After the last iteration of P.T. Barnum’s American Museum burned to the ground in 1868, the showman did the unthinkable; he retired. In actuality he was just temporarily down. While there was breath in his his body, Barnum could no more retire than levitate (although claiming to do either would result in excellent publicity). The following year while he was sightseeing in San Francisco, he got word of a little person named Leopold S. Kahn, who was, in Barnum’s words “even more diminutive than Tom Thumb“. Barnum engaged him at once, assigned him an honorary new military rank, and exhibited him in the lobby of his hotel for three weeks. He then booked him for his very first circus enterprise “P.T. Barnum’s Grand Traveling Museum, Menagerie, Caravan and Circus” a few months later. (He would also book Kahn’s nephew, another pituitary dwarf, who was renamed “Major Atom”.) In the late 70s, Admiral Dot went to work for the American Liliputian Company, and in the 1890s, for Adam Forepaugh, Barnum’s chief competitor and nemesis.
In 1892, he married fellow little person Lottie Swartwood and settled down in White Plains, New York where he opened the Admiral Dot Hotel, locally known as the Hotel Peewee. Kahn and his daughter were both to perish in the influenza pandemic of 1918.
To find out more about the variety arts past and present, 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.