Monday 7 June 2021

Week 23: Georges Carpentier, champion boxer and maker of pots and pans

100 years ago this week: Week 23

In June 1921, French World Champion boxer Georges Carpentier was preparing for the biggest fight of his life - a world title combat in the USA against local favourite Jack Dempsey. The forthcoming confrontation had given Carpentier immense star power in France, with his life story being serialised in the press, as well as some rather unexpected commercial opportunities.

Seconds on

Who will win the big fight?
Georges Carpentier, whose science and energy are admired by the whole world, or Jacques (sic) Dempsey, the wonderful fighting machine and great hope of the Americans?
Today we publish "The career of a great boxer" by J. Moriane, illustrated with many photos. 


The date has been pencilled in by fight fans for a number of months already. On July 2 in New Jersey, Georges Carpentier will take on Jack Dempsey for a world title. Tickets have been selling fast, and a ship full of Carpentier supporters will even shortly be leaving France headed to New York (the promotion of that voyage in the press was particularly tempting - a one-month round trip where you save money on hotels by sleeping onboard ship in New York, and where you can be sure to enjoy the cooking of a French chef! The Franco-American cultural battle was already underway before a punch had been thrown).

100 years into the future, I could simply fast-forward to July 3 and read the fight report, but I haven't done that yet. I'm enjoying the slow build up, and will wait for the post-combat headlines like millions did in France in 1921. What we do know today, regardless of who won the fight, was that both men remained famous names in the sport long after the combat.

Name association

Georges Carpentier behind the bar in 1935

By instant association, Georges Carpentier today for me is Paris's largest indoor sports' hall, a 5,000 seat venue where boxing matches are still organised. For several decades, the name was also associated with several cocktail bars in the city (Chez Georges Carpentier), which Carpentier ran himself after his sporting career had ended. In the press of 1921 though, Carpentier's identity was associated with something a lot more suprising.

A great idea

With Carpentier's photo prominent on many front pages, it was perhaps not unexpected to find his image also in the advertising section in the back pages. Celebrity endorsements - indeed, the whole idea of what constituted a celebrity in the new mass-media era -  were becoming more important, but the products they were associated with are not always what you might imagine. Echoing another boxing George - Foreman and his low-fat grills - Carpentier was to be found in the kitchen.

If the advert was to be believed, Georges Carpentier was not only a boxer, but also a manufacturer of aluminium pots and pans. As well as making saucepans, he also had a great business idea - to sell his products directly to the public, without passing through retailers. For 200fr, you got a 23-piece kitchenware set!

I have found no evidence elsewhere that Carpentier was actively involved in this industry. He was the son of a miner from the north of France, but seemed to have no direct links with metalwork. Instead, this appears to have been a commercial opportunity, associating Carpentier's strength and resistance with the durability of everyday kitchen utensils. A heavyweight, knock-out combination!

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