Saturday, June 04, 2011

Poor, Poor, Lucy Moore











Professional Fat Folk were regulars on the carnival and 'freak show' scene of Nineteenth Century America. I recently came across this extremely fragile piece of ephemera, two folded sheets of newsprint, giving some sparse details about Moore's life. How much of it can be trusted is open to debate and investigation but it claims she was born in Lexington, Kentucky in the US of a white Englishman and a American black woman. She was born a normal size but weighed 100lbs at 12 months, 15 stone 4 lbs at the age of ten and so on, up to her weight at the time of the pamphlet at 40 stone and 7lbs. I have seen postcards of her on which her weight is given as up to 48 stone.


From the age of 17 she was 'on exhibition' first with Avery's Museum in Cincinatti and then on tour in Europe, particularly in Germany the UK where she, of course, caused a 'sensation' and 'appeared on several occasions before Royalty; She was said to travel with her own bedroom and living room suite.


"In a good many cases of fat people, you find the flesh soft and flabby, cause by disease - dropsy being the most common complaint. If you have not noticed the solidity and firmness of Miss Moore's flesh, pay a return visit and convince yourself that she is in reality a mountain of solid humanity"


She is billed here as 'The Jersey Lily' which might be slightly disingenuous as this was also the nickname given to Lily Langtree, a far more famous figure on whom Moore's promotion might be coattailing. There is a website out there with a little information about her but it doesn't provide any sources. It claims she was also known as Alma Moore and that her real name was Anna Chelton, however the information about her birth and death dates on that website is exremely confused. According to this pamphlet all we know is that she is 20 or older at the time of publication and that her first visit to the UK took place in 1898 around the time she was somewhere between 17-19. Thus, her birth is put at about 1880.


This is such a brilliant and rare survival and, like all good ephemera, leads you into the story of a person's life: one which seems somewhat sad by modern standards, but who knows how Lucy Moore herself experienced it...

2 comments:

PJ said...

These days she wouldn't attract a second glance in the street!

Here's sideshow poster of her:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/thedepartment/5338468418/

Callum said...

Hi PJ,

Thanks for the link. I found that poster when I was digging around for info about her, but nowhere near as good quality a photo so that's nice to see.

Thanks for stopping by..

CJ

 
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