TATTOOED LADIES AND WILD INDIANS: A HISTORY OF RACIALIZED AND SEXUALIZED FREAK AND SIDE SHOW PERFORMANCE, AND ITS INFLUENCE ON AMERICAN ENTERTAINMENT By EMILY FERRUFINO COQUEUGNIOT B.A., University of Colorado at Denver, 2014 A thesis submitted to the Faculty of the Graduate School of the University of Colorado in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts History Program 2018
ii Â© 2018 EMILY FERRUFINO COQUEUGNIOT ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
iii This thesis for the Master of Arts degree by Emily Ferrufino Coqueugniot h as been approved for the History Program by Kariann Yokota , Chair Rebecca Hunt Gabriel Finkelstein Date: May 12, 2018
iv Ferrufino Coqueugniot, Emily (MA, Public History ) Tat tooed Ladies and Wild Indians: A History of Racialized and S exualized Freak and Sideshow Performance, and its Influence on American Entertainment Thesis directed by Associate Professor Kariann Yokota ABSTRACT Freak and side shows were popular entertainments in the United States which would eventually decline into obscurity by the middle of the twentieth century. While they are no longer the powerhouse of entertainment which they once were, their influence on American entertainment can still be felt. This is p articularly true when looking to tropes relating to race and gender. In this paper, the author will explore historical instances of acts and shows which made use of these tropes, making connections to entertainments of the period and modern forms of entert ainment which still make use of these tropes. The form and content of this abstract are approved. I recommend its publication. Approved: Kariann Yokota
v TABLE OF CONTENTS CHAPTER I . INTRODUCTION... .......... ............... .................. .......................... ............................ 1 II . WILD INDIANS: RACE BASED T HEME S AND THE ETHNIC OTHER .. .... .. 10 Blackface: The T heme of the Jolly Slave ............................ ...... ..... .................1 1 The Ethnic Other: Ethnographic Shows and the Origins of ManKind ... . .. ......2 3 III. TATTOOED LADIES: SEXUALIZED PERFORMANCE AND THE GENDERED IDEAL ........... . ... ....................... ............................... .............................. 3 3 Bearded Ladies and Burlesque Dancers ................. .................... .....................3 4 Where Race and Gender Intersect ................... .............. ... . ............................... 4 2 Cross Dressing and the Ideal Man.......... ......................... ........ ......... ...............4 6 IV. DEATH OF A SALESMAN: THE DECLINE OF THE SIDE SHOW AND THE RISE OF OTHER ENTERTAINMENTS ..................... ............. .. ............... ....... ......... 5 4 BIBLIOGRAPHY ........................... ............................. ............. ................ ............................... 6 1
1 Chapter 1 Introduction The air was practically buzzing with a sort of electricity on a sunny June afternoon in 1875 . There was scent of elephant dung and food in the air as barkers cr ied out to the crowds about the acts to be seen inside the big top. Some even direct the curious toward a smaller tent to the side of the main show, filled with all sorts of wonders and freaks. Inside that tent on e might find a dog faced girl, a bearded lady, living skeleton, or Borneo cannibal. Sideshows were an early type of public entertainment which was available to people of all classes. While sideshows are most associated with circuses, it would seem that they developed separately. Throughout history, h uman oddities, eventually called freaks, were often shown in the courts and homes of monarchs and other elites. This was particularly true of dwarves. The presence of a human freak in the court of a monarch acted as a demonstration of [due to the ex pense of procuring and maintaining such a rare individual , while also providing a form of] 1 During the seventeenth century, in both Europe and United States, those who would eventually work in freak shows were usually erse ctions, fairs, lecture halls, and marketplaces . Taverns were also popular venues , where the showmen responsibl e for the acts w ould rent rooms for use as make shift exhibition halls. 2 One of the earliest fairs where freaks wer in England, which started in 11 23. 3 During the early Renaissance , freak acts were typically 1 Australia n Historical Studies 40, no. 3 (September 2009): 324. 2 Thomas Richard Fahy, Freak Shows and the Modern American Imagination: Constructing the Damaged Body from Willa Cather to Truman Capote , (New York: Pelgrave, 2006) 5 6. 3
2 displayed alone, instead of as part of a troupe, and traveled from fair to fair . 4 The curiosity these sort of spaces, which is why institutions like Bedlam Asylum in London would open their doors to let in curious visitors starting in 1609 . 5 I t was during the 1830 s that side shows began to set up near circuses, who at first tried to keep their distance. By the 1850 s , circuses no longer fo ught the side show, and they became part of the same operation . 6 This resistance is very interesting when one thinks about the fact that circuses contracted individual freaks starting in the early 1800s. 7 . 8 Freak shows were not initially included in the p rograms. They first appeared in the 1901 Pan American Exposition and turned up again in the 1915 Pana Pacific International Exposition midway. Freaks would continue to 9 Both circuses and freak shows were subject to evolution over time, adapting to the needs and wants of the audience. One of the earliest circus type performances in the United States was a series of horse and clown acts put together by Thom as Pool in 1785. John Bill Rickets , who originally came fro m England, is credited with creating the first formal American circus in 1792 . 10 It was this circus that had the first known animal act using an 4 Robert Bogdan, Freak Show: Presenting Human Oddities for Amusement and Profit , (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1988) 25. 5 Andrea Stulman Dennett, Weird & Wonderful: The Dime Museum in America , (New York and London: New York University Press, 1997) 66 67. 6 Joe Nickell, Secrets of the Sideshows , (Lexington, KY: The University Press of Kentucky, 2005) 9. 7 Bogdan, Freak Show , 41. 8 Bogdan, Freak Show , 48. 9 Bogdan, Freak Show , 51 52. 10 Nickell, Secrets of the Sideshows , 8.
3 animal other than a horse (which was a monkey rope dancing act) . 11 According to Joe Nickell, in his book Secrets of the Sideshows , a sideshow acts could be incredibly varied: In terms of content, there are girl shows (entertainments featuring dancing women), illusion shows (those consisting of magical illusions, such as the headless girl), life shows (educational exhibits of preserved fetuses illustrating the stages of gestation), menageries (animal shows in which the animals do not perform but are merely an exhibit), and others, including wax shows (exhibits of wax figures of notables, such as famous outlaws). 12 So, sideshows were not just limited to displaying freaks. The freaks who did work in sideshows were either displayed as a single ten in one, which is a show/tent which displays ten acts in one place (often a combination of 13 In fact, the first ten in one appeared at the 1904 Canadian National Exhibition. 14 As the methods by which freaks were displayed changed, so did the way they were perceived by audiences. According to Richard Broome, in his article a capricious humor, a whim, and later, an irregular fancy. would later on become associated with a sort of divine punishment. 15 This understanding of human oddities/freaks by the nineteenth century took a medical /scientific turn, going from being a form of Divine punishment to looking at si deshow freaks as merely people suffering from medically explainable diseases and birth defects . 16 11 Nickell, Secrets of the Sideshows , 9. 12 Nickell, Secrets of the Sideshows , 48. 13 Nickell, Secrets of the Sideshows , 49 50. 14 Nickell, Secrets of the Sideshows , 52. 15 16
4 The most recognizable place where freaks were displayed came in the form of dime museums. Museums started out as collections put together and held in the priva te homes of wealthy citizens and organizations, and these collections were often referred to as as . These c ollections were often des igned to be scientific in nature . 17 They usually contained s , trinkets, embalmed 18 Some collections w ould also include 19 The first public museum was opened in London in 1757. 20 In the eighteen th ce ntury, museums began including novelty items to bring in visitors . This evolved into a form of competition between museums and, as a result, pushed museum owners to create fake items. 21 The early nineteenth century saw the introduction of live performers, including freaks, into museums. According to Andrea Stulman Dennett, in her book Weird & Wonderful: The Dime Museum in America , this development was condoned by museum managers who cl aimed s that helped 22 So these museums were essentially trying to sell themselves as being respectab le places to spend time and money , and freaks became part of the draw . The dime museum was a popular entertainment from 1880 to 1900, though by 1910 23 This was, at least 17 Stulman Dennett, Weird & Wonderful , 1. 18 Steven Johnson, Wonderland: How Play Made the Modern World , (New York: Riverhead Books, 2016) 255. 19 Stulman Dennett, Weird & Wonderful , 1. 20 Fahy, Freak Shows and the Modern American Imagination , 6. 21 Stulman Dennett, Weird & Wonderful , 1 2. 22 Stulman Dennett, Weird & Wonderful , 2. 23 Stulman Dennett, Weird & Wonderful , 5.
5 in part, due to the rise of other popular entertainments such as movies and radio. Other than working at dim e museums. Dime museum s were often the place where some audiences were and fifty cents to go to a dime mus eum, thus making it h some museums not charging extra to the performances held in their theater. 24 For the freaks who worked at these establishments, it usually meant more stability, particularly in the realm of pay. For a freak performer, a decent pay could be invaluable. It represented a chance at independ ence that they might not have had otherwise. A dime museum freak could make between $25 and $500 a week. If they had the misfortune of being a lecture room freak, then But not every museum was an ideal place to work. Some s mall museums often mistreated their freak acts; demanding they work long hours and s at a booking. 25 There were typically five types of freaks who worked in dime museums. First or a vestigial twin. were th , Western 24 Stulman Dennett, Weird & Wonderful , 6 8. 25 Stulman Dennett, Weird & Wonderful , 68.
6 26 Different types of freaks in all probability could command different pay gradients due to their varying popularity. In order to keep the crowds coming into dime museums, a cts rotated between museums frequently. P.T. Barnum, who owned the American Museum, and Moses Kimball, who managed the Boston Museum, often traded acts between the two establishments. 27 In fact, P.T. Barnu it to the forefront. 28 It was a frequent practice in dime museums to fa lsify stories having to do with the private lives of their freak performers in order to make money. They would eve n go so far as to fabricate mar riages between performers as a way to bring in the crowds. 29 What brought freak performers to the circus, when places like dime museums usually offered stable employment, was due to the fact that many dime museums often This left freak performers to find other forms of employment during those months. 30 There were a few traveling museums, which were usually rather small. Eventually, these traveling 31 Some of the practices of dime museums were also shared by other forms of popular entert ainment. Class, or at least the appearance of class, was very important to many nineteenth century entertainments. Take, for example, the effort made to appear to be respectable. What lt of dime museum 26 Stulman Dennett, Weird & Wonderful , 6 6 . 27 Stulman Dennett, Weird & Wonderful , 8 9. 28 Bogdan, Freak Show , 10 . 29 Stulman Dennett, Weird & Wonderful , 80. 30 Stulman Dennett, Weird & Wonderful , 84. 31 Stulman Dennett, Weird & Wonderful , 85.
7 32 While variety theater catered to the working class, vaudeville was aimed toward more middle class audiences. 33 And it was successful. According to Andrew L. Erdman, who wrote Blue Vaudeville: Sex, Mor als and the Mass Marketing of Amusement, 1895 1915 , vaudeville was among the first forms of staged amusement in the United States to emerge as, quite simply, a mass scale product 34 Vaudeville managers and owners often tried to create an environment which would be more welcoming to families, banning things like drinking and smoking within the theater. 35 Essentially, vaudeville tried to cut ties with its working class roots. 36 But, like dime museums, vaudeville theaters prided themselves in the myriad acts which walked across the stage. There were blackface acts, plays, singers, strongmen, and many other offerings . 37 Some vaudeville venues brought in freaks from local dime museums to be displayed on stage. 38 Vaudeville theaters were also place s where acts usually relegated to the burlesque stage could also perform. 39 These acts also appeared in dime museums , amongst other venues . 40 It was in venues such as dime museums, circuses and vaudeville theaters where freak shows and their influence could be felt. Freak shows were where certain themes regarding gender and race were explored and expanded upon. These t hemes were either borrowed or 32 Rachel Shteir, Striptease: The Untold History of the Girlie Show , (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004) 32. 33 Shteir, Striptease , 33. 34 Andrew L. Erdman, Blue Vaudeville: Sex, Morals and the Mass Marketing of Amusement, 1895 1915 , (Jefferson, NC: McFarland and Company, 2 004) 7. 35 Erdman, Blue Vaudeville , 11. 36 Erdman, Blue Vaudeville , 12. 37 Erdman, Blue Vaudeville , 45. 38 John Springhall, The Genesis of Mass Culture: Show Business Live in America, 1840 to 1940 , (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008) 136. 39 Shteir, Striptease , 33. 40 Shteir, Striptease , 14.
8 shared between freak shows and other forms of popular American entertainment. And it is these t heme s which have h ad a lasting effect on American entertainment, which can still be seen today. The ways in which freak shows are talked about in the literature ranges from talking about the freak show as a thing of the past (with some of the literature talking about the modern incarnations, like the Coney Island show), to others talking about the lasting influence of side shows in modern entertainment . Take, for example, Thomas Richard 2006 book Freak Shows and the Modern American Imagination: Constructing the Damaged Body from Willa Cather to Truman Capote ; Fahy underscores the freak show as being a n one of the most popular forms of entertainment in the United States in popularity from 1840 to 1940 . 41 Robert Bogdan, in his book Freakshow: Presenting Human Oddities for Amusement and Profit , acknowledges the same date range as Fahy for the popularity of freak shows, while pointing out the modern incarnations of the form at what 42 So while Bogdan acknowledges modern incarnations of freak shows, he dismisses th eir continued role in the mainstream . On the side of the lasting influence of freak shows are Jack Richardson and Jennifer Eisenhauer , who wrote the article Pedagogical Sit e. 43 The paper focuses on the show Dr. Phil, and 41 Fahy, Freak Shows and the Modern American Imagination , 2 42 Bogdan, Freak Show , 2 . 43 Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies 8, no. 1 (2014): 67.
9 how it stigmatized mental illness, and those who suffer from it. 44 Richardson and Eisenhauer rep eatedly compare this stigmatization to a level of freakishness, due to the level of othering that it brought about. 45 Essentially, according to Richardson and Eisenhauer , the t heme of the freak/other has gone from the theatrical stage to the talk show stage. The way my paper fits into the literature on freak shows is that it will be a combination. By taking the historical theme s developed in freak shows, particularly those having t o do with race and gender, and connecting it to other forms of entertainment (both from the period in which freak shows were more prominent and from more modern formats such as television and movies) the lasting impact of freak shows on American entertainm ent can be see n by those who know the themes . Essentially, this paper will focus on how the race and gender based t heme developed by freak shows , and related entertainment forms, have had a lasting impact on the way American entertainment is presented tod ay. These t heme s are intimately connected to ideas concerning femininity, masculinity, and racial hierarchy/identity, and have lasted into modern American entertainment. 44 45
10 Chapter 2 Wild Indians: Race Based Theme s and the Ethnic Other Racial t heme can be found in just about every form of American entertainment and science. freak and minstrel shows, in particular on the racial difference of African Americans. 46 But it was not just African Americans who were displayed in order to highlight racial difference. Racial difference was highlighted for just about every non white group out there. Take, for example, Wild West shows, which were very popular in both the U.S . and Europe. Pawnee Bill, much like the well known Buffalo Bill, had a Wild West show which toured around the country. A couple of programs from two different seasons of his show in the early flair. In one program from around 1901, Pawnee Bill, who the cover of the program also calls Major Gordon W. Lillie, Gauchos 47 Three years later, when his show was in its twentieth season, 46 A frican American Review 45, no. 3 (Fall 2012): 292. 47 1 , Box 9, FF2, William Frederick Cody/Buffalo Bill Papers, WH72, Western History Collection, The Denver Public Library, 8.
11 Pawnee Bill had combined his show with 48 In this show Columbia, North Africa, Siberia, Japan, and several other countries . This was separate from the main show, but admit tance was allowed at no extra cost and it opened an hour before the main show started. 49 Both shows were fueled by racialized assumptions and stereotypes , as can be seen from the use of the name of Hindostan , which is more commonly known today as India , when describing the places where some of the performers came from . What fueled shows like this, along with freak shows and other forms of entertainment, was use of racial tropes which shaped the way that certain racial groups were portrayed. One of the bes t known use of racial tropes that still appears today is blackface. Blackface: The T heme of the Jolly Slave Early on in their history , freak the performers. 50 But the subjects of these photos were not always freaks; some display ed what Thomas ith the subjects of the photographs being African Americans as both freaks and the victims of lynch mobs. 51 According to Fahy, it was the promotion of these sorts of images which showed African Americans as freaks and the victims of white mob violence built upon existing racial tensions and justified racial prejudice . 52 It was these tensions which created blackface minstrelsy where we see the birth of Jim Crow. This character was supposedly created by Thomas D. 48 Bill Papers, WH72, Western History Collection, The Denver Public Library, 1. 49 50 Fahy, Freak Shows and the Modern American Imagination , 9 . 51 Fahy, Freak Shows and the Modern American Imagination , 19. 52 Fahy, Freak Shows and the Modern American Imagination , 20.
12 Rice, the father of Ethiopian minstrelsy, and was based on a deformed slave by the same name as the character . 53 also have been Jim Cuff. 54 Ethiopian minstrelsy is another term which was used to refer to blackface minstrelsy. 55 Both the se physical and theatrical images create the image of the African American body as a strange and freakish body. They became an influe nc ing force of what came to be known as ethnic humor. Minstrel theater, al ong with other forms of variety theater, like vau deville, began making use of ethnic and racial humor early on. This entertainment style was based around a 56 It is this sort of theater that thrived on the competitive, cowardly or militaristic and aggressive, cheap or recklessly spendthrift . 57 Racial performances allow ed room f or the 58 It was this need for a way to deal with racial an xiety which gave blackface its power. A popular entertainment starting in the 1820s, blackface minstrel shows were made caricatures of African Americans. According to L awrence J. Epstein, who wrote The Haunted Smile: The Story of Jewish Comedians in America , blackface minstrel psychologically valuable for whites in justifying the continued mistrea tment of slaves and, 53 Harper's New Monthly Magazine LXXIX, no. 469: 137, Box 7, Item 252, Printed Ephemera Relating to Theater, 1710 2008 (MS Thr 939), Harvard Theatre Collection, Houghton Library, Harvard University. 54 55 T. Allston Brown and Charles Day, "Black Musicians and Early Ethiopian Minstrelsy," The Black Perspective in Music 3, no. 1 (Spring 1975): 77. 56 Melus 21, no. 4 (Winter 1996): 20. 57 58
13 after the Civil W ar, in justifying 59 The topic of slavery was first taken up by Some museums , or at least their exhibits, made their opinions on slavery clear earlier, such as Moses Kimbal l, who, in 1850, publicly shared his views on abolitionism with an anti slavery exhibition in the Boston Museum. 60 But even so, blackface persisted. Blackface minstrel characters such as Jim Crow and Zip Coon have had a long lasting influence and caused 61 But, in response to blackface at the hands of white minstrels, African American minstrels created whiteface. Much like their blackface counterparts, whiteface minstrels u sed face paint and wigs appropriate[d] white dramatic characters crafted initially by white 62 A whiteface minstrel performance might comedic routines full of 63 While blackface developed as a way of dealing with racial anxieties for white audiences, for African Americans whiteface was representative of the desire to pass in white society in order 64 Eventually whiteface minstrels, known as stage Europeans, along with stage Africans and stage Indians, were absorbed by blackface minstrelsy. 65 There were a few African America ns who even participated in blackface performances, and while they considered to be more authentic 59 Lawrence J. Epstein, The Haunted Smile: The Story of Jewish Comedians in America , (New York: PublicAffairs, 2001) 39. 60 Stulman Dennett, Weird & Wonderful , 55. 61 Marvin McAllister, Whiting Up: Whiteface Minstrels and Stage Europeans in African American Performance , (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2011) 3. 62 McAllister, Whiting Up , 1. 63 McAllister, Whiting Up , 5. 64 McAllister, Whiting Up , 8 9. 65 McAllister, Whiting Up, 74.
14 their white counterparts, of their performances was significantly different. 66 On e such performer was R.M. Carroll, , who was advertised as a performer for the Morris Brothers minstrel show . 67 Blackface was not just confined to the minstrel stage. It was also connected to freak and side shows. Barnum would perform in blackface himself at his American Museum . 68 Later on he would make claims that he had always been abolitionist (even though he had owned multiple slaves). 69 There were also African American performers who bridged the divide between the minst rel stage and the freak show. Sometimes bands were used to bring people into the freak show tent, often comprised of either black or blackface minstrel musicians. 70 Thomas Green e , also known as Blind Tom, was an African American pianist that worked as freak . fact blind and possibly mentally handicapped, with a talent for playing the piano. 71 Blind was Georgia, in 1849 72 He was thrown in for free when his parents were sold to James Bethune in 1850. 73 Green e was a form of spectacle that give his audience comfort by representing 66 David Monod, The Soul of Pleasure: Sentiment and Sensation in Nineteenth Century American Mass Entertainment , (Ithaca & London: Cornell University Press, 2016) 209. 67 Relating to Theater, 1710 2008 (MS Thr 939), Harvard Theatre Collection, Houghton Library, Harvard University. 68 Fahy, Freak Shows and the Modern American Imagination , 44. 69 Michael M. Chemers, Staging Stigma: A Critical Examination of the American Freak Show , (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008) 47. 70 Bogdan, Freak Show, 41 44. 71 Fahy, Freak Shows and the Modern American Imagination , 41 42 . 72 165. 73
15 74 In fact, he represented otherness on both sides of the Atlantic, having done one Eu ropean tour starting in July of 1866. Europe held considerable appeal for African American performers, particularly after the end of the C ivil War. This was due to the slavery and African by his owners that Tom had never received a musical education. 75 It would appear he had a natural talent for music. This apparent t alent was not something that the Bethune family wanted to keep owners held public exhibitions of Tom on the piano starting in 1857 . W hen the Civil War began , these exhibitions tu 76 after the inevitable end of slavery , in 1864 the Bethune family family, 77 were inevitably and inextricably linked to his music. American writer Rebecca H arding 78 Thomas Greene Wiggins was just one of many African Americans who occupied both the realm of freak and performer. 74 Fahy, Freak Shows and the Modern Ame rican Imagination , 41 42. 75 164 165. 76 166. 77 78 168.
16 The creation of the African American as a type of freak exhibited in American freak shows can be traced back to one particular woman who was exhibited by P.T. Barnum in the mid 1830s . woman by the name of Jo ice Heth the 161 year 79 She is credited by historians with bringing about the Golden Age of freak shows. 80 east United 81 Barnum bought the rights to exhibit Joice from R.W. Linds e y, a 82 In fact, Joice Heth was a slave belonging to John S. Bowling w ho had contracted her to Lindsey for a year. Bow l ing in turn sold to Lindsey. Just as worried about the prospect h, Lindsey quickly sold his interest in the exhibition to Barnum. 83 Joice was blind, partly paralyzed (lacking the use of one arm and possibly both legs) and had no teeth. 84 She was the ideal candidate for the exhibit due to these physical characteristics. According to Benjamin Reiss, who wrote the article the Joice Heth exhibit was highly dependent on stereotypes of African Americans due to their biological difference from white observers. ue to her supposed connection to George Washington, Joice Heth represented an idealized example 79 American Quarterly 51, no. 1 (March 1999): 78. 80 Chemers, Staging Stigma , 67 68. 81 Women & Performance: A Journal of Feminist Theory 22, no. 1 (August 2012): 30. 82 83 A.H. Saxon, P.T. Barnum: The Legend and the Man , (New York: Columbia University Press: 1989) 68. 84
17 of her race. 85 She symbolized intimate connection to George Washington. 86 When she died in February of 1836, Barnum held a 87 It was at this autopsy, that the ut. Judging by the condition of her heart, Dr. Rodgers concluded at the time of her death. 88 But h ow complicit was Barnum in the deception of the crowds who flocked to see Joice ? Barnum claimed a level of innocence in the Joice Heth hoax . In a letter sent to a Mr. Baker in March of 1853, Barnum claimed that Linds e y was the mastermind behind the Joice Heth hoax and that he had tricked Barnum into believing the lie with false papers which supposedly proved her age and ownership . Essentially, Barnum made the claim that he had been left holding the bag when the truth came out, and , as a result , t ook the whole of the blame for the falsehood. 89 But this may not be entirely true. On April 1 1, 1841, in the New York Atlas , P.T. Barnum began to publish a serialized novella called The Adventures of an Adventurer, Being Some Passages in the Life of Barnaby Diddleum . It follows the protagonist, Barnaby Diddleum , as he goes from being the editor owner of a paper to owning an old black slave by the too lazy to work and removed her remaining ed xact 85 86 Manuel Herrero Dred , and the Embodiment of National American Quarterly 67, no. 4 (December 2015) : 1140. 87 88 89 A.H. Saxon, Selected Letters of P.T. Barnum , (New York: Columbia University Press: 1983) 7 8.
18 exhibit . The supposedly fictional Barnaby f akes documents showing her age and bribes his elderly 90 This novella of fiction, based in an actual part of his past. How much is actual truth can probably never be known, but the fact that it so closely follows actual events suggests that there is a large amount of truth, thinly vailed as fiction. This suggests Joice, like other African American women who worked in freak and side shows, represented no t just her race, but her gender as well. This will be discussed further in Chapter 3. While Barnum maintained his innocence regarding Joice Heth, he would eventually admit to participation other hoaxes . One such hoax was He also admitted to the boug and attempted to pass it off as a creature brought back from the Rocky Mountains by General Fremont . 91 African American freaks were also used as stand in for theories of race and evolution. After Joice, Barnum moved ont o other methods of displaying African Americans and race. In 1 846, he brought an orangutan from Europe to the American Museum. She was used to 92 A 90 Saxon, P.T. Barnum , 88 . 91 Eric Fretz Rosemarie Garland Thompson, In Freakery: Cultural Spectacles of the Extraordinary Body , (New York and London: New York University Press, 1996) 103. 92 John Ric Journal of the History of Ideas XX, no. 3 (Jun September 1959): 353 354, Box 4, Item 162, Printed Ephemera Relating to Theater, 1710 2008 (MS Thr 939), Harvard Theatre Collection, Houghton Library, Harvard University.
19 short time later, in 186 ibit. 93 A claimed that Johnson had been sold to a circus at age four because his parents needed the money. 94 Johnson was not the only African American missing link to appear in freak shows. The American Museum contained many African Americans displayed by Barnum, many of the m albinism, and m icrocephaly , making 95 They also represented a transit 96 This was due to the rising curiosi ty about the theory of evolution and Darwinism, which made these sorts of exhibits a draw for crowds. The t heme of the man throughout the U.S.. 97 American freak shows. 98 Barnum saw at least some of his African American freaks as on an equal footing with animals. In an advertisement, P.T. Barnum describ ed Johnson as a docile 99 93 Fahy, Freak Shows and the Modern American Imagination , 22. 94 Extraordinary Body, (New York and London: New York U niversity Press, 1996): 144. 95 96 97 98 Nancy Bombaci, Freaks in Late Modernist American Culture: Nathanael West, Djuna Barnes, Tod Browning, and Carson McCullers , (New York, Washington D.C./Baltimore, Bern, Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Brussels, Vienna, Oxford: Peter Lang, 2006) 13. 99 Fahy, Freak Shows and the Modern American Imaginat ion , 22.
20 100 Freak shows often 101 The descriptions of people in non human terms was not uncommon outside of freak shows . Even newspaper articles capitalized on themes of beast like humans. A story publi shed on October 7, 1875 in the Rocky Mountain News describes a story from a group of Mexico border by some herders who lassoed him after he ran from them. He is descri bed in four inch 102 While some parts of this story may have been exaggerated (i.e. the body covered in hair), it is not impossible that these men could have found an abandoned child who had turned feral. But the fact of the matter is, his behavior and alleged appearance made him freakish and something to be marveled at. Other feral children were often named in the literature based on the place they were found and the animals who supposedly took care of them. Child, the Lithuanian Bear Child, the Salzburg Sow Girl, the Syrian Gorilla Child, and the Teheran Ape 103 Each of these are allegedly real feral children, and each of their names could easily be mistaken for the name of a freak show performer. The testimony and endorsement of doctors and other m en of science was a valuable tool for freak and side shows. Another article published a few months later in 1876, a reprint 100 101 Bombaci, Freaks in Late Modernist American Culture , 13. 102 Rocky Mountain News , October 7, 1875 p4 c2. Found in the Western History and Genealogy Archive at the Denver Public Library. 103 Leslie Fiedler, Freaks: Myths & Images of the Secret Self , (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1978) 155.
21 from the St. Joseph Herald in Missouri, describes the birth of a strange set of twins. While one twin was described as being merely d as being was larger than the othe , which, along with the description of the twins, makes it seem unbelievable. Possibly to combat this, t he article included the testimony of a Dr. Smith, who supposedly delivered the twins and c ould vouch for their existence. 104 Another birth reported by the Rocky Mountain News in 1884 told of a two headed stillborn baby, mentioning that medical professionals had gone to , which had been delivered by a Dr. Crook. 105 Yet another article describes the birth of a child in Pueblo, CO, with a horn in the middle of its forehead, though one day. 106 Two of these articles mentioned doctors, putting an emphasis on their testimony that these children actually existed. Freak and sideshow acts, a long with others, used topics medicine, and current events draw in the crowds. 107 As F ahy puts it: Whether it was through the language of science or the sales pitch of a sideshow barker, white America needed to see racial difference as absolute. The body on stage (or in the ring) needed 104 Rocky Mountain News , April 7, 1876, p2 c3. Found in the Western History and Genealogy Archive at the Denver Public Library. 105 Genealogy Archive at the Denver Public Library. 106 and Genealogy Archive at the Denver Public Library. 107 Bogdan, Freak Show , 10.
22 racially, culturally, intellectually, and morally. 108 And it was not as if science and these shows were all that separate. Freaks and other 109 Yankee impersonators, Hungarian Minstrels, and musical ladies 110 Medical museums would also display the bodies of dead freaks, such as that of Julia Pastrana, who exhibited to an even more fascinated 111 oddity. It was also fairly common for doctors and scientists to give credibility to a show through things such as doing lectures and signing documents in support of even the most made by the acts. There were even those, like Dr. David L. Rodger s , 112 In freak in supporting claims that particular 113 T hey depended verify the authenticity of their acts. 114 This desire to be associated with medical professionals 108 Fahy, Freak Shows and the Modern American Imagination , 40. 109 Stulman Den nett, Weird & Wonderful , 2. 110 101. 111 Body Worlds Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences 69, no. 1 (January 2014): 39. 112 Fahy, Freak Shows and the Modern American Imagination , 8 9. 113 114
23 also pushed freak as Member of the Royal College of Surgeons (MRCS) , Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons ( F RCS), Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians (FRCP), or Fellow of the Royal 115 Even the Joice Heth exhibit used advertisements which claimed that she and her papers had been examined by doctors who confirmed her age and authenticity . Her authenticity was further verified through testimonials from journalists. 116 Occasionally other forms of testimonials were used. For example, a London advertisement , was filled with the testimonials of at lea st a dozen newspapers . The exhibition supposedly also had royal patronage , which only served to validate it further . 117 Even so, t he appeal of science and education was a big factor in the appeal of racial exhibits. Especially those which displayed non white natives. The Ethnic Other: Ethnographic Shows and the Origin s of Man Kind Non white native peoples from around the world were displayed in sideshows. Take, for exam ple, women from the area once known as the French Congo who use wooden disks to extend their lower lip. These women were displayed in Europe and the U.S. by the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus freak s how. They were advertised as Ubangi triba l women, despite the fact that the term Ubangi was not the name of the group these women came from. In fact, the term had been randomly selected from a map by 115 116 Joice Heth Advertisement, Box 3, Item 123, Human Curiosity Prints, Playbills, Broadsides and Other Printed Material, 1695 1937 (MS Thr 736), Harvard Theatre Collection, Houghton Library, Harvard University. 117 3, Item 117, Human Curiosity Prints, Playbills, Broadsides and Other Printed Material, 1695 1937 (MS Thr 736), Harvard Theatre Collection, Houghton Library, Harvard University.
24 Ringling press agent Roland Butler. 118 were exhibi 119 So, like blackface, the displays of those like the Ubangi tribal women depended on highlighting what made them different from Western , and typically white, societies. These sorts of exhibits were often done merely for the commercial potential they possessed, though at times they also claimed to be educational in nature. 120 Ethnographic shows were very much influenced by imperialism, which brought these and other performers into public view through explorers br inging back stories and artifacts from distant and exotic locals . 121 122 Thomas Fahy puts it this way: Like their freak show counterparts on the same fairgrounds, ethnological exhibits transformed human curiosities who were racially threatening (Asians, blacks, members of non Christian tribes from Africa, and other immigrants) into approach to exoticism thus masked the hatreds, fears, and urge for self preservation of a new era. 123 One example of this is an 1890 program for a showcase of Alaskan Native dances and its descriptions of the native peoples involved. Throughout the program the natives are strange . 124 Th e front page describes a chief by the name of Yash Noosh as the 118 Nickell, Secrets of the Sideshows , 189. 119 Bogdan, Freak Show , 8. 120 Bernth Li Garland Thompson , In Freakery: Cultural Spectacles of the Extraordinary Body , (New York and London: New York University Press, 1996), 207. 121 Fahy, Freak Shows and the Modern American Imagination , 5. 122 Stulman Dennett, Weird & Wonderful , 7. 123 Fahy, Freak Shows and the Modern American Imagination , 25 26. 124 2008 (MS Thr 939), Harvard Theatre Collection, Houghton Library, Harvard University.
25 is described like tribes of Alaska, though . 125 This description of the native Alaskans presented in this showcase highlight ed the beliefs that native peoples were savage, and need ed the influence of white society, or But this was by no means a unique perspective. Barnum himself consid ered 126 Fahy points out the ethnic exhibits in freak shows depended on the reinforcement of stereotypes through the use from singing and dancing, to crawling and growling. 127 T cultural stereotypes . 128 Like other racial shows, pletely authentic. 129 According to Nigel Rothfels, who wrote Savages and Beasts: The Birth of the Modern Zoo , 125 126 Saxon, P.T. Barnum , 100. 127 Fahy, Freak Shows and the Modern American Imagination , 22. 128 Nigel Rothfels, Savages and Beasts: The Birth of the Modern Zoo , (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002) 126. 129 Advertisement, Rocky Mountain News , August 6/7, 1902, p6 c4 6, Box 4, FF22, William Frederick Cody/Buffalo Bill Papers, WH72, Western History Collection, The Denver Public Library.
26 130 Native Americ ans are an ideal example of this. Take, for example, an article written about the death of Buffalo Bill. Buffalo Bill became a mythic figure within his own lifetime, continuing to garner interest from researchers and the general public today. Chauncy Thom as claimed to have 131 When it came to Native Americans, the men and women, and especially the children, of every civilized land thanks to Buffalo 132 This piece of writting continued t he idea of the savage Native American by Almost as if Native Americans were the people of some bygone era. Though it was suggested, by the Senior Curator of the Buffalo Bill Historical Center, that Buffalo Bill treated and paid white and non white performers the same. His only crime was stereotyping the Native American performers. 133 The stereotyping of Native Americans has had a long life. They even made their way to television. An episode of Sc ience in Action 22, 1952, fed on the stereotypes of Native Americans. The episode spoke about the buffalo herds which once traversed the American West. The show suggested that the enemy of the while the buffalo was vital to the lives of Native 130 Rothfels, Sa vages and Beasts , 126. 131 Outdoor Life XXXIX, no. 5 (May 1917), Box 3, FF2, William Frederick Cody/Buffalo Bill Papers, WH72, Western History Collection, The Denver Public Library, 487. 132 133 Rocky Mountain News , February 2, 2001, Spotlight sec., Box 4, FF34, Frances Melrose Papers, WH995, Western History C ollection, The Denver Public Library, 13D.
27 Americans. 134 So, if civilization was the enemy of the buffalo, so too was it th e enemy of the Native American. The way the show spoke of Native Americans was as if they had gone the way of the buffalo, referring to both in the past tense. Further pushing the idea of native groups as savages and, in a way, culturally different freaks are the sheer number of ethnographic exhibits found in museums and fairgrounds. import ance . According to the program, the customs and way of life of the tribes is accurately presented to the public. The exhibition included demonstrations of things such as bead work and basket weaving, with the results of these demonstrations made readily a vailable for purchase by tourists. 135 The way that the program describes exhibit seems to suggest that this exhibit was preserving the memory of a dying race by showing off Native American crafts and selling examples to the crowds. There is no way of knowing how much of the money from the sales of these crafts actually went to these artisans. S imilar ethnological exhibit s took place in the United States . One was held in Chicago in 1905. The letterhead of a North American Indians in native bracelet and feather mask Eagle Eye sent to Hartley. He also complains about the need for a 134 Benjamin Draper, "Vanishing Herds," Transcript, In Science in Action, directed by Robert C. Miller, KGO TV, January 22, 1952, Box 11, FF 3, Benjamin Draper Papers, WH1064, Western History Collection, The Denver Public Library, 12 13. 135 Program, 1909, Box 5, FF15, William Frederick Cody/Buffalo Bill Papers, WH72, Western History Collection, The Denver Public Library, 6.
28 better bow and arrows (the ones provided being of poor quality). 136 All sorts of people ended up working in the business of ethnographic exhibits. The way that exhibitors and the exhibited interacted was not always fair. Carl Hagenbeck is credited by historians with creating a revolution in the way zoos ran. His father 137 m all over the world for presentation in highly and performing animal act in Germany . 138 It is suggested that the 139 140 Hagenbeck aimed to convince his audiences of two things. One, that the show was displaying that those on exhibit were somehow lesser. 141 As Eric Frentz , a Freakery: Cultural Spectacles of the Extraordinary Body , puts it this way: theatrical performance grounded in the disguise of the (mostly) 136 Bill Papers, WH72, Western History Collection, The Denver Public Library. 137 Rothfels, Savages and Beasts , 8 9. 138 Rothfels, Savages and Beasts , 9. 139 Rot hfels, Savages and Beasts , 126 140 Rothfels, Savages and Beasts , 114. 141 Rothfels, Savages and Beasts , 194.
29 nonwhite subject. Blacks acted out aboriginal roles, often being and dances that confirmed their primordial type; and Gypsies and Bohemians (usually women) were represented as lusty, exotic beauties. 142 Authenticity was always an issue with people shows. For example, fake Zulus were often used by sideshows and circuses in place of the real thing. Fake exotic freaks were 143 This seems to sug gest that there were issues in regards to the treatment of those exhibited in people shows. F or example, the exhibit prompted by the arrival of six Inuit s , otherwise known as Eskimo s , from Greenland in New York on September 30, 1897, having arrived with R obert Peary (a well known explorer of the time). 144 The group consisted of three men, a woman, and two children, a boy named Minik and a girl named Aviaq (who , upon arrival in the New York, were fed so much candy and peanuts by visitors to the boat that both got sick). 145 Peary had been to the Arctic many times, bringing back items to the American Museum of Natural History, and the six Inuit s were meant to be the next installment of items. This would not be the first time that Peary had brought Inuit back to the museum, but it would be the first time that any would arrive living. He had previously stolen the bodies of Inuit who had died from diseases which he and h is ships had brought with them. 146 Disease still presented an issue when these living Inuit s came to New York. Four of the Inuit s father) died, leaving only Minik and a man named Uisaakassak alive. But when Uisaakassak 142 143 Bogdan, Freak Show , 176. 144 Kenn Harper, Minik: The New York Eskimo , (Hanover, NH: Steerforth Press, 2017) 1. 145 Harper, Minik , 2 3 . 146 Harper, Minik , 6 7 .
30 was taken home by Peary, Minik was instead kept in the care of William Wallace and his family. 147 William Wallace worked at the American Museum of Natural History , and Morris Jessup offered to financially assist with the cost of raising the boy. 148 Wallace eventually resign ed from his post when it became apparent that he had been taking kickbacks from 149 It was at this point that both Jessup and Peary abandoned Minik. 150 What made the whole situation worse, was when Minik found out what happened not only to the remains of his father, but the remains of all the Inuit who he had come to New York with and had died while there. When his father died, the American Museum of Natural History and Bel l view Hospital claimed to have r ights over the body before agreeing that the hospital would get to dissect him, and the bones would go to the museum. 151 Soon after museum. 152 They staged at least one, if not two more, fake Inuit funerals for the other members of the group who died, their bones also ending up in the museum collection. 153 Another ethnographic exhibit outside of sideshows took place in a zoo. Like the disp lay of man monkeys before, this exhibition may have had both racial and evolutionary overtones. I am of course referring to the exhibition of Ota Benga, a man from Central Africa who was displayed in the Monkey House of the Bronx Zoo in September 147 Harper, Minik , 47. 148 Harper, Minik , 49 50. 149 Harper, Minik , 59 61. 150 Harper, Minik , 75. 151 Harper, Minik , 81. 152 Harper, Minik , 82 85. 153 Harper, Minik , 49 50.
31 1906. 154 He 155 d been described as being very sad, possibly due to the fact that he had been put with people from a tribe different than his own. 156 After the fair, Ota Benga had been offered, along with a collection gathered by his manager, to the American Museum of Natural History (which ultimately declined). 157 Part of the reason that the museum had declined the collection was possibly due to the situation which had occurred with Minik and the other Inuit s . 158 It was at the recommendation of the 159 Some ethnographic exhibits r ounds, circuses, expositions and even aquariums and zoos, [and sometimes] included wax models meant to s from around the world. 160 Ethnographic exhibits existed well into the twentieth century , but by a different name . A 1950s advertisement buki makes use of Japanese imagery and a supposed royal endorsement from the Emperor of Japan. Throughout the advertisement, the foreign aspect of the show is 161 It is likely that this show took place in 1954, which is the year that the 154 Rachel Adams, Sideshow U.S.A: Freaks and the American Cultural Imagination (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001) 31 32. 155 Adams, Sideshow U.S.A , 32. 156 Phillips Verner Bradford and Harvey Blume, Ota Benga: The Pygmy in the Zoo Press, 1992) 116. 157 Bradford and Blume, Ota Benga , 163. 158 Bradford and Blume, Ota Benga , 164. 159 Bradford and Blume, Ota Benga , 168. 160 Early Popular Visual Culture 4, no. 2 (July 2006): 144. 161 Ephemera Relating to Theater, 1710 2008 (MS Thr 939), Harvard Theatre Collection, Houghton Lib rary, Harvard University.
32 Azuma Nihon Buyo Company brought kabuki to the United States. 162 A sim ilar show, with . 163 While not ethnographic shows in the same vein as those in decades past bot h these shows built upon the same ideals. As was mentioned before, dance was used as a way to show the racial inferiority of the one being displayed. While this may not be entirely true for these two 1950s dance shows, the style of the advertisement, the w ay both s hows are described, would suggest that these shows still aimed to create a distinction between the dancers and the audience along racial lines. Racialized freak performances and other acts based on racial stereotypes acted as more than just mere e ntertainment. They were a way of expressing white racial unity because they acted as a hinge between scientific inquiries into racial essence and the popular 164 The same could be said of people shows. Shows based in race, both within and outside of freak shows, thrived upon the othering of those seen as ethnically different and possibly a threat to white power or status. But ethnic minorities were not the only on es who had to deal with expectations about their behavior. Gender roles also provided their own sets of boundaries and limits which performers in freak shows and other forms of American entertainment both challenged and reinforced. And at times, those them es also intersected with themes of race . 162 Asian Theatre Journal , 26, no. 1 (Spring, 2009): 78. 163 2008 (MS Thr 939) , Harvard Theatre Collection, Houghton Library, Harvard University. 164 85.
33 Chapter 3 Tattooed Ladies: Sexualized Performance and the Gendered Ideal In a letter sent by Mrs. Diana T. Dale to Frances Melrose, she describes a story told to her by her 90 year old grandfather. As a young man, he had apparently met Buffalo Bill in Oklahoma when delivering him a telegram. It was during this interaction that Cody gave him ed that he helped find a place for Annie Oakley and Frank But ler to use for target practice and was allowed to watch them as they shot. It was apparently during this time that Oakley fell in love with his pug and offered to buy the dog, but he refused , much to her displeasure. The letter disappeared. 165 While Mrs. Dale seem ed to l Oakley stole his dog, it speaks to assumptions about how female performers were expected to act. The fact that a well dog when he refused to sell it to her seems to be a reproach o f Yet a unwomanly behavior. A letter from C.L. Dailey to his family was sent from France while he was traveling and performing show. In a performance which took place just before the letter was sent, both Dailey and 166 In both letters, 165 Letter from Mrs. Diana T. Dale to Frances Melrose, September 29, 1981, Box 4, FF34, Frances Melrose Papers, WH995, Western History Collection, The Denver Public Library. 166 Letter from C.L. Dailey to Family, 22 (no month) 1889, Box 1, FF 9, William Frederi ck Cody/Buffalo Bill Papers, WH72, Western History Collection, The Denver Public Library.
34 had no direct proof Oakley stole his dog, and neither letter expressly identifies their complaints being related to her gender, it does seem to be a slight factor. In letter, it describes a woman who would not take no for an answer. As a woman who acted her male counterparts outperforming her and getting more attentio n , despite the fact that it was due to her own poor shooting. Neither are behaviors which a decent woman of the time would display. Female performers, not only in freak shows, had to deal with expectations of gender, and, at times, race. It was the stage w hich allowed women to both challenge and reinforce these expectations. Bearded Ladies and Burlesque Dancers M ada the American Museum in the 1850s. Barnum started a rumor that she was really a man, a rumor which her husband denied. These rumors were eventually put to rest when she was eventually exhibited with her newborn son. 167 She had apparently once been sent diamonds she had styled her beard to 168 A page on Josephine in compared her to women in Ethiopia, who , , , thus bringing a racial element into her performance. 169 But th e appearance of her son, and the 167 Saxon, P.T. Barnum , 102. 168 Fiedler, Freaks , 148. 169 , 268, Box 1, Item 25, Human Curiosity Prints, Playbills, Broadsides and Other Printed Material, 1695 1937 (MS Thr 736), Harvard Theatre Collection, Houghton Library, Harvard University.
35 suggested that she had a seemingly normal family life, despite her career and obvious physical difference. The appearance of domesticit y was a highly important t heme in freak shows. Many freak performers and upper 170 Some freaks would take on a persona and a title, usually claiming to be European and making use of either a military title ( such as General or Captain) or a royal title ( such as Prince or Queen). 171 This attempt to reflect middle and upper class ways of life can be found in many image s of freak performers. Portraits were the most popular way to display this difference. 172 Mary and Margaret Gibbs, a pair of Siamese twins, had a set of photos taken , possibly to sell at performances, showing them doing things like going to the dent ist or cooking. 173 While these activities are rather banal when done by an average member of society, Mary freakish. It also suggests that despite their physical differe nce, Mary and Margaret are two completely normal women. Unlike some other Siamese Twins, the Gibbs sisters refused to consider being surgically separated, dying of cancer in 1967 at age fifty four. 174 Images of domesticity were not limited to the stage or photographs. Another similar image to those mentioned before is a print displaying two dwarves by the name of Nannette Slacker and John Hauptman, during a time that they were being displayed in London. 170 Fahy, Freak Shows and the Modern American Imagination , 2 3. 171 Bogda n, Freak Show , 108. 172 Adams, Sideshow U.S.A , 115. 173 Photos of Mary and Margaret Gibbs, Box 1, Item 49, Human Curiosity Prints, Playbills, Broadsides and Other Printed Material, 1695 1937 (MS Thr 736), Harvard Theatre Collection, Houghton Library, Harvard Un iversity. 174 Fiedler, Freaks , 199.
36 Nannette is wearing what looks to be fine jewelry and seems to be knitting, and John is also dressed very nicely. 175 The image seems to suggest a certain level of wealth and comfort , and knitting is typically considered a very domestic sort of activity. The way freaks were described could also suggest this desire to be seen as being on a similar level to the higher classes of society . The way Nannette is displayed also suggests that despite being a freak performer, she is an elegant woman who participates in the same activities as every other woman of the social status which she is emulating. This can be seen in the fact that the image displays her as knitting, a very womanly activity. woman. A young female freak by the name of Myrtle Corbin was performing in 1874 in the U.S. when her description was published in the Rocky Mountain News on August 14 of the same year. She is described as having four fully functional legs, and a particular point is made to say that 176 Women in freak shows and other forms of American popular enterta inment often drew a fine line between rejecting and reinforcing this concept of being a lady . 177 and eventually the United States. One of the most famous hairy me n from history was a man named Petrus Gonzales, 178 He would end up marrying and having seven children (all with congenital hypertrichosis like their 175 Playbills, Broadsides and Other Printed Material, 1695 1937 (MS Thr 736), Harvard Theatre Collection, Houghton Library, Harvard University. 176 Untitled Article , Rocky Mountain News , August 14, 1874, p4 c1 , Found in the Western History and Genealogy Archive at the Denver Public Library. 177 s and a Hog Faced Gentlewoman: Marvel in Fairy Tales, Marvels & Tales 19, no. 1 (2005): 67. 178 71.
37 father), at least three of which were daughters. People with this condition were considered to be a sort of link between humans and animals. 179 Other performers were also linked with animals, such as Frances McCellan, an 18 year old girl who supposedly had a face which was half human and ha lf calf. 180 As Kathryn A. Hoffman writes in Faced Gentlewoman: walking girls in the company of monkeys, were part of the same exhibitionary travel 181 When it came to these female performers, one of the best known was Krao Farini, who made her debut in 1883. She, like so many other performers of the time, was advertised 182 A 1903 Barnum and Bailey Circus program tells of Krao being kidnapped by British s ailors who mistook her for an ape; but instead of being returned home to her family, she was brought to London and then to the U.S. to become part of the Barnum and Bailey show. Supposedly she had no desire to return home, despite having been taken as a child and was around thirty at the time the program was printed . 183 Another well known performer with this condition was known as Barbara Van Beck (amongst other names), who had 184 185 The exhibition of hairy 179 Faced Gentlewoman 71 72. 180 Rocky Mountain News , May 20, 1876, p2 c2, Found in the Western History and Genealogy Archive at the Denver Public Library. 181 75. 182 Ann Garascia Journal of Victorian Culture 21, no. 4 (October 2016): 433. 183 Barnum and Bailey, Official Program and Book of Wonders , 1903, (accession 791.3 B267o 1903), History C olorado, 9. 184 185
38 century due to their larg e amounts of body hair . As a result, Van Beck was subject to these suspicions. In order to assuage these suspicions, at an extra cost Barbara would permit genitals , to reassure themselves that she was neither a monkey or herm 186 Sexual ambiguity was an issue exploited by freak shows, and will be discussed more, later in the chapter. There were other types of performances which included women. Some of these were called girl shows. Girl shows could either be a sort of d ance revue, showing popular Broadway numbers, or a form of burlesque or belly dancing show (which first appeared in the U.S. at 187 If not directly associated with the freak show, these shows could still be found in the midway. For those unfamiliar with the term, the midway is usually the area located between the ticket booth and main tent of the circus. It can also be associated with carnivals, which are the same thing without the big top. 188 These girl shows were both within and outside the realm of sexuality. In the 1820s , the showing off of the female form was usually associated with prostitution, though it could also be found in establishments seeing to the entertainment of the working class . 189 Thus working class entertainments were considered to be practically polluted by sex. Even t he theater was also accused of condoning prostitution. 190 191 186 187 Nickell, Secrets of the Sideshows , 48. 188 Nickell, Secret s of the Sideshows , 25. 189 Shteir, Striptease , 13. 190 Stulman Dennett, Weird & Wonderful , 4. 191 Erdman, Blue Vaudeville , 9.
39 vaudeville houses. 192 Burlesque was one such type of show which displayed the female form. A woman by the name of May Howard, who ran her own burlesque show , required that all her danc er weigh at least 150 pounds. This was due to the desire of burlesque dancers to appear voluptuous. Such a desire led to women stuff extra padding their costumes. 193 Female performers tume changes while still on stage during their performance, 194 vaudeville). 195 Some women needed little excuse to go onstage in a form fittin g costume. 196 Even f emale freak performers such as tattooed women and fat women would w ore revealing costumes to better show off their bodies. 197 This showing of skin also played on a level of success of some female performers. 198 One type of female performer who took advantage of this sexual allure were seriocomic singers. 199 T hese types of performers often came from different backgrounds. Some had been dancers, had worked in other types of theater (such as burlesque), or had worked in foreign music halls as singers. 192 Shteir, Striptease , 34. 193 Shteir, Striptease , 32. 194 Erdman, Blue Vaudeville , 87. 195 Erdman, Blue Vaudeville , 88 89. 196 Erdman, Blue Vaudeville , 85. 197 Stulman Dennett, Weird & Wonderful , 82. 198 Erdman, Blue Vaudeville , 90 91. 199 Gillian M. Rodger, Champagne Charlie and Pretty Jemima: Variety Theater in the Nineteenth Century , (Urbana, Chicago, and Springfield: University of Illinois Press , 2010) 86.
40 Ultimately this type of performance was seen as a way for fema 200 Female performers , particularly dancers who undressed onstage, 201 and at other times known scenes from art and 202 Sexualized performance was not as open to men, who would usually need to work with a woman in 203 One form of performance that was open to both men and women which allowed for the showing of skin were the displays of tattooed men and women. The interest in tattoos in the United States has a long history and was not limited to New Zealand chieftain , a display which possibly fed on racist ideals as well as public fascination with tattooing. 204 Living examples of tattoos came in the form of tattooed performers. The women in particular their performances. 205 Tattooed women tended to wear short, body hugging clothing, with middle class audiences that had 206 Known by some 200 Rodger, Champagne Charlie and Pretty Jemima , 86 87. 201 Erdman, Blue Vaudeville , 104. 202 Erdman, Blue Vaudeville , 105. 203 Erdman, Blue Vaudeville , 120. 204 Saxon, P.T. Barnum , 92. 205 Margot Mifflin, Bodies of Subversion: A Secret History of Women and Tattoo , (3rd ed., Brooklyn: powerHouse Books, 2013) 4. 206 Mifflin, Bodies of Subversion , 13.
41 207 As her career took off, Hildebrandt earned about $100 a week , which was more than the average actor or circus performer. 208 Tattooed women were much more popular than crowds. 209 There was a veritable glut the 1920 s while still combining their acts with other elements. 210 The stories used by tattooed women and men in their acts often included racial elements . They usually had to do with for ced tattooing by non western people. Hildebrandt claimed that after she and her father had been captured by Native Americans, her father had truth of the matter was that her tattoos had been done by her husband Martin Hildebrandt, who began his career in 1846, working parlors in 1870. 211 Tattooed men would also use stories of abductio n and forced tattooing by 212 For the women, especially the white women, these stories spoke to ideas of the womanly purity being ravaged by racially inferior savages ; lef t to work in a disreputable trade after their respectability had been destroyed. In the case of tattooed men, these stories would in all probability make them appear more virile and masculine. 207 Mifflin, Bodies of Subversion , 10. 208 Mifflin, Bodies of Subversion , 14. 209 Mifflin, Bodies of Subversion , 21. 210 Nickell, Secrets of the Sideshows , 182. 211 Mifflin, Bodies of Subversion , 10 12. 212 Mifflin, Bodies of Subversion , 16.
42 The idea of feminine virtue can be found in varying levels in almost every show involving women and girls. One example is a photo of two girls, and their father David Dutton. The girls are small, not identified by name, only by height, weight, and age. Their father is the only one named. This image was sold for twent y five cents and the purchaser was promised a kiss from both girls. 213 These girls were advertised as sweet, small female children which are meant to elicit a desire to protect their virtue. Another type of show which capitalized on an idealized view of wome usually displayed in glass coffins. 214 Concepts concerning race were often also present, both in side shows and other forms of entertainment. Where Race and Gender Intersect There have been many acts and shows, both in freak shows and other forms of entertainment, where race and gender were presented hand in hand. The Creole Show . Acco rding to Shteir, this Though it titillated white audiences, The Creole Show made feeble strides toward presenting 215 This came out of a trad ition of white producers who used blackface traditions were very strong. 213 Human Curiosity Prints, Playbills, Broadsides and Other Printed Material, 1695 1 937 (MS Thr 736), Harvard Theatre Collection, Houghton Library, Harvard University. 214 215 Shteir, Striptease , 32.
43 While not common, some Jewish performers would perform in blackface. Some Jewish performers w ho were known to put on blackface were Al Johnson, Fanny Brice, Sophie Tucker, George Burns, and George Jessel. 216 The use of blackface by Jewish performers was vital to the attainment of 217 (including 218 Af rican American stereotypes w ere particularly used by female Jewish This was a performance style which mark ed 219 These performe otherwise known as 220 Sophie Tucker was one of the more famous performers of this style, starting her vaudeville career in 1907. S he started her career using blackface , and continued to use it through 1926 . Despite this transition, Tucker still used these songs and racial dialect, 221 These songs were full of stereotypes about African Americans and we 216 Epstein, The Haunted Smile , 40. 217 McAllister, Whiting Up , 78. 218 Lawrence E. Mintz Melus 21, no. 4 (Winter 1996): 21. 219 American Jewish History 87, no. 4 (December 1999): 253. 220 Lav 221 The Journal of American Culture 38, no. 1 (March 2015): 16.
44 Jewish 222 In a word, to align Jewish Americans with the white mainstream. There were some African Americans who participated in coon shouting, just like they ten African American 223 Ra ce was a very important aspect to be highlighted when singing these sorts of songs. Sophie Tucker made use of these songs to highlight her whiteness. The establishment of whiteness for the Jewish people was important due to the fact that around the time S ophie 224 from African Americans. 225 blackface. It is possible that, while still performing in a stereotypical African American style, but without While Sop battle things facing the Jewish people, there were yet other women whose racialized shows were indicative of what was facing other ethnic groups. 222 223 Theater, 1710 2008 (MS Thr 939) , Harvard Theatre Collection, Houghton Library, Harvard University. 224 4. 225
45 One major example of this would b e Sarah Baartman, otherwise known as the 1770s in South 226 227 While still living in South Africa, Sarah had worked on several farms. Her last employer was a man by the name of Hendrick Cesars. While under his employ, she Soon after this performance, Alexander Dunlap, a Scottish do ctor, convinced Cesars to allow Sarah to begin 228 While in England, it appeared that she was being forced to perform while sick, and some people complained that she wa s being mistreated. When the issue was brought before a court, Baartman said that she was performing under her own volition and wanted to continue, since 229 A year later, in 1815, a French naturalist by the name of Georges Cuvier Naturelle. When she died in late December of 1815 (the exact date and cause remaining unknown), Cuvi er claimed her body. 230 After her death, Georges had a cast made of her body hung up. 231 The kept her remains until 1937, when they found a 232 It was not until August 9, 2002 that Sarah 226 Helen Davies, Neo Victorian Freakery: The Cultural Afterlife of the Victorian Freak Show, (New York: Pelgrave Macmillan, 2015) 22. 227 228 Davies, Neo Vict orian Freakery, 22. 229 210. 230 Davies, Neo Victorian Freakery , 23. 231 Studies 43, no. 7 (October 2014): 948. 232 Davies, Neo Victorian Freakery , 23.
46 233 This display after death connects both Sarah Baartman and Joice Heth, along with other freak and ethnological exhibits. 234 235 public always expo 236 And this treatment still exists and can be seen in the way the media treats modern black women like Serena Williams, Nelly, Henrietta Lacks, and Nicki Minaj. 237 Like Baartman, Joice Heth represented a subjugated black woman. In her case, she took the 238 Gendered performance was not just limited to women, and race was not the only factor which might change the way gendered performances may differ. Cross Dressing and the Ideal Man Sexual ambiguity has long been used by freak shows and other forms of e ntertainment. One way that this was expressed was in the form of cross dressing. According to Gillian M. Rodger, who wrote Champagne Charlie and Pretty Jemima: Variety Theater in the Nineteenth Century : i ng the 1860s and 1870s old, ugly, or comic women were most likely to be portrayed by crossed dressed men following traditions of burlesque and other 233 234 Adams, Sideshow U.S.A. , 207. 235 236 237 952. 238
47 239 In this same vain the 1870s saw o roons and comic wenches , further connecting gendered performance with racial stereotypes. 240 And it was not just men impersonating women. Ella Wesner was a male impersonator with a career starting in 18 70 , 241 though she had had an earlier career as a dancer with her sisters. 242 Acts such as f emale acrobats and male impersonators broke all the rules as it pertained to appropriate behavior , 243 This was probably due to the fact that there was a desire to encourage behavior which distinguished the sexes, rather than blur the lines between them. Sexual ambiguous freaks were never made to overtly challenge gender roles. A bearded lady such as Josep hine Clofullia , who was mentioned before, was more likely to be and female. This was 244 This can be seen by the fact that these beliefs made their way into laws. During the years thirty four citie s in twenty one states passed laws against cross dressing, with eleven more cities passing 239 Rodger, Champagne Charlie and Pretty Jemima , 87. 240 241 Rodger, Champagne Charlie and Pretty Jemima , 129. 242 Rodger, Champagne Charlie and Pretty Jemima , 51 55. 243 Rodger, Champagne Charlie and Pretty Jemima , 129. 244 Fahy, Freak Shows and the Modern American Imaginatio n , 107.
48 similar laws before the start of WWI. 245 These laws mainly affected female impersonators, feminist reformers, and others. 246 This ultimately pushed most cross dressing underground , keeping it mainly in private places . 247 These laws also put those who participated in cross dressing into the category of 248 normative bodies and cross gender 249 American Museum d This presentation of Jefferson Davis, best known for being the first and only President of the Confederate States, was in all probability a way of re establishing the superiority of t he United States. It can also be seen as a degradation of Davis, by making the transgression of gender norms as shameful and an aberration. One direct way that cross dressing laws and dime museums crossed was in the legal troubles which befell one Milton M the San Jose County Jail, where he had been booked in as a man, it was discovered th at he 245 Dressing Law and Freak Show Displays in Nineteenth Century San 36, no. Â¾ (Fall Winter 2008): 170. 246 172. 247 248 249
49 250 As a result the charges against Matson were dropped, and he was released from prison. The one downfall was that the press had caught wind of the sit uation, outing Matson would be arrested for defying the local cross dressing laws. Frank Clifton, who managed a local dime museum, offered Matson a job. All he had to d platform been publicly outed (which would have probably made it hard for him to work anywhere else), Matson accepted the offer. 251 The contract Clifton h ad Matson sign kept him from and profitability of 252 concern for audiences, creating concerns about whether or not a bearded lady is truly a man. 253 These concerns also show themselves in the way masculinity wa s portrayed on stage. Me [ various levels] 254 255 There were a few strong women, 250 251 252 253 . 254 Erdman, Blue Vaudeville , 121. 255 Freakery: Cultural Spectacles of the Extraordinary Body , (New York and London: New York University Press, 1996) 358.
50 256 d body building, the act of developing a certain level of muscularity continued to be associated with men. 257 emphasizes 258 One well known strongman was act he would rest his head and feet on chairs, suspending his body over the stage, with a heavy stone (he claims it was four hundred pounds on a verage) placed on his chest, which 259 This type of performance was a way of showing physical strength and manly power. But that was just one way of presenting masculinity. One image, possibly a book pl ate, displays a dwarf and giant by the names of Mr. Simon Paap and Mr. James Toller. The dwarf , Simon Paap, is displayed in a military pose with a gun and medal, while the giant , James Toller, is posed and dressed as a gentleman. 260 This showed the two main ways in which male freaks could express their own masculinity; by claiming masculine tropes of the soldier and the gentleman. Nickell points out that h istorically, giants were used as soldiers, displayed (since Roman times) in arenas, and stationed (chief 261 Like female performers, on 256 Lin 358. 257 258 Gender, Place & Culture 18, no. 1 (February 2011): 46. 259 Edward J. Hoyt, Buckskin Joe: Being the Unique and Vivid Memoirs of Edward Jonathan Hoyt, Hunter, Trapper, Scout, Soldier, Showman, Frontiersman, and Friend of the Indians 1840 1918 , Edited by Glenn Shirley, (Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 196 6) 82. 260 Playbills, Broadsides and Other Printed Material, 1695 1937 (MS Thr 736), Harvard Theatre Collection, Houghton Library, Harvard University. 261 Nic kell, Secrets of the Sideshows , 82.
51 occasion male performers would try and cultivate a level of sexual appeal. One example of a freak performer claiming a role as a sex symbol and an ideal man is Charles Stratton. Discovered by Barnum when he was four years old (having been born in Connecticut in 1838), Charles became General Tom Thumb. Reaching only a height of about three feet, Stratton work ed with Barnum until 1883 (the year Stratton passed away). 262 From the earli est 263 There is into this masculine role while still a child, her husband had lost his childhood to the stage d portrayal of manhood. 264 But their own marriage contributed to the idea of sexuality surrounding Charles. When Charles and Lavinia married on February 10, 1863, the media coverage temporarily interrupted newspaper coverage of the Civil War for some publications like the New York Times . 265 On their wedding night, Stratton spoke from a balcony to a crowd below, his short speech spoke of his bride anxiously waiting for him in a nearby room, and how he needed to attend to her. This speech was intended to poke fun at how potentially awkward 266 Not long after the wedding came their and the proud parents would borrow other babies during their European tour. Ultimately it was announced by Barnum that had e brain , 262 Davies, Neo Victorian Freakery , 123. 263 Davies, Neo Victorian Freakery , 124. 264 Davies, Neo Victorian Freakery , 140. 265 American Quarterly 67, no. 1 (March 2015): 189. 266 Herrero
52 thus ending the farce. 267 What interest there was in the child possibly came out of a continued curiosity about sexual relations between freaks. The sex lives of freaks were often considered to be topics of special interest by those using the mantl e of science to justify their curiosity. This was particularly true of marriages between freaks , like that between Mr. and Mrs. Stratton. 268 displayed. While unable to participate in the Civil War due to his size, Stratton would often 269 Even Ishi, the last member of the Yahi, a Native American tribe thought extinct until he w as discovered in September of 1911, was spoken of in terms of his masculinity. 270 First it was in the context of questioning his virility due to his around white women, only to be followed up with comparing his laugh to that of a girl. 271 feminine his laugh was? It could have been to display him as being sexually, along with racially, inferior to white men. With Charles Stratton, every display of his masculini ty put The concept of masculinity as it applied to male performers was mainly concerned with reinforcing when, due to some sort of physical disability, it might be doubted. And, at times, this mea 267 268 The American Journal of Bioethics 4, no. 3 (Summer 2004): 40. 269 270 Adams, Sideshow U.S.A. , 44. 271 Adams, Sideshow U.S.A. , 48 50.
53 sexual performance. But it could also be used by those wishing to emasculate non western men who might pose a sexual threat to white women.
54 Chapter 4: Death of a Salesman: The Decline of the Side Show and the Rise of Other Entertainments By the 1950s, growing medical and public understanding of the conditions which natural freaks suffered from (even resulting in cures for some) caused freak shows to become much less popular. 272 The eugenics movement also influenced the downfall of freak show s, leading to higher rates of institutionalization. 273 Popular entertainments like vaudeville had long been trying to adapt to changing tastes. They had begun showing movies in vaudeville begun to venture out on its own. 274 Not even dime museums could compete against movies, who offered the same delights for a fraction of the cost. 275 As dime museums began to 276 There were those who did try to adapt to this new world, despite the changing a ttitudes. Some tried to incorporate new media such as moving pictures into their work. It was These early films would usually display either human freaks or local sights an d were found to be 277 One of the most famous Freaks . The movie t unsavory aspects of the freak 272 Mifflin, Bodies of Subversion , 25 26. 273 Bogdan, Freak Show , 62 63. 274 Stulman Dennett, Weird & Wonderful , 122. 275 Stulman Dennett, Weird & Wonderful , 125. 276 Stulman Dennett, Weird & Wonderful , 136. 277 Early Popular Visual Culture 5, no. 1 (April 2007): 2 .
55 278 Though the movie did reasonably well in some theaters, many theater owners were not willing to show the film. 279 Freak performers have not often graced the silver screen since d by some to be a masterpiece. Another entertainment which spelled doom for the sideshow came from the rise of radio. Though it now competes with the internet and other forms of media, radio was once a media juggernaut. By the late 1920s, some thirty mill ion Americans had radios. 280 Radio was 281 Of course, radio did not present a possible field for most freak performers, since they were mainly a visual form of entertainment. 282 while also spending an average of $7.15 a year on movies while still in the early part of the decade. 283 Freaks were no t the only ones who suffered job losses as media like radio began to replace other forms of entertainment. African American performers also suffered as the tides of entertainment began to change. As vaudeville began to give way to other forms of entertain ment, African American vaudeville performers did not have the same opportunities as their white counterparts. 284 This was possibly due to the fact that even when vaudeville was at its height, African American 278 Freaks Freakery: Cultural Spectacles of the Extraordinary Body , (New York and London: New York University Press, 1996), 265. 279 280 Gar y Dean Best, The Dollar Decade: Mammon and the Machine in 1920s America , (Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, 2003) 55. 281 Epstein, The Haunted Smile , 56. 282 Best, The Dollar Decade , 56. 283 Best, The Dollar Decade , 62. 284 Brenda Dixon Gottschild , Waltzing in the Dark: African American Vaudeville and Race Politics in the 34.
56 ependent on the good will of those who owned, managed and booked for vaudeville theater, the majority of whom were white. 285 To this day, African American performers and creators are seen as being at a disadvantage in comparison to their white counterparts. Blackface, both intentional and unintentional, still pervades media on some level. And the ideas surrounding black womanhoo d, seeing them as either the lusty she devil or as representing the mammy archetype, can still be seen today. The changes seen in entertainment can be seen as rather superficial, seeing as certain tropes and entertainment types have never fully disappeared . Burlesque still exists, and the popular American Horror Story television show had a season themed around freak shows. In fact, i t would seem that the freak show never even left the halls of museums. The popular Body Worlds exhibition from the early 2000 s was frequently compared to a Victorian freak show. 286 287 This was due to the fact that the main collection of the exhibit were real human agens invented and patented called 288 Like the body of Sarah Baartman, there were concerns that some of the e n obtained through legal and ethical channels but instead had come from prisons and ot 289 Abuses of people, both in life and death, connect this exhibit to others which deal with the exhibition of humans. Exhibits which explore anatomy, like Body Worlds , and freak shows have a long 285 Gottschild, Waltzing in the Dark , 28. 286 287 288 289 43.
57 history of intersection , as has been seen previously in this paper. The Body Worlds exhibit was not the only way freak shows reappeared in the world of museums. Dime museums, once a popular entertainment found in just about every city, experienced a rebirth with the opening of the Freak atorium in New York City. It was founded by a man named Johnny Fox, 290 The Freakatorium opened its doors in 1999 w hen Fox received the inspiration from his wife. 291 In 2005, the museum was forced to close when the rent for its building increased and Fox was unable to make it work. 292 Though it did not live long, the Freakatorium represented the continued interest in freak shows and the venue which housed them. While this interest was not enough, the images and themes they encompassed still exist. Museums are not the only place where freak shows still exist on some level. Freaks can still be found in modern entertainment. There are a few troupes which are still willing to connect themselves to the term of freak 293 The performers at Coney Island combine traditional freak show 294 profit and 290 Lucian Gomoll, "Objects of Dis/Order: Articulating Curiosities and Engaging People at the Freakatorium," Edited by Amy K. Levin, In Defining Memory: Local Museums and the Construction of His tory in America's Changing Communities , (New York: AltaMira Press, 2007), 202 203. 291 292 New York Times , June 4, 2005. https://www.nytimes.com/2005/06/04/nyregion/not even in new york.html 293 Sociological Forum 27, no. 3 (September 2012): 683. 294 Continuum: Journal of Media & Cultural Studies 20, no. 4 (December 2006): 486.
58 made possible with federal grants. 295 There are even television shows and movies which have become a new way of e xhibiting groups once shown in freak and side shows, such as the TLC show Little People, Big World 296 There are even those who claim that documentaries have crossed into soap opera territory, becom and having more than a few things in common with dime animat 297 There are other forms of entertainment which have evolved out of dime museums and freak shows. Bat Boy, the fictionalized freak created by the National Enquirer , was even the subject of a musical in the early 2000s. 298 Things such community as a whole, are styles of performance still popular in certain drinking establishments. 299 As Andrea Stulman Dennett puts it: eak show concerned sex, fear, power, and self definition 300 This is true as it pertains to the way race and gender played into how freaks and other performers were portrayed in all forms of American entertainment. It still plays into the way American enter tainment is perceived. From calling out awards shows for not recognizing enough performers and creators of colors, to calling 295 Michael M. First Century Freak Show as Theater of 296 297 298 0 2/2003, Speakeasy Stage Company, Box 5, Item 180, Printed Ephemera Relating to Theater, 1710 2008 (MS Thr 939), Harvard Theat re Collection, Houghton Library, Harvard University. 299 689. 300 Stulman Dennett, Weird & Wonderful , 83.
59 out toxic masculinity and issues surrounding the sexual harassment of women, the subtexts of freak shows pointed out by Stulman De nnett are pertinent to current American entertainment. Freak shows still very much capture the imagination of Americans and influence the types of entertainment they consume. The influence may not be obvious, but it is still there. It is there when a drag queen hosts a burlesque show, straddling the boundaries between male and female; and it is there when popular television shows like TMZ or YouTube news shows like that of Phil DeFranco, share pictures of celebrities and everyday people dressed up for Hall oween in blackface. The influence of freak shows can be seen in books like Among the Wonderful , and Blameless in Abaddon by James Morrow, another novel in which Celestial City USA repr esents a sort of religious carnival dedicated to the ultimate freak: the comatose body of God. The influence of race and gender based tropes evident in freak shows and similar entertainments of the period still exist today and continue to exist in the med ia we consume. There are two ways in which we could interpret the importance of the freak and side show. One way, is that due to their position at the relative fringe of society, freak and side show performers were in a near perfect position to enable soc iety to express and work through societal anxieties surrounding race, gender, and class. These performers enabled those in a position of power in society to see their fears about immigrants, slaves / African Americans, homosexuality and sexual ambiguity (or at least those who did not fit the heterosexual, cis gender ideal), and ideas surrounding ideal masculinity and femininity. The second way one could interpret freak and side show performance would be as an expression of confidence. Confidence in racial, ge ndered, and class based superiority. While there is something to be said about this second interpretation, and there are things in my research
60 which suggests that there is some truth to it, I personally see the first interpretation as more believable. By b eing at the fringe, these performers were able to hold up a mirror to society so that it might face its demons and exorcise them. Or at least laugh in their face, with a side of cotton candy and popcorn.
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