Posted by ESC on July 08, 2003
In Reply to: Freak show? posted by sphinx on July 08, 2003
: what is it?
A Brief History
of the Circus Sideshow
For one hundred years (1840 - 1940) the freak show was one of America's most popular forms of entertainment. Today the same shows would be considered unacceptable and cruel, or as one disability rights activist put it, "the pornography of disability." In the mid 19th century, however, Americans were beginning to move from the farms and a family-based society to one which relied more on organizations, including institutionalized entertainment. It was at this time that P.T. Barnum brought the freak show to prominence through the American Museum in New York City...
Soon, circus's and carnivals across America were featuring human oddities or "freaks" alongside their prize-winning vegetables and animal curiosities. Very quickly, the demand for these unique performers grew, giving rise to the Freak Shows, or Sideshows.
Many of these performers traveled from all over the world to join American circuses and carnivals, quickly gaining fame and fortune and becoming household names, often commanding viewings for the American aristocracy as well as foreign dignitaries...