Today is the birthday of George Auger, a.k.a the Cardiff Giant (1881-1922). The nickname springs from the fact that he was actually born in Cardiff, Wales; he has no connection to the famous Barnum hoax (a 10 foot tall “petrified man” reported to have been dug up in Cardiff, New York in 1869).
This Cardiff Giant (Auger) was 7′ 4.5″, although it was usually given out that he was 8′ 4″ or even taller. He joined Barnum and Bailey’s circus on one of their English tours when he attended the sideshow and was seen to tower over the giant who was then being displayed there. He came back to the U.S. with the circus in 1903, and remained. In 1906 he launched a tour of the Orpheum vaudeville circuit with a self-penned version of “Jack, the Giant Killer” which starred himself and the Horvath Midgets. The act played for 10 years. In 1922, he rejoined Barnum and Bailey (now merged with Ringling Brothers) and was slated to play the part of Collosso in Harold Lloyd’s Why Worry? when he suddenly passed away at the age of 41.
Auger was often called “Captain”, a nickname reportedly given to him by the queen when he was a highly visible London bobby standing guard outside her palace prior to his show biz days.
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.
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