HISTORY

 

OF

 

RUDOLPH LUCASIE,


A Native of Lenabon, Madagascar,

 

AND

 

ALSO,

 

A BRIEF HISTORY OF HIS WIFE AND CHILD;

 

WITH AN

 

ACCOUNT OF THE EXTRAORDINARY PHYSICAL PHENOMENA TERMED

 

"ALBINOISM."

 


 

COMPILED FOR THE BEST AND MOST AUTHENTIC SOURCES.


 

THIS INTERESTING AND WONDERFUL FAMILY IS NOW


 

ON EXHIBITION AT BARNUM'S AMERICAN MUSEUM.

 

 

NEW YORK:

 

1860
 

ACCOUNT OF RUDOLPH LUCASIE,

This splendid and handsome specimen of the human variety, known as Albino, was born of dark parents, at Iranque, on the east coast of the island of Madagascar. On the 27th of June, 1824, Captain Don Carlos Sieras, a native of Portugal, and the master of a merchant vessel, being short of water, was compelled to land on this coast. Several of the crew went on shore, where they discovered a number of negroes in the act of carrying off an Albino of about five years old. The child had already been wounded in several places ; indeed, themark of one lance-wound he then received is still plainly apparent on the left side of his neck. After a desperate and prolonged conflict, in which several of the natives were killed, and others put to flight, the brave sailors succeeded in saving the boy, whom they placed in security on board their vessel. The Captain, being greatly interested in and pleased with the youth, had his wounds attended to, and retained him on board until he was about to sail for Europe. This kind sailor afterwards conveyed the boy to his native town, Lenabon, and maintained him for an entire year in his own house. Sometime afterwards, Don Carlos Sieras, being compelled to visit Rome, made the boy accompany him thither, where he was introduced into the Convent of St. Maria Maggiore, for the purpose of being instructed in the rudiments of the Catholic religion, as well as the Italian language. Of course, no one could understand the youth; so that, at first, an almost insurmountable obstacle presented itself in the way of his mental progress. Several learned professors, skilled in Arabic and other Oriental tongues, were consulted, but without any beneficial or satisfactory result. The boy could only be got to articulate a few simple nasal or guttural sounds. After an immense amount of perseverance, and no ordinary degree of patience, the youth at length acquired an imperfect knowledge of Italian; and, when sufficiently instructed in the principles of the Christian religion, was baptized in the Church of St. Johann Lateran, at Rome, A. D. 1829, five years after his miraculous escape from death; on which occasion he received at the font the name of Rudolph Lucasie. The wife of Rudolph Lucasie, also a pure Albino, Ajntiania Lali, was born in Modena, African descent. She has three brothers and four sisters, all of whom are black; have curly black hair, or wool, thick lips, flat noses, and all the other peculiarities of the African race, indicating, beyond the possibility of doubt, their pure African descent. She met her husband for the first time in Venice in 1848, when their remarkable similarity of parentage and peculiarities gave rise to an early matrimonial alliance, which has resulted in the birth of five children, all of whom have exhibited the same traces of Albinoism as their parents. But one of the number is now living— Joseph Lucasie, a sprightly, interesting lad of six years, who was born at the city of Hamburg, Germany, and who possesses the same interesting characteristics as his parents—perfectly pure white skin, abundant white silky hair, and pink eyes: the pupil of his eye, instead of being round, like that of other people's, is angular, nearly square. Taken all together, this Albino Family is the most interesting case of Albinoism that has ever been brought to the notice of the American public. It is not unusual for single cases, more or less marked, to occur, but this is the only case known of a husband and wife, both born of perfectly black parents, exhibiting such marked traits of Albinoism, with a child of the same interesting and wonderful peculiarities.

 

ACCOUNT

 

OF THE


 

 

A most remarkable variety of the human species, to which the Portuguese originally gave the designation of Albinos, or White Moors, is to be found in Africa ; although such extraordinary phenomena are occasionally met with in the Indies, Borneo, New Guinea, Java, Ceylon, and even in Europe ; but as the latitude increases, they are comparatively few. Both Pliny and Ptolemy make mention of a tribe of people in Nigritia, to whom they apply the term Leucoethiopes ; and Saussure, in his Voyages dans les Alpes, particularly describes two Albinos, brothers, who were natives of the valley of Chamouni. These boys exhibited themselves in England several years ago, and gained as much money by so doing as enabled them to live comfortably in their cold mountain home on the shoulder of Mont Blanc, and adjacent to the perennial icebergs. The physical peculiarities of this variety of the race consist chiefly in the pearly whiteness of the skin and hair, the redness of the eye, and intense sensibility to light. Mostly they are weak, both in body and mind, although there have been instances in which they have exhibited mental faculties of respectable order, and in Madagascar gave proof of literary tastes and capabilities. Generally the Albinos are incapable of procreation: the White Moors not so. But when the contrary is the case, the offspring invariably resemble the parents. The real Albinos are distinguished from the genuine whites by their cadaverous looks, and wrinkled skin, which possesses a peculiarly delicate color. The whiteness of the hair invariably corresponds to that of the skin, as does that of the eyebrows, eyelashes, beard, and even the soft down that covers the external surface of the body. M. Isidores Geoffroy divides these Albinos into three classes, which he characterizes as " Albinos complets," " Albinos partiels," and "Albinos emperfaits." The first, which he calls "Dondos," belongs to the African desert and the island of Madagascar. The second, named "Bedos," to the island of Ceylon, and the third, which he describes as "Blaffard," or White Negroes, to the island of Java. M. Dappes, in his " Descriptions vafrique" alluding to the Albinos who have been discovered in Lower Ethiopia, observes, that they have flaxen hair, blue eyes, and countenances and bodies of so white a color that they may easily be mistaken, at a distance, for Europeans. He remarks, likewise, that the color of the skin is not precisely of a bright or natural white, but pale and livid, similar to that of a dead body ; that their eyes are weak by day, but that by the light of the moon they are brilliant and their sense of sight strong. By day they generally sleep, but go abroad by night. This variety principally consists of males ; and, although they are not so robust and vigorous in mind or body as other men, nevertheless they are exceedingly active, according to the old voyager Wafer, and skip nimbly through the forests by moonlight. Sometimes, in Brazil, the Albinos are compelled to labor in the mines, but in general they prefer death to a life of slavery. The negroes regard them as monsters, and as they are incapable of discerning any object by day, they consequently become an easy prey to their enemies, by whom they are frequently attacked and secured. There is a greater tendency to the formation of the Albino in some parts of the world than in others. It is more common among the African and Indian tribes. Mr. Bowditch states of this description as a great curiosity, and to have indulged his taste for collecting them in a truly Oriental manner, had collected together nearly one hundred white negroes. The eminent Professor Blumenbach, of Gottingen, states that he had himself seen sixteen Albinos in Germany, and examples have occasionally been found in Denmark, Italy, Switzerland, Hungary, France, and even England and Ireland. Various theories have been absurdly assigned for the singular physical appearances presented by the Albino. Because they have been found sometimes thickly scattered about in the tropical parts of Africa and America, some theorists have not hesitated to look upon them as a separate race. Yet, nothing is more unfounded; for there is no hereditary tendency in Albinoism; although it would appear to be more prevalent among old residents than among migrants. Buffon's notion is, that the milky hue of the Albino is the primitive color of the human race, to which they are making constant efforts to return (but where is the scientific man to be found who would indorse so fla grantly absurd a notion?). Others have asserted that the color of the Albino is that of death before decay has begun to spot its chalky whiteness. Because there are some well authenticated instances on record, where extreme terror, grief, or anxiety, has produced, in a single night, physical effects similar to those which distinguish the Albino, it has been averred (and with some show of reason) that Albinoism is the result of fear. Some writers attribute the peculiarities exhibited by these people to disease. Indeed, the Germans use the term Albino for all individuals affected with cutaneous diseases, but the naturalist Kakerlake applies the title to those whose skin is simply sprinkled with white spots. The device of Jacob with Laban's cattle, in or* der to procure "a speckled and ring-streaked progeny," by means of the " peeled rods," has sometimes been adduced in explanation of the remarkable exhibition of color displayed in the Albino. Eminent physiologists, such as Blumenbach, Saussure, Buzzi, Soemmering, and others, have made numerous interesting experiments and observations on these White Moors, and have put us in possession of the proximate causes which produce their peculiar appearance. The deadly-white complexion of the skin, and shiny silvery hair, according to the combined testimony of these eminent authorities, are caused by the absence of the reie mucosum, or cellular membrane, which consists of a coat of fibrous network, loaded with a raucous pigment, something analogous to that on the iris and choroid coat of the eye, and on which the color is said to entirely depend. In the negro this membrane is black, and,

 

 

 

 

consequently, the complexion is black also. According to Dr. Prichard, when this variety springs up among negroes, the woolly excrescence which covers the heads of that race is white. The rose color of the iris and pupil in the Albino is traceable to a like cause, viz.: the absence of the dark mucous substance, known as the pigmentiim nigrum, from which, in the eyes of those who are not Albinos, is spread over the choroid coat of the eye and the iris, and occurs about the fifth week after conception. Whether the darkness of the pigment is occasioned by its decomposing the more active portion of the light which falls upon it, and thus defending the parts that are below, is a point that is difficult to sustain ; although we all know that the darkest eyes are best able to endure the light, which ought to be the very opposite effect of the dark color, if there were no specific action in the pigment itself. Buzzi, surgeon to the hospital at Milan, was the first anatomist who demonstrated that the color of the skin is owing to the imperfection or the absence of one of the three parts of which the skins of ordinary human beings are composed. But what is it that thus impairs or destroys the rete mucosum in such persons? Science has not yet answered that question. A singular fact, however, is related by M. Buzzi, which, although it does not explain, nevertheless seems to throw some light on this subject: "A woman of Milan, named Calcagni, had seven sons. The two oldest had brown hair and black eyes; the three next had white skins, white hair, and red eyes ; the two last resembled the two eldest. It was said that this woman, during the three pregnancies that produced the Albinos, had a continual and immoderate appetite for milk, which she imbibed in large quantities; but that this disposition did not exist during the other four periods of gestation. It is not, however, ascertained that this preternatural appetite was not itself the effect of a certain heat, or internal disease, which destroyed the rete mucosum in the children before their birth. But human beings are not the only animals among whom Albinos appear. This [remarkable natural phenomenon is likewise occasionally met with in the elephant, the rhinoceros, the sheep, pig, horse, cow, dog, cat, and numerous other animals, and even birds ; and where this occurs the same corresponding colors of the skin and eyes are observable.

 

 

 

 

In the Natural History Collection, at Barnum's American Museum, New York, there are exhibited Albino crows, Albino robins, Albino black-birds, Albino rats, &c, &c, which have been collected in a separate case and marked, " Case of Albino animals and birds," and is an object of considerable interest to the curious, and to students of natural history. In 1844, Mr. Barnum presented Queen Victoria with a living Albino Deer, which her Majesty sent to the Royal Zoological Gardens, Regent's Park, where it attracted the public curiosity for several years. Among the cold-blooded animals no Albinos have been found ; or at least any traces which have been observed in them have been directly referrable to disease: whereas in the Albinoism of the warm-blooded animals there exists no disease whatever. As far as can be judged from external appearance, and from their accounts of their own feelings, Albinos appear perfectly healthy, and do not exhibit a single mark of disease. That Albinoism is owing to the absence of the mucous tissue is further proved by the results of those wounds in the skin by which that tissue is topically destroyed. Thus a surface wound upon the finger, especially if it be kept for some time in a state of irritation, will produce a white mark on the nail. Galling the back of a horse also produces white hair after the wound heals, even although the color has been originally deep black. Jockeys sometimes produce a white spot on the forehead of the horse, by destroying the tissue in question with a red-hot iron. This they do by way of ornament to the horse's head. Unquestionably much inconvenience arises from the conformation of the eye peculiar to the Albinos. A strong light cannot be borne, and the glare of day excites no small degree of uneasiness. Hence, the eyelids are drawn completely over the balls of the eyes, which are weak, tender, and watery. To this class vision is always most perfect and agreeable during twilight. A white mouse, possessed by Blumenbach, manifested the same inability to bear the light which has been observed in the human examples. In the Opuscoli Scelti de Milan, 1784 (tom, vii, p. 11), M. Buzzi, an eleve of the celebrated anatomist, Moscati, published a very interesting memoir, wherein he demonstrates, by dissection, what Blumenbach had merely supposed relative . to the proximate cause of the extraordinary physical appearance of this human variety : A peasant, about 30 years old, died in the hospital of Milan of a pulmonary disorder. His body, being exposed to view, was exceedingly remarkable by the uncommon whiteness of the skin, of the hair, of the beard, and of all the other covered parts of the body. M. Buzzi, who had long desired an opportunity of dissecting such a subject, immediately seized upon this. He found the iris of the eyes perfectly white, and the pupil of a rose color. The eyes were dissected with the greatest possible care, and were found entirely destitute of that black membrane which anatomists call the cornea; it was not observable, either behind the iris or under the retina. Within the eye there was found only the choroid coat, extremely thin, and tinged with a pale red color, by vessels covered with discolored blood. What was more extraordinary, the skin, when detached from several parts of the body, seemed almost entirely divested of the rete mucosum; maceration did not discover the least vestige of this, not even in the wrinkles of the abdomen, where it is most abundant and most visible.


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