Fight Boyle's Thirty Acres at the Montgomery Oval
Montgomery Street and Florence
Boyle's Thirty Acres,
Jersey City, NJ: Dempsey and Georges Carpentier in arena before fight.
Copyright, 1921, FC Quimby
Courtesy, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division
Acres, Jersey City, NJ: Jack Dempsey posing in ring in boxing position.
Courtesy, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division
Called the "battle
of the century" by boxing enthusiasts, the fight between Jack Dempsey
and Frenchman Georges Carpentier at Boyle's Thirty Acres was an extravaganza
that introduced sports as leisure for the masses at the beginning of
the 1920s.The site today is south of the Montgomery Gardens at Montgomery Street and Florence Place.
The contest for the heavyweight championship took place on the overcast,
humid Saturday afternoon of July
2, 1921, and was scheduled
for .Randy Roberts, author of Jack Dempsey: The Manassa Mauler, places the historic fight in the
cultural perspective of the post-World War I era: "In an age where
man seemed to be guided by amoral forces beyond his control, the Dempsey-Carpentier
fight represented man as master of his fate" (119).
attendance for the fight was 80,183, but by all accounts the stands
built for over 91,000 were packed to capacity. Roberts reports that
"the fight grossed $1,789,238, well over twice as much as any previous
fight" (120). In attendance was a roster of notables: Jersey City
Mayor Frank Hague and New Jersey Governor Edward I. Edwards; the three
children of Theodore Roosevelt--Kermit Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt,
Jr. and Alice Roosevelt Longworth; industrialists John D. Rockefeller,
Jr. William H. Vanderbilt, George H. Gould, Joseph W. Harriman, Vincent
Astor, and Henry Ford; entertainers Al Jolson and George M. Cohan; and literary figures H.L. Mencken, Damon Runyon,
Arthur Brisbane, and Ring Lardner.Prominent Long Island residents, such as Ralph Pulitzer, Harry Payne Whitney and
J.P. Grace, made the trip to Jersey City. Their interest in the fight came from Carpentier's used an
estate on ManhassetBay as his training camp. A larger than expected turnout of some
2,000 women attended the sporting event.
The press corps at the
fight included reporters from England, France, Spain, Japan, Canada and South
America as well as from
across the nation.Sports writers
Bob Edgren of the New York Evening World, Tad Dorgan of the New
York Evening Journal, and Joe Wiliams of the Cleveland Press
were present. Local sports writers were: Jackie Farrell, then of
the Hudson Dispatch; J. Owen Kennedy of the
Jersey Journal; Jim Egan of the Jersey Observer; and Morris (Rosey) Rosenberg of the Bayonne Times.Approximately 2,000 Jersey City police and fire fighters were assigned to the event to maintain
the "law and order" that was synonymous with Hague's rule
of the city, and 600 ushers were hired to check for counterfeit tickets.
City was not the
first choice of fight promoter George Lewis "Tex" Rickard, who orchestrated the event with all the hype
available for its time.He selected
the Jersey City site and leased the property only after some haggling about
the event with state and local officials. Rickard initially wanted the
fight to be held in New
and even considered the use of the Polo Grounds in uptown Manhattan, favoring an outdoor venue. New YorkState had legalized boxing under the Walker Boxing Law, named for
Democratic Mayor Jimmy Walker of New York City. However, Republican New York Governor Nathan L. Miller opposed
prizefighting and claimed he would intervene if the fight took place
in the state by having the Walker Law repealed. Rickard, then hoping
to schedule the fight close to New
looked across the Hudson River to New
n early April,
. . . Edwards . . . offered his state to Rickard. The choice
was thus narrowed to the leading New
andJersey City.Political infighting
followed, but just how much and by whom
not known.The fight would
certainly be a boon to the chosen city, and the
who owned the land that was picked for the site of the arena would
stand to make a small fortune
. . . .the nod went to Jersey City, townblessed by its
proximity to New
and the support of Governor Edwards. (Roberts 113-114)
The New York Times posits that Rickards visited
Jersey City in April and had lunch with Hague and members of the Chamber
of Commerce at the Elks' Club. He was then shown several sites in the
city.He is quoted as saying:"Not since I have been in the promotion
game have I met a more enthusiastic body of men than in Jersey City" (April 14, 1921).At
the filing of that article, the Times
predicts that, while Jersey City had made "an attractive proposition"
and had a good location for a larger gate, Atlantic City was favored.
According to Lud Shahbazian
of the Hudson Dispatch, it
was Hague, who recommended the property of his friend John F. Boyle
as the site for the event. Boyle brother was Jersey City Fire Chief
Roger Boyle, who later with two other brothers Andrew J. and Luke, inherited
the sports arena. George Mecurio of the Jersey
City Reporter writes that years later Dempsey's manager Jack (Doc)
Kearns claimed Hague received $80,000 under the table for the deal (July
16, 2001).Boyle's property was
on a plot of marshland on the south side of Montgomery
opposite his paper box factory. With the concurrence of Boyle and Rickard,
construction of an arena started on April 28th; C.S. Edwards, the governor's
brother, was awarded the building contract. Rickard decided on an outdoor
arena of yellow-pine wood construction, often called the "pine
bowl." It had 91,613 seats and a tower for newsreel photographers;
it continued to be used for a time for prizefights in Jersey City.
The eight-sided wooden arena,
costing $325,000, was 300,000 square feet and was built in two months
by 600 carpenters and 400 workers using 2,250,000 feet of lumber and
60 tons of nails. The attendees paid between five dollars and fifty
cents for general admission and up to fifty dollars for ringside seats.
Tickets were available at B.F. Keith's Theatre on Newark
and Bay Street.According to Roberts,
"In the best seats the match would be watched without fear of life
or limb; but the wooden outskirts of the arena shook frightfully from
any commotion initiated by the holders of the expensive seats.It was truly a democratic
On the day
of the fight, spectators came by automobile, trolley, jitney, or foot.
They arrived from New
York Cityvia special trains of the Hudson & Manhattan Railroad
through the Hudson Tubes,
from ferryboat to the Jersey
City waterfront and
by jitney to the "Montgomery Oval" from Journal Square and Exchange
The Jersey City Chamber
of Commerce helped promote the fight with a three-fold brochure.It included statistics about the contenders,
a transportation map to the "Montgomery Park Arena," a drawing
of the arena for the purchase of tickets, and a list of ten reasons
why Tex Rickard selected Jersey City for the fight.Below
the listing was a final promotion for Jersey City as "the most
desirable site in the Metropolitan Zone for locating your factory or
warehouse" that is "Next to the Largest City in the World"
(How to Get to the Fight, Lovero Collection,
New Jersey Room).
According to some boxing
experts, the two fighters were mismatched. Dempsey, known as the "Manassa
Mauler" became the heavyweight champion in 1919 when he defeated
Jess Williard, the "Great White Hope" in Toledo, Ohio. But he was "labeled as draft dodger" (Roberts 112)
during World War I.Dempsey applied
for a domestic exemption to support his family, was granted 4A status,
and continued to fight during the war. Carpentier, or the "Orchid
Man," was hailed as a popular war hero having served in the air
force; he received the Croix de Guerre from the French government and
was referred to as "handsome, urbane, slender, and debonair"
(Roberts 103).He had defeated Joe Beckett, the British heavyweight
champion in London in 1919.Rickard offered
Carpentier $200,000 to Dempsey's $300,000 for the boxing event-- considerable
sums for the time--as well an equal share of twenty-five percent
of the film profits. Roberts, on the other hand, views the match-up
by Rickard as good promotional strategy and management:
Not only did Rickard
under stand the psychology of the use of money, he also
a master of dramatic symbolism.The
people sought to attract to boxing were
not particularly lovers of a good fight, but rather men and women,
wealthy ones, who were
interested in the drama inherent in a battle of contrasts . . . .
Never would the issue and symbols be so simple and so devastating."
for the fight, Dempsey trained in Atlantic City. On the day of the fight, he stayed at the home of financier
and politician General
William C. Heppenheimer at the northeast corner of Montgomery Street and Jersey
which was within walking distance to Boyle's Acre.
the day of the boxing
match approached, Governor Miller continued his opposition to what he
called the " 'commercial enterprise' of
professional boxing" (Roberts 114). Congressional representative
James A. Gallivan, a Democrat from Massachusetts, tried without success to have the fight prohibited based
on Dempsey's absence of military service. Other opponents were the General
Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, and the Board of Temperance and
Public Morals of the Methodist Episcopal Church.
In Jersey City, the Clergy Community Club appealed to the Hudson County Grand
Jury but was not successful. It also forwarded their condemnation of
the event to the Mayor Hague.According
to Roberts:"The organization
of pastors carefully listed the reasons for their opposition:the bout would attract 'bruisers' rather that
the 'finer types' of citizens; the fight would serve to 'brutalize'
the youth and foster juvenile delinquency; and the entire standards
of Jersey City would be corrupted by allowing the match to be staged"
of the century" is also celebrated as the first sports event broadcast
on the radio, the new mass communications medium of the decade.Rickard wanted the event broadcast to advance
prizefighting in the post-war popular culture. To accommodate the radio
cast, a wooden makeshift room was constructed under the stands.Telephone lines and a temporary radio transmitter,
sponsored by the Radio Corporation of America, were installed at the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railway terminal in Hoboken.Major J. Andrew White
worked the radiophone and H.L. Walker the control board.
the afternoon as the spectators gathered and overhead clouds threatened
rain, two bantamweights, Frank Burns of Jersey City and Packey O'Gatty of New York City, were engaged in one of the preliminary bouts. Rickard feared
that members of the crowd might start to leave if it rained. He instructed
White and Walker to go on the air before the main bout.White is quoted as saying, "It is drizzling
rain while Packey O'Gatty and Frankie Burns are battling.It is the eighth and last round and Tex Rickard
has just announced that Jack Dempsey and Georges Carpentier will fight
at 3 P.M., rain or shine for the world's championship" (Brennan, Jersey Journal,
February 9,1960).Afterwards the fight announcer Joe Humphreys
decided to try the "voice amplifier," known as the "Magnavox,"
as loud speakers were initially called. It
was installed over the "pine bowl" arena.The Burns-O'Gatty fight, therefore, was the
first prize fight to be transmitted, although the Dempsey-Carpentier
bout, heard by 300,000, is considered "the first broadcast of a
championship boxing match" (Roberts124).
When Carpentier entered the eighteen-foot square ring for the main
event, he was greeted by the playing of La Marseillaise, the French national anthem. Angered by the loud cheering
for Carpentier, Dempsey and his opponent did
not shake hands, but the pugilists shook hands with Mayor Hague and
Governor Edwards when they entered the ring. The bell rang for the start
of the fight at , Dempsey knocked Carpentier unconscious one minute and sixteen seconds into
the fourth round, and referee Harry Ertle from Jersey City ended the bout at .Shahbazian
reports that at the end of the eleven-minute fight when "the roaring
crowd leaped it its feet, those who were there insist, the pine structure
actually swayed" ("New York Governor Forced Fight to JC,"
Hudson Dispatch, July 2, 1971).
For Roberts, "The
fight that was so assiduously promoted and that attracted the interest
of much of the world was not a very good fight" (126).The fight may not have been the most memorable
athletic performance for either fighter; however, it was an unqualified
phenomenon in many categories; it attracted unprecedented attention
at home and abroad to what was happening that day in Jersey City (Mappen,"Jerseyana: For One Day in July 1921, Jersey City Became the Boxing Capital of the World."New York Times, June 9, 1991).
Boxing matches continued at the Montgomery Street venue into the 1920s. After it fell into disrepair and out of favor with boxing fans, the large wooden arena was razed in June 1927.
Brennan, Ed. "The Day History Was Made in Jersey
City." Jersey Journal9 February 1960.
"Dempsey Knocks Out Carpentier
in the Fourth Round; Challenger Breaks His Thumb Against Champion's
Jaw; Record Crowd of 90,000 Orderly and Well Handles." New York Times3
"Fire Chief Boyle of Jersey City, 68." New York Times
27 January 1940.
How to Get to the Fight.Jersey
City, NJ.Joan D. Lovero
Collection.New Jersey Room, Jersey City Free Public Library. "John F. Boyle, Jr., 57, Jersey
Industrialist." New York
Times9 December 1953.John Boyle, Sr. was the treasurer of the Democratic
State Campaign for Frank Hague for twelve years.
Kahn, Roger. A Flame
of Pure Fire: Jack Dempsey and the Roaring 20s. New
York: Harcourt Brace, 2000.
Mappen, Marc. "Jerseyana: For One Day in July 1921, Jersey City Became the Boxing Capital of the World."New York Times9 June 1991.
_____. "Jersey City Tastes Glory."Jerseyana: The Underside of New Jersey History. New
Press, 1992: 162-165. Mercurio, George. " 'TheBattle
of the Century.' " Jersey City Reporter16 July 2001.
Roberts, Randy. Jack Dempsey:
The Manassa Mauler.New
York: Grove Press, Inc., 1979. Shahbazian, Lud."Jersey City
Gave Boxing Its First Million Dollar Gate Just 50 Years Ago Today."
Hudson Dispatch2 July 1971.Shahbazian was a Hudson Dispatch cartoonist in 1921 and attended the fight.
_____. "New York Governor Forced Fight to JC." Hudson Dispatch2 July 1971.
_____. "Rickard Feared Quick Kayo." Hudson Dispatch2 July 1971.
_____. "Thirty Acres, But Who's Counting." Hudson Dispatch10 September 1988.
Boyle's property was actually thirty-four acres and the Public Service
Gas Company (now PSE&G) was part owner of the property.
City."New York Times14 April 1921.