THE PUBLIC SPECTACLES: A DWARF AND A GIANT
Despite the eighty-year gap between Emma Leach’s appearance in Boston in 1771 and Sylvia Hardy’s exhibition by P.T. Barnum in his American Museum, both were public spectacles. What we know about Leach’s exhibition is ambiguous: she “made her appearance,” though to whom remains unknown. By Hardy’s time, however, dime museums and institutions of
natural science had whetted the public’s appetite for the peculiar.
Entertainment and education had become intertwined. The definition of normality for the lay public and the scientist alike relied upon examinations of the abnormal. In addition, anatomy textbooks had long presented the male body as the norm, positioning the female body as abnormal. Thus, Sylvia Hardy was exhibited as doubly abnormal, a woman with extremely unusual proportions. A chair is used as a prop in both images to highlight the unusual proportions of each woman.