Circus & Sideshow

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  P.T. Barnum is certainly the most well known showman in American history. He  employed sensational forms of presentation and publicity to popularize such amusements as the public museum, the musical concert, and the three-ring circus. 
        In 1835 , in New York City,  he successfully presented Joice Heth, a wizened black woman whom he advertised as the 161-year-old nurse to General George Washington. On her death, it was exposed as a hoax. In 1842, Barnum acquired John Scudder's American Museum, in N.Y.C., a five-story marble structure filled with stuffed animals, waxwork figures, and similar conventional exhibits. The new owner rapidly transformed the museum into a carnival of live freaks, dramatic theatricals, beauty contests, and other sensational attractions. By means of outrageous stunts, repetitive advertising, and exaggerated publicity, Barnum excited international attention and made his showcase of wonders a landmark. He gave it up in 1868 up after fires twice had all but destroyed it.
        Barnum's first successful exhibit in the museum was the Feejee Mermaid, which had a seemingly human head topping the finned body of a fish and was, of course, found later to be a fake. Among the genuine curiosities were Chang & Eng , the Siamese twins . It was, however, Charles S. Stratton, a man only 25 inches tall who was discovered by Barnum, that proved to be his most profitable exhibit.
        Eager to change his image from promoter of freaks to impresario of artistic attractions, Barnum risked his entire fortune by importing Jenny Lind, a Swedish soprano whom he had never seen or heard and who was almost unknown in the United States. Dubbing Lind "The Swedish Nightingale," Barnum mounted the most massive publicity campaign he had ever attempted. Jenny Lind's opening night in New York, before a capacity audience of 5,000, and her nine months of concerts across the United States earned immense sums.
        Although his name has been popularly linked with the circus, Barnum did not, in fact, become a circus showman until he was past the age of 60. Barnum did not invent the modern circus, but, in partnership with the James A. Bailey, he did give the American spectacle its gigantic size, its most memorable attractions, and its widest popularity, attempting to make it what he called "the greatest show on earth." Barnum capped his circus career by purchasing a 6 1/2-ton elephant named Jumbo, who quickly earned back his purchase price during his first season under the big top.

        In 1891, his 81st year, Barnum fell gravely ill. At his request, a New York newspaper published his obituary in advance so that he might enjoy it.  

et117.jpg (463862 bytes)1865 AMERICAN MUSEUM FIRE - Harper's Weekly. July 29, 1865 complete issue of Harper's Weekly. Strong full page woodcut of the museum in flames, half page illustration of post fire and one column detailed report of the tragedy. From bound volume, irregular at spine (and split), otherwise VG complete issue.  (ET.117); $55.   

et104.jpg (58049 bytes)BARNUM BIOGRAPHY. 1995 Ed: Barnum : America's Greatest Showman.   Kunhardt, Philip B., Jr.; Kunhardt, Peter W. New York, NY, U.S.A.: Alfred A. Knopf Incorporated, 1995 Hard Cover. As New/As New dustjacket. First Edition. 4to . ISBN:0679435743. 358 pages. Well-made book, with more than 500 lithographs, photographs, engravings and other illustrations, in gilt-stamped cloth-covered boards and printed on coated, high-grade, glossy paper. Originally published at $45. (ET.104) $36.  

GENERAL TOM THUMB.. Certainly the most well known attraction of the 19th c., Tom Thumb (Charles Sherwood Stratton) entertained millions, along with the most important personages of his day. He was “discovered” by P.T.Barnum at the age of five in 1842, and became a celebrity overnight. In the process of his career, he was able to accumulate a fortune that enabled him to indulge a passion for racehorses and yachts. On Feb. 10, 1863 Tom Thumb married Lavinia Warren, in what was called the “Fairy Wedding”, at Grace Church in New York City. Interest in the wedding was  intense; two thousand guest were invited. Gifts poured in from everywhere, including President and Mrs. Lincoln. The General died in 1883, at forty five years of age.

The following lots all pertain to Tom Thumb:   


et015.jpg (88787 bytes)GENERAL TOM THUMB, LAVINIA WARREN, COMMODORE NUTT AND MINNIE WARREN. Carte de visite. 3 1/2  x 2 /4”.  Tom Thumb and wedding party " in the identical costumes worn before her Majesty Queen Victoria at Windsoe Castle, June 24, 1866" . Ca. 1860’s , E.&H.T. Anthony backmark. Imprinted facsimile autographs on verso, two cent orange revenue stamp. Top of mount trimmd and clipped corners,some light soiling and wear, overall VG+ . (ET.15). $48..





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et120.jpg (38018 bytes)FAIRY WEDDING WALTZ. Sheet music. 11”x 14”  "Fairy Wedding Waltz to Mr. & Mrs Charles Stratton (General Tom Thumb & Wife)".  5pp.  Copyright 1863. General Tom Thumb was P.T. Barnum’s most notable personality and the wedding of the two midgets pushed the Civil War off the front pages. From bound volume ( has three very small holes along left margin, a few small clean edge tears along right margin and bottom. With a Lowell, Mass. embossed blindstamp on top, overall g+ condition . (ET.120) $50.

et102.jpg (473257 bytes)1850 BIOGRAPHICAL BOOKLET OF TOM THUMB. 4 1/2" x 7 1/2" "Sketch of the Life...of Charles Stratton..."Pub 1850 Van Norden & Amerman, Printers, New York. 24pp in original gray wraps. Biographical information, songs verses, and newspaper accounts of Thumb visits to various cities. Contains a nice illustrated advertisement for Barnum's American Museum on verso of front cover along w/ back cover illustration of the General at his performance before the crowned heads of Europe.  Scarcer early thumb ephemera. Front cover has b/l corner (app. 1"w x 3/4" h) missing, edge chipping, light foxing on internal pages; otherwise G complete w/ no torn or missing pages. (ET.102); $185. 









et003.jpg (61138 bytes)TOM THUMB AND LAVINIA WEDDING . Carte de visite.  3 ¾” x 2 ½”. Period pencil notation on back " Fairy Wedding". 1860’s , No photographer's imprint. Scarce cdv, VG- fine.  (ET.03). $95   

et004.jpg (50809 bytes)TOM THUMB . Carte de visite.  3 ¾” x 2 ½”.  1860’s , No photographer's imprint. Uncommon cdv, VG- fine.  (ET.04). $55.   



 JENNY LIND(1820-87). The Swedish soprano Jenny Lind was admired equally for her skilled coloratura (singing ornately embellished music) in opera and oratorio and her appealing style in simple songs. In 1850, she toured the United States as "The Swedish Nightingale" under the auspices of P.T. Barnum. Lind married her accompanist, Otto Goldschmidt, in 1852, and they moved to England in 1856. There she appeared in oratorios and recitals. She retired from singing in 1883 and taught at the Royal College of Music in London until 1886. 


et208.jpg (13562 bytes)JENNY LIND. Original carte de visite photograph, stylish backmark, but maker unknown.  Full standing view. Mount trimmed on top. (Et.208); sold   

et103.jpg (168672 bytes)JENNY LIND.  Sheet music " Ossian's Serenade" 13 1/2" x 10 1/4" lithographic cover with P.T. Barnum introducing Jenny Lind to Ossian Dodge, the noted Boston vocalist, who paid $625 for the ticket first concert of Lind in Boston.  Complete 5pp, some light wear and use, from bound volume with spine stitching marks. Nice graphic cover art of this scarce sheet music. (Et.103); $85.     



Waino and Plutano, The Wild Men of Borneo, were actually Hiram and Barney Davis, two mentally retarded dwarf brothers from Connecticut. Though a mere 40 inches tall and weighing in at about 45 pounds each, the brothers were possessed of extraordinary strength. On stage, the pair would lift heavy weights, members of the audience, and wrestle – both male audience members and each other. Discovered by a traveling showman in 1850, dubbing them with new names, the showman concocted a story that the bloodthirsty pair had been captured by sailors in Borneo, but only after a desperate struggle requiring many guns, nets, and strong men. Starting in 1880, Waino and Plutano began appearing with P. T. Barnum, whose uncanny knack for promotion caused their careers to soar. Under Barnum, the Wild Men of Borneo became one of the world’s most famous attractions. The pair continued to work into the early part of the twentieth century, until Hiram’s death in 1905. Barney lived a while longer, but expired in 1912.

et010.jpg (88057 bytes)WAINO AND PLUTANO.  The Wild Men of Borneo.  Carte de visite. 4 ¼" x 2 ½:. Charles Eisenmann, NY photographer's imprint. Ca. 1880’s , VG+ cond. (ET.10); $155. 

et047.jpg (93768 bytes)ELI BOWEN, The Legless Wonder. Cdv, 4 1/4 x 2 1/2.  Ca. 1880s view of Bowen,  imprinted name on mount. Chas. Eisenmann, Bowery photographer's backmark. Minor trimming to mount b/left side, o/w fine condition with good tonality and contrast. (ET.47); $150.


et065.jpg (41634 bytes)SIAMESE TWINS CERAMIC FIGURINE. Ca. 1860s ceramic souvenir figurine of the original Siamese Twins Eng and Chang.  Primitively molded  3 ½” sculpture was probably made in Germany and is labeled: SIAM ZWILLING (TWINS),  heads and loin cloths are hand-painted.   The conjoined twins took several tours to Europe, and this antique souvenir may have coincided with the late 1860s trip that was to include Germany. Eng and Chang Bunker were the original Siamese twins, born in Siam in 1811. As teenagers, they traveled as curiosities and became well known all over the world; they appeared in P.T. Barnum's show, among others. They retired to North Carolina, where  they married sisters and sired more than 20 children between them. In 1874, Chang died at age 63, still connected to his brother; Eng died just a few hours later, most probably of shock. (Et.65); $95.



et001.jpg (23364 bytes)MADAME SHERWOOD, Giant Lady.  Carte de visite. 4 ¼” x 2 ½”.  Imprinted information on bottom of mount “ 7 feet around the waist, 24 inches around the arm, 675 pounds”. Ca. 1860 cdv. Charles Fredricks, N.Y. photographer’s backmark. Very nice view of this scarcer card, bottom corners clipped. Else VG.(ET.01). $90.   

et041.jpg (35048 bytes)MARY POWERS, Giant Lady.  Carte de visite. 4" x 2 ½”.  Imprinted information on back of card "The Kentucky Giantess, 26 years old and 782 pounds...". Ca. 1860s cdv. Adams & Mendenhall, Indianapolis, Ind  photographer’s backmark. Lightly tinted , exhibits some soiling and light wear, , overall VG.(ET.41). $75.   



COLONEL ROUTH GOSHEN.  Known as the “Arabian Giant”.  Purported to be  7’11”, 475 lbsGoshen was engaged by Barnum in the first American Museum , and was paired w/ Tom Thumb,  and staged pitched battles between the two. He later did the same act with Admiral Dot. 

et024.jpg (43178 bytes)COLONEL ROUTH GOSHEN,  Giant. Carte de visite. 3 3/4” x 2 1/2”.   Imprinted size, weight and birthplace on bottom.. Ca. 1860’s cdv.  Bailey's, N.Y.C. photographer backmark.  Not seen this image before, mount trimmed , some light soiling, image exhibits strong contrast and tonality, overall VG-F. (ET.24). $95.         

et011.jpg (78194 bytes)BEARDED GIRL ANNIE JONES . Carte de visite. 4 ¼" x 2 ½". Imprinted on front of mount "Bearded Girl, Seven Years Old" . This is a very early and sarce cdv of Miss Anne Jones ". E. &H.T Anthony NY publisher's backmsark. A bit of light soiling, o/w VG. Annie later married twice, toured Europe and invested her considerable earnings in Real Estate. (Et.11); $sold



et031.jpg (109743 bytes)CIRCASSIAN QUEEN. Carte de visite. 4 ¼" x 2 ½". No photogrpher's imprint.  Ca. 1860’s ,mount trimmed on bottom. a bit of soiling on mount, o/w VG-F  Fine cond.

"Circassian" women were regularly exhibited during the decades following the Civil War. Exhibitors frequently spun tales of "white slavery," harems, and rescue around the "Circassian" women to enthrall audiences. As the "purest" type of white person, Circassian women were said to be the most beautiful on earth, prized by Turkish sultans for their harems. Though almost all were surprisingly proficient in English, and mysteriously deficient in their knowledge of "Circassia," "Circassian Beauties" became a mainstay of dime museums and side shows until the end of the nineteenth century, attracting white audiences fascinated by the "exotic East" and preoccupied by issues of race.(Et.31);85. 

et123.jpg (242628 bytes)TIGHT ROPE WALKER. 11" x 4 3/8" 19th c. broadside for " The Aerial Prince LeRoy", extolling the feats of " the Greatest High Rope Walker and Aerial Gymnast the world has ever known". Exhibits foxing and toning, had been pasted down as some point, and has remnants of affixed paper on back. (Et.123); $200.  

DE LA MANO MAGICIAN . c. 1880s. De La Mano, who's real name was Zell Dreitzehn, was a wealthy Austrian who's family owned a circus in Europe. De La Mano became an illusionist and toured Europe before coming to the U.S. in 1876 for the first time to entertain at better theaters. He never completed his 3rd tour in 1881 and disappeared in 1882 never to be seen again.

et707.jpg (454070 bytes)LARGE GRAPHIC POSTER. Poster is 42 1/2 x 14" w/text at top "De La Mano Is Coming!/The Champion Prestidigitateur Abidextrous Comedian, Arch Illusionist and Humorist" w/wonderful engravings. Scenes include him on stage in crowd-filled theater and illusions including devil and sleeping woman raising in air, devilish imps making flowers appear. Him on stage doing tricks. Graphically strong and very appealing. (E.707); $395.









et705.jpg (356386 bytes)BROADSIDE . 14 3/4" x 5". Two sided, Magic Show and Educated Animal Exhibition. "Dom Pedro The Pig With The Human Brain That Reads, Multiplies, Subtracts And Divides, Plays A Game Of Cards, Rings A Bell, Fires A Gun". Verso has text regarding illusion he performs. (Et.705); $50.









et709.jpg (164805 bytes)BROADSIDE. .24" x 4 1/2" . Broadsheet has graphics of tiny winged man pouring drinks out of large bottle into cocktail glasses and 2 devil-like creatures spilling items into woman's apron. (E.709); $95.















et708.jpg (234355 bytes)BROADSIDE. 24" x 9". Broadside Features Strong text composition,  promotes "The Chinese Paradox!/The Apparition Ring/The Dancing Broom". American Engraving and Printing Co. Beekman St. . ( NY). (E.708)' $125. 









et704.jpg (572016 bytes)TWO SIDED FLYER.9 1/2" x 5 3/4" Two sided flier w/wonderful graphics of De La Mano performing various tricks on one side and text on other side detailing "Inimitable Programme". (ET.704); $25.




et706.jpg (247451 bytes)MAGIC BOOK.  Conjuring; Or, Magic Made Easy. New York, New York Popular Publishing Company [1881]. Small, thin 8vo. 17 b/w illustrations. Graphically strong litho cover.. Three pages of publisher's advertisements at end. Original stiff color pictorial wrappers with vignette portrait and view of a stage magician uncovering a goldfish bowl (small stains). Fine.32 pages including 3 pages of publisher's advertisements. (E.706); $125.




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