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How To Read A Photograph

June 2024
1min read

I enjoyed the article “The Business of Boxing” in your October issue and was particularly struck by the photo on pages 72–73 of the Times Square crowd ostensibly awaiting word on the Dempsey-Carpentier fight. There was something about the picture that did not ring true.

July 2, 1921, was a very hot day. Furthermore, it rained during the bouts, which were held only a few miles away in Jersey City. These weather conditions do not jibe with the look of the heavily dressed crowd. Secondly, I was troubled by the dates on the billboard posters—promoting a performance by Pavlova for a week opening Monday, October 18, and another promoting the opening of a comedy by Alan Brooks, Merchants of Venus , on Monday, September 27. Too long a lead time from July 2 to those opening dates.

Finally, a check of the calendar for 1921 reveals that October 18 and September 27 did not fall on Mondays that year. The year of the picture was 1920 —not 1921. This is confirmed by the fact that Merchants of Venus opened on Monday, September 27, 1920, and was reviewed by The New York Times the following day.

Wish I knew what that big crowd was gathered for in Times Square, but I’m sure it was not for word of the Dempsey-Carpentier fight.

You’re absolutely right. The picture came to us mislabeled, and it may show a crowd gathered for the 1920 World Series (Cleveland vs. Brooklyn) or the election returns (Hording vs. Cox) .

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