What Is It?
Newspaper Advertisement March 1,1860
Can now be seen here an
extraordinary living creature just arrived from the wilds of
WHAT IS IT
Is it a lower order of man? or is it a higher development of the
Is it both in combination?
Nothing of the kind Has ever been seen before.
It is alive, and is certainly the MOST MARVELLOUS CREATURE
It can be seen at all ordinary hours in one of the main salons
of the Museum during the day and evening, and in order that all
may have an opportunity of witnessing this most remarkable of
nature's freaks, it may be seen also upon the stage of the
lecture room at each entertainment.
THE "WHAT IS IT?" has nothing repulsive in its appearance, is
playful, and is altogether the most amusing and interesting
living specimen of creation ever seen.
The Sunday Times says it --
"it is an animal which would seem to supply the link supposed by
philosophers to exist between the human race and brutes. The new
curiosity just added to the Museum stock seems to supply the
real link between the man and the monkey. It was found in the
interior of Africa, and by good fortune got alive to this
country. It is monkey, all but the face, and that is entirely
The New York Herald says --
"WHAT IS IT?" - They have added to the list of curiosities at
Barnum's Museum a most extraordinary freak of nature, consisting
of a creature supposed to belong to the orang-outang species,
but having all the appearance of a human being. It is said to
have been captured in the interior of Africa, on the border of
the river Gambia, by a party who were in search of the famous
Gorilla. It stands about four feet high and weighs some fifty
pounds. Its age cannot be correctly ascertained, but it is
supposed to be over twenty years. The formation of its hands,
arms and head are those of an orang-outang but its movements are
those of a human being. Those who are fond of looking at the
freaks nature frequently indulges in, should step in and form
for themselves an opinion as to "What is it?"
The New York Sun says --
A nondescript animal supposed to be a connecting link in the
chain of animal life between the brute and the human ape species
is now at Barnum's Museum. The limbs cannot be straightened any
more than an orang-outang, its walk to an erect position is
exceedingly awkward. The ears are far too high and too much back
for a negro; the arms are several inches too long in proportion
and the jaw and teeth are entirely animal. Its eyes are bright
and intelligent but the brain is quite small, and Dan Rice in
his palmiest days never could produce a heartier 'Jim Crow'
laugh than this creature gets off on the slightest occasion.
Sometimes a face in the crowd, another time its dress and again
its image in the mirror, calls forth shouts of laughter. Various
incidents which have already occurred show it to possess
considerable powers of memory, and sometimes short words spoken
by its keeper are repeated with considerable distinctness.
The New York Tribune says --
The nondescript arrived is as lively and playful as a kitten. It
seems to be a sort of cross between the ape species and the
negro. The brightness of his eye and its intelligent responses
to the words and motions of the person in charge at once relieve
it from the imputation of imbecility.
The Express says --
The animal at Barnum's is the nearest approach to human of any
creature supposed to belong to the lower order of animated
beings. It stands erect to the height of four feet, and weighs
fifty pounds. The legs and arms seem to be shaped pretty much
like those of a human being, though neither can be made as
straight as the limbs of human beings in general. The legs are
devoid of calves as in the orang outang and taper down from the
thigh to the ankle. The feet are formed like a negro's with the
heel projecting but the great toe is more like a thumb than a
toe, and all the toes bend downward toward the sole. But, the
most striking part of the animal is the head and face. The
bottom of the face about the mouth is comparatively broad, and
tapers away towards the frontal cone, which is uncommonly
narrow. The forehead also recedes. The upper part of the skull
continues to narrow till at the crown it ends almost in a point.
The ears are higher up and further back than is usual in the
human race. The mouth is very large, and well filled with very
white teeth, doubled all through.
The tongue is human, but the jaws
cannot close together by a quarter of an inch. The creature is
speechless, making a sort of 'cheeping' noise and is always on
the broad grin. It walks with awkward steps, like a child just
learning on its two feet, which
exhibitor says it has lately learned, its natural method of
locomotion being on all four. It seems to be very imitative.
When brought here at first it refused all food except raw meat.
Now it will eat fruit, cakes and almost any article of food
eaten by human beings but prefers flesh dressed very rare. A
great deal of mirth was elicited on Monday night while the
creature was being exhibited.
Also just arrived in the steamer Baltic from California, a huge
and savage BLACK SEA LION, entirely different from anything ever
exhibited here before.
Also a GRIZZLY BEAR, weighing 2,000 pounds.
New York Tribune March 1, 1860, Disability History Museum,
(May 13, 2005)
Title: What is it? Lithograph
published by Curriers & Ives
Title: Life of a Hunter, New York, published by Currier & Ives,
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