The Golden Age of American Boxing

In 1956, the Albert Davis Collection of Theater Artifacts was donated to the University of Texas at Austin. New York publicist Albert Davis (1865 – 1942) began saving theatrical photographs, clippings, printed pictures, programs, scripts, and playbills in the late nineteenth century, and this collection can be seen here on campus at the Harry Ransom Center (HRC). However, Davis had another passion. He also loved sports – particularly boxing – and over the years he collected more than one thousand photographs and cabinet cards related to the “sweet science of bruising” – images that bear remarkable witness to the changing nature of that sport. The collection contains ring shots, posed portraits, photographs of boxers working as actors on-stage and in early movies, and even casual shots showing the men at home with their families and pets.

During Davis’ lifetime, prizefighting evolved from illicit barroom brawling into a centrally organized, highly tactical sport with international prestige. As the sport exploded in popularity in the early twentieth century, the strategies, styles, bodies, races, and even religions of boxers grew more diverse. “The Golden Age of American Boxing” helps to illuminate the sport’s influence on evolving social, racial, and economic constructs and has been made possible because of the collecting instincts of Albert Davis.