Poster for Living Mermaid


Poster for Living Mermaid


  • Intro

    Exhibitions of live human curiosities had appeared in travelling fairs, circuses and taverns in England since the 1600s. These included so-called giants, dwarves, fat people, the very thin, conjoined twins and even people from exotic climes. Freak shows were a particularly popular form of entertainment during the Victorian period, when people from all classes flocked to gawp at 'unusual' examples of human life.


    Novelty acts relied a great deal on shock, therefore performers were not revealed in the flesh to audiences until money had changed hands. Titillating publicity was crucial, as the people described in these adverts often bore little resemblance to what lay behind the curtain or turnstile. Exaggerated and stylised illustrations lent age to dwarf acts, stature to giants, and plausibility to mermaids and bear boys. The advertisers of these shows aroused the curiosity of the audience by overplaying, often entirely inventing, 'true life' stories.


    Shelfmark: Evan.817

  • Audio

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  • Transcript

    Poster for Living Mermaid


    Just Arrived in this Town,


    Caught Alive by a Scotch Fisherman, near the Isle of Sandy, one of the Orkney Islands

    These wonderful Nondescripts are upwards of three free in length, have very long arms, and are webbed between the fingers. They have a very thick head of curly hair, no ears, but nature has supplied them with gills like a fish. The lower parts from the breasts are covered with large scales... the tail, fins, etc are very large and strong. They were taken during a storm on the Second of last January, and are the only specimens ever preserved in this country...although many persons have seen such creatures. They are the link in nature that combines the human being and fish, the same as the Monkey, Bat, and Seal combine the various species of animal creation. ...


    Mr. H. Lefever

    Has the pleasure to inform the enlightened inhabitants of Hull, in addition to these astonishing novelties, he will introduce his

    Grand Cabinet of Performing Lilliputians,

    Direct from Vauxhall Gardens, London, with new Scenery, Dresses and Decorations.

    Grand Transformation Scene in Cinderella

    A dresser will be transformed into a Coach – a Rat to a Coachman – Three Lizards into cunning Footmen – and Cinderella into a Princess, by the prowess of a Fairy.


    Ramo Samee, the East Indian Juggler

    The Italian Scaramouch

    Joe Grimaldi, the noted Clown.

    The whole to conclude with the astonishing

    Metamorphosis of a Lady into a Balloon

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