Robert Olmstead, Baton Twirling Legend

Robert Olmstead was a band leader and early instructor in baton twirling in the United States. Born in California in 1915, he grew up performing in vaudeville shows. He played multiple instruments and became a highly skilled twirler who twirled batons on slackwire.  

In college, Olmstead served as drum major for both San Jose State University and the University of Santa Clara. He went on to become a highly sought after band leader, twirling instructor and drum corps leader. In 1948, he made NFL history when he formed the 49ers Majorettes, the first female performing group in the NFL.

Two years later, he and his wife Edith held a training camp for the 49ers Majorettes for the upcoming football season. That camp launched a 40-year career in directing and hosting camps for twirlers, cheerleaders, song leaders, drill teams, drum majors, and mascots, etc. Eventually, in 1976, the effort became known as the United Spirit Association. Today, USA is part of the Varsity Spirit Corporation, which acquired the National Spirit Group in 2004, the owner of the National Cheerleaders Association.

Among the baton twirlers Olmstead instructed was Diane Shelton, whom we interviewed in May 2023.

Robert Olmstead died in 1992. Members of his family carry on his legacy with e2K, an entertainment company.

49ers Majorettes perform in Kezar Stadium, December 1962

Olmstead instructs at his Big Trees Twirling Camp, California.

St. Mary’s Baton Corps




SFO Museum


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