Americans Fat . . . But Not THAT Fat

Adam Ozimek, Alex Tabarrok, Andrew Sullivan, Miss Cellania, and others post this picture of “Human Freight Car” Chauncey Morlan (1869-1906), one of the freak show fatties who traveled with the Barnum & Bailey Circus:

chauncy-morlan-fat-man

Alex wonders, “What would the circus goers of 1890 have thought if they were told that in the America of 2010 Chauncy Morlan would be unremarkable?”

Cellania quips, “People paid money to look at him, because he was so unusually obese. A hundred years later, you can walk into any buffet restaurant and see a dozen people bigger than Morlan.”

Admittedly, Morlan doesn’t look fat enough in that picture that I’d pay to see him.   But, in actuality, Morlan was 512 pounds at age 18 and was reputedly well over 600 pounds later in life.  That’s hardly “unremarkable” even now.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. pylon says:

    Just got back from Disney World. That guy was every other person in line (often holding a turkey leg).

  2. john personna says:

    Here in southern California, I’ve only recently noticed an integration of the authentically obese in to customer-service roles. I take that as a sign of both increased acceptance and increased representation in the applicant pool.

    (With different genes I might be there too … though I’ve also long distrusted the corn sweeteners.)

  3. Michael Reynolds says:

    I object to your using photos of me without permission.

  4. reid says:

    He must be either five years old or 7 feet tall in that picture if he was 500+ pounds. He almost looks svelte compared to some people I’ve seen.

  5. Patrick says:

    From the comments section over at MR:

    According to here he and his wife together weighted 912 pounds. But note that all of these weights are for circus promotion! In reality, he probably weighed less.

  6. James Joyner says:

    The back of the photo read “Chauncey Morlan, Age 25, Wt 602, Wife age 22, Wt 526”. A quick “google” search revealed that they were a circus side show attraction of some type. The photographer turned out to be famous circus / sideshow / freak photographer Wendt of Boonton NJ. He was famous for his rare images of midgets, giants, fatmen, sword swallowers, jugglers and bearded ladies!
    From the link:

    The back of the photo read “Chauncey Morlan, Age 25, Wt 602, Wife age 22, Wt 526”. A quick “google” search revealed that they were a circus side show attraction of some type. The photographer turned out to be famous circus / sideshow / freak photographer Wendt of Boonton NJ. He was famous for his rare images of midgets, giants, fatmen, sword swallowers, jugglers and bearded ladies!

    Chauncy Royse Morlan and Annie Bell were married in 1892 at Huber’s Museum in New York. Afterward the couple toured with the Barnum & Bailey Circus in Europe. Upon returning to the US, they continued to travel as the fattest married couple in the world “with a combined weight of 912 pounds”. During the off season the Morlans returned to their home in Indianapolis, Indiana – Chauncy’s home state. Annie would die at age 31, and Chauncey at age 43.

    So, even if there was some exaggeration, they were substantially bigger than the denizens of the average Pizza Hut buffet line.

  7. grampagravy says:

    When/if the Republicans and Wall Street return America to the unregulated capitalism of Morlan’s day, the number of people who can afford enough quality food to eat to reach Morlan’s size will once again become rare.

  8. steve says:

    Need to know his height, but he looks in the 400s. At any given time we have at least one 600 pounder in our ICU. He doesnt look that big.

    Steve

  9. Triumph says:

    Now that Obama has socialized medical care in this country, the taxpayers are going to have to be on the hook for paying the medical costs of these types of people.

    With the Obama la liberalista in charge the days of personal responsibility are behind us.

    There is even a movement now for “fat rights.” Some fat-cat Hollywood director just got all snippy because his fat rolls were burdening the other passengers.

    Typical selfish liberalism.