Jimmy Sharman's Dressing Gown

Contributed by: Temora Rural Museum

Jimmy Sharman's Dressing Gown - Back view Jimmy Sharman's Dressing Gown - Front view Jimmy Sharman's Dressing Gown - Side view Well-worn leather glove used by Jimmy Sharman during his fights Large piece of fabric attached to the inside of the gown to repair a tear Jimmy Sharman's glove - front view Jimmy Sharman's glove - back view Sharman bell
  • Australian dress register ID:

    463
  • Owner:

    Temora Rural Museum
  • Owner registration number:

    4293
  • Date range:

    1911
  • Place of origin:

    Temora (possibly), New South Wales, Australia
  • Gender:

    Male
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Object information

Significance statement

“Who’ll take a glove? Who’ll take a glove? You’re a pretty hefty-looking customer.  What about coming inside? Bowl my man over in three pounds and I’ll give you a “fiver”.  If my man cannot stop you in three I’ll give you two pounds!”

This dressing gown belonged to the nationally acclaimed boxing legend and showman Jimmy Sharman.  Born in Narellan in 1887, Jimmy Sharman developed a passion for boxing at a young age having been a frequent spectator at country shows during his youth.  By 1912, Sharman had gained his own reputation as an intimidating lightweight southpaw, claiming victory in all but one fight in 78 tent challenges.  Having also worked as a promoter at the Star Theatre in Temora, Jimmy Sharman inaugurated his travelling boxing troupe at the Ardlethan Show near Temora in 1911 and established the beginning of a career as a boxing showman for several decades.  Sharman’s trademark catchcry, “Who’ll take the glove?” became a common feature of the tent boxing scene, stirring excitement and apprehension within the crowds which flocked to view the most well-known travelling boxing troupe in New South Wales.

The dressing gown is very simple and plain in its design, which is perhaps surprising for a man whose reputation ensured he developed significant wealth throughout his successful career.  This is consistent however with Sharman’s frugal nature, having worn glasses for many years with frames patched with sticky tape as documented by Alick Jackomos in his book A Man of All Tribes

Evidence of repairs made to the sleeves of the gown indicate that the dressing gown was used regularly by Jimmy Sharman and accompanied him on his extensive travel throughout the eastern Australian countryside all year round for several decades.  Alterations made to the shoulder seam of the garment emphasise the desire for continued use of the garment, perhaps as a personal keepsake of Sharman’s early success in the ring and promoting career.

This dressing gown is part of a collection of rare memorabilia relating to the Sharman Boxing Troupe at the Temora Rural Museum which includes the bell purchased in Temora in 1911 used throughout the history of the tent shows and a single, well-worn leather glove used by Jimmy Sharman.  

This garment is an important object to interpret the history of tent boxing in Australia throughout the 20th century. 

Author: Vanessa Jacob, 5th June 2013.

Description

Loose-fitting dressing gown made from green plain weave wool (flannel). The gown features a shawl collar, long, straight, set in sleeves with machine stitched cuffs, felled side seams running from under the arms to the hem and a centre front opening with no fastening.  Two belt tabs have been machine stitched over the side seams at the waist line to hold a sash which is missing.  Across the back of the dressing gown, the words “JIMMY SHARMANS TROUPE” have been machine embroidered in yellow cotton.  The gown has two large hip pockets and a smaller breast pocket on the left hand side of the gown.

History and Provenance

Births, deaths, marriages, children or family information

Jimmy Sharman's father James Sharman, b. 1858 in Campbelltown, NSW, d. 17 July 1940 in Narellan, NSW married (in 1878) Caroline Brailsford, b. 1859 in Camden, NSW, d. 19 July 1935 in Camden, NSW.  The couple had thirteen children, James "Jimmy" Sharman Snr being their fifth born child.

James "Jimmy" Sharman, b. 20 June 1887 in Narellan, NSW, d. 18 November 1965 in Camden, NSW married (in 1912) Violet Eileen Olive Byrne, b. 16 June 1894 in Jerildarie, NSW, d. 16 September 1976 in the Gold Coast, QLD.  The couple had one son, James Michael Sharman ("Young Jimmy").

James Michael "Young Jimmy" Sharman, b. 28 October 1912 in Narrandera, NSW, d. 24 April 2006 in Randwick, NSW married (in 1937) Christina McAndleish Mitchell, b. 1914 in NSW, d. 2003 in Randwick, NSW.

Do you have any stories or community information associated with this?

James "Jimmy" Sharman was born on the 20th June 1887 in Narellan, New South Wales to an Irish-Catholic rural labouring family.  At the age of twelve, Jimmy Sharman left school to work at a neighbouring dairy farm but was never satisfied in this career path and often sought relief at agricultural shows in the district as often as possible.  It was within this environment that he developed a passion for boxing and after winning £11 in the boxing tent at the Campbelltown Show in 1901, was determined to pursue a career in boxing.  By 1912, Jimmy Sharman had developed a reputation as an intimidating lightweight southpaw, laying claim to victory in all but one of his 78 tent challenges.  Sharman also worked as a boxing promoter at the Star Theatre in Temora, NSW stimulating his desire to establish a travelling boxing troupe. Sharman's Boxing Troupe made its debut at the Ardlethan Show, near Temora in 1911 in a modest tent construction featuring piano cases for the line up board and corn bags for the walls.  This small beginning was the catalyst for a successful business that would outlast several other troupes and provide sideshow entertainment at agricultural shows including regular presence at the Sydney Royal Easter Show until 1971.  Jimmy Sharman’s Troupe developed such a reputation that no show seemed complete without the big troupe of boxers and wrestlers to entertain the large crowds on show days as quoted in the Townsville Daily Bulletin in 1932.  Sharman’s trademark catchcries, “Who’ll take the glove?” and “A round or two for a pound or two” became a common feature of the tent boxing scene when Jimmy’s Troupe was in town, stirring excitement and apprehension within the crowds which flocked to view the most well-known travelling boxing troupe in New South Wales.

Jimmy Sharman’s son, James Michael Sharman who gained the name "Young Jimmy" assisted his father with the business from 1945 and assumed management of the business when Jimmy Sharman retired in 1955.  Young Jimmy ensured that the legacy of his father’s business endured, taking the troupe on a continued journey and maintaining the Sharman name as a ‘show legend’.

How does this garment relate to the wider historical context?

Agricultural shows have an important place in Australia’s cultural scene as avenues for education, competition and entertainment.  For smaller country towns the annual Agricultural Show is one of the most important events for showcasing local produce, celebrating achievements and providing entertainment.  During the 20th century, tent boxing was a popular form of sideshow entertainment at country shows until 1971 when Australian States introduced protective laws banning boxers from fighting more than once a week which rendered the tent boxing industry unfeasible.  

“And then they started ringing this big brass bell, keeping the same rhythm as the drum”, p. xiv Tent Boxing: an Australian journey by Wayne McLennan.

Typically, members of the crowd were challenged to fight boxers in the troupe for prize money with drum beating, bell ringing and spruiking used to entice game opponents to the ring.  If unsuccessful, the troupe’s “gee” would often be called upon to stage a confrontation, encouraging the audience to support the settling of matters inside the boxing ring. 

Tent boxing troupes generally travelled from southern Australia in Summer to northern Queensland in Winter and back again for 10 months of the year covering agricultural shows, carnivals and rodeos.  Throughout a year, the Jimmy Sharman Troupe often visited 45 to 50 shows across eastern Australia to entertain the large crowds attracted by the spectacle.  This meant that the life of a tent boxer involved a great deal of time spent on the road travelling between shows interspersed with periods of concentrated physical activity.  For some, participation in the Troupe provided an escape from the daily routine and paved the way to a career in professional boxing.  Ron Richards, Jack Hassen, Billy Grime and Mickey Miller are all boxers who started in Jimmy Sharman’s Troupe and became renowned in the sporting industry. 

It must be noted that tent boxing was not popular for all in rural communities with Jimmy Sharman stating in later life that 90 per cent of his early applications for space at showgrounds were met with opposition and approval for the provision of space for boxing at agricultural shows was often declined.  However, Jimmy Sharman’s professionalism towards business dealings and the high standards he maintained and expected for members of his troupe helped him to develop a reputation that would lead to success in procuring ground at shows for his travelling troupe. 

Where did this information come from?

Broome, Richard and Corinne Manning. A Man of All Tribes: The Life of Alick Jackomos. Canberra: Aboriginal Studies Press, 2006. 

Broome, Richard. “Theatres of Power: Tent Boxing Circa 1910-1970.” Aboriginal History 20 (1996): 1-23.

McLennan, Wayne. Tent Boxing: an Australian Journey. London: Granta Books, 2007.

Newspaper articles accessed via Trove:

Cowra Free Press. NSW: 1911-1921, Saturday 11 September 1920. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-title420

The Morning Bulletin. Queensland: Rockhampton Newspapers Co. Pty. Ltd., Monday 22 June 1931. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-title77

The Morning Bulletin. Queensland: Rockhampton Newspapers Co. Pty. Ltd., Friday 23 June 1939. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-title77

Townsville Daily Bulletin, Monday 4 July 1932. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-title97

This garment has been exhibited

This garment is on permanent display in the ‘Bagdad Hall’ at the Temora Rural Museum with accompanying memorabilia items and photographs to showcase the story of Jimmy Sharman’s famous travelling boxing troupe.

'Bagdad Hall' received its name after the southern outstation called Bagdad which had its head station on Walladilly Creek, a few miles north of the present town of Temora.

  1. Place of origin:

    Temora (possibly), New South Wales, Australia

  2. Owned by:

    Jimmy Sharman (1887 - 1965)

    Jimmy Sharman was a professional lightweight southpaw until 1912 (Lightweight division is over 59kg and up to 61 kg, southpaw refers to a left handed boxer).  In 1911 Jimmy established a travelling boxing troupe in Ardlethan, near Temora and from then on focussed his career towards leading his troupe around eastern Australia for several decades, with the assistance of his son, James Michael ('Young Jimmy') Sharman, from 1955. 

  3. Worn by:

    Jimmy Sharman

  4. Occasion(s):

    Various Tent Boxing Shows throughout eastern Australia.

  5. Place:

    Sharman Troupe's debut show was in Ardlethan, NSW.

    Tent Boxing Shows throughout Eastern Australia including Sydney Royal Easter Show. 

  6. Made for:

    Jimmy Sharman

Trimmings / Decoration

The gown has two large hip pockets and a smaller breast pocket on the left hand side of the gown.

Embroidery

"JIMMY SHARMANS TROUPE" features across the back of the gown in machine stitched yellow cotton embroidery.

Fibre / Weave

Green, plain weave wool (flannel)

  1. Natural dye
  2. Synthetic dye

Manufacture

All original manufacture is machine sewn.

Alterations and repairs have been hand sewn.

Label

No manufacture label featuring date or place of manufacture.

A small label attached to the centre back of the neck line acknowledges the garment's pure wool composition.

Alterations

The RHS shoulder seam of the dressing gown has been repaired by hand using green cotton thread.  

Two tears have been repaired by hand using a large piece of fabric attached to the inside of the gown and green cotton thread. 

These alterations emphasise the desire for continued use of the garment, perhaps as a personal keepsake of Sharman's early success in the ring and boxing promoting career. 

  1. Hand sewn
  2. Machine sewn
  3. Knitted
  4. Other

Cut

  1. Bias
  2. Straight

Fastenings

Two belt tabs have been machine stitched over the side seams at the waist line to hold a sash which is missing.

  1. Hook and eye
  2. Lacing
  3. Buttons
  4. Zip
  5. Drawstring

Stiffening / Lining / Padding

Lightweight interfacing has been used to stiffen the bodice sleeve cuffs.

Measurements

gown
Girth
Cuff 265 mm
Hem circumference 1495 mm
Vertical
Back neck to hem 1025 mm
Sleeve length 610 mm
Horizontal
Neck to sleeve head 162 mm
Cross back 485 mm
Underarm to underarm 590 mm
Convert to inches

Side seam - 790mm

Under arm sleeve length - 430mm

RHS hem around collar to LHS hem - 2345mm

Dress Themes

This dressing gown is a piece of memorabilia associated with the Jimmy Sharman Boxing Troupe.  It is likely to have been worn by Jimmy Sharman throughout his career as a Troupe Leader, accompanying him on his travels throughout eastern Australia for several decades.

Additional material

Articles, publications, diagrams and receipts descriptions

The following link to the Powerhouse online collection database features further information about the Jimmy Sharman Boxing Troupe, particularly with reference to a boxing tent banner as well as an excerpt from Wayne McLennan's book Tent Boxing: an Australian journey

Other related objects

Jimmy Sharman's Dressing Gown is part of a collection of Jimmy Sharman memorabilia donated to the Temora Rural Museum.  Other significant items include:

Single glove worn during fights - This well-worn, brown leather glove was used by Jimmy Sharman.  

Sharman bell - This bell was purchased in Temora in 1911 and used throughout the history of the Troupe's travels to signal the start of a fighting round in the boxing tent at country shows.

Link to collection online

Condition

Some perspiration stains under the arms on both sides of the fabric.

Evidence of small stains on the sleeves of the gown.

Two tears have been repaired by hand with green cotton thread.

Two moth holes are apparent.

Evidence of repairs

The RHS shoulder seam of the dressing gown has been repaired by hand.  

Two tears have been repaired by hand using a large piece of fabric attached to the inside of the gown. 

Insect damage

Close inspection of the garment reveals two moth holes - one on the centre back of the gown and the other near the hem on the LHS corner of the dressing gown.

State

  1. Excellent
  2. Good
  3. Fair
  4. Poor

Damage

  1. Discolouration
  2. Holes
  3. Stained

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