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Outside a freak show at the Rutland Fair, Vermont


Outside a freak show at the Rutland Fair, Vermont



Title and other information from caption card.
Transfer; United States. Office of War Information. Overseas Picture Division. Washington Division; 1944.
More information about the FSA/OWI Collection is available at
Temp. note: usf34batch5
Film copy on SIS roll 4, frame 303.

It is believed that such performances first appeared in England in the 17th century and were particularly popular in Britain during the Victorian era. Medical ethics did not exist at that time, and various "human curiosities" were seen as strange phenomena, surprising and threatening at the same time. Sideshows first appeared in the United States in the late eighteenth century, and they became enormously popular in this country from the mid-nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century. The Barnum and Bailey Circus was one of the first regular events of its kind in the United States in the mid-19th century. Sideshows, including "freak shows," were a common element of carnivals and fairs in America, and still had a place in Great Britain in the early 20th century, though they were much less common in other European countries. The popularity of sideshows in Europe virtually disappeared after World War II, while in the United States it declined with the mass introduction of television in the second half of the 1960s. In addition, since the mid-20th century, many Western countries have passed special laws prohibiting performances for money or involving people with physical disabilities, despite the protests of some "freak artists" for whom these performances were a means of livelihood. Another reason for the decline in popularity and availability of such performances was a change in societal values — whereas "freaks" were once considered fascinating and mysterious, in the second half of the 20th century a fundamentally different, ethical and compassionate attitude towards such people was promoted in society, with an unacceptable view of physical disabilities as "fascinating curiosities". Nevertheless, several "freak shows" still exist in the United States.

Jack Delano (August 1, 1914 – August 12, 1997) was an American photographer, cinematographer, composer, and director. He is best known for his work with the Farm Security Administration (FSA) during the Great Depression, where he captured the struggles of rural Americans and their way of life in photographs that have become iconic images of the era. Delano was born in Kiev, Ukraine, and emigrated to the United States in 1923. He studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and later worked for the FSA and Office of War Information during World War II, where he documented the war effort and daily life on the home front. After the war, Delano continued to work as a photographer and filmmaker, composed music, and directed documentaries.







Library of Congress

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No known restrictions. For information, see U.S. Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Black & White Photographs

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