Tony Lowande, acrobatic star of Siegrist’s Midgets

Tony Lowande, Midget Acrobat
Tony Lowande, Midget Acrobat

Mr. Lowande doesn’t look particularly happy to be having his picture taken. But that combination of tights and skirt not only look uncomfortable, I suspect wearing them outside the carnival tent would tend to challenge the masculinity of all but the most self-confident of men. This CDV is probably by D.J. Wilkes of Baltimore – although there is no identification on this card, the image is identical in all but pose (same outfit, same props) to another one I found online with the photographer’s imprint. I’m having a devil of a time finding more specific information about Mr. Lowande – most of the references I find for that name refer to an equestrian performer (that may be the same Tony Lowande, but I’m not sure), and the dates would seem to be later (that Tony Lowande was born in 1869 according to Olympians of the Sawdust Circle) and part of a famous family of Brazilian-American circus performers. Or it could be just that everything else about the photo aside from the name and photographer’s ID is wrong – Tony Lowande might just have been a five year old boy in this photo, and not a midget. I could also not find any reference to Siegrist’s Midgets, but that doesn’t mean anything per se.

5 thoughts on “Tony Lowande, acrobatic star of Siegrist’s Midgets”

  1. Tony Lowande was indeed an equestrian. He was not a midget, nor did ever perform with Siegrist’s midgets. He is about 5 in the photo. He performed in a riding act with his father Martinho Lowande, standing on his father’s shoulders. The Lowandes toured extensively (about 30 years) in South America, mainly Brazil, and when they returned to the US in the late 1860s, they referred to themselves as the Brazilian Horsemen. Tony (Anthony Guerin Lowande) was born shortly thereafter in 1868. The Lowandes were a premier equestrian family and performed with many of the big shows of the day: Ringling, Barnum, Forepaugh, Gollmar, Sells-Floto, and so on. They also had their own circuses. There were about two dozen Lowande family members who performed in circuses for over 190 years, the latest being in the 1980s with Ringling. Tony (Anthony) would grow up and go to South America himself to have his own successful circus there for many years. He died in 1937 in Brazil. Tony’s sister Marrietta, also an equestrian, was my 3rd great grandmother.

    1. Thank you! This is yet further proof of the power of the internet, that I could post a photo of someone born a century and a half ago and one of his descendants would chime in with information. Just goes to show that you can’t rely on identifications written on the back of CDVs as they can sometimes be (wildly) inaccurate. Now I’m more curious about Siegrist’s Midgets and how someone could think that Tony Lowande was ever a part of it!

  2. Here’s a possible answer: 1870 to 1872 Siegrist’s French Circus combined with Van Amburgh’s Circus and Menagerie. Lowande’s Great Brazilian Circus joined them in 1870 for a brief period. Francois Siegrist’s young children, Louis, Thomas, and Willie, were in the show touted as the smallest acrobats. Now Tony couldn’t have been more than two of years of age, but he could have been in the ring with them in some capacity. He was probably in his father’s arms on horseback too. Very young children were used in the circus ring, to the great dismay of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children which often scouted circus to stop such acts. I have actually seen Tony identified as one of “Siegrist’s midgets” before on another CDV in pretty much the same handwriting, if I recall correctly. Although the CDV has to be after 1870, the person identifying Tony must have seen the Siegrist-Lowande-Van Amburgh combined show, and branded Tony forever! This person also succeeded in mislabeling the children as midgets, or maybe it was a term also used to describe very small children at the time!

    1. Wow, thank you for the information! I really appreciate it! I suspect the mis-labeling of Tony as a midget was a symptom of either sloppy memory or a possible Victorian casualness with identity (witness some of the other CDVs I have posted where Tom Thumb was labeled as an 18th century musician, or the way P.T. Barnum invented titles for his midget performers – if you weren’t an admiral or general or some military rank, you were Count this or Baron that). There seemed to be a willingness and even eagerness to exaggerate identity – I suspect it has to do with social changes going on in the Victorian era, where wealth was exploding, noble titles meant less not only in terms of economics but also in terms of social prestige, and there was a new-found fluidity in society, not just in Europe but also here in America. There had always been a greater degree of social fluidity than in England but now the US was seeing poor immigrants like Andrew Carnegie rise from lowly clerks to multi-millionaires in but a few short years. In that context, why couldn’t there be a midget admiral? And with the fascination with the outsider (the circus freak, the european noble, etc) why not try to make a few extra dollars billing the child as a midget while he could pass for one? Especially if he had talents and skills beyond his years and could be plausibly passed off as an adult of small stature.

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