Back when I was in law school, I was perusing the library stacks and came across a book that had full color reprints of the New York World newspaper. If you’re not familiar with the New York World, it was a pioneer of journalism during the late 19th century — particularly of the “yellow” variety. They regularly published articles that were based on unsubstantiated claims but had sensational headlines to get people to buy a paper. Basically, the New York World was the equivalent of a 21st century clickbait news site.
Besides the eye-popping headlines, another thing the New York World did was print eye-catching, full-color illustrations in their papers — one of the first newspapers to do so. One of these full-color features was a set of bare-knuckled boxing puppets that you could cut out, put on your fingers, and use to take part in finger fisticuffing bouts with your buddies. The puppets certainly caught my attention at the time, and something this year reminded me of them again.
The figures are of two actual 19th century boxers: James Jeffries and Gus Ruhlin. Back in 1901 they were set to fight for the World Heavyweight Championship in Ohio, but the state’s governor blocked the match from happening (prizefighting didn’t have a good reputation back then). In response, the New York World produced these two puppet versions of the boxers so fans could have them duke it out via finger fisticuffs while the real fighters found a new venue for their showdown.
I thought reviving these bare-knuckled boxing puppets would be pretty fun, and give readers a fun activity to do with the kids during the holiday break or even a DIY stocking stuffer. So we’ve created a sharpened-up version of the vintage Jeffries and Ruhlin finger puppets and put them in a PDF that’s free to download. Just print, cut, and begin your bouts of finger fisticuffing. The hole for the finger is kid-sized. If you want to try it our yourself, you’ll need to scale print in your PDF so it fits your man sized middle finger. Scaling it 110% worked for me. For added durability, I recommend printing them on card stock paper. If you can’t do that, you can glue the paper onto card stock after printing.