuts & Swimming


“Re: valuable nut trees I have seen: A butternut tree 25 years old, 2 feet in diameter, 6 feet from the ground, yielding an immense crop of nuts every year for the three years that it was under my observation; the nuts are very large and grow in clusters of ten or eight or seven as the clusters recede from the outside center-wise. This tree is at Silver Bay, Lake George, N.Y., and grows out of the veranda of the post office. There are numbers of butternuts around Silver Bay that grow in the cluster form of ten-to-the-cluster but none of the other trees have such large nuts.”

— George Corsan in American Nut Journal, March 1915


George Corsan, who wrote of the butternut tree on the post office veranda, taught horticulture at the University of Toronto but was better known as a swimming instructor, the vocation that called him to Silver Bay.

George Corsan on DockHe was famous for the Corsan Method (starting with water wings, which he invented) and turning his students into swimmers by the third lesson. He was the first to teach beginners the crawl stroke. He also demonstrated the Australian crawl, the Trudgen stroke, the English overarm, and various dives, rolls, tumbles, spins and sculls. Corsan’s motto was “Paddle your own canoe, but first learn to swim.” For armchair swimmers, he wrote At Home in the Water (1914), published by the YMCA (with an introduction by George Fisher, for whom Fisher Gymnasium is named).SB Swim ClassCorsan was noted as the man who did more than any other to popularize swimming in North America. He once taught 1500 boys and girls to swim in one week, and in California during World War I, he taught entire regiments to swim. At Silver Bay, he spent three summers instructing others in how to teach swimming, diving and life-saving.


He also promoted the benefits of a diet of fruits, vegetables and nuts, a lifelong passion. At his farm outside Toronto, Corsan raised more than 400 varieties, including butternuts, hickories, almonds, pecans, sweet chestnuts, Chinese walnuts, Japanese heart nuts, European filberts and Turkish tree hazelnuts. On a second farm in Kendall, Florida, he grew avocados, coconuts, bananas and macadamia nuts. He remained youthful and healthy into his eighties, until the moment he was run down by a car in Miami.

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Photo of the store, post office and butternut tree by the Detroit Publishing Company; photos of the post master and his family on the porch, Corsan on the dock, and Corsan with scout masters at the boathouse by Jesse Sumner Wooley;  swim class from At Home in the Water.