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Barnum’s “The Legless Acrobat” Eli Bowen

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Item No. CL3861MF Category


Carte view of Eli Bowen who was known as “The Legless Acrobat”. Born in Richland County, Ohio in 1844, Eli was born with a rare genetic birth defect which caused his feet to be attached at the hips. He later learned to walk with his hands and began experimenting with acrobats. Bowen would join his first circus at the age of 13 where he performed a number of acrobatic feats. In 1897 he would join Barnum & Baileys Circus performing acrobatic stunts atop a 13 foot pole and numerous other acrobatic stunts throughout England. At his peak he would weigh in at 140 pounds and a mere 24 inches tall. Eli would continue to work in various side shows and big circuses for nearly half a century. He would eventually pass away in 1924 while working the Dreamland Circus in Coney Island after falling ill with pneumonia. This view of Eli dressed in one his show outfits was taken in 1867. You can see just how strong he must have been from his massive arms. Slightly trimmed along the bottom and back marked out of Cincinnati.

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