"He instinctively can find the shining greatness of our American culture and does a good job of highlighting it (although he also does have those rare lapses when he writes about hockey, but that is something caused by impurities in the Eastern waters or something)." Erik Keilholtz
Under the patronage of St. Tammany
Mark C. N. Sullivan is an editor at a Massachusetts university. He is married and the father of three children. Email
Born in 1842 as William Henry Johnson, Zip the Pinhead was one of P.T. Barnum's biggest stars in the 19th century, performing as "The Man-Monkey," "The Missing Link," and the "What is it" -- the last what an incredulous Charles Dickens reportedly asked on seeing him at the Barnum Museum.
When P. T. Barnum recruited him in 1860 and transformed him into Zip, Barnum shaved William’s head –except for a small tuft on the top of his head – and dressed him in a bizarre fur suit and then pitched Zip as a missing link. Barnum claimed that Zip was ‘found during a gorilla-hunting expedition near the Gambia River in western Africa’ and he also claimed that Zip was the member of a ‘naked race of men, traveling about by climbing on tree branches’.
Zip dove into his character. He would never speak during a performance and would only grunt when addressed or questioned. Legend actually has it that Barnum paid Zip a dollar every day to keep quiet and in character. By all accounts Zip earned that dollar by acting like a complete and total madman...
Many of the things Zip did during his lifetime hints that he was highly intelligent. First, and perhaps most convincingly, he maintained his public character 24 hours a day for 66 years. In 1925, Zip became a real hero as he saved the life of a drowning woman during a break from a Coney Island Dime Museum.
His manager through much of his career, Captain O. K. White, helped him save money and Zip died a wealthy man...
Rumor has it that on his deathbed, his final words to his sister were, ‘Well, we fooled ‘em for a long time’.