And the Fat Lady Sings

Well, I don’t know if she ever sang, or if she had any kind of performance at all. But her name was Madame Sherwood, and according to the bio on her CDV, she had an 84″ waist and was 675 lbs. Given the Victorian (and specifically Barnum-esque) penchant for exaggeration, I wouldn’t be surprised if she was more like a 60″ waist and 400 lbs but you never know. This CDV has been trimmed, rather significantly, but again this doesn’t detract from the image so I don’t find it terribly objectionable. It definitely impacted the value of the card, but I was not unhappy with the price paid. This is another C.D. Fredericks image. The simplicity of the backstamp not only in terms of the design but also the pomposity (or lack thereof) of the advertising slogan leads to some confusing dating for the image, as “Specialité” was his slogan in the 1850s and 60s, but the subject would have this date from the early to mid 1870s. Fredericks was another New York photographer who, like Gurney (whom he studied under and worked for for a time) and Eisenmann, did significant trade with the theatrical and performing professions.

For more information about C.D. Fredericks, there is a succinct but interesting blurb at Historic Camera

MadameSherwood, by C.D. Fredericks
MadameSherwood, by C.D. Fredericks

I suppose in a way you could term all these circus freak photos as also being occupationals in that they do show the sitters enacting their profession, which in a way was merely existing as who they were. It’s not like it mattered what outfit Tom Thumb or Madame Sherwood or Isaac Sprague (the Human Skeleton) wore, they were not performing a role, and even if they did, their audience was not coming to see them be Hamlet or Viola or Caliban, but to see the midget/fat lady/human skeleton.

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