No. 583
Crime, Eccentricity, and the Sporting Life in 19th Century America.
November 29, 2022

Fight of the Century!

July 31, 2011
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Fifteen-year-old Jody Randall of Long Beach, California, was in most ways a typical suburban teenager.  The one thing that set her apart was a passion for antiques which was unusual for someone of her youth.  As a result of spending all her available free time (and her parents’ money) on her hobby, she eventually amassed some impressive pieces, including a doll collection noteworthy enough to
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Strange Company - 11/28/2022
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Shell and Pea Game on the Trail"Sketched from life by M. W. Newberry"San Francisco ChronicleApril 10, 1898(Click image to enlarge)    UNKO MEN AND THEIR TRICKS      A wonderfully detailed description of the modus operandi of Soapy Smith's three shell and pea manipulators along the Chilkoot and White Pass trails. Witnessed and reported by Joseph D. Barry, and published in the San Francisco
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Soapy Smith's Soap Box - 11/21/2022
Working as a domestic servant in 19th century New York City had plenty of challenges. Sure, servants received room and board in addition to their wages, and they usually had at least Sunday afternoon off. But living in another family’s home was isolating and lonely—particularly if you didn’t speak English or weren’t accustomed to urban […]
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Ephemeral New York - 11/28/2022
On this date in 2002, Pakistani Mir Aimal Kansi, Kasi, or Qazi was executed by lethal injection in Virginia, U.S.A. “Real angry with the policy of the U.S. government in the Middle East, particularly toward the Palestinian people,”* Qazi on January 25, 1993 revenged himself on Central Intelligence Agency commuters queued for a left turn […]
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Executed Today - 11/14/2022
Museum of the City of New YorkWilliam Howe and Abraham Hummel were the most successful criminal lawyers in Gilded Age New York. With a combination of skill, showmanship, and unethical practices, they defended most of the city’s significant criminals and many of its murderers. Whether they won or lost, Howe and Hummel made every trial sensational. Here are a few of the many accused murderers
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Murder By Gaslight - 11/26/2022
Wishing you a happy and bountiful Thanksgiving Day! Lizzie is thankful for turkey and all the trimmings – and no mutton broth in sight!
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Lizzie Borden: Warps and Wefts - 11/22/2022
An article I recently wrote for the British online magazine, New Politic, is now available online. The article, “The Criminal Origins of the United States of America,” is about British convict transportation to America, which took place between the years 1718 and 1775, and is the subject of my book, Bound with an Iron Chain: […]
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Early American Crime - 12/17/2021
Disguised as the Devil. | Burning of Josephine Farren, Dancer.

Fight of the Century!

The Great
Corbett - Fitzsimmons
Championship Bout!

Carson City, Nevada, March 17, 1897 – On St. Patrick’s Day, 1897, “Ruby” Robert Fitzsimmons challenged “Gentleman” Jim Corbett for the heavyweight boxing championship of the world. The fight in Carson City resembled the picture above for thirteen rounds, and then in round fourteen, Fitzsimmons knocked Corbett to the canvas to become the new world champ.

In March of 1897, much of the world had its attention focused on Carson City, Nevada, where “Gentleman” Jim Corbett would be defending his heavyweight championship against “Ruby” Robert Fitzsimmons. Billed as the "Fight of the Century," there was bad blood going in. Corbett had been refusing Fitzsimmons’ challenges for several years and at one point had nearly retired without defending his title, but Fitzsimmons had raised the necessary cash and Corbett finally accepted the challenge. Finding a venue for the fight had been a problem too. The sport was denounced as barbaric from pulpit and podium and most states had outlawed prizefighting. But Nevada, hit hard by the Depression of 1893 and the falling price of silver welcomed the crowds and their money.

The date set for the fight was March 17, St. Patrick’s Day. In Carson City, that night, Bob Fitzsimmons, the skinny, freckled, New Zealander, kissed his wife, Rose, and entered the ring a solid underdog. In the sixth round, Corbett had him bloodied, on his knees, but it was not enough. In the fourteenth round, Rose came to the ropes and shouted, “Hit him in the slats, Bob.”

Fitzsimmons punched Gentleman Jim at the bottom of the rib cage, knocking his wind out. The Gentleman hit the canvas and ten seconds later Ruby Robert Fitzsimmons was the heavyweight champion of the world.

The Animation

The animated picture above comes from the Cincinnati Post, March 18, 1897. Their coverage of the fight included a strip of images across the bottom of the page:

fight1

The Post urged their readers to construct a kinetoscope to view the images. Kinetoscope is the name Thomas Edison gave his early, single viewer motion picture projector, but a homemade kinetoscope is  a slotted, rotating cylinder used to view a series of pictures as an animated image

Kinetiscope

Before now, only a handful of industrious, 19th century, Cincinnati boys, who actually built a kinetoscope, could see Corbett and Fitzsimmons duke it out round after round. But now, with the miracle of digital animation, everyone can see it without lifting a finger. That’s progress.


Cincinatti Post, March 18, 1897