advertising cover showing "John H. Craig, alias Powers" of
"Powers' National Museum," along with an illustration. This
was John Hanson Craig, taken on tour by Barnum as "John
Powers, The Kentucky Giant Fat Boy." Powers was apparently
the second Kentucky Fat Boy, but certainly large
enough to claim the name. 758 lbs at age 27, 7 years
before his 1894 death in Danville.a
In 1857, P. T.
Barnum's New York "Bonny Baby" prize went to John Hanson
Craig, a two-year-old, allegedly 206-pound boy from Iowa
City, Iowa, whose parents had recently relocated to Franklin
County, Kentucky. John's mother and father were both
unusually small people, at 110 and 120 pounds, respectively.
They had no explanation for their son's enormous size, but
were grateful for the $1,000 cash prize awarded them by the
Barnum took John Craig on tour a few
years later, presenting him as "John Powers, the Kentucky
Giant Fat Boy". While appearing with the circus, he met and
married Mary Jane Kessler, who weighed an alleged 782
pounds. Mary began appearing as "Mary Powers, the Kentucky
Giantess" - although she actually came from New York State.
Publicly, John and Mary claimed to be brother and sister
(they did indeed look very similar). Mary died in Danville,
Indiana, on October 3, 1882, of congestive heart failure.
Craig gave his weight history as
follows: at age 5 his weight had increased to 302; by age
11, 405; at 19, 691; at 25, 725; at 27, 758. As an adult he
stood a massive 6'5" tall and measured 3'4" around the
waist, 29" around the knee, and 66" around the thigh.
Forty-one yards of cloth were needed to make him a
three-piece suit, and three pounds of yarn were required to
knit him one pair of socks. He wore No. 12 boots, which were
made from an entire cow hide. He boasted that, for his size,
he was remarkably healthy, was never ill, and did not drink
alcohol or use tobacco. He claimed as well that he was a
cousin of Captain Martin van Buren Bates, P.T. Barnum's most
Craig worked as a combination fat
man/snake charmer for the Forepaugh Circus, where he met a
female snake charmer named Zela Ayres. In private life Zela
was Jennie Ryan, a notorious beauty from Lafayette, Indiana.
At just 130 pounds, Jennie was dwarfed by the allegedly
907-pound Craig, but the two were married in 1882, just
months after Mary Powers' death. They made their off-season
home in Danville, Indiana.
Jennie and John were divorced when
Jennie aspired to become a dressmaker and John disapproved.
She moved to Terre Haute and apprenticed herself to a
seamstress, although they continued to see each other
intermittently. Jennie gave birth to a child in 1890. Then,
in 1893, she and John decided they could no longer be apart
and were re-married on April 25.
Despite his claims of perfect health,
Craig suffered from diabetes; he died in 1894 at his
(Incidentally, Craig/Powers was not
the first "Kentucky Fat Boy". The first to use that title
was Andrew Brand, who weighed 537 pounds when he died in
1850. He was just 16 years old at the time of his death.)
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