Capt. George Auger, and Company


SIZE OF HAT, 7 3-4; COLLAR, 18; SHOE, 16.

Curiously, the name 'Cardiff Giant' has an American sideshow history that predates Mr. Auger. In August of 1869, a large 'petrified giant' was 'discovered' on the small farm belonging to William Newell in Cardiff, New York. The giant was found by a crew of workmen digging a new well at a location precisely specified by Newell. Word of this exciting find spread quickly, and soon there was a tent erected over the 'grave' and eager patrons flocking to see it, paying 50-cents each for the privilege. Within ten days, a syndicate headed by banker David Hannum bought controlling interest in this ancient specimen and moved it to an exhibition hall in Syracuse. A newspaper article brought national prominence and even larger crowds who were now willing to pay a dollar each to peek at the giant.

Phineas Taylor Barnum heard of the Cardiff Giant's financial success and attempted to buy it for his museum at a price of $50,000. Hannum wouldn't budge, so rather than increase his offer Barnum had a plaster replica of the Cardiff Giant crafted and displayed it in his museum, claiming that Hannum's giant was a fraud and that Barnum owned the true Cardiff Giant. The replica of the hoax was soon outpacing the original in drawing power. Apparently believing his giant was genuine, Hannum sued Barnum for slander. It was an exasperated Hannum not Barnum who uttered the often misquoted phrase, "There's a sucker born every minute."


During the trial, George Hull stepped forward and revealed that he had masterminded this fraud years earlier by hiring stonemasons in Chicago to craft the Cardiff Giant from a large block of gypsum. The masons worked in absolute secrecy, carving in their spare time in a secluded barn. The sculpture was given the patina of age through the liberal use of darning needles, ink, water and sulfuric acid. Hull shipped the finished product to his cousin William Newell's farm and secretly buried it under cover of darkness beside the barn with the help of Newell and his sons in anticipation of its eventual 'discovery' the following year. This was precipitated by an important fossil find nearby. The timing was right, so Hull signalled his cousin to have the giant unearthed.

The judge dismissed Hannum's slander claim, ruling that Barnum had been absolutely correct in describing Hannum's giant as a fraud.

So, it may be that George Auger whether from the original Cardiff in Wales or not took a name hearkening back to the earlier giant in his own presentation. One thing is certain: Auger's height was no fraud.


Information from James G. Mundie's Prodigies


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