Heavyweight Boxing Champion
ARMY RECRUITMENT POSTER
DIMENSIONS: 14" X 20" Excluding frame
OFFERED BY: Antique Arcade, Redwood City Calif.
FOUND AT: February 2003 Hillsborough Antique Show, San Mateo
edited version of this article previously
in Sports Collectors Digest
Louis was Heavyweight Boxing Champion of the World from 1937 to 1949, the longest anyone ever held the title. This striking 1942 army recruitment poster he posed for was produced in two sizes, the 14" X 20" seen here, and a 27" X 41" version. What a compelling influence this poster must have been to a young person considering joining the military. The common affect must have been…."Hey if Joe Louis joined, I'm joining too."
Many years ago I was standing in the early entry line at the All American Antique Show in Glendale Calif., waiting to get in during set up, when a dealer walked by carrying the large version. If I recall
correctly the dealer said he was going to ask $300.00 in the show but I could have it for $200.00 on the spot. It had some water stains but I bought it anyway. After I had it mounted on linen it flattened out and looked pretty good. I enjoyed it in my collection
quite a while until I traded it for something.
The slogan: "We're going to do our part and we'll win because we're on God's side", was always curious and I never knew where it originated. I thought it was just something made up until I started looking into it for this
My research clearly pointed out Joe Louis was very patriotic, even as he faced racial discrimination in the very army he was serving. Louis worked on discrimination from the inside using his influence, and successfully affected many changes. One example of this came when his friend Jackie Robinson told him they wouldn't accept his application for Officer's Candidate School. Louis took the issue all the way to the War Department and was successful in getting Robinson and fourteen other black men admitted.
On December 7th 1941 Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. Soon after, the Navy Relief Fund asked Louis who had been Heavy Weight champion since 1937, to fight a benefit match with Buddy Baer on January 9th 1942. Louis won and donated his entire winnings minus training expenses to the fund; a total of $49,000.00
Three days later on January 12th Joe Louis enlisted in the army. He was offered an officer's commission but turned it down. He wanted to be an ordinary
G.I. Shortly after enlisting, The Army Relief Fund asked him to perform a benefit fight with Abe Simon on March 27th 1942. Louis won, and again donated his entire purse to the fund. Between Louis and his manager Mike Jacobs, they're total donation for that fight came to $75,000.
before that fight the Navy Relief Society had asked Louis to make a
speech at a gala star-studded benefit show that was to be held at
Madison Square Garden on March 10th 1942. Louis was so nervous about
giving the speech he said he'd rather fight Max Schmeling again. He
talked over his apprehension with a friend, the renowned Harlem jazz
bandleader Lucky Millander who Louis credited for his guidance.
long list of celebrities on the show's bill included: Lucy Monroe,
Tyrone Power, Bert Lytell, Jack Haley, Benay Venuta, Jim Barton, Loretta
Young, Jimmy Durante, Fred Allen, Bette Davis, Kate Smith, Joe E. Lewis,
Ray Bolger, Merle Oberon, Connie Boswell, Dinah Shore, Billy De Wolf,
Tallulah Bankhead, Edgar Bergan and Charlie, Reginald Gardiner, Bert
Lahr, Jane Gaynor, Myrna Loy, Danny Kaye, John Garfield, Eddie Cantor,
Gertrude Lawrence, Sophie Tucker, Vincent Price, Ed Wynn, and Boris
the show, famed columnist Walter Winchell announced $156,000 had been
raised at that point and that $5,000 had already been given to the Army
Emergency Fund. It was then Louis stood and delivered his humble but inspiring words. Certainly all 20,000 in attendance must have been
intent to hear the Heavy Weight Champion of the World. Louis'
performance on the stage that night was remarkably similar to his
performances in the ring; he wasted no time getting right to what he had
to say, then quickly threw a knockout punch, and it was over before they
knew it…these were his brief but very poignant words:
Mr. Winchell, I want to thank you for such a fine thing that you have
just said. I'm real happy that I'm able enough, that I'm able to do what
I'm doing, what I have did and what I'm going to do. I'm only doing what
any red blooded American would. We're gonna do our part and we'll win
'cause we are on God's side."