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Unknown No title (Two boxers) (1850s)

No title (Two boxers) (1850s)

This unusual daguerreotype features two bare-knuckled young American pugilists standing in the balanced boxing stance. Posed indoors, the men stand on a patterned rug in front of an inexpertly attached backdrop. However, it is not the setting that catches our attention, but the steady gazes and raised fists of the two men. Bare-knuckled prize fighting was a booming sport in America in the 1850s, although it remained illegal until the so-called ‘Queensberry Rules’ (which demanded gloves) were adopted towards the turn of the century. While it might have been commissioned by a wealthy fan, this portrait was more likely made for a local newspaper or magazine, where it could have been reproduced as a wood engraving.