Nicknames and Stylish Hair: all a day in the life of a bare-knuckle boxer.
Take a moment to explore images from the Sporting Portraits collection. This collection contains over 350 photographs, prints, broadsides, clippings, and hand-drawn illustrations from the mid-18th to the 20th centuries. These portraits captured the likeness of more than 100 American, British, and Irish boxers.
The nicknames and facial hair alone are worth a look through this collection. Who can resist the classic masculinity of handlebar mustaches? Peter Maher and John C. Heenan wear them well.
Mustaches aside, a few tough women held their own in this rough sport, one such notable being Bertha Frances.
What good is a boxer without an equally intimidating nickname?
- John C. Heenan “The Benicia Boy”
- John L. Sullivan “The Boston Strong Boy”
- Valentine Braunheim “Knockout Brown”
- Johnny Murphy “Birmingham Sparrow” (later a boxing instructor at Harvard College)
- James J. Jeffries “The Boilermaker”
While only a few images from this extensive collection are available online, the rest are on their way to being digitized. The collection includes examples of excellent craftsmanship– such as the silk embroidered portrait (known as a “Stevengraph”) of John L. Sullivan– and striking imagery, like Thomas Worth’s illustration of the Peter Maher and Robert Fitzsimmons fight. The print is visually compelling even to the most peaceful observer.
Thanks to Alexandra Winzeler for compiling this entry and cataloging the sporting portraits!