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October 14, 2019

Amazing Vintage Portraits of Albino Circus Performers From the Victorian Era

During the 19th century, a lot of men and women with albinism went to join the circus. These fascinating vintage photos show Albino men, women and children posing for the camera at a time when many of them would have been kept segregated from the rest of society.

People with albinism featured on postcards and were exhibited in Victorian traveling circus freak shows, usually the only form of employment available to them.

This extraordinary collections highlights the struggles of everyday Albinos in the era, as well as celebrating some of the more famous ones who were active.

Albinism - which denotes people with a hereditary genetic condition which causes a total absence of pigmentation in the skin, hair and eyes - occurs in all racial and ethnic groups throughout the world.

Rudolph and Antoinette Lucasie, an Albino family from Europe, with an unknown son. When P.T. Barnum discovered them at the 1857 Amsterdam fair, he gave them the name Negroes from Madagascar and claimed that their pink eyes remained staring even as they slept. He brought them to New York to work at his American Museum that same year. In addition to Barnum’s shows, the Lucasies also performed with W. W. Coles and the Lemon Bros., for a total of 40 years. When Antoinette died, Rudolph continued performing in vaudeville as an albino violinist. He died in Kansas City in 1909.

Nellie Walker, otherwise known as the White Negro Girl, real name Helen Ann Windman Walker. She and her twin brother Henry (pictured) were the offspring of African-American parents, toured as a sideshow named the White and Black twins, due to her albinism, picture taken circa 1860s.

Unzie, an albino Aboriginal man with an abundance of white hair, pictured in New York in the late 19th century. Unzie was born in New Zealand but was snatched up by the Barnum and Bailey Circus to tour around Europe and the US . Barnum and Bailey billed him as “The Australian Aboriginal Beauty” and said that he was an albino Aborigine from the Outback, born into a tribe and worshipped as a sort of god by his own people.

Another photo of an older Nellie Walker, the White Negro girl, one of the most prominent and well-known Albino women in the Victorian Era. She and her twin brother were born from African-American parents.

Tom Jack otherwise known as The Ice King, pictured with fellow sideshow performer Tom Thumb, circa 1890s. Jack was born in the Czech Republic with severe albinism. He was moved to Sweden as a boy where he visited a circus who approached him after the show about becoming their clown.

Tom Jack pictured circa 1910. After joining the circus, he expressed interest in illusion and manipulation. He joined up and quickly became adept at the magical arts of escapism, using chains and tempting death. He toured all over Europe and became a rich man.

Birdie Morrell, seemingly nothing is known about her other than the little girl’s name. It’s likely she toured as a sideshow performer in the late 19th century. Clearly her albinism effects her eyes as she has a severe squint.

Pictured is an Albino woman named Millie Lamar. She, like many others in the fascinating collection, worked in the circus. She was described as a touring mind reader in New York in 1890.

Five-year-old Little Ida, described as a beautiful Albino, circa 1880s, also features in the fascinating portraits which reveal the hidden history of Albinism in the Victorian era.

Albino sisters Florence and Mary Martin who toured with the Greatest Showman P.T. Barnum in the late 19th century. They were known as the long-haired albino sisters, pictured circa 1890.

Another photo of the long-haired Albino sisters. During the time period, many Albinos were part of the circus while they also featured on postcards that became popular collectors’ items.

Cabinet card of an unidentified albino woman, who is believed to be involved with a travelling circus, circa 1870s. While many of the characters in the photographs are unidentified, other photographs shows the mere handful of individuals with albinism who rose to fame in the nineteenth century.

A cabinet card of an unidentified albino woman, who is believed to be involved with a traveling circus, circa 1880s. In the 19th century, a stint as an attraction in these touring circus shows would have likely been the only occupation available to Albino people.

(via Daily Mail)


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