George Lippert (1842-1906) was born in Bavaria, Germany with two functioning hearts and three functioning legs (sort of). His right leg split off into two, one of which was normal-sized, club-footed, six-toed and not good for walking, and another one that was malformed, terminated in a knob and had three toes. Ironically it was this second one he walked upon, in the manner of a peg leg. The only known images of him are pitch cards based on an illustration, so it’s difficult to know how accurately written descriptions of his physiognomy accorded with reality. (The fact that his career took place well into the era of photography makes one want to regard the claims with at least a particle of caution).
He didn’t go into show business until age 33, when he came to the U.S. to work for P.T. Barnum. After 24 years as a performer he retired, broke. Though he billed himself as the “Original” Three Legged Man, by then he had competition in the person of Francesco Lentini, whose third leg apparently had more to commend it. In 1906 he contracted TB and one of his hearts stopped beating. The other one continued working for another two weeks.
To learn about the history of vaudeville, 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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