Mademoiselle Lulu

Mademoiselle Lulu


A carte-de-visite portrait of Mademoiselle Lulu.

Born Samuel Wasgatt in America, he was adopted by the showman The Great Farini (himself born William Leonard Hunt in Canada) who trained him to be a boy acrobat and aerialist and presented him to the public as ‘El Niño Farini, the Wonder of the Age’ during the 1860s. When he hit puberty, he switched gender and enjoyed even greater success as Lulu, whose act involved being shot high into the air by a powerful spring hidden in the floor and performing a triple somersault before alighting deftly on a narrow platform. A pretty girl performing perilous feats – and showing her bare limbs – was far more likely to draw the crowds than any male counterpart. Commentators, of which there were a great many, often referred to Lulu’s grace and beauty. The hoax involved full-time commitment, and Sam even maintained the illusion when the census was taken in 1871. But the truth eventually came out in 1876 when he fell from a platform while performing in Dublin and a doctor had to be called to the scene. By the end of the year Sam had married Farini’s younger sister, Edith May Hunt. He continued to perform for a few more years, now with short hair and a moustache but strangely still wearing Lulu’s familiar costume. He later became a photographer and crossed the Kalahari desert with his father/brother-in-law, taking photographs and making sketches which were subsequently published in a book. He eventually emigrated to Canada.

Photographed by the London Stereoscopic and Photographic Company.
 


Code: 127441
© Paul Frecker 2022