In Which We Wrap Our Arms Around Miss Amelia Hill

I strongly suspect that plus-sized paragon Amelia Hill (b. circa 1865) was a New York native, based on her repeated sittings at the Charles Eisenmann photo studio, and later references to her performing at such Bowery venues as Bunnell’s Museum. There are already indications of her exhibiting herself from the age of 12 or 13, when she was nearing 300 lbs. She had surpassed that benchmark within a year or two, and her stats at age 40 were 475 lbs, at a height of only 4 foot 9. In the ’80s and ’90s she is known to have toured with the Great London Circus as well as its successor Barnum and London, as well as ForepaughSells. Her travels took her at least as far as New Orleans, for she sat for Swymmer & Leeson, photographers, there. I also see a reference to her playing the Harry Davis Eden Musee and Family Theatre in Altoona in 1892.

In 1905 Hill wrote to Thompson and Dundy, plugging herself and 600 lb. Mary Peters as a “Fat Lady Boxing Act”. In her pitch, she writes, “We [also] do a little dancing. Miss Peters does a skirt dance and Amelia Hill does a little Oriental dance, making it a 15 minute act. We strip from dresses to bloomers for the Boxing act”. Her letter asks a salary of $50 a week for the team. Thompson and Dundy of course owned Coney Island’s Luna Park and the New York Hippodrome. The act’s description indicates the incorporation of vaudeville and burlesque into her performance.

To date, I have not encountered any documentation indicating the particulars of her birth or death.

For more on vaudeville history, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.