Today is the birthday of Francis Joseph Flynn (1872-1898), professionally known as “General Mite”. Born on a farm in upstate New York, his birth weight was two and a half pounds and his height in adulthood was never more than 27 inches (although he was exhibited as an “adult” when still a child, when he was obviously much shorter.)
He was first exhibited by his father at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia in 1876. Billed as the “Smallest Man in the World” he was taken on tour by promoter F.M. Uffner along with fellow little person Lucia Zarate. In 1878-79 they appeared at Brighton Beach Bathing Pavilion, Coney Island. From there, it was on to England, where for publicity purposes the General was “married” to English little person Millie Edwards (despite the fact that he was all of twelve years old). In the 1880s, he appeared with Zarate again in the sideshow of the Barnum and Bailey Circus. When Zarate died in 1890, Flynn and Edwards moved to Australia. Flynn died there 8 years later at the age of 26 (his liver and kidneys had been steadily failing). He is now proudly remembered in both Greene, New York (the place of his birth) and Broken Hill, New South Wales (the place of his death).
To find out more about these variety artists and the history of the variety arts, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold. And don’t miss Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, to be released by Bear Manor Media in 2013.