[FREDRICKS, Charles D.]
[CIRCUS HISTORY] Wild Australian Children
Buffalo ; New York : Warren Johnson & Co., [circa 1864]. Promotional card with colour lithograph design, after a photograph by Charles D. Fredricks, carte de visite format (105 x 62 mm), printed caption and publisher’s imprint in lower margin, verso blank; closely trimmed at left and right edges, and with a small amount of mild foxing and faint horizontal crease near the bottom edge (only discernible on verso).
A portrait of two microencephalic sideshow ‘freaks’, whose physical appearance led them to be referred to at the time by promoters and commentators 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. They 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, 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.