Looking back 100 years
Jan. 4, 2016
by Mark Ollig

Are you settled down with a nice cup of coffee? Good.

Instead of looking ahead, today let’s look back at a few Minnesota-related stories from days gone by.

Our friends at the Minnesota Historical Society boast of having “the largest single collection of Minnesota newspapers, with publication dates ranging from 1849 to the present day.”

Their searchable webpage; Minnesota Digital Newspaper Hub, allows one to view archived newspapers online.

I typed the search term: “1916,” and viewed the results.

There were several newspapers listed; such as The Minneapolis Journal, and The Twin City Star.

A University of Minnesota student-directed paper, The Farm Review, caught my eye.

I opened their Vol. 21, Sept. 30, 1916 paper.

One column featured a story about an article in the Sept. 16, 1916, Moving Picture World magazine, mentioning a new learning course the university was offering.

“Teachers and principals of consolidated rural schools in Minnesota attending university summer sessions are taking a special course on ‘How to Operate Moving Picture Machines,’” the article read.

Imagine the astonishment those Minnesota teachers and principals from 1916 would have, if they were shown how we use the camera/recorder app on our smartphones today.

It seems mosquitoes were also bothersome for folks back in 1916, in an article titled: “Harney Wages Mosquito War.”

This article talked about Malachi Harney, saying: “Single-handed and with no weapons but a spade and a can of kerosene, he had killed more mosquitoes than a whole army could.”

This mosquito war was waged in St. Paul “against the disease carriers in the Twin Cities.”

Some of you may be surprised that boxing (yes, pugilism) is one sport I have followed over the years with great interest.

I still enjoy watching old boxing films, and reading about the sport’s history.

Grant this indulgence, as I use my writer’s prerogative, and pen some paragraphs about a Minnesota boxer from long ago.

Besides Malachi Harney’s mosquito war, another war of sorts was being waged in 1916.

This one involved two giants. “The Rochester-Minnesota Giant” Fred Fulton, and World Heavyweight Boxing Champion Jess Willard, better known as the “Pottawatomie Giant.”

Willard stood 6 foot 6 1⁄2 inches; the same height as Fulton.

Fulton boxed from a southpaw (left-handed), and reportedly conventional stance, using his 84.5-inch reach.

He was also known as the “Rochester Plasterer.”

A Jan. 8, 1916 poster ad from The Moving Picture World, showed Fulton in a classic boxer’s stance.

This poster said Fulton was to meet Willard for the World’s Heavyweight Championship.

When I looked up the professional fight record for Jess Willard, it shows he never officially fought Fulton for the title.

However, the two did meet at Rochester, MN in May 1915, while Willard was heavyweight champion and traveling with a “Wild West” show and circus company.

Fulton and Willard boxed a four-round exhibition match.

Without a doubt, Fulton surprised a few folks when he knocked Willard down during the contest.

“When we boxed at Rochester last summer, he nailed me in the mouth and it hurt, but I knocked him flat,” said Fulton in a December 1915 Rochester Post and Record newspaper article.

Because of Fulton’s good showing against Willard, many were eager to see a boxing match promoted between the two for Willard’s heavyweight title.

Instead, the proposed Willard-Fulton fight card was replaced by a Willard-Moran boxing match held March 3, 1916.

Willard won a 10 round decision over Frank Moran, and retained his title.

Fred Fulton fought Frank Moran Jan. 25, 1918, and won the fight by a knockout in the third round.

When Willard learned of Fulton defeating Moran, he considered fighting Fulton with the heavyweight championship title on the line.

Unfortunately for Fulton, the planned July 4, 1918 fight never happened.

July 27, 1918, the 27-year-old Fulton took on a hungry, young, 23-year-old fighter named Jack Dempsey – yes, that Jack Dempsey – “The Manassa Mauler.”

As some of you know, Jack Dempsey was one of the most formidable boxers of the early 20th century.

He also operated a very popular restaurant in New York after he retired.

Fulton lost that fight to Dempsey, when he was knocked out in the first round.

Jack Dempsey was then matched against Jess Willard, whom he easily defeated, winning boxing’s world heavyweight championship, July 4, 1919.

Fulton ended up never getting a shot at the title.

Fred Fulton was 82 years old when he passed away July 3, 1973, in Park Rapids, MN.

The Minnesota Historical Society has an in-depth story about Fred Fulton at: http://tinyurl.com/bytes-Fulton.

Thus ends this column’s digression into one of many boxing anecdotes with a Minnesota connection.

Other stories from 100 years ago include World War I, and the US Presidential election.

The November, 1916 US presidential election results in Minnesota showed 179,544 votes for Charles E. Hughes, and 179,152 votes for Woodrow Wilson, who was re-elected President.

To search through hundreds of thousands of pages from Minnesota newspapers of yesteryear, go to: http://www.mnhs.org/newspapers.

The 1916 poster of Fred Fulton can be seen here: http://tinyurl.com/bytes-Fulton2.

It’s time to turn this boat right full rudder, and sail into 2016.

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