Description

Genetic anomalies in humans had been exploited for commercial gain for centuries across Europe, generating substantial entrance fees at coffeehouses, taverns, fairs and marketplaces since medieval times. Though repellent to modern eyes, the exploitation of physiological abnormalities as attractions at fairs and exhibitions – such as the display of a seven foot giantess shown in this advertisement – demonstrates how public entertainment and serious scientific curiosity with human oddities co-existed side by side in the 18th and 19th centuries. These exhibits – often classed as ‘monstrosities’ or ‘freaks’ in the language of the time – remained universally popular among socially diverse audiences. Note the different entrance prices for the various social classes on this advertisement for example. With the development of steam railways early in the 19th century such exhibitions gained even greater popularity, with travelling shows able to tour the whole country by train.

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