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  • Gordon Sisters

    It has been asked in another thread about the Gordon Sisters. During the last part of the 19th Century and the first decade of the 20th, the Gordon Sisters were a well known vaudeville act. Their act consisted of a staged boxing match, and also featured "fancy bag punching" Thomas Edison capatured a piece of their stage act. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CPG0na-Aemk

    Sadly, the bag punching part of it wasn't filmed. Personally I don't know if it ever was. I have read copies of reviews in issues of Variety of their act. They usually more than pleased their audiences. One of the sisters, Belle, is featured in one of the bag punching instructional books of the era (maybe one of the Spaudling books, not positive at the moment).
    Last edited by Dutchman; 08-17-2010, 11:22 PM.

  • #2
    Another excellent find Dutchman.

    Outside the spins, that didn't look to staged to me. Whilst they might have been light hearted blows, to me it did look like they were going for it.
    sigpic'IRON HORSE, LIVE TO RIDE'

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    • #3
      The booklet that has the pics of Belle is one of the Fox books " Boxing and How to Train" originally published in 1913. It's available on line free in a pdf format.
      The Gordon Sisters were a fixture in the vaudeville houses on Coney Island during the era prior to the great Dreamland fire of Memorial Day 1911. The Island was not quite the same after that.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Dutchman View Post
        The booklet that has the pics of Belle is one of the Fox books " Boxing and How to Train" originally published in 1913. It's available on line free in a pdf format.
        Do you have a link?

        I have her book "Physical Culture for Women" which has several floor bag photos and a side (wall) bag pic as well as some other non-bagging pictures of her. Unfortunately, my copy is missing the last plate, don't know which bag photo that would have been, plus all the ads are missing.

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        • #5
          This is where I found it.
          http://www.lulu.com/product/paperbac...-train/4325249

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Dutchman View Post
            Excellent !

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            • #7
              I am a new member of the forum and come at this from a different perspective. I am a historian at the University of Texas at Austin and I write about the history of exercise with a special focus on strong women and physical culture. You can see the Center my husband I started to preserve the history of physical culture at www.starkcenter.org. You can also find articles I've written about old circis strongwomen like Minerva and Sandwina and about wrestler George Hackenschmidt on that website. Just use my name and theirs in Google and you will find PDF copies.

              I am now working on a historical article about Belle Gordon but am having trouble finding a copy of her obituary--and I've searched through the various newspapers I'd normally use as well as mags like Variety, The New York Clipper, and Billboard to no avail. I've also done Ancestry.com and Geneaology.com. So, after three months researching her I still don't know for certain where she was born--but believe it was in Kentucky based on later interviews she gave. I also don't know if she married and so what her married name was...or where she ended up after her Vaudeville days. One article from around 1910 that I found mentions that she plans to buy 20 acres outside Seattle and have a chicken farm... but searches of tax rolls in Washington have not turned up her name. So, I am stuck and am hoping that you may be able to help me.

              I also wondered if any of you had ever seen any documentation on how she earned her medal from Richard K. Fox? I've been through the Police Gazette and have lots of clippings of her from there but find no report of any actual contest.

              Finally--for those of you who admire her, as I do, she actually appeared on stage for at least 20 years. The earliest reference I have for her is from 1895--when she and Billy Curtis (who's in her first Edison movie called "Comedy Set To") appeared in Louisville at the Buckingham Theater as the final act on a program called the Bowery Specialty Combination. They appeared as a team for the next several years but by 1900 she's working as a single. In July of 1902 she begins appearing with another woman--who may or may not be a sister--in an act called The Gordon Sisters. In 1905 the sister in the act was named Minnie and the act was described as "Lessons in Boxing." The report of it I have from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle in 1905 makes it clear that Belle's the star. By 1906 she is again billed simply as Belle Gordon--often followed by "Champion Lady Bag Puncher of the World," and later as "The Athletic Girl," and by 1914 as "The Physical Culture Girl." She had one other brief partnership around 1910-1912 with a violinist named Al Barbour who played while she performed.

              Finally--Because boxing/bag punching is a new research area for me, if you have any advice on where I should be looking for her bio materials please write me. I keep hoping that one day I'll find her scrapbook but, so far, no luck with that. Anyway, my direct email is jan@starkcenter.org. I had not seen the song before coming here--so thank you for that.

              Jan Todd, Ph.D.
              www.starkcenter.org
              jan@starkcenter.org

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              • #8
                Welcome to the forum! I've been researching this subject for a while, and as you have found out you really have to dig for it. There were several bag punching acts over the years, some that were active up until the early 1960's. I remember seeing an act on one of the Sunday afternoon variety shows back in the early sixty's but that was pretty much the last one that I recall seeing. There was one older woman that appeared on David Letterman's show when he was on NBC. She used a cage setup that was typical of the variety acts, and she still could keep a mean beat. Most appear to have been men, but there were several husband and wife teams.They were a popular bally attraction with most of the athletic shows that were with carnivals up into the 1930's. The Billboard and Variety are the best sources for this information, but there are gaps in the coverage.

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                • #9
                  Thanks for this...one other quick question. Have you ever wondered if the smaller woman in Gordon Sisters Boxing is really Belle? The Edison description calls her Bessie and to me she looks physically different than the Belle in the photos you posted earlier. She also looks different than the woman in "Comedy Set To" with Billy Curtis that was made in 1898--and which they called the woman boxer Belle...Everything I read in books says it is Belle--and they somehow just called her Bessie--but I wonder.....

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                  • #10
                    Paranday and I have run into this. I have read in the trades that there was at one time a third member of the act. Whether this was Bessie, or if Belle used this name at one time, I haven't found anything to pin this done definitively as of yet. Other than what was in print, background on show people of all kinds can be sketchy at best, especially from that era. It's like the act that from the 1960's that I've been trying to trace. If there was a kinescope of the episode, it's apparently lost or long gone. It just wasn't thought to be important enough to save.
                    We are fortunate that Sheilds Corporation saved the Popular Science "Unusual Occupation" series, and the episode of Doris DeGreen. It appears that is the sole surviving film record of "fancy bag punching" from that era.

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                    • #11
                      Found some photo's of Belle that haven't been available on line up to this point

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                      • #12

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                        • #13
                          Are those for sale somewhere ?

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                          • #14
                            It doesn't appear so, the first one is from a policeman's publication from the 1890's, the other appears to be from one of the instructional books that she was in.

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                            • #15
                              Wish I could see a larger version of the bottom one. That looks to be in sharp focus.

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