Ohio farm girl Fanny Mills (1860-1899) suffered from a condition called Milroy Disease, which caused massive fluid build-up in her dogs. Like a character in some fairy tale, she wore size 30 shoes, made from the skin of three goats, and used pillow cases for socks. Her feet measured 19 x 10 inches. She began to tour dime museums at age 25, and lived the life of a performing freak for seven years, until illness brought her home. It eventually took her life at age 39.
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.