With Membership you will have access to the entire archive of images (about 2000 currently, and 11,000+ total to be added in stages) in full color, full resolution (scanned at 300dpi from the originals)-- in most cases, larger than actual size.
We also include supplemental images, like detailed views, the backs (verso) of any item which merits it, as well as the full content of pamphlets, pitchbooks and other multi-page ephemeral items.
In addition, you will be able to participate in the ongoing dialogue of scholarship and casual conversation about the items in the archive via our comments forms on every page.
You will also be able to request further images, detailed images, zoomed versions, etc. It is our intention to build the site with the suggestions and input of our Members.
Yes, some of the images you'll find here on ShowHistory.com you can also view for free on Pintrest and other such "image scavenging" sites. The difference is that here on ShowHistory.com as a Member you'll see the images in their original format, most of the time larger than life-size, and with all the contextual and historic information about the image included.
Many times the attributions and information on the free sites is wrong. Here at ShowHistory.com we take a scholarly approach, by trying to obtain primary and secondary sources for all of the information we collect.
In addition, Members get to participate in an ongoing dialogue about the images in the archive via our comments section. We hope also to allow Members to make requests from the archive for more images of a certain type, or to request close-ups of certain details that are of interest. We see Membership as a collaborative process between ShowHistory and those who join.
Member's images-- unless otherwise noted-- are property of The Doghouse Collection (TDC). TDC contains what may be the second or third largest collection of such material in the world. All Member's paid content has been scanned from the original hard-copy images.
Free Content images displayed on ShowHistory.com have been acquired from many sources, many from the internet, books, etc. If we know the source or are publishing images from another author's collection or website we will always acknowledge this.
The origin of this undertaking emerged in casual conversation between its two founders, James Taylor and D.B. Doghouse, outside The Sarasota Showman's Club one February evening sometime in 2001. The Showhistory.com website first debuted on February 11, 2002. The plan then, as now, was to engage in the enormous task of listing every novelty, variety, sideshow and freakshow performer who ever crossed the lot, creaked the boards of dime museum or bally, saw sun glint in the eyes of an audience in some small town, waiting for the sound of nickels and dimes clacking into a metal box.
Finally expanding to more than a thousand pages of material and hundreds of images, the site was unfortunately mainly inactive after 2006.
In October 2014 the site was redesigned and relaunched in a slightly different form-- as an online image archive available on a subscription basis. While now you must pay to access the full contents of the site, including our expanding archive of online images (over 1000 at launch), we plan on preserving and re-introducing all of the earlier material, and presenting a large quantity of free-access material.
ShowHistory.com plans on eventually making available online for members all of the 11,000-plus item archive of photos, pitchcards, handbills and ephemera in the area of sideshow, novelty and variety, vaudeville, burlesque, dime museums, carnivals, and outdoor show business in general. The earliest item in the collection dates from 1609, and the archive continues to expand to include items from present-day performers and exhibits.
Showhistory.com wishes to chronicle the lost, fading and future scene on the fringes of the American amusement business-- in biography, history, photographs, and whatever else we can find. Collect the stories before they disappear, push and pull together the conflicting sources in books and memoribilia so that they can coexist in one place.
Here we go! On with the show!
Nicknamed Pablo, the smiling creature you see on our masthead, is of that odd species we call "Feegee Mermaid." Some believe he was invented by P.T. Barnum himself, though the ancestors of Pablo's go back to 17th Century Japan. Cousins of Pablo can still be found exhibited at Ripley's "Believe It Or Not" museums worldwide. This not-quite-fish, not-quite-simian seems fittingly emblematic of what showhistory itself is-- an anomaly that cannot be summed up easily and without great and useless effort.
In the history of show business human anomalies were called-- and called themselves-- "Freaks." Why? Because "freaks" make money. Ultimately, "the business we call show" is about making a living. You gave the public what they wanted, and they gave you money. The public wanted (and still wants) to see Freaks. Calling yourself a freak in the business absolutely assured you that you would absolutely make a living. Very often a very good living.
Similarly, people of smaller than average stature called themselves "Midgets" in the business. Why? Because the show-going public had been trained and accustomed to use this vernacular, and to call oneself something different was to risk not making the money. Today "little people" performers in the sideshow, new vaudeville, burlesque and freakshow business proudly call themselves midgets. They have reclaimed the dignity of the word in the same way "people of homosexual persuasion" have reclaimed the word "queer."
Recently, "people with albinism" have decried the use of the world Albino to describe that condition. Again, in the historical world of yesterday about which we write, an Albino could make a good living in the business just by calling himself or herself an Albino. Words are thoughts put into action. The action these showman wanted was the action of a man putting his hand in his pocket to pull out money to buy a ticket to the show. That's how he made his living.
Choosing to call oneself a powerful word like Freak, Midget or Albino was a solid gold warranty in the business. You may today call these words demeaning or offensive in this enlightened age, but those in the business that exhibited themselves under these self-named banners called it folding green.
While ShowHistory.com appreciates your contribution to our longevity, and values you as a Member, we still retain the rights to all the images on this site and restrict your usage of them as a necessary protection against inadvertent distribution.
In other words, if you insist on downloading the images, please do not reproduce them or distribute them without our permission. We track our Members downloads of our images and reserve the right to revoke Memberships for improper use of our materials.
Thanks for respecting our materials. We appreciate your understanding and support!
Most of our 11,000+ images can be licensed by contacting the website curator directly at doghouse AT showhistory.com.
Images are available for use in print media, advertising, websites, books, film, television, etc. Images from the archive have been used in multiple film documentaries, books (Including Ripley's Believe-It-Or-Not and The Guinness Book of Records), scholarly journals, magazines, museum shows, and major advertising campaigns (for Diesel Clothing and Silicon Graphics, to name just two.)
As a work meant to be encyclopedic, showhistory.com has as its difficult task the developing of a taxonomy of this show business world. Necessarily fluid and impermanent, in our branches of the business performers frequently changed their acts, names, sobriquets and they way they presented themselves to meet the fickleness of the show-going public, as well as the insatiable demand for novelty. Furthermore, because some performers fit into multiple categories, and because some categories overlap, there may be an arbitrary feel to the way some performers are listed. We solicit and encourage your input and corrections.
Drawing from a list of performers compiled at Baraboo by James Taylor in July 2000, the Bernard L. Kobel catalogue, Toole Stott's bibliography, various private archives, most of the standard books, as well as a small cache of back-issues of The New York Clipper and Billboard— the initial listings here are certainly a work in progress. Please feel free to email us with your lists of performers we have left out, or clarifications on names, dates, etc. (Unless otherwise noted all images are from the Doghouse Collection.)
Initially we would like to simply list every performer we can find mentioned or found in published and unpublished sources. Our second task is to match photos with names, compile birth and death dates, marriages, siblings/parents/relatives in the business, specific performer associations with particular shows, descriptions of acts performed, family histories, etc. of all the performers listed in our database. Our third line of attack is the writing of articles on the various categories of performance under the novelty and variety banner— offering finally an overview of the entire novelty, variety and sideshow amusement industry— carefully staying well outside the realms of traditional or "legitimate" theatre, and the worlds of film, television and fine arts— except where these intersect with our primary categories.
If a performer's First and Last Name are known, the performer is listed "Last Name First, First Name Last", i.e. "Durks, William" under "D". If a performer's stage name is known, then performer is listed alphabetically within his category by his stage name, i.e. "Admiral Dot" under "A" rather than "Dot, Admiral" under "D". An effort will also be made to list alternative names, alternative spellings, aliases, alter-egos, variations of stage names, and cross categories for each performer we receive relatively reliable data on. Since much of the information from major published sources (see Bibliography) is secondary and unattributed-- and very often full of conflicts, inconsistencies, errors, misspellings, misidentification, inaccurate dates, etc.— we ultimately make corrections to the information presented here only when we have the primary sources at our disposal.
showhistory.com has as one of its several watch-words "correct attribution". This simply means that we attempt to locate where each piece of information we use came from originally. Unless the source of the information is known, we try not to use it. We have made several exceptions here at our start in order to populate our lists of performers— however, eventually every piece of information, every performer we list or present will be cross-referenced to a written, photographic, printed, or "hard-copy" source. We firmly believe that if a little-known or heretofore unknown performer is mentioned or listed on our site, then the place where the information or name has been obtained must be sited. To fail to do so is to invite questions of credibility. Thus you will often see brackets used after a performer's name, like [blk], which indicates either where we originally found that performer listed/named, or where you may find a photograph of him/her/it.
PLEASE NOTE: This list is incomplete and a work in progress. Letters in brackets below represent references that are used on ShowHistory.com to indicate primary source material.
Freaks: Cinema of the Bizarre, Werner Adrian, Lorrimer Publishing, 1976.[wa]
American Heritage, June 1966, Volume XVII, Number 4, "The Fat Man and His Friends", pp34-39.[ah]
Sideshow, Max Rusid, Amjon Publishers, 1975.[mr]
Up In The Old Hotel, Joseph Mitchell, Vintage Books, 1993. (Jane Barnell "Lady Olga") [jm]
Human Curiosities, Colin Clair , Abelard-Schuman, 1968. [cc]
True Facts and Pictures: Sideshow Freaks and features, Jay Teel , Petland Press, 1930. [jt]
Human Oddities Of The Circus And Sideshow Of Yesterday
And Today - Complete List And Descriptive Text, Bernard L. Kobel , (self-published, 1974 [blk]
America's Forgotten Folk Arts, Fred & Mary Fried
Pantheon Books, 1978 [fmf]
Diploteratology, or, A History of Some of the Most Wonderful Human Beings That Have Ever Lived in Double Form, Besse, H. Delaware: Gazette, 1874.
Circus Parade, Jim Tully (William Gropper, Illustrater)
The Literary Guild Of America, 1927
Curiosities of Natural History, Francis Buckland. The
Batchworth Press, 1948
Carnival Gaffs, Walter Gibson, Gambler’s Book Club, 1976
Carnival, Arthur H. Lewis,
Trident Press, 1970
Circus Lingo, Joe McKennon Carnival Publishers of Sarasota, 1980
The County Fair Carnival -Where the Midway Meets the Grange, Chemung County Historical Society, 1992
Curiosities Of Human Nature,
S.G. Goodrich, Bradbury & Soden, 1843
Eve and The Apes. Emily Hahn, Weidenfeld and Nicholson, 1988
Freak Show: Sideshow Banner Art, Carl Hammer
and Gordon Bosker Chronicle Books 1996 [chgb]
Freak Show Man - The Autobiography of Harry Lewiston, as told to
Jerry Holtman, Holloway House Publishing Co. 1968
Freaks! Vol 1 - 5, Chris Fellner
Freaks - We Who Are Not As
Others, Daniel P. Mannix, Pocket Books, 1976 [dm]
Freaks,Geeks, and Strange Girls - Sideshow Banners Of The Great
American Midway, R. Johnson, J. Secreto, & T. Varndell eds., Hardy Marks Publications, 1995 Honolulu. 1996.
Weird & Wonderful: The Dime Museum in America. New York University Press, 1997.
Special Cases: Natural Anomalies and Historical Monsters. Rosamund W. Purcell. Chronicle Books, San Francisco. 1997.
Freaks: Myths & Images of the Secret Self. Leslie Fiedler. New York: Anchor Books, 1978.
Collectors & Curiosities: Paris and
Venice, 1500 - 1800. Krzysztof Pomian. Cambridge: Polity Press, 1990.
Finders Keepers: Treasures and Oddities
of Natrual History, Collectors from Peter the Great to Louis Agassiz. Jay Gould New York: W. W. Norton, 1992.
Signs & Portents: Monstrous Births from the Middle Ages to the Enlightenment. Dudley Wilson. London:
On Monsters & Marvels. Ambroise Pare translated by Janis L. Pallister. Chicago: Chicago
University Press, 1982.
Anomalies & Curiosities of Medicine. George M. Gould and Walter L. Pyle. New York: Bell
On Longing: Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the Collection.
Susan Stewart. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1993.
Freak Shows. Robert Bogdan. Chicago: University of
Chicago Press, 1988.
Grind Show - Weirdness As Entertainment, Fred Olen Ray, American - Independent Press,
Historical Fairground Scenes, Michael E. Ware MoorlandPublishing Co, Inc., 1989
The History Of Noell’s Ark
Gorilla Show, Mae Noell, Noell’s Ark Publisher, 1979
Human Oddities, Martin Monestier, 1987, Citadel [mm]
Hoaxes, Humbug And Spectacles, Mark Sloan [ms]
Villard Books, 1990.
Humbug - The Art Of P.T. Barnum, Neil
Harris, Little, Brown and Company, 1973
Indian Circus, Mary Ellen Mark, Chronicle Books, 1993
An Illustrated History Of Freak Film, Jack Hunter , Creation Books, 1995
The Life Of Buffalo Bill, William F. Cody
Senate Western Classics, 1994
The Little People - An Illustrated Look At Some Of The World’s Most Engaging
Men and Women, Hy Roth and Robert Cromie, Everest House, 1980
The Loves And Lives Of The Hilton Sisters,
Daisy and Violet Hilton, Wonder Book Co. - No Date
The Making Of The Wizard Of Oz, Aljean Harmetz, Pavillion
Books Limited, 1989
Modern Primitives, V.Vale and Andrea Juno eds. RE/ Search Publications, 1989
Midway - An Uninhibited Look At The Glittering World Of The Carny, William Lindsay Gresham, Rhinehart &
Company, Inc., 1953
The Monster Show,: A Cultural History Of Horror, David J. Skol, W. W. Norton and Company,
My Very Unusual Friends, Ward Hall, 1991
The Sideshow Planet, D.B. Doghouse [dbd]
Terraplane Press, 1989..
Nightmare Alley, William Lindsay Gresham, Carrol & Graf
Publishers, Inc. 1974
Pandemonium, - “Special Freaks, Magicians, and Movie Stars issue,” Living Color
Side Show: My Life with Geeks, Freaks & Vagabonds in the Carny Trade, Howard Bone,
Sun Dog Press, 2001.
Step Right Up!, Dan Mannix, Harper & Brothers, 1951
Sir Benjamin Stone’s Pictures: Records
Of National Life And History, Vol 1, Festivals, Ceremonies And Customs, Sir Benjamin Stone, Cassel and Co. Lmtd
Struggles And Triumphs, P.T. Barnum Penguin Classics, 1981
Very Special People - The Struggles, Loves
And Triumphs Of Human Oddities, Frederic Drimmer Amjon Publishing, 1973 [fd]
James Taylor’s Shocked And Amazed!
On and Off The Midway, Volume 1 - 4 James Taylor, Dolphin - Moon Press and Atomic Books Of Baltimore,
Memoirs Of A Sword Swallower, First Photo - Illustrated Edition, Daniel P. Mannix, V/Search Publications,
1950 - 1951
The Two, The Story Of The Original Siamese Twins, A Biography, Irving Wallace and Amy Wallace,
Simon and Shuster, 1978
Freakery: Cultural specticals of the extraordinary body. Edited by Rosemarie Garland
Thomson. New York University Press 1996.
The Biggest, The Smallest, The Longest, the Shortest, A chronicle of
the American Circus fron its heartland. Dean Jenson, Wisconsin House Book Publishers, 1975
Step Right Up! The
Adventure Of Circus In America, LaVahn G. Hoh & William H. Rough, Betterway Publications, Inc.1990 —- Note:
Not a mistake! ?@
Bogdan, Robert, Freak Show: Presenting Human Oddities for Amusement and Profit, Chicago,
Fiedler, Leslie, Freaks, Myths and Images of the Secret Self, New York,
Friedman, J.B., The Monstrous Races in Medieval
Art and Thought, Cambridge, Mass., 1981.
Kappler, Claude, Monstres, demons et merveilles a la fin du Moyen
Age, Paris, 1980. ?@
Niccoli, Ottavia, Profetti e popolo nell'Italia del Renascimento, Roma/ Bari, 1987.
Dudley, Signs and Portents: Monstrous Births from the Middle Ages to the Enlightenment, London, 1993.
Paré, Ambroise, 1510?-1590 Unif title Des monstres et prodiges. English Title On monsters and marvels / Ambroise
Paré ; translated with an introduction and notes by Janis L. Pallister Imprint Chicago : University of Chicago
Gonzalez-Crussi, F Title Notes of an anatomist / F. Gonzalez-Crussi Edition 1st ed Imprint San Diego
: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, c1985
Fiedler, Leslie A Title Freaks : myths and images of the secret self / Leslie
Fiedler Imprint New York : Simon and Schuster, c1978
Howell, Michael Title The true history of the Elephant Man /
Michael Howell and Peter Ford Edition Rev. and ill. ed Imprint London ; New York : Allison & Busby ; New York, NY
: Distributed in the USA by Schocken Books, 1983 100 10
"The Petrified Man," in A Curtain of Green and Other Stories. Eudora Welty. New York: Harcourt
"Those Extraordinary Twins," in Pudd'nhead Wilson and Other Tales. Mark Twain. Many editions.
Oxford University Press.
Nightmare Alley, Gresham, William Lindsay,|d1909- 245 10 260 0 New York,|aToronto,|bRinehart and company, inc.|c 300 6 p.l., 3-275 p.|c22 cm
- DIME MUSEUM
- SEX ! ! !
- Freak and Novelty Performer Advertising (10)
- The Unknown Performers (2)
- Showmen & Promoters (59)
- Balloons and Airships (1)
- Banners & Banner Painters (41)
- Confections, Snacks and Refreshments (11)
- Fortune Tellers, Psychics, Spirtualists, Mindreaders (14)
- Punch & Judy, Puppets, Marionettes (11)
- Trade Publications (13)
- Funhouse, Dark Ride, Spook Show (2)