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The Showman

A "forgotten" aspect of the career of Jem Mace (and boxers in general during the Mace era) is that he supplemented his income with exhibition work, chiefly in the Circus. In fact, Mace was almost unique among his peer group in that he became a Circus proprietor in his own right (Sayers also briefly indulged). In other words, for a brief period he owned a tent and all the trappings of a travelling show, he employed artists, engaged a band and travelled widely. Obviously, he was the star attraction, but his exhibitions formed only a fraction of what his Circus would have presented.

What follows will probably fill a few gaps for researchers with an interest in Mace. It has been culled from a number of newspapers of the period, importantly The Era and Bell's Life in London. To save time (and avoid boredom) only references have been provided here (there are a number of libraries at which these publications can be studied).

Mace appears to have been fond of Bell's Life. Why? For Mace boxing was not a full time occupation. He was a London publican, who ran a gym above the bar. Reporters from Bell's Life liked recording the goings-on at the pub and Mace was a regular advertiser in the newspaper. This is typical of the advertisements Mace placed in Bell’s Life in London during 1861 (this one on April 14th 6/6):

"JEM MACE Champion of the middle-weights and candidate for the Championship, is at home to vend the good things of this life at his famed hostelrie. His harmonic meetings take place every Wednesday evening, when a grand galaxy of talent appear. The picture and portrait gallery open every day. All sporting papers taken in. Private lessons given by Jem himself at any time in his gymnasium. Public sparring every Saturday and Monday evening, when Mace’s troupe set-to. M.C Jack Brooks. Everything will be found to be first class at the Old King John, Holywell Lane, Shoreditch, one minutes walk from the Eastern Counties Railway."

The Eastern Counties Railway Company was incorporated in 1836 to build a line from Shoreditch to Yarmouth via Colchester, Ipswich and Norwich]

Circus in the Victorian period was notorious for latching on to "fads" in general society. One such was pugilism in the 1860s. Suddenly, every Circus had to have a boxer for exhibition work. The higher the profile of the boxer, the higher the demand for his services. Jem Mace joined the Howes and Cushing Circus (who already had Tom Sayers travelling with them) almost immediately after beating Sam Hurst to become British Champion in June 1861. Howes & Cushing were a huge American concern that dominated the British Circus scene for the duration of their prolonged stay.

 

Jem Mace with the Howes & Cushing Circus (1861 season)

With Mace on the bill, Bell’s Life in London (June 30, 1861 and July 14, 1861) records the progress of Howes & Cushing, roughly, as follows:

Monday, July 1st, Southport; Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, July 2nd, 3rd and 4th, West Derby Road, Liverpool; Friday 5th, Birkenhead; Saturday 6th, Chester; Monday 8th, Warrington, Tuesday 9th, Wigan; Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, July 10th, 11th, 12th, and 13th, Manchester. Monday, July 15th, Staleybridge; Tuesday, 16th, Stockport; Wednesday, 17th, Congleton; Thursday 18th, Hanley; Friday 19th, Stafford; Saturday 20th, Wolverhampton; Monday 22d, Wednesbury; Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, 23rd, 24th, and 25th, Redditch, Worcester, Cheltenham, Berkley, and Bristol.

During all this Mace was billed to appear at the Leeds Royal Park, taking part in one of "a series of grand fetes" organised by the celebrated clown W.F. Wallett. This is mentioned in The Era on July 14, 1861 (11/4), although no date is given and there is no indication as to whether Mace fulfilled this engagement.

Bell’s Life went on to report that Mace left Howes & Cushing at Bristol, following his performance on Tuesday, August 6th. For Monday August 5th Howes & Cushing include Blondin in their advertising, who will be appearing at Clifton. For those unfamiliar with Bristol Clifton Gorge is ideal for the high wire, so there are no prizes for guessing what Blondin was doing there. Mace then toured with Pablo Fanque's Circus for over two months at the end of that summer.

 

Jem Mace with Pablo Fanque's Circus (1861 season)

Jem Mace announces tour with Pablo Fanque’s Circus, to begin on August 25th (Bell’s Life in London, August 18, 1861 7/6).

Jem Mace with Pablo Fanque’s Circus at Hyde, Glossop, Chesterfield and Sheffield (Bell’s Life in London, September 15, 1861 6/5).

Jem Mace with Pablo Fanque’s Circus at Rochdale (The Era, September 15, 1861, 12/2).

Jem Mace with Pablo Fanque’s Circus at Rotherham (The Era, September 29, 1861, 12/2).

Jem Mace with Pablo Fanque’s Circus at Barnsley (The Era, October 13, 1861, 11/2).

Jem Mace with Pablo Fanque’s Circus at Burton-on-Trent (The Era, October 13, 1861 11/2).

Jem Mace with Pablo Fanque’s Circus at Derby (Bell’s Life in London, October 20, 1861 6/5).

Jem Mace and Sayers have a widely reported punch-up in a Liverpool Bar (Reynolds Newspaper (London)) and others, October 27, 1861

 

Jem Mace with Ginnett's Circus (1862 season)

The following season, Mace toured with Ginnett's Circus before starting his own show.

Jem Mace billed to appear with Ginnett's Circus at Oxford on April 14th (Jackson's Oxford Journal, April 12, 1862).

Jem Mace with Ginnett's Circus at Portsmouth (The Era, May 25, 1862 12/3).

Jem Mace with Ginnett's Circus at Exeter (The Era, June 15, 1862 12/1).

 

Jem Mace with his own Circus, etc (1862 & 1863 seasons)

Jem Mace at Royal Park, Woodhouse Moor, Leeds, "matched to run half a mile with Robert Jackson for £20" (Leeds Mercury, March 3, 1862).

Jem Mace with Tom King "and a number of professional prize fighters, including members of the Preston Fancy" give "an entertainment" in a circus "at the Orchard". Chadwicks's Orchard was a traditional place in Preston where fairs and circuses were held (Preston Guardian, March 15, 1862).

Mace advertises himself (or rather, his manager, Montague, advertises him) as being "open for engagements with first class equestrian companies, or others, to set-to with his big African 'Black Hassan' (The Era, May 18, 1862)."

Jem Mace seems to get bored with this idea and announces his intention of starting his own Circus (The Era, June 22, 1862 front/1).

Jem Mace advertises for musicians, an 'agent in advance', a stud groom and a tent master (The Era, June 29, 1862 front/1).

Jem Mace Circus at Brighton (The Era, August 17, 1862 11/3).

Jem Mace Circus at Amersham (The Era, August 31, 1862 front/4).

Jem Mace Circus at Watford (The Era, August 31, 1862 front/4).

Jem Mace advertises for a gymnast (The Era, August 31, 1862 front/1).

Jem Mace Circus at Ipswich (Ipswich Journal, September 27, 1862).

Jem Mace Circus at Bishop Stortford (The Era, October 5, 1862 11/2).

Jem Mace Circus at Ipswich (The Era, October 5, 1862 11/4).

Jem Mace Circus at Norwich (The Era, October 12, 1862 12/2).

Jem Mace Circus at Diss, Norfolk (The Era, November 9, 1862 front/2).

Jem Mace Circus at Grantham (The Era, December 21, 1862 13/4).

Jem Mace Circus at Nottingham (The Era, December 21, 1862 14/2).

Jem Mace Circus at Rotherham (The Era, December 21, 1862 14/3).

Jem Mace Brass Band advertise, saying they will soon be at liberty and require further engagements (The Era, December 28, 1862 front/1). They give their location as Barnsley (Monday), Wakefield (Tuesday), Bradford (Wednesday).

Jem Mace announces he has “given up tenting until next summer.” (The Era, December 28th front/1).

Jem Mace Circus at Bradford (The Era, January 4, 1863 11/4).

Jem Mace Circus at Barnsley (The Era, January 4, 1863 12/1).

Jem Mace Circus and Stud up for auction (The Era, January 11, 1863 11/3) at Bradford. This turns out to be either a partial sale, or a sale of excess stock.

Jem Mace Circus at Bradford (The Era, January 11, 1863 12/1).

Jem Mace Great National Circus advertises for “artists in all branches" (The Era, February 8, 1863 front/1).

Jem Mace advertises for musicians (The Era, February 22, 1863 front/3).

Jem Mace asks engaged artists to attend rehearsal at Bradford (The Era, March 22, 1863 front/1).

Jem Mace begins tenting season at Bradford (The Era, March 29, 1863 11/3).

Jem Mace Circus at Carlisle (Carlisle Journal May 12, 1863).

Jem Mace Circus at Sunderland (The Era, May 31, 1863 6/2).

Jem Mace Circus at Middlesboro (The Era, June 7, 1863 12/2).

Jem Mace Circus at Hartlepool (The Era, June 14, 1863 11/4).

Jem Mace Circus at Middlesboro (The Era, June 14, 1863 12/1).

Jem Mace Circus at Scarborough (The Era, June 14, 1863 12/4).

Jem Mace Circus at York (The Era, June 21, 1863 12/1).

Jem Mace Circus at Dudley (The Era, June 26, 1863 11/3).

Jem Mace Circus at Dudley (The Era, August 2, 1863 11/4).

Jem Mace Circus at Swansea (The Era, August 30, 1863 12/3).

Jem Mace Circus at Nottingham Goose Fair (The Era, October 4, 1863 12/2).

Jem Mace announces “establishment will be sold by auction on Thursday October 22nd, at Manchester.” (The Era, October 11, 1863 front/1).

Jem Mace Circus at Swinton (The Era, October 18, 1863 12/3).

 

Jem Mace ends his time as Circus proprietor but continues in showbiz (1864 season and beyond)

The auction mentioned above seems to have ended Mace's time as a Circus proprietor. However, he continued to appear in Circus shows during this period, although exhibition work now comes to the fore. The following may be of interest. "Fistic tournaments" were essentially exhibition bouts:

Jem Mace and Tom King at Myers' American, Circus Crosshall Street/Dale Street, Liverpool. January 27th - 30th 1864 (Liverpool Mercury, January 25th, 26th, 28th and 30th, 1864).

Jem Mace and Tom King re-engaged with Myers (Liverpool Mercury, February 15th, 16th and 17th 1864).

Jem Mace engaged for "grand fistic tournament this afternoon and evening at Hogini's Circus, Victoria Street (Belfast)". (Belfast Newsletter, February 27, 1864).

Jem Mace appears in another fistic tournament at "the Great Clyde Street Bazaaar (Glasgow)". The tournament features Joe Goss, Nat Langham, Jerry Noon, "Wolf, Mace's Big Black", Young Wormald and Ned Donelly (Glasgow Herald, March 4, 1864 - and continued through March 5th, 7th, 8th, 9th).

Jem Mace moves his fistic tournament to Edinburgh (Caledonian Mercury, March 14, 1864).

Jem Mace with Myers' Circus, Liverpool, now matched with "Joe Coburn, Champion of America for £1,000" (Liverpool Mercury, April 15, 1864).

Jem Mace at Moon Field, Stokes-Croft, Bristol (Bristol Mercury, May 7, 1864). Purpose at this location unclear, although exhibition work along the lines of above is very likely.

Jem Mace advertises as being “open for engagements” again for "one month only" (The Era, July 17, 1864 front/1).

Jem Mace at the Alhambra Circus, Portland Street, Manchester (The Era, January 15, 1865, 13/3) for a "set to" with Patsy Reardon.

Jem Mace at Theatre Royal, Bolton (The Era, April 2, 1865, 12/1) for “fistic tournament.”

Jem Mace at Theatre Royal, Blackburn (The Era, April 16, 1865, 12/1) for “fistic tournament.”

Jem Mace at Theatre Royal, Bolton (The Era, April 16, 1865, 12/1) for “fistic tournament.” Separate report from above.

Jem Mace advertises as being able to "accept engagements" (The Era, November 13, 1864).

Jem Mace as part of a "Grand Assault at Arms" at the Liverpool Gymnasium (Liverpool Mercury, March 19th and 23rd 1866).

Jem Mace turns to stone (1867 & 1868)

Jem Mace takes a benefit at the Royal Victoria Theatre, London (The Era, August 11, 1867). For what is unclear.

Jem Mace with Barrington's Circus, Commercial Road, Peckham (The Era, December 15, 1867, 15/4). "Jem Mace, Champion of England, will appear and delineate the Roman and Grecian statues, with lime-light effects, for six nights, commencing on Wednesday December 18th"... This kind of 'entertainment' can be traced back to Ducrow in the 1820s.

Jem Mace with Franconi's Circus at the London Hall, Manchester (The Era, January 12, 1868, 14/1)

Jem Mace advertises himself in The Era, again January 12, 1868 - this time 15/1. He describes himself as the "retired champion of England" and states he is now performing a "wonderful representation of the Roman and Grecian statues". He's obviously looking for work and gives his address as a hotel in Manchester.

Jem Mace advertises himself as above, again in The Era. This time it's February 2, 1868, 12/4. He is now with the Great Allied Circus, at Nottingham. The Great Allied was owned by Messrs. Powell, Footit and Clarke.

Jem Mace advertises himself in The Era (October 4, 1868) as "the retired Champion of the World" and states "after a most successful tour during the summer season through Ireland" he is looking for work. Address: Monstre Japanese Circus, Dublin. He also advertises from the same place on October 16th (16/4), again The Era.

Jem Mace appearing with the Japanese Circus in Dublin. The Era, October 11, 1868, 12/1.

Jem Mace was also noted as having been a partner in the Bourne and Mace Circus in Ireland, c.1867.

 

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