Today is the birthday of the original “human skeleton”, Isaac W. Sprague (1841-1887). His weight loss began at age twelve, although he wasn’t to join a sideshow until age 24 in 1865. P.T. Barnum hired him the following year for his American Museum and the traveling show he mounted when the former institution burned down. At the time of his death while performing at a Boston museum at age 46 he weighed only 43 pounds. The cause of his muscular atrophy was never identified.
To find out about the history of show business, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.
For more on silent and slapstick comedy please check out 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