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Wednesday 16 February 2022

At Last, the Original Jack Dempsey Couldn't KO a Corona Typewriter Advert

Persistence pays off! The arrival of the latest New Yorker in my mailbox this morning very quickly led me to something I’d been searching for these past 11 years or more. A long time ago I’d been told that after the famous Jack Dempsey-Louis Angel Firpo world heavyweight boxing match at the Polo Gardens in New York in 1923, the Corona Typewriter Company had placed a newspaper advertisement which stated, “Dempsey Knocked Out Firpo, But Couldn’t Knock Out CORONA!”

Well, after searching for it since at least 2011, I finally came across it this morning. The one I found had appeared on October 5, 1923, exactly three weeks after the Firpo fight, in The Chico Enterprise, a daily newspaper serving Butte County, California. It had been placed in the Enterprise by the Chico Book & Stationery Co Inc. What a relief to find this ad was no urban myth. In the absence of the Real McCoy, for a sports history presentation I made on typewriters and sportswriters  seven years ago, I actually mocked one up.

The Bellows painting, above, and below a lithograph of the same work.

Finding the genuine article today got better still, because the ad went on to include a full description by New York Tribune sportswriter Jack Lawrence (1887-1961) of the events involving Lawrence’s much battered three-bank Corona folding portable typewriter that night at the Polo Gardens.

Screen shots from colourised movie footage of sportswriters covering the fight. Below, a Remington Model 1 with its raised typebars can be seen, and beside it a Corona folding. Next to each sportswriter is a telegraph operator sending the round by round reports. I had exactly the same setup in 1967, 44 years later, except I was using an Olivetti Lettera 32.

My 2015 mock up of the ad I couldn't (then) find.

My renewed effort to find the ad came about because the front cover of the February 7, 2022, New Yorker features artwork titled “Boxing Rink” by Bruce McCall, in which McCall points to his inspiration, a brilliant canvas painting by George Wesley Bellows (1882-1925). Bellows’s 1924 work Dempsey and Firpo, sometimes referred to as Dempsey Through the Ropes, has been in the Whitney Museum of American Art in Manhattan since 1931. This painting depicts the moment Dempsey fell through the ropes on to Lawrence’s Corona typewriter on the Press bench in the first round of the Firpo fight. McCall has recast the combatants as ice hockey players.

Brooklyn Citizen, December 30, 1923
Newark Advocate American Tribune, June 16, 1934.

Bellows gave himself a cameo as the balding man at the extreme left of the painting and Lawrence is third from the left. Terry Walsh, who was sending Lawrence’s round by round copy through the Western Union wire, is the unfortunate chap copping the full weight of Dempsey. It’s possible to make out a typewriter under Dempsey’s right shoulder, but in the McCall hockey update there’s no trace of the machine that was so vital to record proceedings in 1923. Bad call, McCall!

The New York Times, September 25, 1961

Above, Dempsey goes out of the ring. Below, a different angle for the same incident.

1 comment:

Ixzed23 said...

Congrats on finding one original article!