A little background:
Professional Fat Folk of an earlier age lived to astound a public for whom not having enough to eat was a real possibility, and even a commonplace. From the 18th Century to the beginning of the 20th Century being fat was a sign of health and prosperity.
Seemingly devouring a constant plentitude of food that their audiences may not have had, the showbiz of girth and jiggle was a universal attraction in carnival sideshows, dime museums and circuses.
Fat people used to perform in many different ways, every sideshow looking for a new gimmick. They used to entertain by performing go-go dances, running 50-yard dashes (thanks, Weet, for that link), bicycling, doing acrobatics, and–yes–boxing. A surprising number had stage names beginning with “Jolly” or “Happy.” One was called “Ima Whale.”
Reading this list makes me wonder more about the lives of some of these performers–Dottie Blackhall, for example, was a 600-pound woman who ultimately committed suicide. Anroe Brown, “The Georgia Giantess,” was born into slavery. Clifford W. Krueger retired from the sideshow to become a Wisconsin state senator. One woman “allegedly died while bending over to pick up a four-leaf clover. One died from complications due to weight loss surgery.” Edward Rusk weighed 449 pounds but claimed to weigh 649 pounds (because even in 1895, people didn’t know what 400 pounds looks like). So many stories, happy and sad.
Here’s a short video clip from the 1920s of one of these performers. More photos after the jump:
Posted by mo pie