Ca1900 African American Circus Sideshow Midget / Automaton Cabinet Card Photo
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Ca1900 African American Circus Sideshow Midget / Automaton Cabinet Card Photo:
Very rare and fascinating, ca1900 Cabinet Card Photograph of a bizarre and somewhat "freakish" looking African American Girl seated on the lap of a Jeweler named George H. Smith.
We must state that we have had a lot of trouble figuring out just what this is a picture of - I first thought was that this was an Image of a Circus / Sideshow attraction - an African American Dwarf / Midget. My wife's take was that it was just a little girl with very odd facial features. On close examination the girl's hands appear to be those of a doll or automaton although her face appears to be that of a living person. The back of the card carries a manuscript inscription that mention's "Worden's Window" and it is possible that this was a display piece (perhaps an automaton) in the window of a department store (although we are unsure of why such a frightening visage would be used in a store window). Any thoughts on this strange and fascinating Photograph would be greatly appreciated.
This fascinating though perplexing, Card Mount Photo measures 3 7/8" by 5 1/2" and is mounted on its original, photographer's Card Mount (overall size of card mount is 5 by 7"). The Image pictures a middle aged man seated in a photographer's studio. On his lap stands a diminutive figure of an African American Girl ( or perhaps a midget) dressed in a beautiful white dress. The "child" has pearls in her hair and on her wrist and her face is "odd" to say the least. Her head appears too large for her body and her eyes bulge as occurs with some types of thyroid disease. In some respects the girl looks like a ventriloquist’s dummy, a highly detailed doll or an automaton - we are simply baffled in our attempt to identify her!!
There is a manuscript inscription on the back of the mount written partly in pencil and partly in pen. It reads “(in pencil) Geo N Smith / Worden’s (the remainder in ink) window / Geo bought and sold Jewelry and Repaired. was Jeweler for them a number of years - 12 in all”. It is somewhat unclear if the words “Worden’s” and “window” were meant to go together but it seems that we can say for sure that George N Smith was a jeweler for a Worden’s (perhaps a Worden’s Department Store or a Worden & Company Store) for 12 years and that somehow the Black girl / midget / doll / automaton on his lap had something to do with George or with Worden’s - we are simply stumped here!!
The Cabinet Card Photo carries no photographer’s mark and there is no information regarding the city or state where it was taken.
This wonderful but as yet not fully identified, Cabinet Card Photograph is in very good condition. The Photograph itself exhibits sharp focus, strong contrast and rich tonality. There is a small surface scuff and stain at the left hand corner of the Black “child’s” mouth but otherwise the photograph is clean and crisp and well preserved. The card mount has some soiling and light edge wear.
A very rare and intriguing, ca1900, Cabinet Card Photograph of a bizarre and somewhat "freakish" looking African American Girl seated on the lap of a Jeweler named George H. Smith and a fantastic addition to any collection!!!
Again we ask the help of anyone who can shed some light on the content of this fascinating Photograph - please drop us a note and we will add the information to this description!!
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