When Jem arrived he put on a show for the onlookers, dressing extravagantly and wearing a watch chain made of gold sovereigns. The Brooklyn Eagle reports him pawning his Championship belt, presumably to provide money for this display. The following pictures show him wearing the outfit they describe.
The London house was sold and the older children were housed with relatives in England with Jem providing some financial support. They can be found in the 1871 UK census (RG10/601/91/11). On 12 Jan 1870 Hannah and daughter Ada arrived in New York to join him. They travelled on the “City of Paris”. Jem, Hannah, Ada, Pooley and Phillip Hargraves lived at the “Capital Bar” with 3 servants.
The “City of Paris”,
“Inman Lines”, 2650 tons,
346 ft long, 40ft wide,
This is a model of the ship held in the science museum, London
Jem went on an exhibition tour with John C Heenan starting with a benefit and presentation of a silver belt at the “Bowery Theatre”, New York on 7 Feb 1870. Opposite is a ticket for “St Charles’ Theatre” for one of his performances.
Jem was now a superstar. To exploit his fame he went on an exhibition tour with Joe Coburn
On 14 Jun 1870 at Newark, New Jersey
On 15 Jun at Patterson New Jersey
On 16 Jun at Jersey City, New Jersey
On 2 July at New York.
On 29 Nov he again played “Charles the Wrestler” at “Niblo’s Garden”, New York.
On 27 Dec 1870 there was an unpleasant incident at the “Capital” bar, reported in the New York Times. A cutting is adjacent.
On 11 Feb 1871 Jem fought an exhibition bout with John C Heenan in New York.
On 25 Mar Jem competed in a foot race with Mr Scott Siddons (Jem won)
On 8 April 1871 Jem’s partner at the “Capital” bar, Phillip Hargraves, was arrested, and later appeared at Jefferson Market Police Court, accused of stealing $6,000. A cutting is adjacent.
The Port Ryeston fight was a farce. Large numbers of police arrived and both fighters, not wishing to be arrested and imprisoned, sparred without noticeable contact and, after one long round, abandoned the ring.
On 2 May Jem again performs as “Charles the Wrestler” at Niblos.
Joe Coburn challenged Jem for the World crown. Because Jem feared crowd violence if he beat an American in America, he insisted that the fight took place on British Soil. Hence the fight was arranged to be in Port Ryeston, Canada on 13 May 1871 for a £400 stake and a £2,000 side stake.
On 10 July 1871 the New York Times accused Jem of running a gambling den. He sent a rather ambiguous response which is opposite.
The press were “two faced” about the sport, sometimes applauding it and sometimes being very critical.The following article from the “Brooklyn Eagle” gives a flavour of the opposition to Prize Fighting.
Jem’ returned to England. His explanation of his return was that he found himself under threat from the large population of Irish immigrants in New York. To them, he belonged to both hated groups, English and Gypsy. He also threatened the one arena where the Irish had previously excelled, pugilism. In the land where everyone had “the right to bear arms”, Jem was very vulnerable to gun slinging hooligans, particularly in the “Capital bar” so he decided it was time to look for a quiet alternative in England.
In the light of subsequent events and in the light of his failure to announce his departure, it also seems likely that he was running into financial difficulties and decided to leave to avoid paying creditors.
He sold his share of the business back to Phillip Hargraves.
On 20 Sep 1872 he set sail on the “City of New York” for England with his family, Billy Edwards, Barney Aaron and Fred Abrahams.
Following is a picture of the ship (It was replaced with a new version in 1888)
Billy Edwards Pooley Mace Jem Mace
He appeared sparring with Pooley and giving his “Grecian Statue” display at the “Tammany Theatre” New York from the 20 Sep 1869 to 30 Oct 1869.
He played “Charles the Wrestler” in Shakespeare's “As you like it” at “Niblo’s Garden”, New York on 20 Oct 1869 and on 29 Oct 1869.
He posed and sparred at the “Bowery Theatre” from 10 Jan 1870 to 17 Jan 1870.
He joined Phillip Hargraves at his bar, the “Capital” at 69, West 23rd Street, New York and became his business partner. This address is in the heart of Manhattan, a short walk from Broadway and Madison Square.
A fight was organised with Tom Allen who was the acknowledged Heavyweight Champion of America (although he was from Birmingham, England and had not yet completed the naturalisation procedure). Jem went into training at the “Magnolia Racecourse” in Louisiana. Each of the American States had their own laws and attitudes towards prize fighting. The Southern States tended to be more liberal.
About this time Jem had two fashionable suits made in New York. These suits became the subject of a law suit in May 1876.
This is a picture of Jem taken in New York. The photographer is
“Howell 867 & 869 Broadway”
(10 May 1870)
There had been several attempts to hold a match for the World Heavyweight Crown, but up to now, all had been either aborted or unrecognised because of the calibre of the contestants. This was different. Before it took place it was accepted as being for the World title on both sides of the Atlantic mainly because of the standing of both contestants.
Jem was the accepted reigning English Heavyweight Champion. He was 39 years old and although he had boxed many exhibition bouts, his last competitive match was in 1866.
Tom Allen was born in Birmingham (England) and emigrated to America in 1867. He was 29 years old, 1 inch taller and 5 lbs heavier than Jem. During the previous 3 years he had fought 5 times against the best American opposition and was now the accepted reigning American Champion.
The fight took place at the back of a “sugar house”on the Oakland sugar plantation just outside the small town of Kennerville. (Now called Kenner, which is effectively a suburb of New Orleans, about 12 miles north of the centre).
Jem’s acclimatisation training and superior technique paid dividends. He won convincingly in 10 rounds (44 minutes), finishing apparently unmarked, whereas Allen had to be carried away.
Many fighters, before and since, have indulged in word battles as an adjunct to the real fights. Jem was a master at the subtleties of it. On this occasion, when no one could doubt his total victory, he announced that he would let Allen keep his American title. This simple statement is devastating . At one stroke he is being magnanimous and generous, at the same time he is absolutely confirming that he holds the World title, putting Allen in his place and at the same time putting himself on a par with the authorities of the sport.
Although it was not reported at the time, Jem later said that, after this fight, there had been an attempt made on his life by an organised gang (mainly New York Irish).
On 28 Sep 1871 Hannah gave birth to a son, who Jem called Benjamin Franklin Mace, the name strongly signalled Jem’s intention to remain in America.
On 5 Feb 1872, 9 Feb 1872 and 12 Feb 1872, Jem gave sparring exhibitions at the Olympic Theatre, New York.
Jem travelled to San Francisco, California to appear in Wilson’s circus. This was the “Wild West”. The transcontinental railway was only completed in 1869, and the plains Indians had only recently been “pacified”. Here he fought exhibition / training bouts with Martin, Collyer, Billy Edwards and Charles E Bennet. The following photographs were taken in San Fransisco.
On 30 Nov 1871 a third attempt to stage the Coburn fight was held at Bay Street, Louisville, Mississippi. Stakes were $5,000 a side. This fight was, at first, strongly contested. However Jem damaged his hand and could no longer inflict punishment, so he defended. Coburn was unable to take advantage of this and so after 12 rounds the fight was declared a draw. Jem later announced that having successfully defended his title against Coburn three times he would no longer accept a challenge from him to give any other contenders an opportunity to challenge if they wished.
Jem was challenged by Ned O’Baldwin. Their first attempted meeting was at Baltimore, Maryland on 15 July 1872. Police prevented the fight. They attempted to restage the fight but were arrested on 13 August and placed under bond not to fight. They were bailed and then tried to rearrange the fight on 14 Aug over the State line at Collier’s Station, West Virginia. However Anglo-Irish animosity led to a lack of agreement over referee and the fight was scratched.
The money at stake was unprecedented, $2,500 a side plus $10,000 purse. The initial betting, as one might expect, put Allen as favourite.
John Morrissey was an ex Mayor of New York and an ex prize fighter and who had many criminal friends.
Two fights were attempted in Quebec, Canada against Joe Wormald but were prevented from happening by the police.
Intending to make his home in America, in April Jem took a short trip back to England to organise the sale of the “Strawberry Hotel” to Thomas Haig, a brewer.
A rematch was organised to be in Kansas on 2 Jun 1871. Jem was there but Coburn did not arrive. The fight was scratched. The local Sheriff attempted to arrest Jem, but failed to produce a warrant so Jem walked free. A newspaper cutting is adjacent.