Sweet Marie - Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Loyal readers will recall that the American Treasure Tour blog is celebrating the banner art created to advertise the Freak Show (also known as the Side Show, the Dime Show, and the Ten-in-One).  During the heyday of the Freak Show, between about 1880's and the 1950's, these large paintings on canvas were often more exciting than the actual performances.  In fact, in retrospect, some of the performers were quite tragic figures.  We talked about the famous - and infamous - Elephant Man, whose physical ailments were so debilitating he was literally unable to work a traditional job.  He had been employed at a workhouse in London prior to going on display.

Today, we would like to talk a little bit about Sweet Marie.  She was advertised as weighing 643 pounds - a tragic number today as it was then.  Of course, when Marie was on the Side Show circuit, obesity was much less common a health problem than it is today, so there may truly have been novelty to it.  Other heavyset performers whose banner art has been duplicated for us include Buster (18 years old and 640 pounds), the duet of "Harvey's Beef Trust" (truly not very nice!), and various other obese characters.  Organizations like Weight Watchers (established in 1963) acknowledge the seriousness of overeating and treat it like the disorder it is, and serve to disparage such novelties as the fat person in the Freak Show.  The artist behind the Sweet Marie banner was Snap Wyatt.

Snap was born in Asheville, North Carolina in 1905 and ran away to join the circus at age fourteen.  He then went to the prestigious Cooper Union art school in New York City from 1930 to 1934, then went to work at Coney Island, where he learned the art of the banner.  He could create up to four hundred of the eight foot by ten foot banners each year, all similar to one another but different enough to draw the attention of passersby as they walked in the circus grounds.  The allure of the characters advertised, including such acts as Sweet Marie, was often too strong to ignore thanks to the banners Snap and his contemporaries created.  Snap's talents extended to actually creating Freak Show exhibits, notably the "Cardiff Giant" - an eleven-foot four-inch papier mache skeleton he aged to look real - and presented at the 1933 Chicago World's Far known as the Century of Progress.  He claimed to have sold four more of his giants after the fair!  Snap and his wife Evelyn retired to a community near Tampa, Florida, not far from the headquarters of the Ringling Brothers Circus.  He passed away in 1984.
QUESTION:  What was Snap's first name by birth?
A)  Aloysius
B)  Virgil
C)  David
D)  Mandregal

AND THEN THERE WERE 42.  Let us begin by pointing out that there are only fifty days left in 2015.  We're not exactly sure how that happened.  It feels like the year positively zipped by. And today is a day to celebrate - especially if you live in Washington State, because it was on this day in 1889 that the northernmost state in the contiguous United States got its star added to the American flag.  Yay, Washington!

QUOTE:  If you look to be spooked by really tall trees, then you've got to go to Washington State. - Dar Williams

ANSWER:  C)  David.  We think Snap is a cooler name to go by.