VAN AMBURGH & CO.
[BROADSIDE] Great Living Wonders! / Immense Attraction / The Wild Australian Children
are Evidently of a Cannibal Race! / Judging From Their Natural Proclivities, Their Long Sharp Teeth, etc. / Perhaps the Only Specimen From That Country Now Living … These Wonders of All Wonders were captured about 7 years ago by a party of gold hunters in the mountainous regions of Australia … Can Be Seen In a Pavillion Adjoining Van Amburgh & Co’s Menagerie. [Chicago?] : Van Amburgh & Co., . Broadside, 300 x 110 mm, printed on thin paper, text in various fonts with headings in bold, central woodblock illustration by Baker of Chicago; framed.
Only one other recorded example.
The two microencephalic sideshow ‘freaks’, billed as The Wild Australian Children and known as Hoomio and Iola, had purportedly been found in the interior of Australia, although they probably both came from Ohio. An anonymous contemporary promotional pamphlet, which gives a fictitious account of their background, is recorded in several Australian collections (The Adventures of the three Australian travellers : Capt. J. Reid and his companions Cooper and Parker, in search of the marvelous : giving a graphic account of the discovery, capture and semi-civilization of the wild Australian children, Hoomio and Iola : together with a sketch of the savage tribes inhabiting the interior of Australia : with a brief account of the customs, manners, heathen beliefs, superstitions, traditions and origin of those barbarous and curious islanders. New York : S. Booth, 1864).
Hoomio and Iola are known to have been exhibited by promoters from around 1864 to at least 1869. They initially toured with P.T. Barnum, then with Isaac Van Amburgh in 1867 and George Johnson in 1869. Promoters regarded them as an opportunity to exploit the controversy surrounding the Darwinian theory of evolution, and they were shamelessly portrayed to audiences as specimens of a ‘missing link’ in the evolutionary chain. Numerous other American sideshow acts of the 1860s, such as Maximo and Bartola, The Ancient Aztec Children, and Waino and Plutano, The Wild Men of Borneo, had similarly exotic histories concocted by promoters to appeal to the fascination of an insatiable and gullible public.
Although several photographic portraits of Hoomio and Iola are recorded, we can locate only one example of this broadside in public collections internationally (SLNSW, acquired from us in 2014).