John Hanson Craig (1855-1894) was two years old when, at a reputed 206 lbs, he took home the cash prize in P.T. Barnum’s Bonny Baby Contest. Born in Iowa City, he moved to Franklin County, Kentucky with his family as an infant. In adulthood he was alleged to weigh over 900 lbs.
“Fat Boys” were their own species of attraction back in the day, and they tended to live short lives. The first Kentucky Fat Boy had been 500+ lb Andrew Brand, who died in 1850. 600+ lb. Vantile Mack was the Ohio Fat Boy; he died in 1861. Craig probably had no illusions about his propsects for longevity. Still, he made hay while the sun shone. He traveled with P.T. Barnum, and with his competitor Adam Forepaugh, and showed himself at various museums, including one he operated himself.
Craig found happiness in love twice. His first wife, Mary Jane Kessler, was a fellow professional fat person, weighing nearly 800 lbs. according to advertisements. Shortly after she passed away in 1882, Craig married snake charmer Zela Ayres (Jennie Ryan). The pair had a child in 1890. A svelte 130 lbs, Zela reportedly left the circus life (and Craig) for a time but came back to her senses.
Craig (a diabetic) was only 39 years old when he passed away in 1894 at his home in Danville, Indiana. Learn more at Sideshow World.
To find out more about the variety arts past and present, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous,
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