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Lulu, the ‘Eighth Wonder of the World,’ unmasked as a boy

June 1, 2014

a carte de visite photograph of Lulu, the ‘female’ trapeze artist formerly known as the boy acrobat El Niño Farini, who was actually Sam Wasgate (1855-1939), the adopted son of William Leonard Hunt (1838-1929), known to the world as the tightrope walker and acrobat, The Great Farini.
(carte de visite photo: Sarony, 680 Broadway, New York, probably 1873)

‘NIBLO’S GARDEN [New York, 28 April-9 June 1873]
‘Entirely new and brilliant ballet spectacle pantomime,
‘AZRAEL, OR THE MAGIC CHARM.
‘Produced with entirely new scenery, gorgeous and elegant costumes, marvelous appointments, and a brilliantly beautiful transformation unequaled in any previous scenic display.
‘First appearance in America of the great sensation gymnast, LULU, LULU, LULU,
The marvel of the age. The eighth wonder of the world. In the most marvelous and thrilling exploits ever performed on any stage. The pantomime is presented with an exceptionally strong cast in the opening, and THE HARLEQUINADE will be rendred by the unrivaled quartette, Jas. S. Maffitt, W.H. Bartholomew, E. Valade, Mlle. Clara Leontine. The three grand ballets under direction of Madame Kathi Lanner [sic], with Mlle. Pitteri, the celebrated premier danseuse. First matinee of the new pantomime and Lulu, Wednesday afternoon, April 30 at 1 ½ o’clock.’
(The New York Clipper, New York, 3 May 1873, p. 39g, advertisement)

”’LULU.” – It is stated that the pretty ”Lulu,” who does the flying leap at Niblo’s, New York, over whom half the city is crazy, and who is advertised as a girl, is a boy. The gentle youth is said to have remarked the other day: ”The old man hain’t got more than a year or two more of the ‘Lulu’ business. I’m getting a moustache and ain’t near as pretty as I was, either.’
(The Daily State Journal, Richmond, Virginia, Saturday,14 June 1873, p. 1f)

Lulu’s appearance with Sanger’s Circus at Bath, Somerset, 1875
‘This week I paid Messrs. Sangers’ Circus another visit. Of course you guess why I did so. Lulu, whose name is in everybody’s mouth, drew me there. Where all the world goes, I must go. Now all the world – I mean the local world – has this week been tearing towards the Circus in Walcot-street each evening, impelled by the desire to see the ”eighth wonder of the world.” I had never seen the real and original Lulu before this week, and I was eager to behold the little lady who caused such a sensation in London not long ago by her wonderful athletic performances, the interest in which was increased in no small degree by her reputed graces and charms. I make use of the words ‘her’ and ‘feminine’ with a firm conviction that they are quite correctly applied, notwithstanding the report which one has heard so often repeated in Bath this week, that Lulu is not at all feminine, but masculine in sooth. If she is not ‘she,’ then I don’t know what a woman is at all. I must have grown up with very erroneous ideas respecting the natural distinctions of the sexes. If Lulu be not a woman, she bears a very striking resemblance to all the representations by best authorities of our mother Eve as distinguished from the representations of our father Adam. When one gets puzzled over questions such as this, it is well to go back to ”first principles.” I found the Circus filled in almost every part. The popular parts of the house were crammed. At an early stage of the entertainment Lulu made her entrance. There is much that is attractive in her personal appearance. She was effectively costumed in a rich crimson tunic and pink silk fleshings, her arms and neck being bare. She also wore pretty little shoes of white satin. Small in statue, but of comely proportions, agile as an antelope, with eyes like a gazelle’s, young, and well-featured, Lulu, as she lightly tripped into the arena and made her bow to the audience, created a most favourable impression at once. Everybody clapped her. Immediately afterwards she mounted aloft, and went through a number of feats on the trapeze, a minute description of which would sound odd enough, performed as they were by one of the fair sex. The spectators, however, were filled with wonder and delight at the grace, agility, and courage of Lulu. Her great feat, however, the one that was so much talked about at the time of her debut, is her vertical leap from the stage to a small platform, swung on ropes, about thirty feet above. Just as the leap takes place smell screams proceed from various parts of the house, but Lu-Lu [sic] invariably alights on the platform above. How this leap is effected is a question which always causes a good deal of speculation. I have my own opinion on the subject, but I would rather that my readers who have not yet see Miss Lulu should do so, and form a perfectly independent opinion.’
(quoted in an advertisement, The Era, London, Sunday, 21 February 1875, p. 13d)

”’LULU!” ”LULU!” –
This Celebrated Gymnast, who created such a furore at the Amphitheatre, Holborn, is now on a final Tour of England, Scotland, and Ireland, previous to starting for India and the Colonies, and retirement from public life. Managers are therefore invited to make Engagements with this World-renowned Artiste, especially in those Cities and Town[s] not yet visited by Lulu.
for dates, terms, &c., apply to C. Hodson Stanley, Business Manager, en route.
BATH, October 18th, 1875.
PLYMOUTH, November 8th, 1875.
NOTTINGHAM, November 25th, 1875.
GLASGOW, January 3d, 1876.
LULU, the Marvel of the Age!
LULU, the Wonder of the Universe!!
LULU, the Embodiment of Grace!!! LULU, the Eighth Wonder of the World!!!!’
(The Era, London, Sunday, 17 October 1875, p. 13d, advertisement)

‘SERIOUS ACCIDENT TO AN ACROBAT.
‘Lulu, the well-known acrobat, met with a shocking accident at Hengler’s Circus, Dublin, on Monday night. In the leap to the roof of the circus, the spring of the machinery by which she is impelled upwards failed to send her the requisite height, and she missed the cross bar. The netting which should shoot out under her failed to work, and she fell on the edge of the platform with great violence. She was carried from the place insensible. Several persons almost fainted, and there was a general cry from the audience to lynch the manager who had introduced her. A great panic prevailed in the theatre for several minutes after the occurrence. It is stated that Lulu is almost completely recovered from the effect of the severe fall. A shaking and an ugly bruise between the shoulders have been the only injuries sustained, and a few days’ rest is the only requisite for perfect recovery.’
(The Sunday Times, London, Sunday, 13 August 1876, p. 5a)

‘Lulu, ”the champion female trapezist of the world,” lately fell and dislocated her hip in London, The attending physician discovered that Lulu is a man!”’
(The Evening Star, Washington, DC, Monday, 11 September 1876, p. 3g)

ROYAL CAMBRIDGE HALL of VARIETIES.
MONDAY NEXT, November 6th [1876]
and
EVERY EVENING.
LULU! LULU! LULU!
Eighth wonder of the World.
Free List (press excepted) entirely suspended.’
(The Sunday Times, London, Sunday, 5 November 1876, p. 4b, advertisement)

The Royal Cambridge Hall of Varieties, Shoreditch, London, November 1876
‘The ”star” of the company is the marvellously clever Lulu, whom some few years ago we christened the eighth wonder of the world, a title well earned and honourably kept. What Lulu’s performance is like everybody knows, or out to know. It has lots none of its charm, none of its daring, none of its accuracy; and the pleasure to be derived from witnessing it is enhanced by the presence of the magnificent nets fitted up under the watchful direction of M. Farini, and by the knowledge that all danger is thereby precluded. The upward flight through space is as startling as ever, and its accomplishment is nightly provocative of applause which we imagine may be heard at the Bank or at Kingsland-gate.’
(The Era, London, Sunday, 19 November 1876, p. 4d)

‘THE LITTLE WHITE WHALE exhibited for one or two days at the Westminster Aquarium last week was an ”amusing little cuss,” as Mr. Henry Lee might say… . Whilst my friend, the artist, was sketching her, the whale blew from her blow-hole not only a good whiff of breath but also a diminutive eel which had, apparently, ”gone the wrong way.” Some other curious things were observed by the same keen-eyed Artist. Zazel was there off duty studying her rival, and chatting with Mr. Morris … ”Lulu” was there, too, looking at the whale; and the mystery of Lulu’s sex was solved. ”Lulu,” scented up to the eyebrows, looked very much like a German student – a pocket swell with long hairy and pale features, in which one could trace a resemblance to the daring young gymnast who, years ago, used to perform on the trapeze at the Alhambra, and sing out in a boyish treble, ”Wait till I’m a man!” …’
(The Penny Illustrated Paper, London, Saturday, 6 October 1877, 222a; on p. 217 is the sketch of Zazel chatting with Mr. Morris; the whale, ‘THE FIRST WHALE SEEN ALIVE IN LONDON’; and ”’LULU” IN MUFTI,’ showing the celebrated acrobat in pale trousers, frock coat and top hat)

* * * * *

After his retirement as an acrobat Lulu became a photographer and eventually settled in Bridgeport, Connecticut, where he opened a studio.

‘… You have in Bridgeport [Connecticut], Farini (the photographer), who so many years was ”Lulu” and electrified audiences in Europe and America as a beautiful and shapely young girl. At Niblo’s Garden [New York] ”Lulu” broke the hearts and woman many favors from rich men. ”Lulu” was hurled from the catapult. He was shot out of a cannon. From concealed springs on the stage at Niblo’s he was fired to dizzy hights [sic], and his graceful figure deceived the poor deluded men into offers of marriage. ”Lulu” made a living by his disguise… .’
(‘A Woman as a Locomotive Engineer,’ Pacific Rural Press, San Francisco, Saturday, 16 July 1887, p. 46d)

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