Step right up, Step right up! The show is about to begin as we explore the world of the circus and those who made and make a magical place to visit. The tradition of the circus has a long incredible history as we learned from last week, but that history lesson is not over today as I will make it point of how history and even film has influenced the circus.
For months month’s now we have explored the world of the circus and those performers we call freaks, although the term itself it derogatory and should not be used today, this is what they were referred to. I stand by using the terms of those times, but we must always remember these were human beings that should have been treated better but weren’t always. Many of the performers we have profiled lived incredibly sad lives and some lives very exciting lives t a great deal of money for their talents and eccentricities. These performers did not have a lot of options to live a normal life and many times society outcaste them living many no choice but to join a circus or freak show to make a living. Today these people hopefully would be respected and even maybe have a rockstar status for their differences, but society is still a cruel place today.
Can you imagine if the Elephant man existed today? Or Lobster boy or any of the other performers I have profiled here. Its hard to say if society would accept them or run-in fear over their differences. One type of performer that has seemed to have a normal life is “Little People”, where today many little people are incredible performers in film and television like one of my favorite Warwick Davis who has been in multitude of films like Willow and Harry Potter.
There are so many performers that have been forgotten or their stories go untold because of little or no real information other than a picture and some history, but they existed. Some of the so called freaks were not freaks at all, but unusual in their appearance all human beings of course, but it’s sad that we as society exploited that to make money and bring fame.
Previous Profiles and Stories
Issaac W. Spraque and Peter Robinson (The Original Thin Man)
The Muse Brothers
Edouard Beaurpre (Worlds Tallest Man)
Joseph Merrick (The Elephant Man)
Stephan Bibrowski (Lionel the Lion-faced Man)
General Tom Thumb and Admiral Dot
Ohio Bigfoot Lady
Grady Stiles (Lobster Boy)
The Pinheads Pip/Flip and Schlitizie-
Myrtle Corbin (The Four Legged Girl)
Koo-Koo the Bird Girl
The Siamese Twins –
The next performer is certainty unique in her size billed as the Queen of Scotland and often referred to as a Midget. Living to the old age of 85 years old and although there is not a lot of information on her, her existence which was also an act performing for P.T. Barnum.
Jennie Quigley (August 20, 1850- March 11th, 1936)
Was a Scottish sideshow performer in the United States billed as “The Queen of Scotland” and “The Smallest Lady in the World” by P.T. Barnum.
Born in Glasgow, the daughter of James Quigley and Jane Kerr Quigley. Moving to Brooklyn, New York with her mother and brother in 1861.
Hired by P.T. Barnum in 1863, While she was quite young and not finished growing. Described as being under two feet tall at age 28, she was said to be 36 inches tall and by the time she retired in 1917, she was 41 inches tall.
Touring with the Lilliputian Comic Opera Company from 1877 until at least 1901, working with sideshow performers, including fellow little people Commodore Nutt, Charles W. Nestel , Admiral Dot and Eliza Nestel . In 1887 her likeness was featured in advertisements for “World Museum” in Boston. After meeting hypnotist “Madame Mozart” in Denver, the two women devised an act together in 1897. In 1933 and 1934, though long retired was apart of the “Midget Village” exhibit in Chicago’s Century of Progress exposition and celebrated her 83rd birthday in a large public gathering as part of the festivities.
Initiated in 1876 as a member of the Order of the Eastern Star in Chicago. Quigley died , age 85 in the Chicago home of her nephew Victor Quigley.
Life of Jennie Quigley appears to have been an interesting life, as a performer I wonder the story that is not being told like if she had relationships, the other family she had her and in Scotland. This appears to be another case of P.T. Expoiting the young and vuernable but many of the performers had a choice of living in poverty or using their uniqueness to survive. Due to Jennie’s size I can only imagine it would have been difficult to survive like the rest of society.
Thank you for joining me once again on this journey to another performer and unique individual performing in the circus and at times expoited by society for her differences. Even today this is nothing new and see oogle the different , pay money even to see it. I just hope that Jennie Quigley lived a happy life which appeared to be the case but how would one ever know without more information on her life. There have been other representations in the Media like in American Horror Stories Freaks with the Tiniest women named Jyoti Amge.