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Our holdings include hundreds of glass and film negatives/transparencies that we've scanned ourselves; in addition, many other photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs) in the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) They are adjusted, restored and reworked by your webmaster in accordance with his aesthetic sensibilities before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here. All of these images (including "derivative works") are protected by copyright laws of the United States and other jurisdictions and may not be sold, reproduced or otherwise used for commercial purposes without permission.

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VINTAGRAPH • WPA • WWII • NEW ZEALAND CENTENNIAL: 1840-1940

Human Freaks: 1941

Human Freaks: 1941

September 1941. "Freak Show at the State Fair in Rutland, Vermont." Next up: Boko the "Alligator Skin Boy." Photo by Jack Delano. View full size.

 
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Betty Williams

“The genuine double bodied girl with four legs. Alive! Not in a bottle. Not a trick.” Appended to her torso was a parasitic twin consisting of two legs, an arm with three fingers, and a second arm which was only a single digit. (Photos available online.) She earned enough to buy her parents a farm and send all eleven of her siblings to college, but she died in 1955 at age 23 of a severe asthma attack. She would have been only nine years old at the time of this photograph.

Why is there a woman tied to a crucifix?

Seriously what the heck is going on with that?

"Hey Rube"

the announcer would yell, "Watch for pickpockets," and everyone would reach for their wallets indicating the exact location of their wallets to the pickpockets.

Mixed feelings

As a kid, full of wonder, I wasn't allowed to see this attraction at the local fairs. It wasn't until the '80s, in Saratoga, NY, that I got to see my first. Appearing then was a guy nicknamed Popeye because he could pop his eyes out of their sockets, an alligator skinned woman, a "pretzel boy," so named because his limbs were twisted and malformed, and a "two-faced" man who had one side of his face swollen almost beyond recognition.

I felt bad at the time, thinking what kind of person finds entertainment at looking at those so horribly afflicted? What was I doing? I had to reason with myself that at least these folks were able to earn a living. The pretzel boy himself stated as much onstage. He sold little Bibles afterward to make some more money. I know not what they had to endure each and every stop. I'm sure there weren't many like me. But they were performing and interacting with society. That's something.

Only yesterday

Remember when the tattooed lady was part of the freak show? Now it's free viewing when out in public.

Poor freaks

For me it was disgusting, but those were different times.

Another victim of "progress"

Things people would pay to see in 1941 are proudly displayed for free today.

Microcephaly

The name for the condition of Zip and Pip, otherwise called, less kindly, pinheads. The condition usually includes a smaller than average head, facial malformations, intellectual disability, and impaired speech.

The Snow Sisters

It looks like Elvira Snow on stage. She and her sister Jenny appeared in the film "Freaks" as "Zip and Pip," but generally performed professionally as "Pip and Flip."

 
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Shorpy.com | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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