'BRANDY FOR HEROES' The life of Irish born John Morrissey former bare knuckle heavyweight champion of America and State Senator.
Jack Kofoed: Brandy For Heroes A 282 Page Biography of The Honourable John Morrissey Champion Heavyweight of America and State Senator First US Edition 1st Impression Published By E.P. Dutton & Co Inc New York 1938.
Original red coloured cloth with red title lettering blocked in gilt to the spine and upper cover
Condition very good (some discolouration to back cover & back page edge stain marks & some foxing to front pages. However, the book has firm binding with no loose pages, clean & crisp internally. Illustrated with 9 b&w plates)
The Life And Times Of Pugilist And Politician Irish Hero John Morrissey
John Morrissey (February 12, 1831 – May 1, 1878), also known as Old Smoke, was an Irish-born American, whose parents moved to New York State when he was a young child. In the early 1850s he went to San Francisco at the time of the California Gold Rush. In California he became a bare knuckle boxer and on his return to New York, he challenged and defeated "Yankee Sullivan", who was then recognized as the American boxing champion. He became a professional gambler, owning gambling houses in New York City in the 1850s and 1860s. He became a U.S. Congressman from New York, between 1867–1871, backed by Tammany Hall. However, he later fell out with the Tammany Hall political machine and became Democratic State Senator for New York between 1876 and 1878, running as an anti-Tammany candidate.
Morrissey was born in Templemore, County Tipperary, Ireland on February 12, 1831. Around 1833 his parents emigrated to the United States and settled in or near Troy, New York. According to a newspaper obituary, Morrissey's father, Timothy, worked as a labourer to support his large family, having 7 daughters to support in addition to his only son, John. The same source states that after little formal education, Morrissey started work at the age of 12 in a wall paper factory. He subsequently worked at an iron works and a stove foundry. By 1848, Morrissey was taking a leading part in factional fighting in Troy between the "Down-Town" and "Up-Town" gangs. Morrissey reportedly became the "king-pin" of the faction "hailing from the lower part of the city" and was involved in fighting the rival group's leader, Jack O'Rourke as well as "most of the up-town" mob.
Morrissey moved to New York City in 1848, becoming a deck hand on a steamer running between Albany and New York. He married the daughter of a ship's captain, Sarah Smith, around 1849. It was during his time in New York that he is said to acquired his nickname, "Old Smoke" as a result of a fight. According to one story, during a fight with Thomas McCann, a noted rough-and-tumble fighter, Morrissey was said to have been pinned on his back atop burning coals from a stove that had been overturned. Morrissey endured the pain as his flesh burned, fought off McCann, and got back on his feet. Enraged, Morrissey beat McCann senseless as smoke from his burning flesh rose up from his back. The event earned him the nickname "Old Smoke", which stuck with him through the rest of his life.
In 1851 Morrissey sailed to San Francisco, seeking fortune during the California Gold Rush. While he didn't have any luck in that endeavor, Morrissey became a renowned gambler and made a fortune winning gold from prospectors. It was also during this time that Morrissey appeared for the first time in a professional prize fighting ring. On 31 August 1852 he defeated George Thompson at Mare Island, California in the 11th round, earning $5,000. This success encouraged him to return to New York to fight the American Champion, Yankee Sullivan.
The Boxing Champion
Morrissey returned to New York and challenged Sullivan repeatedly until the latter finally agreed. Due to the violent nature of the sport, boxing was illegal in most places during the 1850s. The first boxing rules, which were developed in the 19th century into the London Prize Ring Rules, were introduced by heavyweight champion Jack Broughton in 1743 to protect fighters in the ring where deaths sometimes occurred. Under these rules, if a man went down and could not continue after a count of 30 seconds, the fight was over. Hitting a downed fighter and grasping below the waist were prohibited. Fights usually lasted for 20-30 rounds. Rounds continued until one fighter touched the ground with his knee, or simply fell down.
The fight between Morrissey and Sullivan was scheduled for October 12, 1853, in the hamlet of Boston Corners, which was then in Massachusetts, but out of reach of its authorities, and thus a good location for the illegal match. The fight took place in a field, reportedly viewed by over 3,000 spectators. Sullivan dominated the match for most of the fight, but Morrissey held his own. In the 37th round, more than an hour after the start of the fight, Sullivan lost after he was adjudged to have struck Morrissey with a "foul blow". There was a dispute over the rules. Sullivan had left thinking he had won but was disqualified.
Murder Of Bill Poole
Morrissey became involved in Democratic politics in New York City and developed a rivalry with William Poole, also known as "Bill the Butcher". Poole was an enforcer for the Know-Nothing Party, leader of the Bowery Boys, and a boxer. Two of Morrissey's friends, Lew Baker and Jim Turner, shot and fatally wounded Bill the Butcher at Stanwix Hall, a saloon on Broadway, in February 1855, following Morrissey's loss to Poole in a boxing match eight months earlier. Morrissey and Baker were indicted for the murder, but the charges were dropped after three trials resulting in hung juries.
Morrissey then retired from boxing and returned to Troy, New York. He returned to boxing in 1858 to defend his championship in Long Point, Ontario, Canada against fellow Troy, New York native John C. Heenan. The fight lasted 11 rounds, with Morrissey knocking out Heenan to defend his title. Heenan claimed the title on Morrissey's retirement from boxing in 1859.
Involvement In Gambling And The Saratoga Racetrack
After his retirement from boxing, Morrissey focused his attention on gambling establishments, allegedly owning stakes in 16 casinos at one point. In 1862, a police raid on one of his gambling establishments in New York revealed that the house had made over £2000 in December 1861. After establishing a successful gaming house in Saratoga Springs, New York, Morrissey created the Saratoga Race Course with the help of William R. Travers, John R. Hunter and Leonard Jerome. The first races were held in August 1863. He also established "The Club House", a casino in Saratoga that attracted such notable guests as Chester A. Arthur, Rutherford B. Hayes, Ulysses S. Grant, Cornelius Vanderbilt, John D. Rockefeller, and Mark Twain.
In 1866, Morrissey ran for Congress with the backing of Tammany Hall. Despite his political rivals pointing out his numerous indictments and some convictions for various crimes, he became a Congressman and served two terms (1867–1871) in the House, in the 40th and 41st United States Congress. As a Congressman, he always looked out for the interests of the Irish, and was known to use strong arm tactics to accomplish his legislative goals, at one point allegedly declaring he could "lick any man in the House".
He eventually grew tired of the rampant corruption in Tammany Hall and left the House after his second term. Morrissey eventually testified against William Tweed, which helped put the latter in prison. He was elected as an Anti-Tammany Democrat to the New York State Senate in 1875 and was re-elected in 1877, sitting in the 99th, 100th and 101st New York State Legislatures.
Morrissey contracted pneumonia and died on May 1, 1878 at the age of 47. The state closed all offices and flags were flown at half mast. The entire State Senate attended his funeral in Troy, held on 4 May 1878, and 20,000 mourners lined the streets to pay their last respects. He was buried in St. Peter's Cemetery, just outside Troy.
In 1996 he was elected to the International Boxing Hall of Fame in the "Pioneer" category. Morrissey was featured on a portion of the History Channel documentary, Paddy Whacked, The History of the Irish Mob as the first Irish mob boss in American history.
Prize fighter "Johnny Morrissey" is the hero in a popular Irish ballad called "Morrissey and the Russian Sailor". Although the ballad has several variations, most versions include some phrases that connect the song's hero with the historical Morrissey: his Irish birthplace in Templemore, County Tipperary; his status as a champion fighter, signified by a prize belt; his defeat of Thompson/Thomson and of 'the Yankee', among others. The main story in the ballad, however — a prize fight against a Russian sailor in Tierra del Fuego, however, does not seem to be historically documented. One version of the song was printed as a broadsheet by E.C. Yeats's Cuala Press in 1911; a digitized image of it has been posted by the Villanova University Library.
Joseph D. Morrissey, a Virginia politician, has claimed to be a descendant of John Morrissey, but cannot be a linear descendant as John Morrissey apparently had only one child, a son, who did not marry and died young.