May-Joe, The Three Legged He-She

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Today is the birthday of George Francis Ethinger (1905-?). Born with a parasitic conjoined twin, George possessed three legs, three buttocks, two stomachs and two kidneys. In addition to this (s)he was a pseudohermaphrodite, born in the No Man’s Land betwixt genders. Billed as May-Joe, the child was exhibited by the team of Bolus and Startzel until the age of four in the sideshows of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West and Pawnee Bill’s Great Far East Show. For a time the child’s parents tried to exhibit him/her in their native Ohio but with much resistance from local authorities, The photographic record indicates that May-Joe lived through adolescence: whether (s)he continued to work in sideshows through adolescence, or whether the family merely sold pictures is unknown. Other professional names used by May-Joe included Joe-Pearl, Josephine-Pearl and Elsie-Lynn.

To find out more about show business past and presentconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famousavailable at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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For more on silent and slapstick comedy please see 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

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