The Doll Family
The Doll Family was perhaps the most famous and successful
group of little people to grace popular entertainment in the
20th century. Out of a family of seven children born to Emma
and Gustav Schneider in Stolpen, Germany, four of those
children were midgets, which is an exceedingly unusual
phenomenon to occur in a single family. Those four children
were smaller than average, but also proved to be talented
performers. In their early years, the Schneider's met with
success performing a song and dance routine in Europe.
Sometime between 1913 and 1915 (accounts vary), manager Bert
W. Earles encouraged Kurt and Frieda to venture across the
Atlantic to America. They appeared on the Buffalo Bill Show as
“Hans and Gretl, The Smallest Dancing Couple in the World”, a
name which capitalized on both their size and nationality.
Later, Kurt and Frieda changed their professional names to
“Harry” and “Grace” and adopted the surname of their manager,
Bert Earles. They would retain that name until Mr. Earles died
during the 1930's, when the tiny performers became the Doll's
— a name which reflected comments overheard from their
In the early 1920's, Harry and Grace were joined in America by
their sister Hilda, who now became known as "Daisy". Sister
Elly joined her siblings in 1926 and quickly was dubbed
"Tiny". By this time, the entire family was working for the
Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus. They would
work on the Ringling sideshow for the next thirty seasons,
with the exception of the 1952 season when they were replaced
by members of Nate Eagle's Midgets.
In addition to their live appearances, the Dolls racked up
quite an impressive number of film credits, which allowed them
in later years to dub themselves “The Moving Picture Midgets”.
Various Doll family members had starring roles in The
Unholy Three (1925 and 1930), That's My Baby
(1926), Baby Clothes (1926), Baby Brother
(1927), Special Delivery (1927), and the Laurel and
Hardy short feature Sailors Beware (1927). Today, the
Doll family will be best known for their appearances in Tod
Browning's infamous Freaks (1932), and the much beloved
The Wizard of Oz (1939). In Freaks, Harry plays
the leading role of Hans, the sideshow midget who is seduced
away from his loving fiance Frieda (portrayed by Harry's
sister Daisy) and then poisoned by the evil trapeze artist
Cleo, who wishes to gain the little man's wealth. Hans
survives this attempt on his life and reunites with his
betrothed while fellow sideshow performers exact their revenge
on Cleo. The Earles family played much lighter fare in The
Wizard of Oz, with each of them becoming citizens of
Munchkinland. The ladies filled various roles as Munchkin
maidens, but Harry will be immediately recognized as a member
of the Lollipop Guild.
Following their foray into film, the Doll's returned to the
circus, where they were staple attractions through the late
1950's. When the Ringling train shows ended in 1956, the
Doll's started touring with the Christiani Circus, living in a
trailer they pulled behind their car. The Doll's found this to
be an unacceptable situation, so in 1958 they jointly retired.
The siblings continued to live together in the large home they
owned in Sarasota, Florida.
Grace passed away in 1970, followed by Daisy in 1980, and
Harry in 1985. Tiny outlived the rest of the Doll's, but died
in Florida at the age of 90 on 6 September 2004.
Text courtesy of James Mundie
Tiny Doll (born Elly
Annie Schneider, July 23, 1914 – September 6, 2004)
Harry Doll Earles (born Kurt Fritz Schneider, April 3,
1902 – May 4, 1985)
Daisy Doll Earles (born Hilda Emma Schneider, April 29,
1907 – March 15, 1980)
Gracie Doll (born Frieda A. Schneider, March 12, 1899 –
November 8, 1970)
From the collection of Alicia Blanco, a
dancer with Ringling Bros.