On 19 July 1883, after living together for 10 years and only 3 days after landing, Jem and Nellie were married in New York. This marriage was doubly bigamous as neither of them were divorced from their previous spouses and it was Jem’s second bigamous marriage. They presumably chose New York as a venue to avoid possible repercussions in England. The marriage certificate(s) follow.

On the 6 Aug 1883 the Slade v Sullivan fight finally took place at Madison Square Gardens. The fight was one-sided. Sullivan destroyed Slade. The Police stopped the fight after three rounds. The fight and the exhibition tours before and after produced a large financial bonus for Jem (which was presumably the intention) but destroyed his reputation (which was presumably unintended). A newspaper cutting follows.

Following is a picture of Madison Square Gardens, the World Mecca of boxing, as it would have looked in 1883.

To cash in on his victories Sullivan went on an extended tour of the US. He took with him a large contingent of supporting boxers including Jem and Slade.

On 24 Oct 1883 Jem, Nellie, step-son John, manager Harry Montague, and boxers Charlie Mitchell, Jack Davis and Jack Brighton departed for England in Jem’s usual style on the maiden voyage of ss Oregon. A picture and write-up follow.


“Oregon” was fitted for 340 saloon, 92 second-class, and 1,000 steerage passengers. Passengers travelling saloon or cabin were equivalent to first class today. On “Oregon”, steerage had been upgraded to third class and given assigned berths in small rooms rather than dormitories.    The main public room, the grand saloon was in the forepart of the ship and described at the time as "capable of dining the whole of the 340 cabin passengers." "The ceiling decorations were almost exclusively confined to white and gold. The panels were of polished satinwood, the pilasters of walnut, with gilt capitals. The saloon measured 65 by 54 feet, and was 9 feet in height in the lowest part. A central cupola of handsome design, 25 feet long and 15 feet wide, rose to a height of 20 feet, and gave abundant  light and ventilation.

   “The staterooms are large and well lighted and ventilated. Every facility for comfort is provided in the cabin. The ladies’ drawing room is furnished in a costly manner, and is on the promenade deck. The latter extends nearly the entire length of the vessel. The woodwork of the ladies’ drawing room, the captain’s cabin, and the principal entrance to the saloons came from the State of Oregon. On the upper deck near the entrance of the grand saloon is the smoking room, which is panelled in Spanish mahogany and has a mosaic floor.

      Incandescent electric lamps, supplied by the Edison Company, are used in lighting the vessel."

“Oregon” sailed on her maiden voyage in October 1883 and was gradually broken in before attempting “Alaska's” records. On April 5, 1884, she won the eastbound record with a New York - Queenstown run of 7 days, 2 hours, 18 minutes (17.12 knots). On her return to New York, she also won the Blue Riband with a westbound voyage of 6 days, 10 hours, 10 minutes (18.56 knots).

In Dec 1883 Jem fought an exhibition bout with Charlie Mitchell in Liverpool.

He toured with “Denver” Ed Smith giving exhibitions.

On 18 Jan 1884 he fought an exhibition bout with Jack Smith in London.

On 31 Jan he fought an exhibition bout with Jack Smith in Leicester.

On 6,7 and 8 Feb he fought exhibition bouts with Jack Smith in Northampton.

While Jem and Nellie were living like royalty in Australia, His wife Hannah and their son Benjamin lived in poverty. In the 1881 census they are shown living at 31 Gwynne Road, Battersea, a deprived area in an overcrowded house (14 occupants) with empty properties on both sides. She is earning a living as a laundress (washerwoman). After her early life, first with the glitter of the circus and then with the luxurious life style in New York, it must have seemed very hard. She met and bigamously married George Harris on 26 Dec 1881 at All Saints Church, Newington.

On 4 Sep 1884 Jem filed a petition for divorce against Hannah with George Harris as co-respondent. Unfortunately for Jem, Hannah found out about his bigamous marriage to Nellie and produced the devastating legal argument that because her marriage to Jem had been bigamous, she was not legally married to him and was therefore entitled to marry George Harris, whereas Jem was now a double bigamist.

    For Jem this was history repeating. He had little option but to withdraw his petition and pay George and Hannah’s costs. Withdrawal of the petition at least relieved the court of the difficult task of deciding who was legally married to whom. (National Archives catalogue No J77/326/9791 contains some of the original documents).

On 16 Dec 1885 Jem seconded Jack Davis on the Surrey-Sussex border.

Promoting prize fighting in England had become near impossible, so promoters turned their gaze towards France.

On 16 Feb 1886 Jem acted as referee for a Jem Smith v Alf Greenfield fight at Maison-Lafitte, France.

A subsequent article in the “Licensed Victualler’s Gazette” was critical of the fight organisation, so Jem sued them. Following is a cutting from “The Sporting Life” (Philadelphia) expressing newspaper editor’s solidarity.

In Jul 1886 Jem toured with Jack Knifton.

On 23 Sep they fought an exhibition bout at Newmarket.

On 15 Feb 1887 Jem fought an exhibition bout with Charlie Mitchell at Islington.

On 16 Feb he fought an exhibition bout with Alf Greenfield at Westminster.

On 17 Feb he fought an exhibition bout with Pooley Mace at Westminster.

During this period he was living at Cambridge Villa, Hamfrith Road, Stratford, London, and has clearly separated from Nellie.

He fought an exhibition bout with Charlie Mitchell in Liverpool.

At this time Jem had a boxing text book published. Because the book obviously had a very restricted target audience it was never going to make much money. Following are scans of the front cover and the frontispiece of an autographed copy.   

Below is a picture of the new world champion, John L Sullivan, who spoiled Jem’s plans.

In 1888 he fought exhibition bouts with Wolf Bendoff, Pooley Mace and Mike Jennett at the theatre Royal, Norwich.

On 5 Jun 1888 a reception was held for him in Norwich.

On 17 Oct 1889 he seconded Frank “Paddy” Slavin v Jem Goode in London.

In Dec he toured England with Alf Greenfield.

Jem always tried to encourage “clever” boxing. This is a picture of a buckle he presented to try to achieve this.

1883 - 1889 …… America (Fourth Time)

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