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Globe’s Dime Museum

 

By 1883, PT Barnum’s museums were long gone, but what he left behind was the public’s desire for the type of amusement that involved viewing exotic animals and people that many deemed “freaks.” The animals were those not native to New York and the people were those born with deformities or disabilities. And just as patrons desired this type of recreational voyeurism, there were those like Barnum, himself, who sought to profit from this exploitation. 

 

Barnum’s museums in New York burned down, and in the wake of their smoke, Dime Museums, aka Living Museums, popped up all along the bowery. One museum in particular ran their business much like Barnum and ran frequent ads to draw patrons in: Globe’s Dime Museum.

 

Globe’s Dime Museum sat at 298 Bowery near Houston Street. They were open from 10 AM to 10 PM every day except Sundays when they opened at 2 PM and held a “sacred concert.”

 

Attractions at Globe’s changed frequently to keep things fresh and to keep people coming back over and over again. In November of 1883, they espoused in the New York Dispatch that people could come down and get a gander at Brazilian Cannibals and Change the Chinese Giant. Ads continue through that year announcing acquisition of a cow with 2 heads, Master LaWano – the armless boy, and John Wesley Nash – the Leopard Boy. Perhaps one of their most famous “oddities” was a woman named Miss Lizzie Sturgeon, famous for playing the piano, harp, do needlework, amongst other tasks, with only her feet.

 

While there is no shortage of stories of exploitation in museums such as these, there was also a different view to consider. People with deformities or disabilities found a way to make money outside of the museums, where they no doubt received little pay. Charles Eisenmann, a German immigrant and photographer, became the Bowery go-to photographer for “freaks” to have their pictures taken and placed on collectible cards that they could then sell for profit. 

 


More of Charles Eisenmann’s photographs can be seen here


By 1894, Globe’s hosted perhaps its most famous performer: Harry Houdini.

 

But nothing stays in one place for long in New York. By the late 19th century/early 20th century, these “oddities” and “freaks” made their way off the Bowery and over to Coney Island, which became world renowned for these type of exhibits.

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