‘Harlem’ Tommy Murphy, Harlem, New York 1911

At the turn of the century, boxing was huge in Harlem and this 1921 Exhibit Supply Company Boxing Postcard proves it of ‘Harlem’ Tommy Murphy in Harlem, New York.

Harlem Tommy Murphy was an Irish-American boxer born on April 13, 1885, in Harlem, New York. In his first nine fights, he was undefeated, winning six and getting three draws.

He fought many great fighters Abe Attell, Willie Ritchie, and Packey McFarland in his long career, which lasted from 1903 to 1919. He compiled a final record of 85 wins, 31 losses, and 26 draws.

We think Harlem Tommy Murphy was from East Harlem. The area was rural for most of the 19th century, but residential settlements northeast of Third Avenue and East 110th Street had developed by the 1860s. East Harlem was first populated by poor German, Irish, Scandinavian and Eastern European Jewish immigrants, with the Jewish population standing at 90,000 around 1917. In the 1870s, Italian immigrants joined the mix after a contractor building trolley tracks on First Avenue imported Italian laborers as strikebreakers. As more immigrants arrived, it expanded north to East 115th Street and west to Third Avenue in East Harlem.

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East Harlem now consisted of pockets of ethnically-sorted settlements – Italian, German, Irish and Jewish – which were beginning to press up against each other, with the spaces still between them occupied by “gasworks, stockyards and tar and garbage dumps”.

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