Born 1843, near Nossville, Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania, Isaac Stake was born legless, and had hands that were mostly useless due to a form of muscular atrophy. In photographs he is always shown in his custom wooden three-wheeled cart. Disdaining dime museums, Stake preferring to make his living by selling "notions," such as cigars, pencils, combs, and photos of himself. Of dime museums he said "I would about as soon go at once into a penitentiary. They keep you so close, you know, for fear people will see you on the outside."