DEMPSEY, JACK EARLIEST AUTOGRAPH & OTHERS (ADDISON THATCHER AUTOGRAPH BOOK-1919)

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Regular price $2,500.00

On July 4, 1919 under the broiling sun in Toledo, Ohio Jack Dempsey stopped Jess Willard to win the world heavyweight title. Bringing the fight bto Toledo was largely the work of Addison Q. Thatcher. Boxing was banned in New York and many other states. The reformers who had brought in Prohibition had pretty well put boxing, or prize fighting as the preferred to call it, under their thumb. Overtures from Canada, Mexico, and Cuba were made for the clash, but Rickard wanted it in this country, and he looked about for a permissive spot. Ad Thacher, a Toledo contractor, politician, and boxing enthusiast, got to Rickard and sold him on the strategic location of Toledo and its railroad accessibility to Detroit, Chicago, New York, St. Louis, Philadelphia, and other populous centers. So it was decided, and so it was announced. The enthusiasm which the announcement set off was immediately tempered by an aroused opposition. One church association registered a vigorous protest claiming that the “prize fight will bring into our borders hordes of the lawless and vicious elements, that it will stimulate gambling on a vast scale, and sanction brutality, and that it will denigrate the fair name of Toledo in the eyes of the rest of the nation to the low level of Reno as a wide-open town.” As far away as Cleveland the Ministerial Union voted unanimously to protest to the governor against the match as a menace to public morals. The Toledo Ministerial Union sought unsuccessfully to secure a permanent injunction against the promoters. The Sunday School Association passed a resolution of opposition pointing out that the fight would bring to Toledo “thousand of criminals, prostitutes, and gamblers whole presence in any city is demoralizing, and whose influence on the youth of the community is a pollution. No single thing could injure the good name of a city more than to be known as a place where a national prize fight was pulled off.” The Women’s Christian Temperance Union asked that “all influence be brought to bear to protect our city form this disgrace.” From the outside, professional obstructionists were brought in. Dr. Wilbur Crafts, superintendent of the International Reform Bureau, came from Washington to stop the bout, claiming that he had prevented the Willard-Johnson fight from being held in Florida and also had put the skids under a match between Jeffries and Fitzsimmons. Mayor Cornell Schreiber was besieged by protests, petitions, and injunctions to forestall the fight; finally he was driven to issue a long public statement supporting the event. In his proclamation he pointed out that the location of Toledo and its railroad accessibility to Detroit, Chicago, New York, St. Louis, Philadelphia, and other populous centers. In his proclamation he pointed out that the government has used boxing in conditioning soldiers during the war, that the boxing “exhibition” would be limited to twelve rounds, that seven percent of the gross receipts would go to Toledo charities, that tens of thousands of visitors would be spending thousands of dollars in Toledo, that the city’s natural and industrial advantages would be brought to the entire world, and (with a remarkable lack of foresight) that the bout would be conducted strictly as a “scientific boxing match.” Although Rickard issued a statement that it was “time to squelch these so-called reformers who have made a nuisance of themselves,” the opposition was not giving up that easily; now it turned to the governor of the state. One minister charged, “The governor has power to stop it if the mayor does not. Everybody interested in the fair name of the city should write the governor to save the city and the state from this disgrace.” Some have it that Addison Thatcher got to Governor Cox first. Regardless he tried to sidestep the issue, stating that the law prohibited prize fighting, but permitted boxing contest, and that the interpretation of the law rested with the local authorities. Robert Dunn, a state representative, tried to get a bill through the legislature placing the authority directly in the governor’s hands but it was defeated. Having been taken off the hook, the governor came forth with this noble statement, “Several attempts within the past few weeks were made in the Ohio legislature to change existing statues on the subject, but without result. Failing in this, one branch passed a resolution requesting me to interfere with the contest. In other words after the assembly itself failed to give me legal authority, one branch urged me to proceed without right…. If the law is changed, giving me the right of interference, it will be exercised, but I shall not meet hypocrisy with usurpation of power.” For some unaccountable reason, the Toledo papers took no stand on the controversy; as far as the editorial columns were concerned no one would have guessed that one of the century’s great sport events was about to be staged locally. However the New York Times was moved to write, “A few years ago no one would ever dream that any city in this country would have developed the broad point of view which permits this greatest of ring contest.” If all this fuss about staging the fight bothered Rickard, it was not noticeable. One of his backers, Frank Flournoy, a sportsman he had met in the cattle business in Argentina, came from Memphis with $150,000 and opened up a business office. An experienced ticket salesman was brought from New York to handle that end of the operation. On May 15 the construction of the arena was begun in 60-acre Bay View Park, about four miles north of the heart of Toledo. Addison Thatcher had an autograph book for the event which we offer here. It has likely the earliest autograph of Jack Dempsey (7/5/1919) as world heavyweight champion. It also includes signatures of Jimmy DeForest (Dempsey's trainer), DeWitt Fisher, Frank Flournoy, Bob Edgren (sports writer and crtoonist who has also supplied a cartoon of Thatcher), E.W.Dickerson (sports writer), D. Hughes (manager of Jimmy Wilde), and Jimmy Wilde (world flyweight champion) and his wife
This is a red leather autograph book. Each signature is in fountain pen and is on a separate page. Tight binding. Clean. Minor cover wear. Not creased or torn. 3 1/2" x 6." Exceedingly rare.

Size: 3 1/2 x 6

Condition: excellent