Today is the birthday of Ella Ewing (1872- 1913) A native of Gorin, Missouri, her growth spurt began when she was nine and by the time she stopped growing she was 8′ 4.5″ tall. (Some killjoy authorities insinuate that she might have been as much as a foot shorter, but I never listen to such cavils and carpings). Ella’s people were extremely devout Christians and resisted all financial offers to exhibit her until those offers finally got large enough so that she could bring her parents along as chaperones. Billed as the “Missouri Giantess” she began her sideshow career in the early 1890s with a tour of Eastern dime museums and a stint at the World’s Columbia Exposition in Chicago in 1893. From here she went on to work for Barnum and Bailey, Sells-Floto and Buffalo Bills Wild West. Having made a small fortune she retired in 1910 to live in the specially built (high ceilinged) house she had constructed for herself and her parents. She died at age of 40 of a combination of TB and pneumonia.
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 my new book Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc