Universal York

Part of the USA Today Network

York People Fascinated by “Different” People

York Fair week brings back memories of the midway when I was a child. Even though I never spent the money to go see them, I remember the hawkers and big tacky painted banners inviting fairgoers to step in and see the skinniest man, fattest lady, or whatever else they could exhibit to make a buck.
The following ad from the April 11, 1816 York Gazette illustrates how traveling showmen separated Yorkers from their money long before my memories of the 1950s:

“The Ladies and Gentlemen of York
are very respectfully informed that
Mr. Smith,

The Celebrated Dwarf,

will continue to be exhibited at Mr.
Lewis Wampler’s, sign of the Waggon,
George Street, during the Court.
In the evenings he will be splendidly dressed.
Admittance 25 cents for one time–
Children half price.
Visitors need not pass thro’
the Bar room of the house, a wide entry
very conveniently leads to the
apartments of Mr. Smith up Stairs.”

If the illustration is any indication, splendidly dressed means that he is attired as a little Napoleon. (Remember, this is 1816. Even though no longer in power, Napoleon was known throughout the world.) It seems that they are trying to add a little class by not having the ladies and kiddies pass through the bar room. Twenty five cents wasn’t just loose change in 1816. For that price, I hope the patrons at least got to converse with Mr. Smith, and not just gawk.
What does “during the Court” mean? Court used to be in session during certain times of the year, and that is when there would be more people in town.
Click here to read about York Fair award winning photographer.