Accessories at Barnum's


It is one of the boasts of Barnum's that it extorts no "extras" from its patrons, and that the sum paid for admittance permits the visitor to see everything from the menagerie to the chariot races, and from the horse show to the fall of the fire-proof curtain on the spectacle of "The Mahdj."  But while admiring this system in principle, we are by no means sure that some modifications\ of it might not be made in it to the general advantage,

 

These modifications would be mode in respect of the part of the entertainment which consists in the exhibition of "freaks."  These "freaks of nature" are sometimes spoken of as "sides shows;" but at Olympia they are only side shows in the regard that they are subsidiary to the main entertainment; and anybody may look at them, indeed can hardly help looking at them, wile inspecting the menagerie, As to matter of choice, it would be rather better, we believe, in the case of some of the freaks, that people with a taste for the kind of thing should pay something extra to gratify it, rather than that ladies and children should be obliged to look at them whether they will or no.  This is not, we hope a hyper-sensitive suggestion. 

 

Some of the strange people who sit on high round the menagerie tier are attractive and interesting people in spite of their strangeness.  The lady giantess, from instance, is a lady of most prepossessing appearance and manners' and there is a large amiability about the fat lady which is irresistible.  Giants and dwarfs are both, in a sense, too common to arouse any feeling other than a passing curiosity; the moss-haired young lady is pleasing rather than anything else, and the tattooed man and woman only rouse a faint feeling of wonder that anybody should so ornament their bodies.  Neither in these, nor in the "skeleton dude," who is a gentleman of a pleasant humour a good deal less attenuated that his person, nor yet in the famous needle swallower, nor the fire king, who are merely very accomplished performers, is there anything to which the most squeamish person could take objection.

 

 Even the armless and legless men, poor fellows have a cheery geniality of distinction which goes a long way to diminish the feeling that these are deformities which we should rather incline to pity that to set up as a mark for unwholesome curiosity. 

 

 

But with regard to others of the "freaks," it is not easy to speak or thing in such a way; and in the case of four of them, the dog-faced man, the performers with an elastic skin and an elastic chest respectively, and the unfortunate being who is double-bodied, it does seem that the greatest good of the greatest number of Olympia's visitors would be consulted by putting them where only those could see them who particularly wished to do so.  It is with diffidence that one thus finds fault with a show the general conduct of which is as admirable as its variety, extent and cleverness are wonderful.  Barnum's is, indeed,  as it claims to be, the greatest show on earth, and it is also the best managed.

 

The more reason therefore that it should dispense with attractions which are in no sense beautiful, and which are to many tastes repulsive.  There will still be plenty to see, and Johanna, the most intelligent chimpanzee that ever mimicked a human being, is herself worth all the freaks which share the menagerie with her.

 

The Graphic

January 22,1898

A weekly illustrated newspaper

 

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