Reposted from Daily Mail:
Freaky but fascinating these vintage photographs reveal circus sideshow acts in all their glory. Photographer Charles Eisenmann followed performers in the mid-1800s in New York City and offered to shoot their portraits so they could tout for business.
The freak show was popular with the lower classes, causing 'dime museums' to spring up in some of the city's most impoverished neighborhoods.
Acts included the incredible Prince Randian - born without arms or legs but incredibly self-sufficient and able to shave, paint, write and even roll cigarettes. He featured in Tod Browning's 1932 movie Freaks which aimed to humanize and show the beauty of people who many regarded as monsters.
Others were 'freaks' because of medical conditions. Jojo, the dog-faced boy appeared to suffer from hypertrichosis, a genetic condition which causes excess hair growth while 'big-footed' Fanny Mills was thought to have Milroy's disease which causes legs to swell up.
The side show was not always about humans - some exhibited deformed animals (like two-headed cows and one-eyed pigs), famous hoaxes, or macabre 'science-gone-wrong' exhibits such as deformed babies.
As science improved and led to many of the 'freaks' physical differences being explained as genetic mutation or disease, the sideshow fell into decline as the individuals were treated with compassion and sympathy instead of fear and disgust.
Stop and stare: 'Big-footed' Fanny Mills (left) most likely had Milroy's Disease which caused leg swelling. Anne Leek, the armless lady, joined a freak show to earn a living.
Hirsute stars: Lionel, the lion-faced boy and Jo-Jo, the dog-faced boy both suffered from a condition called hypertrichosis but used their genetic affliction to become circus performers.
Captivating: A 26-month-old hairy baby was one of the attractions on show at the freak circuses around the mid-1800s in New York along with four-legged Myrtle Corbin, who had two sets of female genitalia.
Wonders: Eddie Masher was known as skeleton dude for his appearance and Prince Randian (right) who was born without arms or legs but was incredibly self-sufficient and able to shave, paint, write and even roll cigarettes.
Stretch of imagination: Felix Wehrle, Elastic Man, could stretch his skin because he had Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome while Frank Lentini who was born with three legs in Sicily moved the U.S. and became famous before marrying and having four children.