September 28, 2021

11:30 am - 12:00 pm

Readings & Reflections: The Extraordinary Participants of Coney Island Side Shows

Sofiya Cheyenne


Sofiya Cheyenne shares and personally responds to an article detailing the extraordinary denizens of Coney Island (New York side) side-shows in the 1900s.

Sofiya’s source material:

Coney Island – Freaks & Shows

The material is copyrighted (c) 1997 by Jeffrey Stanton


“While P.T. Barnum elevated the ballyhoo of exhibiting side show circus freaks to an art, it was the arrival of Samuel W. Gumpertz at Coney that brought the freak show to the seashore. Gumpertz, a successful Missouri showman, came to the island at the behest of Senator Reynold’s to build and manage a Midget City called Lilliputia for Dreamland’s 1904 opening season. He invited 300 midgets scattered across the continent at various World’s Fairs and circus sideshows to be the permanent residents of an experimental community. The most famous of the residents were the Count and Countess Magri. The countess had achieved her fame years earlier during her first marriage to the beloved midget, General Tom Thumb.

Lilliputia was built to half scale to resemble 15th century Nuremberg Germany. The midgets had their own parliament, own Midget Fire Department that responded hourly to false alarms, and their own beach complete with midget lifeguards. While they entertained patrons during the day, they had their own lives and community when the park was closed…”

Tags: Reading