Victorian Era Preoccupation With Medical Oddities

The Victorian era took an interest among nobles in those born with disabilities and "flaws." The curiosity for these unique people created Barnum and Bailey and other sideshow displays of these people live and in action for the crowds to appease their curiosity.

Charles Eisenmann (1855-1927) created photography of these people that were used in collector cards of the time. These photographs captured in the formal Victorian setting were very unique and much used and sought after today as vintage collectibles.

As an interesting aside, it seemed that Victorian Era nobility enjoyed having these oddities in their "possession" to parade around for the titillation of their guests. 

One interesting story involves a supposed Bigfoot woman in Russia during that era that was reportedly captured and taken in by nobility until he tired of her and sent her to a noble's estate in the country. They named her Zana.

That she was a Bigfoot has been dismissed by many, but any wild woman covered in hair and powerful would certainly been a prize for any noble in that era, so there is something that rings true about that story. They did have her mate up with some men and she produced offspring. Here is a photo of her son, Khwit.

If you want to know more about her, look at my post about Zana.

A woman in Mexico with hypertrichosis was adopted by the circus where she traveled. Her manager became her husband at one point and they had a stillborn child, but Julia Pastrana had a condition that made her a darling of the Victorian Era patrons who could not get enough of seeing new and novel human conditions.

Medicine in the Victorian Era was cruel and often times more like torture. (LINK) Common treatments for patients included “heroic medicine” – bleeding, plastering, purging, sweating, blistering, and amputation. These practices were advocated by Benjamin Rush, who was Professor of the Institute of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania in 1791. His beliefs held fast during the first half of the century, although they were ineffectual at best.

The Victorian Era was preoccupied by death, dark subjects, human oddities, trick photography, talking to the dead in seances, taking photos of the dead, and all forms of morbid thought. This is how the terms "gothic" became so popular among the youths who embrace the darkness and the oddities of life.