OURAY – An old movie poster, rescued from dumpster death at the Ouray County Historical Museum, reveals a little-known part of Ouray history. “What’s in Your Attic or Basement? The Story of the 1897 Corbett-Fitzsimmons Fight Poster and Early Motion Pictures” will be the topic of the next Evening of History, Tuesday, June 25, at 7:30 p.m. at the Ouray Community Center.
Tom Hillhouse, vice president of the Ouray County Historical Society, will give a multi-media presentation on the history behind the poster and the groundbreaking movie it advertised. Discovered in a trash pile at the museum, the seven-foot-tall Strobridge lithographed poster advertises a “Veriscope” showing of the March 17, 1897 Corbett-Fitzsimmons heavyweight championship fight in Carson City, Nev.
The historic film was screened at Ouray’s Wright Opera House. This was the first full-length motion picture in U.S. history, the first shot in widescreen, and perhaps the first motion picture ever shown in Ouray, said Hillhouse.
“An investigation into the background of this poster leads one into the cultural history of the U.S., the checkered history of boxing/prizefighting, and the development of the motion picture industry,” he said.
Hillhouse will show a film clip of the last round of the championship fight. The moving picture must have been a major event for Ouray residents. Even some women ventured out to see the film in that late Victorian period when boxing was considered male-only entertainment. The New York Times (May 26, 1897) lamented that “the fight in question ‘sold more extras’ than would be sold by a presidential election.”
In addition to the history behind the boxing poster, Hillhouse will explain early efforts to legitimize prize fighting. He will describe other types of entertainment available in local opera houses, such as the Wright, in the 1890’s.
Evenings of History are informative presentations on various aspects of Ouray County area history. Offered by the Ouray County Historical Society, the lectures are free to OCHS members and $5 for non-members. The Corbett-Fitzsimmons poster presentation is sponsored by Don Paulson.