Legendary Coney Island amusement park Dreamland burned down in 1911, but that didn’t stop its owners from launching the Dreamland Circus Side Show on Surf Avenue soon after.
This 1930s photo shows some of the sideshow’s most famous performers (plus the newest attraction, “Mortado”). Note the Nedick’s on the right—once a big chain of hot dog and orange juice stands.
The granddaddy of all freak show promoters was P.T. Barnum; his museum on Ann Street in lower Manhattan attracted hundreds of thousands of gawkers each year.
“The Barnum & Bailey Greatest Show on Earth” toured the country, luring crowds with its “peerless prodigies of physical phenomena,” including a bearded lady, sword swallower, and “Egyptian giant.”
Another bizarro Barnum exhibit: babies. Twins, triplets, “quaterns” . . . it seems 19th century New Yorkers were as fascinated by multiples as we are today.