Myrtle Corbin, The Four-Legged Girl from Texas
Since adding a rectangular press to my button/magnet making arsenal a few months back, I’ve been sifting through my antique photograph collection in search of interesting images to press.
I’m an avid collector of antique photographs, and a few years ago I was lucky enough to find a real antique cabinet card of Myrtle Corbin at a Lancaster, PA flea market. I didn’t know who she was at the time, but knew this was one special photograph!
In faded pencil on the reverse written “Myrtle Corbin” and fortunately her life has been well documented.
A simple search revealed that Josephine Myrtle Corbin (May 12, 1868 – May 30, 1928) was an American sideshow performer born a dipygus. This referred to the fact that she had two separate pelvises side by side from the waist down, as a result of her body axis splitting as it developed. Each of her smaller inner legs was paired with one of her outer legs.
As a young girl she toured the sideshow circuit as “The Four-Legged Girl from Texas,” working for the likes of P. T. Barnum and Ringling Bros. She was described in her promotional pamphlets as being “gentle of disposition as the summer sunshine and as happy as the day is long.” She took a lengthy hiatus from showbiz 18, and at 19 married Clinton Bicknell, a doctor, with whom she had four healthy children. She returned to the circuit for a time from about 1909 thru 1915.
Upon her death in 1928, her coffin was encased in concrete and family members stood vigil over her grave. The threat of grave robbers was very real, as interest in her by physicians and showmen alike remained strong even in death.
Freak Show: Presenting Human Oddities for Amusement and Profit. University of Chicago Press, 1988
Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine. Gould, George M. (George Milbry), 1848-1922; Pyle, Walter L. (Walter Lytle), 1871-1921
Cyclopaedia of the Diseases of Children, Medical and Surgical, Keating, John M. (John Marie), 1852-1893, ed; Edwards, William A, 1889, Philadelphia, J. B. Lippincott company.