Jack Johnson Vaudeville Signed Photo from London Stage
During his stint as a "vaudevillian" on the London stage while in exile from an America that feared and loathed him, heavweight champ Jack Johnson had this remarkable photo taken of him dressed to the nines in white tie and tails and shiny black-spatted shoes, half-sitting on an ornate table against a monochromatic off-whiter studio background. The idea apparently was to take the edge off his image as a brutal "animal" and present him as a dignified gentleman for the white British audiences paying their way into the theater to see him (though his "act" was mainly performing boxing exhibitions). Adding to the __" photo's theme of displaying the "soft side" of Jack Johnson, the champ (who lost the belt to Jess Willard a year later in Cuba, and was subsequently jailed in the U.S. in 1920) signed it apparently to a young female fan, writing "To my little girl Billie Burlace, with love from Jack" -- an absolutely remarkable find, as Johnson signatures are legendarily scarce. What's more, the signature is in a bold, playful script in a thick blue ink flow, though the ink gave out a bit when he wrote "girl" and at the end of "Burlace". The actual image of Johnson is pristine, and framed to an overall 12 x 15". We can't think of a more exhilarating piece of Johnson memorabilia, a quirky and revealing echo of a champ turned pariah by his own country.
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