P.T. Barnum (1810-1891) was a master showman and businessman best known for founding the Barnum & Bailey Circus. Barnum was an entrepreneur from a young age, and by the age of 21, he owned a general store, a small lottery, and his own newspaper.
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Barnum purchased a museum in New York City and assembled a unique and enormous collection of oddities, both human and otherwise. But his museum was prone to accidents. After it burned down for the second time, Barnum joined up with James Bailey and decided to take his show on the road.
His museum and shows featured many highlights, including the human oddities that Barnum procured throughout the years.
Take a look at 13 of Barnum’s most famous oddities.
1. The Four-Legged Woman
Myrtle Corbin was born with dipygus, a condition that caused her to be born with two pelvises and four legs. She performed with Barnum’s sideshow from the ages of 13 to 19.
2. The Greek Albanian
George Costentenus hailed from Albania and was covered head-t0-toe in tattoos. His backstory claimed that he was a man of noble Greek blood who was kidnapped by Chinese Tartars and forced to get his many tattoos against his will.
3. Jo-Jo the Dog-Faced Boy
Fedor Jeftichew signed on to perform in Barnum’s show when he was only 16 years old. He suffered from the condition hypertrichosis, which caused his face to be almost completely covered in hair. Barnum told his crowds that Jo-Jo was tracked and captured by a hunter, and Jo-Jo would bark and growl to add credence to the story.
4. Chang and Eng Bunker
These two are the origin of the term “Siamese twins.” The men, who came from what was then the kingdom of Siam, performed with Barnum until they eventually moved to North Carolina and married a pair of sisters. Odd, indeed!
5. Lionel the Lion-Faced Man
Another man who suffered from hypertrichosis, Stephan Bibrowski was marketed as part lion by Barnum because of his long hair. Bibrowski’s mother blamed his condition on the fact that she witnessed his father being mauled by a lion while she was pregnant – which makes complete sense and is totally how having kids works.
6. The Human Skeleton
Isaac Sprague began losing weight when he was a preteen, and it never came back. He had a healthy appetite, but there was nothing he could do to get heavier. In fact, Sprague weighed only 43 pounds at one point, and Barnum often paired him with his extremely overweight performers to shock the audience.
7. The 161-Year-Old Woman
Always one to spin a fantastic yarn, Barnum invented the story of the 161-year-old woman, Joice Heth, who was George Washington’s nanny. In reality, she lived to be about 80.
8. The Bearded Woman
By the age of five, Annie Jones Elliot had a full beard, mustache, and sideburns. She suffered from hirsutism, which causes excessive body hair.
9. Tom Thumb and Livinia Williams
Thumb was only 2 feet tall and was fully grown by the age of 6. His marriage to fellow little person Livinia Williams was front-page news in 1863.
10. Zip the Pinhead
William Henry Johnson was born into a poor family in New Jersey and likely suffered from microcephaly, a condition which results in an unusually small head. His family accepted money and allowed him to be featured in Barnum’s show, where he was billed as the missing link between modern humans and apes.
Hey, at least we got a classic Ramones song out of the deal.