The Acquisitions Table: The Great Bloomer Prize Fight

John L. Magee. The Great Bloomer Prize Fight for the Champion’s Belt. New York, 1851.

535413_0001This lithographed cartoon depicts two women in bloomer costume preparing for a fight. One stands at center, ready to box, while the second sits on a man’s knee and hides her face. The
cartoon was drawn by John Magee of New York and references several 1851 trends. Dress
reform in America was gaining ground at this time after Amelia Bloomer supported the style in
her periodical The Lily. Many leaders in the woman’s suffrage movement were wearing the
loose-fitting pantaloons and tunicsshown in the cartoon and were being lambasted in the press
for doing so. In the caption the standing figure calls out “Where’s Tommy Hyer,” a reference to
the famous bare-knuckle boxer Tom Hyer who retired, much to the disappointment of his fans,
after winning a $10,000 purse in Maryland in 1851. The empty bottles of beer and the jeering
crowd waiting for the fight to start create a very masculine space and it is likely this cartoon, like
many by Magee, was intended for a male audience. The sheet joins the Society’s collection of a
dozen cartoons issued by Magee between 1844 and 1865.

Published by

Lauren Hewes

Andrew W. Mellon Curator of Graphic Arts, American Antiquarian Society

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