CDV of Eli Bown with his wife and son. Excellent image of one of the top circus freaks of all time. This wonderful image of him includes the backstamp 'ELI BOWEN, WIFE AND CHILD. By A. Newman of Philadelphia. With photographer logo mount recto. Trimmed with rounded corners on top; otherwise fine.
Considered in his day to be one of the handsomest men in showbusiness, Eli Bowen was born in 1844 in Ohio and was one of ten children, all normal except for him. Eli had no legs but had small feet of two different sizes growing from his hips. Even as a baby, he used his arms for walking and would hold wooden blocks in his hands, allowing him to swing his hips between his arms. The strength he gained by walking on his arms allowed him to be a skilled acrobat and tumbler, which enhanced his sideshow performance.
He began his career at the Major Brown Colosseum at the age of 13, starting out at Midwestern circus wagon shows and moving on to dime museums. By the 1870s he had toured the nation. He then joined Barnum and Bailey and toured Europe at the turn of the century. At the age of 26, Eli married Mattie Haight, who was ten years younger, and the two had five children. His family appeared with him in many of his publicity photos. By 1903, one of his sons was a judge and another was a successful merchant.
Eli Bowen retired from showbusiness in Ogden, California.en, California.
$175 No. 3619