Today is the birthday of Anna Swan (1846-1888). Eighteen pounds at birth, the Nova Scotia native was four and a half feet tall by her fourth birthday and reached seven and a half feet in her adulthood. In 1862 she came to the attention of agents in the employ of P.T. Barnum. At first her parents refused all offers for reasons of propriety but eventually the sums grew too large to resist. Swan was to be one of the most popular attractions at Barnum’s museum and a personal favorite of Barnum’s. In 1871, she met and married the Kentucky giant Martin Van Buren Bates. After being exhibited for a time as the World’s Tallest Couple the pair retired to a custom built home in Seville, Ohio, occasionally re-emerging to make public appearances. Two children born to Swan were also giants but died in infancy.
To find out more 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.