Boxing and Scarlett Women at Moncrief Prizefight. 1894

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Against a sweeping backdrop of the growing Women's Suffrage and Temperance Movement, one of the biggest matches of the bloody men's sport of prizefighting was scheduled by an enterprising group of Gilded Age "Sports". The resulting kerfluffle seized the city for weeks, threatened Martial Law, provoked a showdown between the Women's Temperance Union and the Sheriff against Henry Flagler and his Railroads, and resulted in a highly embarrassing set of arrests and a public relations quagmire that marked the beginning of Sheriff Napoleon Bonaparte Broward's career.

After the discovery of the mineral water springs by Moncrief and the subsequent expeditions in search of buried treasure in the area, a glitzy resort town quickly sprang up and just as quickly became the source of one of the greatest controversies of the Post Civil War era.  One of the more interesting and salacious aspects of the age was the reliance on and recognition of the world's oldest profession. The following is excerpted from Donald Mabry's account of "Florida's Napoleon", a biography of Napoleon Bonaparte Broward.

The Women's Temperance Union was embroiled in a national buildup to gain the The Right To Vote in order to make Demon Rum Illegal

"Gentleman Jim" Corbett fought the English heavyweight champion, Charles Mitchell, for the heavyweight championship of the world on January 25, 1894 in Jacksonville, Florida. The fisticuffs were held in Moncrief Park under the auspices of the Duval Athletic Club. The club sold tickets for $25 each to pay the purse of $20,000 and meet expenses. The DAC had pulled off a coup in getting this championship match scheduled for Jacksonville both because other places wanted this "Super Bowl" of boxing and because the illegal fight met stiff resistance.

Charles Mitchell vs. Jim Corbett

Corbett trained at Mayport less than twenty miles by train from the south part of Jacksonville. He and his crew rented the summer home of Claus Meyer and almost got arrested when one of Corbett's aides forgot to pay Meyer until he threatened arrest. Mitchell trained in St Augustine, well over thirty miles distant.

Both were distant from the furor in the state over the upcoming fight.

Napoleon Bonaparte Broward, destined to become the Governor of Florida.

The opposition seemed insurmountable. Opposed were Governor Mitchell I. Mitchell, Jacksonville Mayor Duncan U. Fletcher, Duval Country Sheriff Napoleon Bonaparte Broward, churches and moralists, and the Second Battalion of Ocala Rifles which the governor sent to Jacksonville. They saw betting immoral and feared that the match would bring riff raff, whores, gamblers, the wrong kind of tourist, and such to the city. They feared violence.

They pressed public officials which seemed to work.

The Governor said no.

The Mayor and the Sheriff each said no. One suspects they were not that opposed but were afraid to say otherwise.

Sheriff Broward didn't complain that much when Circuit Court Judge H. M. Call issued an injunction to prevent him from attaching the Duval Athletic Club's property or enter its grounds. Governor called up troops (the Ocala rifles). Groups tried to get the railroads of H. B. Plant and Henry Flagler not to transport any spectators or gamblers or whores or boxing people to Jacksonville.

Henry Flagler, Railroad Magnate.  "You want me to what?  The Hell you Say!"

Free enterprise prevailed, however. The railroads were not about to forgo profits. They refused to accept the argument that it was their moral duty and they should act as government. Moreover, they refused to transport the troops without cash payments in advance. The Governor conceded. When he threatened martial law in Jacksonville to prevent the Corbett-Mitchell fight, he went too far. Public opinion turned against him.

Scarlet Women of the Victorian Era.

Prominent merchant L. Furchgott protested; the business community had joined the pro-fight crowd. The troops that came were booed as they marched down Bay Street. As it turned out, their presence was a charade, a way of saying the Governor was serious about maintaining public order. The fight would go on.

One who came to Jacksonville was a blond New York City woman who was wintering in Florida went to Mayport with her Jacksonville cousin to visit the training facilities of Jim Corbett. No doubt, they probably also wanted to see this very fine example of male beauty. As the New York Times reported on December 25, 1893, "Corbett's muscles stood out in perfect relief, and his skin glowed with perfect health." He was worth seeing. He sparred and wrestled and ran. He weighed himself twice a day on the scales he used, scales which had to be accurate to satisfy boxing rules.

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