Skip to main content
Go to accessibility notice


    1921 Jack Johnson Signed Telegram Sent from Leavenworth Prison. Few artifacts from the uniquely American life of former Heavyweight Champion Jack Johnson tell his story so succinctly and effectively as the one presented here, a relic freed from the razor wire-topped walls of Leavenworth Prison where the legendary boxer paid a debt he never rightfully owed. After first capturing boxing's most esteemed title with a victory over Tommy Burns in 1908, and affirming his claim with his defeat of Jim Jeffries in 1910, Johnson found himself in the unenviable role of Public Enemy Number One in the eyes of the white boxing world, and Johnson's fondness for ladies of Caucasian heritage sharpened that disdain to pure blood lust. Johnson may have escaped the noose, but he could never have escaped the cage.

    Though he certainly tried. After an egregious miscarriage of justice in the courtroom of future Commissioner of Baseball Kenesaw Mountain Landis found Johnson guilty of violating the Mann Act for "transporting women across state lines for immoral purposes," he skipped bail and fled to Canada, spending the period from 1913 to 1920 in exile with the wife whose companionship instigated the initial charges against him. Ultimately, on July 20, 1920, five years after surrendering his title in a controversial Havana loss to Jess Willard, Johnson surrendered to Federal agents at the Mexican border and was incarcerated as Inmate #15461 at the United States Penitentiary at Leavenworth.

    We believe this is the first and only document from Johnson's year of incarceration, a telegram transmitted less than three weeks before his release. Beneath text instructing that "Warden, U.S. Penitentiary" charge the cost of transmission to his prison account, Johnson's typed message to a Chicago recipient inquires about a future opponent. "Is Grover colored. What weight. Can he fight. Regards." Johnson's black fountain pen signature appears at the close, rating a bold 9/10. The warden's signature is equally strong at bottom of the 7.5x9" page.

    Johnson's autograph is marginally affected by toning and separation at the horizontal center fold, but such quibbles about condition are silly considering the enormous historical importance of the document and its still-impressive aesthetics. A clipped photographic portrait of Johnson completes the display at lower right. Document is professionally matted and framed to 17.5x19". Full LOA from PSA/DNA. Full LOA from James Spence Authentication.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    August, 2012
    2nd Thursday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 7
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 1,467

    Buyer's Premium per Lot:
    19.5% of the successful bid (minimum $14) per lot.

    Shipping, Taxes, Terms and Bidding
    This item cannot be shipped using standard methods. Please contact us for more information. Sales Tax information

    Important information concerning Sales Tax and Resale Certificates. Learn More

    Terms and Conditions  |  Bidding Guidelines and Bid Increments |  Glossary of Terms

    Sold for: Sign-in or Join (free & quick)
    Track Item

    Heritage membership

    Join Now - It's Free

    1. Past Auction Values (prices, photos, full descriptions, etc.)
    2. Bid online
    3. Free Collector newsletter
    4. Want List with instant e-mail notifications
    5. Reduced auction commissions when you resell your
    Consign now
    • Cash Advances
    • More Bidders
    • Trusted Experts
    • Over 200,000 Satisfied Consignors Since 1976

    Learn about consigning with us

    I will definitely consider using Heritage again, as I have other items that might benefit from being offered at auction.
    Gary N.,
    Livermore, CA
    View More Testimonials

    Video tutorial

    Getting the most out of search