Circus Performers of the past

Circus freaks and performers of the past

From giraffe neck women to the world's tallest man (ever!), check out the so-called "freaks" and performers of the past.

Animal trainer, 1971
Gunther Gebel-Williams, an animal trainer for Ringling Bros., is seen getting up close and personal with a tiger in March 1971.

Backstage at the circus, 1977 & 1935
Backstage performers must brush their hair, or wigs, to make sure they're stage ready. Here, Clyde Beatty, a circus clown, combs his wig in 1977 while a 1935 Ringling Bros. performer double checks her makeup in a mirror at Madison Square Garden (r.).

Circus in Brooklyn, 1936
This overhead view shows the entire circus at Ave. D and Albany, Ave in Brooklyn in 1936.

Circus family, 1975
Oliver Gebel-Williams grew up in circus life. He's seen here in 1975 with his parents and with a circus elephant. Oliver's dad, Gunther Gebel-Williams, was a well-known animal trainer for Ringling Bros. from 1968 until 1990.

Skee Otaris and her elephant, 1949
Look, no hands! Skee Otaris and her elephant perform for the circus crowds at Madison Square Garden on April 9, 1949.

Giraffe neck women, 1935
With the circus rolling into the Big Apple, we've rounded up amazing acts that have traveled far and wide for your entertainment for years. From giraffe neck women to the world's tallest man (EVER), check out circus freaks ... er performers, of the past ... Three Burmese women, dubbed giraffe neck women for the brass rings around their necks, are pictured playing cards in London in January 1935. The metal coils are an ancient Asian tradition to elongate the neck. The more coils around a woman's neck, the more desirable she is for marriage.

Circus performers, 1935
Performers in the 1935 Ringling Bros. Circus prep backstage by getting their shoes on and zipping up their costumes.

Circus performers, 1949
He better hold on tight! Two circus performers are seen in an intense balancing act at the circus in 1949.

Circus performers, 1949
Don't look down! A bicyclist rides across a tight rope while circus acrobats dangle below him by their legs at the circus in 1949. Talk about entertainment!

Circus performers, 1950 & 1937
The long and the short of it! Circuses worldwide are known for their inclusion of the world's shortest and tallest people. Here, performers of the Bertram Mills Circus are pictured in London in 1950 (l.) while the world's tallest and shortest men, who traveled with the Ringling Bros. Circus, are seen in 1937 (r.).

Circus performers, 1975
Circus performers Piccolo and Oliver Gebel-Williams stand next to each other at the growing machine. Though they're about the same size, Piccolo is a grown man while Oliver is just a child.

Elephant on a bike, 1920s
What, you've never seen an elephant ride a bike before? Topsy the elephant once entertained audiences in the 1920s by riding her specially-built tricycle.

Dick Van Dyke and circus performers, 1978
Dick Van Dyke poses with decked out circus performers in February 1978. The ladies' outfits were comprised of beaded leotards and intricate headpieces.

Robert Wadlow, World's tallest man, 1937
The tallest man in history, Robert Wadlow, is seen here being tied up by the little people of the Ringling Brothers Circus in 1937.

Goeerge Auger, the Cardiff Giant
The big man at the circus was George Auger! Standing tall at 7 feet 7 inches, he was dubbed the Cardiff Giant while performing with Ringling Brothers.

Jang Krishnan of Borneo, boy with finger-like appendage, 1939
At just 11-years-old, Jang Krishnan became a circus freak seen round the world. The boy had a finger-like appendage growing out of his back. Seen here in Newark, NJ in 1939, the appendage is holding a giant pencil.

Wallenda family, 1942
It's a family affair! Members of the Wallenda family balance 90 feet above Sarasota, Fl. on March 19, 1942. The group was practicing at the Ringling Bros.' winter headquarters.

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