At this period Australia was part of the British Empire and consisted of several independent, self governing colonies. The more populous South Eastern part consisted of New South Wales, capital Sydney; Victoria, capital Melbourne; and Tasmania, a large island, capital Hobart. Although today, Sydney is the largest city, at this time Melbourne was the largest, due mainly to the explosive growth caused by the Australian gold rush which started in 1851. In Victoria there were important strikes at Warrandyke, Ballarat and Bendigo Creek. The biggest gold nugget ever found in the world weighing 630 lbs was found here in 1872. A picture of the nugget follows.
Jem had watched prize fighting die in England. He could see the writing on the wall in America. Australia was the obvious place to go. Australia’s gold rush was recent history, there was plenty of money about and a large male immigrant community. Melbourne in particular was still a “Frontier” town, in spite of being large by Victorian standards. Australians had an outdoor sporting outlook and they were lacking the “gun culture” which could be very dangerous to men in the public eye in America. Prize fighting was illegal throughout the British Empire, including Australia, but the “convict culture” and large empty spaces meant there were possibilities to hold fights. Jem and Australia were made for each other.
Between 8 Mar and 14 Mar 1877 Jem gave fencing exhibitions with Borthwick Reid and posed at the “School of Arts”, Sydney.
He boxed an exhibition bout with Larry Foley at Larry’s School of Boxing in Sydney.
Jem and Larry Foley became friends and business partners. According to accounts emanating from Larry, Jem was a colleague and a promoter. According to accounts emanating from Jem, Larry was a pupil and protégé. The truth was probably somewhere between the two.
Jem joined “Wilson’s Mammoth Circus” and received a retainer of £500 a month.
On 2 Apr for 7 days he boxed exhibition bouts with John M Christie in Sydney.
On 10 Apr he boxed an exhibition bout with Larry Foley then exhibitions for 7 days with John M Christie in Sydney.
On 17 Apr he boxed an exhibition with Larry Foley in Sydney.
On 18 Apr he boxed exhibition bouts with John M Christie for 4 days in Newcastle, NSW.
On 26 Apr he boxed exhibition bouts with John M Christie in Melbourne, Victoria for 5 days.
On 1 May he boxed exhibitions with John Thompson in Melbourne for 2 days.
On 3 May he boxed an exhibition with Harry Sellers in Melbourne.
On 11 July he boxed an exhibition with Harry Sellers and fenced with Borthwick Reid in Launceston, Tasmania.
On 12 July he boxed exhibitions with John Thompson and local boxers at the “Theatre Royal”, Hobart, Tasmania.
For both these events musical entertainment was provided by Mlle Gracie, Stuart Bolton and Nellie Mace.
This appears to be the last time that Nellie is part of the entertainment provided by Jem. She presumably became a full time mother to one year old Ellen Norah from this time.
On 14 July he gave a boxing exhibition and a violin solo at the Theatre Royal, Hobart.
On 29 Sep, 1 Oct & 5 Oct he boxed exhibition bouts with Larry Foley at the “Victoria Hall” Sydney.
Following is a poster from this period which Jem has subsequently autographed.
Jem purchased a 9 year lease (expiring Dec 1886) on a large Melbourne Hotel called “Tattersalls” from Joe Thompson. The freehold was owned by the “Melbourne Brewery Co”. It seems likely that a manager carried out the day to day running of the place, while Jem provided the name and the entertainment.
The building was erected about 1840 on the North side of Bourke Street between Swanson Street and Russell Street. Joe and Jack Thompson were Jewish (formerly called Solomon). Joe was Australia’s foremost bookmaker and his younger brother Jack was a boxer. Joe was probably a beneficiary of Jem’s gambling addiction. His picture follows.
Jem changed the name of the hotel to the “Victoria Racing Club” and on 8 Dec 1877 opened “Mace’s Athletic Hall” as an annexe. Here he had a boxing school and organised boxing exhibitions. Not one to do things by halves, he also took a lease on a fine house “Lambeth Villa”, in Alma Road, St Kilda, Melbourne. The house faced Alma Park. Following is an aerial picture of the park today looking from Alma Road.
From 2 Mar 1878 Jem put on a long series of boxing exhibition bouts between himself and Jack Thompson at “Mace’s Athletic Hall”.
On 14 Nov 1878 an American friend visiting Jem died of a heart attack. Jem, not one to miss an angle, organised the funeral and had a tombstone erected. It is the only example I know of a tombstone being used as advertising. Note that Jem’s name is carved with larger letters and a more ornate script than the name of the unfortunate Mr Harrison. A picture is adjacent.