From the Small to the Tall

Three recent acquisitions, after a long hiatus from collecting. All in the circus freak genre. The first is my second image of General Cardenas, a famous little person and contemporary of Tom Thumb.


This next image is of Martin Van Buren Bates, a famous giant. Very much like with little people, the Victorians were quite fond of attaching fake military titles to giants and dressing them up in uniforms. I can’t tell if the signature on the verso is Van Buren’s or if it is someone else’s later notation.┬áThis is most likely a rip-off of another photographer’s image, bought on the east coast and reproduced without credit. This was an incredibly huge problem in the Victorian era, when it was very easy to sell copies elsewhere in the country without ever coming to the knowledge of the original photographer.

IF the signature is indeed Van Buren Bates’, then it could be that he owned the negative and had new copies printed from town to town as he toured. I don’t know if there are any known copies of his autograph extant to compare it to. The flourish of the last letter is the only thing that makes me think this might be an actual signature – in the vast majority of the CDVs I’ve bought where names were hand-annotated on the verso, the writing was quite plain, and sometimes even in block printed letters, not script.


James Murphy, the Giant Boy. 8 feet tall, 18 years old. Looking at the overall stature of the man beside him in the photo, In reality he was 7 feet 3 1/2 inches. Also billed as The Irish Giant and the Baltimore Giant, he toured with PT Barnum’s circus. He lived from 1842 to 1875. This photo is dated 1863.




General Mite – Companion to Lucia Zarate

A companion purchase to the recent Lucia Zarate CDV, here is a CDV of Francis Joseph Flynn, otherwise known as General Mite. There is a real-world connection between the two of them, as they performed together on stage in an international tour.


In 1884 he would marry Millie Edwards, another little person, and would die in 1898 in Broken Hill, New South Wales, Australia (Wikipedia)

Lucia Zarate, Mexican Sideshow Curiosity

Well, look who just dropped in. This is my second Lucia Zarate image.


She is in the Guinness Book of Records as the lightest adult recorded, weighing in at 4.7 lbs at the time the record was made. She was born in the state of Veracruz, Mexico, and according to Wikipedia, her family home is open as a museum.


She also obviously traveled significantly in her sideshow career, having been photographed at age 13 in New York, and at age 18 in London. She succumbed to her small size at 26 when her train was crossing the North American Sierra Nevada in winter and stalled, rendering her hypothermic.

Che Mah

This is another CDV I’ve been looking for for a long time – Che Mah, the Chinese Dwarf. I had previously purchased a copy that was in faded condition, thinking it would be some time before I’d find another in better shape. Then this one rolled around.

Che Mah by Eisenmann
Che Mah by Eisenmann

Unlike the facsimile signatures on the versos of a bunch of my Tom Thumb CDVs, I do believe the pencil signature in English and Chinese is in the hand of Che Mah directly. It certainly does not appear to be mechanically reproduced, and it looks distinct from the signature on the first one:

Che Mah, by Eisenmann
Che Mah, by Eisenmann