Monday, 17 January 2011

We're Running Away To Join The Circus!

So, High schools have mascots. Sports teams have mascots. Hogwarts houses have mascots. Here at the PCC, we have a mascot too. I'd like you all to meet Priscilla:

1940: We (at the museum) have that photograph in our collection - part of a mad scientist's notebook (seriously, the guy was nuts). Anyway, Percilla (no, that's not a misspell) was born in 1911 in Puerto Rico with hypertrichosis. She was astonishingly hairy and had two rows of teeth. So her parents took her to doctors in NYC. Not having any success, Percilla's father put her on display - Percilla was extremely lucky in that neither her biological nor adoptive fathers exploited. (That may seem odd, when you think that they charged money for people to gawk at her condition, but they were not cruel. It was merely a way to earn a living by working with what they (or rather, she) had) After her father was murdered, Percilla was raised by showman Karl. L. Lauther, whom her father had hired to promote her. Lauther was reportedly violent towards anyone who referred to Percilla as a freak, and tried (in vain) to suppress the title "Monkey Girl". He eventually gave in and her show featured a rude and obnoxious monkey, opposed to Percilla's polite graciousness and impressive singing voice. In the 1930s Percilla met and married Emmitt Bejano, the Alligator-Skinned Man. Their daughter sadly died in infancy. The couple lived happily together until his death in 1995. Percilla died in 2001.

An Unknown group of acrobats

Miss Emma Morris, "White Moon", an Albino

1885 Charles Tripp. A Canadian man born in 1855 without arms. He joined Barnum's sideshow in 1872, billed as the "Armless Wonder" due to his ability to perform everyday tasks, from carpentry to calligraphy with his feet. He left the circus in the 1910s to work traveling carnivals, his wife Mae selling tickets along the way. He died of pneumonia in 1930.

Charlie Keith, a famous 19th century clown and circus owner. He designed a portable circus building (it even had it's own box office attached), out of his early circus experiences with leaky tents and sodden floors.

1950s Contortionist Meribeth Old (I used to be able to bend like that! Not quite so far, but enough that my feet could touch my forehead! (my sister could touch her chin!) But then I started throwing my back out...) Sadly, (and especially for being fairly recent!) I could not find any information on her.

This is Alice Bounder, the Bear Woman. Alice began performing alongside her mum, Johanna Bounder, billed as Mamma Bear and Bear Cub, in 1880 at Dreamland Circus Sideshow at Coney Island. Both women were born in India and later toured in America and possibly Europe. Their hands and feet grew right from their elbows and knees. Alice would don a fur coat on stage to continue the illusion. She performed until the 1920a.

Eugene Berry, about 1890. Suffered from Elephantitis.

Some Texas Giants (if anyone has any actual information on the men in this photograph, please share!)

And you were impressed when your dog rolled over! Meet Ruth, from the Al G. Barnes Circus in 1934!


Jill said...

YAY! i do love me some priscilla and other "freaks." good post!

irishshammrocks said...

haha Oh Priscilla! :)

Anonymous said...

The Texas Giants was not from Texas at all. The picture might have been taken in the state. The man on the left is the english Ringling Bros. giant George Auger the man to the right is Johan Aasen - The Norwegian Boy Giant. Both billed at some hysteric heights close to 9 feet. Aasen was 7'2 Auger an inch and a half taller. It's ironic that Auger got the role as Colosso in Harold Lloyds Why Worry in 1922. When Hal Roach Studio and Lloyd wanted Auger to come to Hollywood, he died and they had to run a national search for a replacement. They ended up with Aasen. This picture is probably taken in 1921 or in the summer of 1922.