General Mite and Millie Edwards – the self-styled Royal American Midgets – are shown here being introduced to an astonished Queen Victoria. The Queen does not record this meeting anywhere in her diary, but the Prince of Wales (the future Edward VII) was known to be fascinated by dwarfism and certainly invited at least one such entertainer – the American Charles Sherwood Stratton – to perform for his mother.
‘Human Curiosity’ fairs had been travelling Britain since at least the 1600s, charging the general public to see specimens of humanity that might be considered out of the ordinary. This included unusually tall and short people, conjoined twins, women with beards, and even just people with a dark skin complexion. The advertisements for these sorts of shows always overplayed the novelty of their human exhibits: General Mite (born Francis Joseph Flynn) was 70cm in height as an adult – which is certainly not large, but is a good deal larger than the doll-sized figure depicted here.