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Mark C. N. Sullivan is an editor at a Massachusetts university. He is married and the father of three children.

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Irish Elk
Wednesday, April 01, 2009  

"Zip, The ‘What Is It?’ Plays Host

to All The Other Circus Freaks"

New York World
April 6, 1914

The Armless Wonder Shows How Useful Are Feet, and Sword Swallower Samples the Knives.

It's seldom that an ordinary person dines with an armless woman, a sword swallower, a snake enchantress, a German giantess, a tattooed man, and Indian chief, a living skeleton, a 600-pound woman, two Lilliputians, a Somali warrior and the only "What Is It?" in captivity.

Perhaps it's the infrequency of such meals that makes a guest shudder when the snake charmer's nine-foot python sticks his nose two or three feet out of the punch bowl he's nestling in and tickles the guest behind the ear. It couldn't be one cocktail and a stein of beer.

One naturally expects to see the sword-swallowing lady eat a knife or a fork occasionally, so one is not surprised when she does. But one does blink a bit when the armless wonder reaches for the butter with her jeweled foot, or when the "littlest full-grown woman in the world" (weight, 25 pounds) steps from her high chair onto the table, picks of her skirts, hops over a piece of celery and grabs a salt cellar that she has had her eye on.

Nor would all these things have been seen yesterday afternoon in the Jungle Room of Healy's restaurant, Sixty-sixth street and Columbus avenue, if Dexter Fellowes, press agent for Barnum & Bailey's Greatest Show on Earth, now at Madison Square Garden, hadn't decided that it was about time for Zip, Barnum's original "What Is It?" to have a birthday party.

All the Freaks Were There.

In deciding that it was Zip's sixty-fifth birthday, Mr. Fellowes didn't worry Zip a bit. Zip had just as soon be sixty-five as any other age. And if he isn't, or wasn't, he probably will be -- as was pointed out by Eddie Masher, the living skeleton, whose advertised weight is thirty pounds.

Anyhow, Zip gave the party, and everybody got there -- even if Cherry Davis, the fat woman, did break down a taxicab in front of the Garden, and Fraulein Brunhilde, the giantess, did show her temperament when the problem of transportation arose and a heartless man suggested that she be taken to Healy's in a giraffe cage -- which, as every one knows, has neck-holes in its roof. But the trip from Madison Square Garden was made in a motor bus.

When Mme. Maxine, the snake charmer, arrived at Healy's she said to the coatroom boy:

"Would you mind checking my boa?"

"Oh, no, madame," the boy replied, reaching for it.

From what the particular boy did right after he touched the live boa, it might be deduced that a good way to stop the hat boy nuisance would be for every diner-out to wear a nine-foot python around his or her neck.

And Everybody Tangoed.

After a boy had helped the living skeleton and a dozen porters had helped the fat woman upstairs, and everybody, except Running Jump, the Indian chief, had a cocktail, the dinner started. Running Jump had two cocktails.

After that Running Jump had beer. Later he had more beer. Finally he did a war dance. But that was after the giantess and Midget Barnett had tangoed, and the living skeleton and the fat woman had tangoed, and Mme. Maxine and Running Jump had tangoed, and Senorita Marie, the armless woman, and Djamah Ali, the Somali chief, had tangoed together too.

It was during this dancing that one learned how to keep cool, though exercising. The object lesson was Andrew Sturtz, the tattooed man. He had on a pair of trousers and a collar and tie. For the rest he wore his tattoos.

After Maude Clifford, the sword swallower, had gobbled a couple of forks and a knife, a reporter for The World asked her about this diet. She said:

"I swallowed my first sword when sixteen. I was thin then. I am well rounded now. I believe it makes me plump."

It might be mentioned that Princess Wee Wee, the littlest woman, sipped her cocktail and drank her beer like everybody else.

Of course, Zip made several speeches. He said, in full:

"Hunh -- hum -- hah!"

Or something to that effect.

Koo-Koo the Bird Girl dances while Zip plays the violin.

Top: Zip the Pinhead, carte de visite

Images: Charles Eisenmann Photos, Syracuse

* * *

From the Irish Elk archive: Zip the What is It, 4/1/08


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