Two pugilists

Two boys show off their boxing stances in this vintage snapshot from the 1920s or 30s. One boy wears dungarees/overalls and an untied bowtie, while the other wears his coat and slacks. These seem to be unusual togs for a boxing match.

Boxing can be traced as a sport back to ancient times, with Greek, Roman, and even Minoan & Assyrian records showing it was a popular spectator sport. The Romans of course took it to an extreme with the boxing glove having metal studs embedded into it, fights going to the death, and all sorts of brutality. One bit of nomenclature we brought forward from Roman boxing, though, is the term “boxing ring.” Early matches were fought in a circle drawn on the ground. During the gladiator period, boxing was outlawed as being too vicious (that’s saying something!) and it wasn’t really resurrected until the 17th century.

Prior to the 1900s, boxing was part of an unsavory world of gambling and illegal fighting. Many of us have heard of Marquess of Queensbury Rules, which were established in 1867 London as a way to bring bare knuckle boxing under a little more control. It was still considered a brutal pastime and was relegated to gambling dens, eventually becoming a “scandalous” sport of violence, betting and rowdy behavior among men. Fights among the spectators were known to break out, and riots could occur. Boxing was illegal in certain parts of Britain and America. It resembled boxing as we know it today, but not in every sense. For one, not all matches were fought to a win/decision. If one fighter wasn’t knocked out, the fight could be decided by spectators, journalists, and others. It sounds like statistics for early 1900s boxing are nothing like what we imagine they should be! Boxing could also be called prizefighting at that time, because the participants were fighting for a monetary prize. We still refer to a boxing match today as a prize fight.

1900 – 1920 saw a refining of boxing with many fighters coming from the poorer cities and areas, including many Jewish and black fighters. It is interesting to consider that fighters who were considered heavyweight fighters during that era would probably fall into the lightweight and welterweight categories today. Our modern heavyweight class has heights of 6′ 4″ and weights well over 250 pounds.

But the boys pictured above were probably thinking more of fighters like Jack Johnson, Jack Dempsey, Rocky Marciano, Joe Louis and Jake Lamotta (the Raging Bull). These men helped define boxing as we know it today, although still on the small side weight-wise. Without these fighters, we would probably not have seen Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Robinson or Sugar Ray Leonard, all the way to George Foreman, Evander Holyfield and Mike Tyson. The big names of boxing today owe it all to those skinny, bare knuckle brawlers who helped resurrect boxing from the back alley and bring it into the living room. While boxing is still a prize driven sport, it is well known globally for its big purses, big fighters and big crowds – both in the arena and on pay per view.

I hope you will take some time to read further into the history of boxing. I myself enjoy a good boxing match, and encourage folks to learn about the “sweet science” that is more about technical and strategic moves than it is about blood and injury.

Additional Reading

Early 1900s boxing – via

Boxing – via wikipedia

Why is boxing called the sweet science – via

Jake Lamotta, the Raging Bull – via

A list of famous boxers – via




Now that the Cubs have won the World Series, it’s time for football! This is from an era when padding and helmets were not anything like what our players wear today, and CTE was not even on the radar as a possible complication for boys in their futures. This young fellow looks ready to hit the gridiron and score! Do you think he was the QB or a lineman? Based on the photo style, I’m suggesting the 1920s or 1930s. I can’t make out the photographer’s signature in the lower right corner.

Release the hounds!

Guns, dogs, and loads of fun!

Guns, dogs, and loads of fun!

This wonderful image from the early 20th century shows a hunting party, paused before they went off to rid the world of ducks or geese or some other wretched nuisance. (I jest, don’t worry) The group of 6 men and 1 boy are stopped on a small footbridge over a creek. Note that even the child has his own shotgun. I see 2 dogs, 7 long guns, 4 mustaches, 1 cigar and a bowtie. The small dogs suggest to me they were going for some sort of burrowing animal. The terriers were bred to go into underground burrows and bring out the prey. Whatever their quarry, I am certain they enjoyed tramping about the countryside all day, even if they came home empty handed.

Edith A Nunn


Bicycle girl

For this week’s Sepia Saturday, I am posting a photo that I’ve been holding onto for weeks! This is my great grandmother, Edith A Nunn. My dad tells me that Ama, as she was called, was tiny, maybe just around 5 feet tall. You can tell she isn’t much bigger than the bicycle she has posed with. It’s ironic because I am 6 feet tall and one of my cousins is 6′ 5″. Amazing what a century of health and nutrition will do for a family!

Edith was born in 1871 in the Sheldon family descended via the McKinstrys and Coles from the Mayflower family of Stephen Hopkins. I don’t know if it meant all that much to her family, but we do have a very old family tree, written in red ink for some reason, charting out the lineage. I suppose I could use that to apply for membership in the Mayflower descendants club or whatever it is called, but honestly the last thing I need is another hobby, lol.

So, Edith lived from 1871 to 1944. A while back I posted a photograph of her husband, Albert E. Nunn (Apa) with his brother Herb and sister Lizzie. That particular photograph led an online friend and fellow old photograph collector to speak with her neighbor, who happened to also be related to the Nunn family via another brother. Small world! Edith had five children, three singles and a set of twins. Sadly, one of the twins died at age three.

Margaret & Mildred

Margaret & Mildred

This photo came with a little story. You will notice that one girl has her hem pulled down while the other’s is up and showing the ruffles. As the photographer was setting up the photo, Apa pulled the dress on the left down to match the other dress and at the same time Ama raised the dress on the right. Neither one caught what had happened and the photo was shot as we see it.

For more photos of people with bicycles and other things from around the world, click over to Sepia Saturday. You will be happy you did!

Two wheeled adventurers

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Lots to talk about!

This post is being reblogged as part of the Sepia Saturday 200th blogiversary! All the posts submitted this week will be included in a Sepia Saturday book to be published some time later this year. Please show your support to other Sepians by clicking through and visiting their sites. It is an honor to be included in such an interesting, prolific group!!

Happy blogiversary to youuuuuu!

Minneapolis Millers, 1896

This is a print of a press photo of the Minneapolis Millers, 1896. The team had just won the Western League baseball championship. The Minneapolis Millers existed in some iteration for 76 years, beginning in 1884. They originally played in the Northwestern League, but when that failed they were absorbed into the Western League. The team pictured above was formed in 1894 when Ban Johnson and Charles Comisky (of that famous stadium Comisky Park) revived the Western League.

In the year the Millers won the championship, they played 150 games between April and October, then six additional games giving them the win over Indianapolis. Many of their season games were double headers and they often played every day of the week. They ended their season with 89 wins and 47 losses. Some of the scores of those games have staggering tallies: losses 14-20, 6-24 and 8-41, wins 22-7, 30-3, and 18-3 are just a few that stand out. It is no wonder some of those games had such high scores. The fellow second in from the left in the back row hit 49 home runs that year. That’s Perry “The Moose” Werden. Center front was their manager/outfielder Walter Wilmot.

There is a fantastic page dedicated to the Millers (click here) that has stats from the various seasons.

The photo itself has an interesting story. While this is simply a press photo circulated globally, it was picked up and printed in Argentina. Gillermo (William) Maubach ran a photo studio in Buenos Aires, and also worked for the Deutsche La Plata Zeitung newspaper. By 1940, the newspaper was forced to close by the government because it was considered socialist. All of the holdings of the paper and Maubach were sold among various buyers and are scattered across the world. If you don’t remember your history, by 1943 a military coup had taken over the Argentine government, setting in motion events that would make Juan Peron president. It is very complicated so I won’t go into it further here. Maubach was identified by 1947 as having been a German agent in Argentina and was ordered deported. Strangely, he disappeared before deportation could take place and his where abouts remained unknown. This of course feeds off the Argentine and other South American governments offering asylum to German war criminals after World War II ended. Was Maubach really a German agent? Did he return to Germany or escape to another country friendly to Germans? I suspect we will never know.

Baseball, 1890

This fantastic image is identified only as “Baseball, 1890.” I wish I knew more about the team! Their uniforms have a large W on the front, but that could be anything from Washington to Woonsocket. Baseball was really well developed by the 1890s, having started out prior to the 1850s with local teams each having some variation of their own rules. In 1860, the National Association of Base Ball Players unified all the local rules into one set, and these were published and distributed throughout the US and beyond, enabling teams to travel more and play clubs farther away from home with confidence in the rules.

Early baseball used a black or brown leather ball stitched with white thread – unlike our modern white leather with red stitching. The men also didn’t use gloves, but caught the ball barehanded. Can you imagine catching one of those screaming line drives with your bare hands!? Me neither!  There is great similarity between vintage and modern baseball, but also some nuances that really make a difference. Until 1884, pitchers had to keep both feet on the ground and pitch underhanded. Early on, a ball that was struck and bounced inbounds before going out of bounds was considered fair regardless of where it left the field. In the 1870s, the umpire might ask a bystander if a ball was caught fairly before making a ruling! Until 1892, a bat could have a flat side. After that time, all bats had to be round.

Although Abner Doubleday (1819-1893) is credited as the inventor of baseball, he was well unaware of that during his lifetime! The myth came about after a dispute between Henry Chadwick, a British journalist, and Albert Spalding, an American baseball player. When Chadwick (correctly) asserted that baseball had evolved out of many ball and bat games, in particular rounders, Spalding took great offense and helped establish the Mills Commission in 1905. The Commission searched far and wide for someone who could identify any American person who might have had an early knowledge of the game. Well, out came an elderly fellow who claimed to have seen drawings made by Doubleday back in 1839. It did not matter that the “witness” had been five years old, while Doubleday was in West Point at that time, they took his assertion that he had attended school with Doubleday in Cooperstown, NY as factual. The false identification was published in newspapers and Spalding forever linked Doubleday to baseball. Spalding, by the way, was the originator of a little sporting goods company in 1875…you may have heard of them?

Today there are vintage baseball clubs that play by their favorite year’s rules, be they before the Civil War, the Knickerbocker rules, the Union Association rules, etc. These clubs dress much as our fellows above, in bibbed shirts and knickers, and there is a definite emphasis on gentlemanly behavior among players. Early on, a base ball player could be fined for using coarse language in front of fans.

There are many wonderful resources available to learn more about the history of baseball. Click the links below for more reading.

19th Century Baseball

Vintage Base Ball Association

The Society for American Baseball Research

For other vintage sports photos, click on the category “sports.”

Vintage sports

This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt shows Irish boys taking a break from a game called hurling. Well, we don’t have hurling here in America (at least, not as a sport!) so I’m drawing on American sports to provide us with our image for the week.

Click to enlarge


Here we have a truly American sport that was invented by James Naismith in 1891. Basketball was invented as a distraction for the YMCA in Springfield, MA to keep energetic students occupied during the winter. It was also designed to be a strategic game, not a physical one. The only way to score a goal was to carefully lob a ball into a basket suspended over the players’ heads. Players were not allowed to bounce the ball, but instead were to move the ball down the court by passing it to one another. The original baskets were in fact, baskets: peach baskets, to be exact. The first basketball game was played in December 1891 as a nine-on-nine game and ended with a score of 1-0.

The photo above was advertised as a basketball team in 1890, but since basketball was not invented until ’91, we now know that date to be wrong. The team was G. H. S. and it was suggested the team was from the Chicago area. That makes it likely this is Geneva High School, Geneva, IL – a school that dates back to 1876. The photographer is listed in the lower right corner as Northup. The team has six players and I find it interesting that they have padded knickers. Being as the game was invented to be nonphysical, I don’t really know why padding would have been necessary. While you can see the ball they used, apparently this style of ball wasn’t the standard until the 1950s. Prior to that time, soccer balls could be used where no basketball was available. My best guess is that the photo is from 1895-1905, based on the studio props. By that timeframe, basketball was wildly popular in high schools and colleges across America. The photo itself is rather large, about 8.5″x10.5″ matted to 11.5″x14″.

Modern basketball of course is fraught with injuries, the players are incredibly strong and not at all scrawny like those shown above. Scores for professional teams routinely get into the 100s. A lot has changed in the 111 years since the sport was invented, but basketball continues to be an exciting and fast-paced game enjoyed by many.

Check back later for some 19th century baseball teams.

For more Sepia sports, click over to Sepia Saturday to see what other participants have kicked up.

Go for the goal!

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