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love to look at the lives of people who were seen as “different” by society in the past. Some of you may say that these people that are seen as “different” still exist today and why should I not look into their lives as well. People classified as “different” are more predominant than ever and that is because the population keeps growing.

We are all different and as my father used to tell me:

Just like no finger, on one hand, is the same, so in this world everyone is different.

Different is a word used by today’s society to present hate for “looking different” from a physical perspective. From the start of the 18th century when circuses became popular, people would pay to see how fat, skinny, ugly, or disfigured others are and to make anything that is possible to make those artists feel discomforted by the way they were born.

In the present times, people don’t go to circuses for that anymore, as they can laugh at other people’s physical appearance from the comfort of their homes thanks to social media platforms (not blaming this on social media platforms). This is the reason I chose to look at artists from the past that has been ridiculed their entire life in order to feed themselves and their families. People who didn’t have a choice or a voice to speak out their frustration with our ugly society which is only becoming more hideous as the days pass.

Isaac W. Sprague’s Life

In 1841, on May the 21st, Isaac was born and he was healthier than any other child around. At the age of 12, his parents noticed that he started to lose weight quite drastically. It was too soon for a boy his age to change his metabolism and his parents were both well so they didn’t understand what sort of disease had struck the boy.

The parents took Isaac to all the medics and specialists around Massachusetts and even in other states of America, but none of them could define the disease that was causing him to lose weight. Around the age of 18, he stopped losing weight and ended up only weighing 19 kilograms (almost 3 stones) at a height of 1,67 meters.

At the age of 19, both of his parents passed away due to various illnesses which left the boy alone on this earth. As an upcoming man, he had to do something in order to feed himself. He tried to work at various places to earn what little he could just to keep himself fed but it wasn’t enough and his weak body was not able to take much more of the intensive labor.

The start of his career

In 1865 Isaac meet with P.T Barnum, one of the biggest names within the entertainment industry at the time who owned a museum dedicated to weird things and who was also hosting shows portraying people with strange appearances to the public. Barnum persuaded Isaac to sign a contract for $80 per week for being part of the show. 80$ back then was $1320 dollars today, so really good money for not a lot of work, but at a higher price of being ridiculed day in and out.

Isaac and all of his other colleagues who took part in the Show/Circus (Source: Supercurioso)

Although as hard as it may have been, it was easier when everyone around him was also “special”. From women with beards to giants to midgets, the show had it all, but never had the world seen such a skinny man. This is why Barnum nicknamed Isaac as the “Living Skeleton” (sort of like a stage name).

The shows were very successful, with all the seats selling out every night. Barnum’s team was getting attention from all over the United States until something terrible happened. In 1868, the building in which the shows were held caught in flames and burned down, almost killing everyone. Through a miracle and his skinnier stature, Isaac was able to escape.

Family

At that point, Isaac decided that it was time for a break. In 1870, Isaac met a girl named Tamar Moore which he married and had three children. Isaac was afraid that his children may suffer from the same disease that he was, but fortunately, they were all born healthy and stayed in the same manner until later in their lives.

Original 1870s carte de visite photograph of Sprague & family, presumably now in someone’s personal collection (Source: Historical Ebay Auctions)

Isaac had to care for his family and the best option for him was to return back to the “freak shows” as some people called it. Isaac got in touch with Barnum and they started taking the show around the world (Canada, Great Britain, and other European countries). Sadly, while traveling around the world, Isaac developed a bad vice which was gambling. Therefore most of the money that he was earning from the shows was lost.

Photos of Isaac from the shows he performed in (Source: Mysteryu)

In 1882 at the age of 41, Isaac was diagnosed with severe muscle atrophy, caused by the disease which kept him skinny. Due to the shows and his popularity around the world, the medical society took an interest in his case to the point where Hardvard Medical School offered him $1000 ($26,765 today) to study his body once he passed away.

On the 5th of January, 1887, at the age of 45, Isaac W. Sprague died. What had been confirmed by some of his relatives is that in the last 3 years of his life, Isaac lived in extreme poverty, with no income from anyone. Despite accepting the money from Harvard Medical School, no one knows what happened to his body after he passed away.

Moral of the story

Isaac lived his whole life being ridiculed for money and only using the vice of gambling and the happiness his family brought him to take his mind away from all the laughter that took upon his appearance. The success, fame nor money was worth the humiliation he had to face from all the people around the world.

Today people ridicule others that have the same problem as Issac for free. It is not right to pay to ridicule, it is not right to ridicule others or judge them based on the appearance they were born with or gained along the way. However, our society does not understand and most probably will never up to the point where we will all look exactly the same, just like some copied and pasted robots.

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