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1920's Female Boxer - Jeanne La Mar: Flash from the Past! by Terry Graham/Sarah Jo Rauschl  PART II
 
(SEPT 26, 2005) WBAN has been in contact with Terry Graham, a retired police officer, of Wrightwood, California, who has been doing some extensive research on Jeanne La Mar (AKA: Jean La mar, The Countess Jeanne La Mar, The Countess, Jeanne Vina Lamar.) Graham and Sarah Jo Rauschl provided this fascinating history of this past boxer, and a deep mystery that surrounds her.

                 

                      

Jeanne (Jean) La mar, came to the mountain area of Wrightwood, California, during the late 1920's after a disillusioning career in boxing in both New York and Chicago. According to an article from the Chicago Herald & Examiner dated December 6, 1927, she was nicknamed the "Countess" for the 'count of ten'. Her cabin was located on the mountain top known as Big John Flats.
 
Most of her personal papers have been destroyed by time and the harsh mountain elements. Scraps of paper revealed a bank statement from the Rutherford National Bank of Rutherford New Jersey, which gave her legal name of Jeanne Vina Lamar. The bank statement, now in fragments, was dated January 1, 1935.

A very worn green 1934 Veteran Exemption Claim card for a registration of a ford automobile, was signed June 16, 1934 with the named of Jean V. La Mar signed on it. Torn pieces of a flyer advertised boxing, fencing, dancing and fitness training for "The Vina Science Health and Art League", president, founder and organizer Jeanne La Mar, was also found on the worn floorboards of the cabin.

Found in a back bedroom, among old mice dropping and worn creaky floorboards, was a single silver metal ring, that had a single diamond on one side, and the whole stone setting missing. A single playing card that was missing it's right top corner... the card was the ACE of spades... was found near by. (Above photo)

Article from a January 3, 1928 issue of the Chicago Tribune
The Mountain Hi-Desert Guide, a local newspaper, which is out of circulation, stated that LaMar's manager/turned husband, was Thomas Faye, while his actual name was Thomas Failace. On January 2, 1928, marital bless turned into fists and cuffs for the two newly married couple in Hollywood, California. This was the only piece of information that showed that husband and wife were together, at least for a short time, in California. Husband and wife did not live together on the homestead on Big John Flats. Apparently, the husband left the woman boxer for sights unknown.

Jeanne La Mar was described as petite but powerful. Around 1919, La mar was a ballet dancer and worked out her exercises, and her leg strengthening, at Stillwell's Gym in New York City. Stillwell's Gym was the hot spot where a lot of fighters got their training and later became professional boxers. While practicing her routine, La Mar also punched the striking bags. Soon, her strength and drive caught the attention of some, including owner Stillwell. Thus, the ballet dancer, Jean (Jeanne) La Mar, started her boxing career through association with the best fighters of her day, including Jack Dempsey.


From WBAN's
Archive

According to the Chicago Herald & Examiner, La Mar was a pupil of Chicago Kid Gleason, and had boxed with such fighters as Harry Greb, Charlie Phil Rosenberg and Benny Leonard.

A tattered flyer found in the worn and abandoned cabin of Jeanne La Mar was put out by the "Roseland" in New York, which was, and still is, a gala house for music, plays and special events. The flyer, dated 1920's, advertised a 'girl championship boxing exhibition' for the "New York American and Evening Journal Christmas Relief Fund Benefit". The event presented twelve female boxers. As a special attraction, Jean (Jeanne) La Mar, former first lady champion will box 2 rounds with Jack Stone, welter-weight".

The Chicago Herald December 6, 1927 issue gave the time period when she arrived on the west coast from the east. "In the west, where men are men and women used to be the governors, and where she hopes the boxing commissioners are more liberal then in New York, yesterday (December 5, 1927) came Miss Jeanne La Mar, the "Countess of Ten", lady bantamweight champion of the World, looking for a competitor to fight".

Her boxing career back east never really had a chance to get started, she was unable to get a boxing license in New York. This fact did not support the writings of the Chicago Herald & Examiner, who called La Mar the 'lady champion of the World".

On a December 5, 1927, California night, it was to be the first time to really show off her fighting prowess with Jim Mullen's Berlenbach-Dalaney program. La Mar had boxed since her school days in Paris, France, and she believed that her mission in life was to lift up boxing from it's "commercialized brutalism", to a level of daily sport for all men and women. It sounded like a noble goal, she just never reached it.

The decision to come to the west coast was based on two factors: that the more liberal commissioners would be prone to expand women boxing, and that a local promoter would open more doors for her own boxing career. 1927 Los Angeles radio personality Bill Sharpels was also a fighter promoter, and to help her comeback to the boxing field, he devoted parts of his morning shows to help her stage that comeback. The plan did not work. It was shortly after that, that Jeanne La Mar hung up her gloves and homesteaded in the mountains just west of Wrightwood, California, at a location on present day Big John Flats.

The quiet life of the mountains did not seem to reflect on the spirit of Jeanne La Mar, at least not at first. According to forest service statements, she roamed the areas of ranches and nearby Big Pines areas, trying to find anyone... man or woman... to spar with her.

The mountain community of Wrightwood and adjacent Valyermo was growing in the 1930's, and some soft city folks frequented the area. But hardened forest rangers, mountain folk and ranch hands were still in the area, yet none took her up on her offer. Most resident's ignored her, and she was considered the "Mystery Lady of Big John Flats (the mountain that she lived on). Reports of her "strangeness" caused forest rangers to go to her house, but she lived out of the forest property lines, so they were unable to do anything.

Approximately 1935, her possible son (she identified the male living with her as her nephew), Gus von Herren, was found murdered (shot in the head) near her cabin. At the same time he was found murdered, she abandoned her cabin and disappeared. von Herren's death remains unsolved. It was either a murder or a suicide. Even though her date of death is not known, she passed away in Los Amigos Indigent Home in Norwalk, California, near Los Angeles. in the early 1940's.

Other photos of Lamar:

           

              
 

From Left to Right, Miller, surveying assistant, Jeanne (Jean) La Mar, and Gus Von Herren (son/Nephew) - February 16, 1935.  According to Mountain Hi-Desert Guide, La Mar refused to identify Gus Von Herren as her son because of his age (approximately 26 years old.), and she did not want anyone to realize how old she was. She instead, told everyone that he was her "nephew."  Graham could not locate him anywhere on population or voting rolls in Los Angeles County.  It would be a few short months later that his body would be found about four miles west of La Mar's cabin, near present day Largo Vista Road.  In the 1920's, it was known ironically, as Dead Man Cyn Road.

 
     
   
  The gang. La Mar inside, sitting on running board with hat is Jeanne's son Gus Von Herren and handyman "Al" - October 1934.  
     
 

 
 

Jeanne (Jean) La Mar, surveying with neighbor, Oliver Cash - February 16, 1935

 
     
 

 
 

La Mar's Cabin as it is today in 2005 -
NW Corner of the Cabin

 
     
 

 
 

SE Corner of La Mar Cabin

 
     
   
 

La Mar Main House, Storage Shed and Barn

 
     

Footnote on Identification:  Jeanne vs. La Mar was shown in the United States population 1930 census, Los Angeles County, incorporate place - Los Angeles City, Assembly Division 55 Block 552.  The Census was completed April 5, 1930 by Lester A. Day, per filing Institution.  Hollywood Sulette Apartments.  Supervisor District No 16. Enumeration District No. 19-57).

The 1930 Los Angeles County census identified her as Jeannie V. LaMar, f/w 30, married, place of birth was New York. Both parents were born in France. LaMar's occupation was listed as "teacher". LaMar's husband, Thomas Failace, was not on the census, nor was her son (who LaMar said was her Nephew) Gus Von Herren.

If anyone has any additional information or documentation on JEANNE LA MAR, email WBAN with details.  Email

 
     
     
 

 

 

 

     
     

 

     
     
     
 
     
     

 

     
     
     
 
     
     

 

 

 

 

     
     
     
 
     
     

 

 

 

     
     
     
 

 

 

     
     

 

     
     
     
   
 
Back to WBAN
     
  September 26, 2005      
         
         
         

 

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