# 14569


[CIRCUS HISTORY] The Australian Wild Children

$350.00 AUD

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Circa 1875. Albumen print photograph, cabinet card format, 165 x 115 mm, printed caption on mount beneath image, verso with studio imprint of Lentz Bros., Peru, Ind[iana].; the albumen print is a little faded and has some light marks; the mount is in good condition.

A portrait of two microencephalic sideshow ‘freaks’, whose physical appearance led them to be referred to by promoters and commentators at the time as ‘pinheads’. The children were billed as Hoomio and Iola, who had purportedly been found in the interior of Australia. 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. However, this cabinet card, which appears to be an otherwise unrecorded portrait of the pair produced around 1875, suggests that they were still being used by sideshow promoters at this time. Interestingly, although Hoomio and Iola were always billed as ‘The Wild Australian Children’, the printed caption on this card reverses the word order of this epithet to ‘The Australian Wild Children’.

Hoomio and Iola represented an opportunity for promoters to exploit the controversy surrounding the Darwinian theory of evolution, and were shamelessly portrayed to audiences as specimens of a ‘missing link’ in the evolutionary chain. Numerous other American sideshow acts of the 1860s and 70s, 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.