Monsieur E. Bihin, the French Giant
Today is the birthday of Jean Antoine Joseph Bihin (1805-1873). A native of Belgium, he grew to a height of between 6’8″ to 8′ feet (reports vary). Beyond this advantage, he could act and sing, and was a skilled strong man and comedian. After achieving fame touring fairs and circuses across western Europe, he moved to the U.S. in 1840. He worked at P.T. Barnum’s museum, where he once got into a fight with Colonel Goshen. Barnum interceded by demanding they save the altercation until there were time to properly promote it and sell tickets. Bihin also worked with Colonel Nutt in a 1862 production of the play Hop o’ My Thumb. He is also reputed to have done some p.r. work for the Union during the Civil War, and is reported to have been married from 1849-1863. The marriage is said to have ended in divorce on the grounds of cruelty. (This and the fact that M. Bihin is said to have employed the N word during the brawl with Goshen begins to paint a not very flattering portrait of the man. But information is admittedly scant).
He is buried in Green-wood cemetery so look here for a photo of the marker ere long.
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.
And 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