While there is no recorded history of the first sideshow in America, P.T. Barnum started promoting the human novelties he deemed “freaks” in his traveling show in 1835.
He soon opened his larger freak show in the American Museum in Manhattan in 1841.
A fire, however, in 1868 destroyed this museum and forced him to open P.T Barnum’s Grand Traveling Museum, Menagerie, Caravan, and Circus.
Famous acts such as Siamese twins Chang and Eng Bunker, Fiji Mermaid, General Tom Thumb, and George Washington’s nurse soon joined him.
This started the public’s interest in these so-called sideshows. One of these sideshows included the Three-Legged Sicilian, Frank Lentini, who was born with three legs.
His condition stemmed from a parasitic twin that had developed during gestation.
10 /10 Understanding His Condition
Frank was born with a parasitic twin. A parasitic twin is an asymmetrical conjoined twin and occurs when the twin embryo develops in the uterus but does not entirely separate.
This causes one twin to become development dominant, and one ceases development during gestation and is incompletely formed.
The twin was attached to his spine at the base and had a pelvic bone, a rudimentary set of male genitalia, a full-sized leg on the right side of his hip, and a small foot coming from the knee.
9 /10 Sideshow Presence
His stage name was the Three-Legged Football Player, as he would kick a football across the stage using his third leg.
His standard legs were also different lengths, with one being 39 inches and the other 38 inches.
The third leg was 36 inches and had a club foot on the end. As he grew, his two legs remained different, and the third length was several inches shorter.
Due to this, Frank considered himself not to have a good pair of legs, even though he had three in total.