Phineas Taylor Barnum was a famous American showman and businessman. In 1814 he bought the Scudder’s American Museum which he later named Barnum’s Museum. Barnum fostered several partnerships with others in the circus business until his death in 1891. The business changed several owners over the years and was finally known as Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, which remained in operation until 2017. This circus was well known for outstanding talent and curious acts. Let’s take a look at 5 of them.
1. Katharina Brumbach
In 1884, Katharina Brumbach also known as Kate, was born in Vienna, Austria. Like her parents, she and her sisters were exceptionally strong. Kate, her parents and three of her sisters were all circus acts where their strength had crowds in awe. Kate joined the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus where her display of strength involved carrying cannons and horses. On occasion she lifted her husband who weighed 75 kilograms with just one arm and also carried on her shoulders, a carousel of 14 people. After retirement at 64 years old, she and her husband opened a restaurant in New York where she sometimes performed for her customers. She passed away on January 21, 1952.
2. Frank Lentini
Frank Lentini was born in Italy in 1889. He had three legs, four feet and 16 toes. The third leg was a result of an undeveloped twin. Frank was brought to the United States in 1898 where he joined the Ringling Bros Circus and subsequently the Barnum Circus. By then, he was known as The Great Lentini. He used his third leg as an advantage in his act to kick footballs into the crowd.
3. Prince Randian
Prince Randian of British Guiana was born in 1871. He was known as The Snake Man, The Human Worm and The Living Torso because he had no limbs. He was called The Human Caterpillar because of the striped clothing he was known to wear as well as his wiggling movement on the floor. His performances with P.T Barnum’s Circus captured the attention of many in the early 1900s and he was well known for being able to roll a cigarette with his mouth and light it with a match while holding both the match and cigarette between his teeth. He also painted and wrote by holding the brush or pen between his lips, teeth and lips.
4. Wild Men of Borneo
Brothers, Hiram and Barney Davis, were 102 centimeters tall and weighed 20 kilograms, they possessed great strength. The duo was known as the Wild Men of Borneo and later Waino and Plutano. They joined show business and had great success. Their talent was spotted by Barnum and in 1880 they joined Barnum’s Circus where they lifted heavy weights and had mock fights with each other and members of the audience as well.
5. Joice Heth
Joice Heth had no oddity. She was hired by Barnum for one year. Barnum falsely claimed that she was 161 years old and had taken care of George Washington in her youth. On tour, Joice Heth sang and told patrons stories about her time with George Washington, all lies of course. Barnum was accused of taking advantage of her, but just fed everyone more twisted lies. He even claimed that she wasn’t human but rather a machine of whale bones and leather. Her autopsy became a spectacle for patrons thanks to Barnum.
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