North Carolina Newspapers

    stood on a platform outside the
tent, and the brilliantly painted
pictures erected behind him, so
called normal mortals eagerly
shelled out money to view the
This is one aspect of the good
old days that aU of us ought to
react to with revulsion. Morbid
curiosity, in varying degrees, is
with us always, but compassion
for the less fortunate and a
sense of common decency
should be too.
Embraced in North
Carolina’s Revenue Act of 1822
was a provision to license shows
displaying “natural curiosities”
or “artificial curiosities.”
Natural curiosities, and that
meant people and animals bom
with physical defects, called for
a license fee of $15.
This was collected by the
Sheriff of the County where the
show was playing. The license,
when issued, contained a
complete list of the humans and
animals who would be on
exhibition. License fees were
Turned over t6 the 'State.
This permit was good for a
full year in the County where it
was issued, but most shows
played only a week before
moving on. Since New Bern was
the one town of any size in
Craven County, few shows
pitched tent elsewhere.
Included among “natural
curiosities” were midgets,
giants, fat men, double-jointed
individuals, beared ladies,
Siamese twins, two-headed
calfs, snakes, wild animals, and
individual boro without arms,
legs, or ears, or born with extra
arms. Angers, toes or sex
The “artificial curiosities”
included everything from the
tattdoed men and the wild man
from Borneo to wax figures or
carve figiu'es and all per
formers in costume.
Disguistingly, we think, the
State of North Carolina gave
special consideration to shows
that reaped their profits solely
from human monstrosities. A
“natural curiosities” owner, as
already stated, paid $15 for a
license, while a show without
“freaks” paid $30.
Judging by the preferential
treatment accorded those who
traded in human misery, the
State evidently considered
gawking at deformity more
educational, cultural and
elevating than other types of
As the State spelled out in
Chiytter 1129, Section 6, of the
Laws of North Carolina, as
reported in the Revised Statutes
1836-37, Chapter 102, Section, 17,
the $30 license applied to the
“Each and every person or
company of stage players,
sleight of hand petiormers.
rope dancers, tumblers ana
wire dancers, or circus riders or
estrain performers."
lost parents in the good old
(Continued on page 8)
Kfui Smt-CCraupit (Cumitij ^ubllr Stbrarg
The New BERN
5^ Per
NEW BERN, N. C. 28560, FRIDAY, AUGUST 10, 1973
Yesterday was when few if
any New Bernians considered it
in bad taste to patronize side
shows at fairs and carnivals,
where grotesquely deformed
human beings were exhibited.
Wth curiosity whetted by a
leather lunged barker, who
A child^s world begins
With once upon a time.
Wonders in a fairy tale
And a favorite rhyme.
—Photo by Jack Layne,
Chick & Jack’s Studio.

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