The Library of Nineteenth-Century Photography

Anna Bates

Anna Bates

A carte-de-visite portrait of the giantess Anna Haining Swan, later Mrs Anna Bates. A pencilled inscription verso reading ‘Compliments of Miss Anna Swan’ is possibly in the sitter’s own hand. An inscription on the album page read ‘A Giantess 7’5 ½” tall / Barnum circus 1865.’

Born in Nova Scotia in 1846, Anna was the third of 13 children. By her 15th birthday she measured just over seven feet (213 cm) tall. She would reach her full height two years later, which was 7 feet 5 and a half inches tall.

She met and fell in love with Captain Martin Van Buren Bates, ‘The Kentucky Giant’, when the two toured together under the management of P.T. Barnum. They were married at St. Martins-in-the-Field in London on 17 June 1871. Having previously appeared before Queen Victoria, the Queen sent a diamond ring for Anna and a gold watch for Martin as wedding presents. The honeymoon was spent at the Star and Garter in Richmond, before the couple toured Scotland. Two children followed, but neither survived for more than a few hours. The first, in 1872, was a daughter weighing 18 pounds, who died the day after she was born. Her body was placed in formaldehyde and exhibited in the circus at St. James’s Hall and later at Crystal Palace. The second, in 1879, was a boy who lived only 11 hours. At a length of 30 inches, he weighed nearly 24 pounds and the circumference of his head was 18 inches.

Anna died of heart trouble in 1886 at the age of forty-one. Martin died in 1919 in Seville, Ohio.

Photographer unidentified


Code: 124489
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