Jack Dempsey became the heavyweight champion in 1919 by defeating Jess Willard. Dempsey is regarded as boxing’s exemplar in the 1920’s Golden Age of sports, taking his place along side Babe Ruth in baseball, Red Grange in football, Bill Tilden in tennis, and Bobby Jones in golf. Dempsey was a savage fighter, a brawler, who got the nickname “Tiger” for his ferocity in the ring. On September 23, 1926 in Philadelphia’s Sesquicentennial Stadium he faced the challenger Gene Tunney, in a title bout. Tunney was a skilled tactician who used the entire ring in fighting his opponents instead of Dempsey’s preferred style of a toe-to-toe slugfest. In front of 0ver 120,000 spectators in a heavy rain, Tunney defeated the champion in a unanimous decision. The heavily promoted fight produced several wonderful souvenirs.
The first resembles a metal trivet, approximately 3 inches in diameter. It comes in both gold and silver paint. I believe its purpose is primarily decorative.
A 2.5” ribbon states “Dempsey Tunney Fight Philadelphia September 23, 1926” with a hanging medallion featuring the signers of the Declaration of Independence.
Utilizing an unusual design, a matched pair of 1.75” pins was made of the fighters using the images of the smaller matched pair, but encircling their images in red, white, and blue rings. I believe these pins were sold as souvenirs at a higher price than their smaller counterparts.
Almost a year to the day the rematch between these two great fighters was held at Soldier Field in Chicago on September 22, 1927. The two fights are denoted in boxing history with Roman numerals, Dempsey-Tunney I and Dempsey-Tunney II. As in the first fight, several souvenirs were made to promote the fight.
A 1.75” pin incorrectly spells the fight venue: it is “Soldier Field” not “Soldiers Field.”
An unusual pin was made featuring three ribbons listing Dempsey (now the challenger), Tunney (now the champion), and Tex Rickard (the promoter of the fight). I believe this pin was used in association with fight officials and vendors, and was not made available to the public for sale at the fight venue.
There are a few pins that could be from either Dempsey-Tunney I or Dempsey-Tunney II. There are two pairs of head-shot pins, one 1” and the other 1.25”. Given the two pairs of pins for the first fight, I think these are probably from their first fight.
The remaining two are beautiful 1.25” pins in rich color. One was made by a pinmaker in Washington, DC, and the other has an unknown maker. They could be from either fight.