Category Archives: History

Johnson Jeffries Fight Exposed Racism In 1910 Society

While putting together a recent teaser post for the old newspapers I also created an animated GIF showing a few small pieces from the newspaper. You can view the GIF here

jeffries_johnson_fight_noticesWhile choosing parts of the newspaper content to throw into the GIF I came across two small pieces regarding a film of a fight between a Jeffries and a Johnson. I assumed this was a boxing match but made a mental note to find out why this fight film created so much controversy.

And what I found out was Racism was heating the fire at the heart of the issue. You see boxing with gloves had only had 6 world champion holders before 1908 and all of them had been White men. But in 1908 a Black man, Jack Johnson from America, won the title in a match in Australia. As the story is told in this piece at the International Boxing Hall Of Fame this state of affairs was not liked at all by White boxing fans back in America. Johnson was vilified.

Over the next few years Johnson successfully defended his title against a number of fighters, all white, and the racists began to search for someone, some white fighter, who could win the title back from the not-white-at-all Mr. Jack Johnson. They called former title holder James Jeffries back from 6 years of retirement and the fight became a well promoted event. The white press promoted Jeffries and vilified Johnson in unprecedented fight publicity campaigns.

When Johnson successfully defeated Jeffries riots broke out in a number of cities in America . . . people were hurt – some were killed. Racism rearing its ugly head.

Were those in Ontario and BC trying to prevent the showing of the films of the fight doing so from a racial bias or a fear of riots and calamity or just anti-boxing activists seizing their opportunity? Or a mix of all 3? There’s something for you to research and find out if you’re curios to know.

You might have noticed the title of this piece is Johnson Jeffries but the actual content in the 1910 newspaper is the opposite. But Jeffries was the loser and the contender so why wasn’t it ‘Johnson Jeffries’? I’m no fan of the fight game and wouldn’t know if it’s contender first that is standard or not but Johnson Won so I’m putting him first. Personally I’m partial to the name myself as well. No relation though.

You can view a video about this infamous piece of sporting history below.


Permits Now (1910) Required To Build In The City

One of the items from the report on council meetings has to do with a change in ‘the way things are done’. If you had been living here in the previous 20 years as the city grew you would have been able to erect a building on your property without having to get permission to do that. After the council meeting of this week you would get a visit from the police if you didn’t have a permit. I’m not sure when the city got a bylaw enforcement officer but back in 1910 some of that was done by the local police.


In a previous post I mentioned that one of the items discussed at City Council had to do with Flyers (pamphlets) contributing to run away horses on the city streets. As it turned out the Mayor brought this before council for good reason as in the next week’s newspaper, June 30, there is a gut wrenching account of a local man’s slow death after just such an occurrence on the main road in the city.

You can read about this and more from 1910 on our Old Newspapers page.

Runaways Fly Into Council Meeting

horse_160623bHere is an aspect of 1910 life that we, in the 21st century, do not encounter: runaways on the streets.

When you read that statement what image did the word runaway bring to your mind?
A child running away from home?
A spouse running away from a marriage?

The runaways in this context would be horses and the most dangerous ones would be horse drawn wagons or carriages which, in 1910, would be fairly common on the streets and roads of Grand Forks.

Why would the Mayor be so concerned about them he brought the topic up in City Council in this week in 1910? Because twice in the previous week the streets of Grand Forks had been the scene of runaways and both times it was due to indiscriminate scattering of handbills, advertisements, by commercial concerns in town. The wind driven pages become animated antagonists to the horses on the streets and some get scared enough to bolt – dangerously dragging their loads behind as they flee to safety.

This also points out an origin story:
Why are those advertising things that clog your mailbox called Flyers?
Could it be because the handbills they evolved from were often found flying around after being discarded?

You can read more about the news of bygone days on our Old Newspapers page.
And you can read the pinned down handbills we call posters on our whatsupgf page without contributing to litter or runaways!

Don’t Be A Knocker

In a previous post I remarked on the very different takes, by the local newspapers, on the coming circus (back in 1910).

The Gazette ran their advertisement and also wrote some additional promotional copy while the Sun had no ad and a disparaging editorial.

Well this week the Gazette continues their promotional efforts with two glowing pieces, on the circus which has not even happened yet, and another piece which just might be a chiding comment aimed at the Sun’s editorial staff. This extra piece is is titled Don’t Be A Knocker and I’m reproducing it below (emphasis added).

Don’t be a Knocker

If your neighbor is prosperous, let him prosper.
Do not growl or grumble.
Say a good word for him and let it go at that.

Do not be a knocker.

If you see that the town is moving along nicely, feel good about it.
Help things along. Shove a little. Push.
Try and secure some of the benefit for yourself.

Do not stand around like a cadaver.
Do not wast time feeling sore because some fellow has a little more sand and sense than you have.
Do a little hustling yourself.
If you can say a good word, say it like a prince.
If you are full of bile and disposed to say something mean, keep your mouth closed.
Do not be a knocker.

No man ever became rich and happy minding anybody’s business save his own.
No man ever helped himself up permanently, by knocking his neighbors down.

Give a kind word. Give it liberally.
It will not cost a cent and you may want one yourself some day.
You cannot afford it. It will not pay. There is nothing in it.

If you want to throw something at somebody – throw cologne. Or roses.
Do not throw brickbats. Or mud.
If you must kick – go to some secluded spot and kick yourself.
If you feel that way, you are the man who needs kicking.

But whatever you do, do not be a knocker.

Of course I cannot say for sure that the preceding was actually intended as a comment on the Sun’s editorial but the timing leaves me suspicious.

You can read more of the newspaper on our Old Newspapers page.