Old Circus Photos That Give You Some Insight Into The Past


When it comes to our history, very few things are as interesting as the early circus days. When children were born with a medical condition or were considered odd by society, this gave them a valid option to join the circus, which not only provided them with a fulfilling life but also made them relatively wealthy for their time.

People loved nothing more than to spend their Sundays and some hard-earned cash on a circus entry fee, because it allowed them to see things that seemed almost impossible in a pre-computer era. Some of those so-called freaks still speak to our imagination today, and we’ll take a look at some of the best stories to come out of that period in our history.

Martin Couney

If there was ever a man to come out of the circus scene that needs to be remembered, it is Martin. Back then, premature babies were considered weak and unworthy of life, so Martin found nothing better than to create an “Infantorium,” where he did nothing more than store and show prematurely born babies. As a result, he invented a medical device that we now know as the incubator. He used the entry fees from his visitors to pay for the children’s care without charging the parents a penny, and he was even able to give his nurses a very good wage for the time.

Prince Randian

Being born without limbs is a rare medical condition that still occurs today, but Prince Randian handled it exceptionally well. He was known as The Living Torso and The Caterpillar, and people came from far and wide because, despite not having limbs, he had taught himself to be fairly proficient in crawling on his belly. He ended up living to be 63 years old after being born in 1871.

Ella Harper

Also known as the Camel Girl, Ella was born with a condition that made her knees bend the wrong way around and pretty much forced her to walk on all fours. Because people wanted to watch her in the circus, she was able to make a nice wage of $200 per week back in 1886. Corrected for inflation, that means that in modern society, she’d be making more than $6,5k per week.

George Moore vs. Fred Howe

Their act was called The Living Skeleton vs. The Fat Man and it’s easy to see how they came up with that name. Both were probably suffering from some thyroid problems, as the picture was taken in the late 1890s, yet the thyroid hormone wasn’t medically synthesized until a few decades later.

 Mary Ann Bevan

The somewhat tragic story of Mary Ann Bevan is a pretty well-known one. After the death of her husband, she joined an “Ugliest Woman Alive” competition and won. That allowed her to enter the circus, and she endured ridicule for the rest of her life so she could use the money to provide a better future for her children. Her ugliness was due to a medical condition that made her face and feet swell.

Lucia Zarate

Lucia was known as the shortest woman in history and still holds that title in the Guinness Book of World Records. Depending on who you asked at the time, she measured anything from 50.8 cm to 68 cm. The latter measurement was recorded in the GWR book. She was the first person to be identified with what’s known as Majewski osteodysplastic primordial dwarfism type II, which is a very convoluted way of saying, “she was always tiny and she’s not getting much bigger.” She sadly passed away at the age of 26 due to hypothermia when her circus train was stranded in the Sierra Nevada mountains.