Harry Johns Boxing Troupe Collection




The Harry Johns Boxing Troupe Collection was donated to Museum Victoria in 1996. It comprises 77 objects, including a tent, trestle tables, loud speakers, spotlight, tickets and clothing. The centrepiece of the collection is a red boxing truck, which reflects Harry Johns' lengthy involvement in the business. The cabin and chassis were purchased by Johns around 1954, and the rear section was grafted from his previous boxing truck. Material from Harry Johns' Boxing Troupe is also held at the National Sports Museum.

Harry Johns was a boxing and wrestling entrepreneur who toured the agricultural shows of Australia's eastern states between the 1930s and 1960s. The Collection was donated to Museum Victoria by Harry Johns and Francesca Rose in 1996. Travelling boxing troupes can be traced to the late 1800s and were linked earlier to travelling carnivals. With the improvement of road transport, they became a feature of agricultural shows in eastern Australia between the 1920s and the 1960s. Johns' boxing truck allowed him and his troupe to travel directly from show to show, while its bright red colour made it an eye-catching travelling advertisement. The truck carried everything needed for each show. These items which are now in the museum's collection include, the tent in which the boxing was staged, a drum and a sound system so that Johns could drown out the showground competition, a line-up board on which a dozen fighters were paraded and matched with local hopefuls, and other general supplies.Along with the several tons of equipment travelled the fighters themselves, about half of whom were Aboriginal men often recruited after showing promise against a Johns' fighter. For many young Aboriginal men tent boxing offered an escape from mission life and an alternative to seeking work as a fencer, station-hand or itinerant seasonal worker.For the fighters tent boxing was hard work, with real potential for physical damage. Yet for many young Aboriginal men it became central to an entire way of life, and a means to subtly manipulate common discourses around power and race, as for a short time they could face white men on equal terms, gaining pride and income. Boxing troupe owners also played on these same discourses often sensationalizing Aboriginal-white contests.The comprehensive nature of this collection provides insight to the history and organization of tent boxing in Australia and its place in rural and Aboriginal life.

Please direct access requests via Museum Victoria's Discovery Centre


1930-1970; Aboriginal People; Agricultural shows; Boxing; Boxing Troupes; Community Organisations; Entertainment; Entertainment Industry; Entertainment Workers; Indigenous peoples; Itinerant Work; Recreation; Rural Victoria; Sport; Sportsmen; Working life

Coverage Spatial

Victoria, Australia; New South Wales, Australia; South Australia, Australia; Queensland, Australia

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2012-05-30 23:42

2011-03-31 18:32