Anna Swan, The
Nova Scotia Giantess was a Canadian from Colchester County,
Nova Scotia, famed for her great height.
Anna was the 3rd of 13 children and from birth she grew
quickly. By her 15th birthday Anna Swan was measured at just
over seven feet tall. She was discovered in the fall of 1862
by an agent of P.T. Barnum, at which time she was 7 feet 2
and a half inches tall. She would reach her full height two
years later, which was 7 feet 5 and a half inches tall.
Anna spent years at Barnumís Museum in New York City where
she was a favorite of the public. She had to be rescued from
a fire at Barnum's second museum in July 1865. The stairs
were in flames but she was too large to escape through a
window. Employees of the museum found a loft derrick nearby,
smashed the wall around a window on the third floor, and
lowered Anna by block and tackle with 18 men holding the end
of the rope. At the time Anna weighed over 350 pounds
When visiting a circus in Halifax with which Martin Van
Buren Bates, the Kentucky Giant and a Civil War veteran, was
traveling, Anna was spotted by Judge Ingalls and hired on
the spot. The giant couple became a touring sensation and
eventually fell in love and on 17 June 1871 they married in
They spent the next few years touring extensively to large
Whilst touring in the summer of 1878, Anna found that she
was pregnant for the second time. The baby was born on 19
January, but he survived only 11 hours. He was the largest
newborn ever recorded, at nearly 24 pounds and 30 inches
tall. Even today, the Bates' son remains the largest baby
ever to be born.
To help take their minds off their baby's death, the Bates'
rejoined touring with W.W. Cole in the summer of 1879, and
again in the spring of 1880, but that was to be their final
ever tour and they retired after that.
Anna Bates died suddenly and unexpectedly in her sleep, at
her home on 5 August 1888 just one day before her 42nd
birthday. She succumbed to heart failure after struggling
with a thyroid goiter for some time previously.
The goiter that caused her death is very evident in the
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