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MANTELL, DUTCH

MANTELL, DUTCH (1881–1941). Dutch Mantell, professional wrestler, was born Alfred Albert Joe de Re la Gardiur on July 25, 1881, in Diekirch, Luxembourg, one of two sons of a French Protestant father and a Belgian Catholic mother. The family name, loosely translated, meant "one of the king's guards." As a small boy, Alfred became fascinated with the stories his father told about visits to the United States and soon longed to go there himself. After his father's death in 1891, ten-year-old Alfred was sent to live with an uncle in Germany. The uncle, a butcher by trade, wanted to pass his skills on to his nephew, but Alfred's dreams of going to America persisted. In 1893 he ran away and did various odd jobs before stowing away on a merchant ship in England late in 1895. He had hoped to land in America but instead wound up at Fremantle, Australia, in March 1896. Since prizefighting was quite popular there at the time, Alfred began boxing and later took up wrestling under the tutelage of Dan McCloud, a veteran in that sport. He soon attracted the attention of Robert B. Mantell, a Shakespearean actor, who offered to serve as his second in a bout at Melbourne. The two quickly became inseparable, and the teenaged wrestler with the difficult name came to be known among Australians simply as "Mantell's boy"; because of his heavy "Deutsch" (German) accent, he soon adopted the sobriquet Dutch Mantell in honor of his distinguished mentor.

The young rover's hopes of landing in the United States never diminished, and he made two trips to South America and England before finally stepping off the boat at New York City in 1900. For the next two years Mantell toured the eastern seaboard and circled the globe in wrestling bouts before joining the United States Navy in 1902. By the time he was discharged in 1906, he had become an American citizen. Over the next six years he toured the nation and built up a large following as a lightweight wrestler. After running out of competition in his own weight, which averaged 135 pounds, he took on opponents in the welterweight, middleweight, and even heavyweight categories; often he met 200-pounders in time-limit matches, which he never lost. Mantell's reputation as a hell-raising "villain" of the mat became legendary, and his use of unorthodox tactics to win matches often resulted in near riots. He further enhanced his career by capitalizing on that very image; many fans continued staging high-stakes matches just to see him get beaten, even though that seldom occurred throughout the peak of his career. From 1913 to 1915 Mantell was a member of Mack Sennett's Keystone Cops in Hollywood. In Sennett's silent film comedies he was distinguished by his big nose and heavy mustache. After resuming his professional wrestling tours in 1915, Mantell bested such big-name welterweights as Mattie Matsuda and Jack Reynolds, but never was able to gain official championship status because of his uncouth, crowd-inciting techniques. In El Paso in 1921 Mantell first met Cal Farley when he stepped, uninvited, into the ring amid jeering fans and flying bottles to challenge the winner of the Farley-Matsuda bout being held there. Even so, his antics set a precedent for the theatrical showmen wrestlers of later times. During lean times he traveled with a carnival and sometimes worked in mines and logging camps. Although he had two marriages, neither lasted long because of his continual globe-trotting and penchant for giving away most of his earnings.

Mantell first visited Amarillo while on tour in 1906; he took an immediate liking to the "Queen City of the Panhandle" and included it often in his itinerary. There in 1923 he took on Cal Farley in at least two no-holds-barred matches. Yet while the "Flying Dutchman" was a mean customer in the ring, outside it he had a nationwide reputation as a soft touch. His honesty and concern for those less fortunate were practically unparalleled. With his trained animals he was a big hit with children, and the millions that he earned usually went to help needy families and homeless urchins. Although never affiliated with any specific church or denomination, he carried his Bible with him and read it almost daily for guidance. In 1925 Mantell made Amarillo his permanent home base and helped promote Cal Farley's Wun-Stop-Duzzit tire business; Farley's Flying Dutchman trademark was inspired by him. For fifteen years Mantell was a regular on Farley's radio show, along with Cecil (Stuttering Sam) Hunterqv, and was the featured performer in Farley's Flying Dutchman Circus.

Dutch Mantell continued intermittently in the ring until Sailor Moran kicked his front teeth out during a charity match in 1935, thus compelling him to wear dentures. Afterward, he devoted his time to promoting the sport and his humanitarian causes. Though he acquired some rent property in the San Jacinto Heights area, his liberal giving habits eventually caused his friends in Amarillo to take over his finances completely and dole out his income. He was stricken with cancer during the last year of his life and died at Northwest Texas Hospital on January 31, 1941; he was interred in Llano Cemetery. As he had specifically stated in his will, his remaining finances were divided between the Maverick Club in Amarillo and Cal Farley's Boys Ranch, two organizations that he had helped build and ardently supported.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Amarillo Daily News, February 1, 1941. Beth Feagles Day, A Shirttail to Hang To: The Story of Cal Farley and His Boys Ranch (New York: Holt, 1959). Louie Hendricks, No Rules or Guidelines (Amarillo: Cal Farley's Boys Ranch, 1971).

H. Allen Anderson

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

H. Allen Anderson, "MANTELL, DUTCH," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fmadf), accessed April 17, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.