For The Benefit Of Mr. Morlan

James Joyner already rounded this up.

Adam Ozimek at Modeled Behavior:

There has been a lot of very thoughtful discussion lately about the obesity epidemic facing this country. All I have to add to this insightful and informed conversation is a comment on and picture of a turn-of-the-century sideshow freak


This is Chauncy Morlan, and around 100 years ago his obesity was so shocking that people would pay money to see him as he toured the country as a circus “fat man”. I find the unremarkableness of his size to be a telling sign of how we’ve pushed the limits of obesity in the past 100 years. Imagine, if you will, what society would look like if 100 years from now if what passed as spectacularly obese today would not even turn heads at the mall.

Alex Tabarrok:

Here, courtesy of Adam Ozimek at Modeled Behavior, is a picture of Chauncy Morlan (1869-1906) who, because of his “freakish” weight, people once paid good money to see as he toured Europe and America with the Barnum & Bailey circus.  Although a tinge of freakishness still attaches to shows like The Biggest Loser the dominant theme is a feeling of camaraderie and the hope that if the contestants can lose weight then so can anyone with similar problem and goals.

What would the circus goers of 1890 have thought if they were told that in the America of 2010 Chauncy Morlan would be unremarkable?

Andrew Sullivan

John Aravosis at AmericaBlog:

Today he’d be fat, but he wouldn’t be that rare.


In the early 1900’s, he made a career of being fat. He was a circus performer that people paid money to gawk at – on the very edge of the weight sensibilities of the time. Go on, click the link. That man made money from being that obese. I don’t need to comment on this. The comments of that site say all I need to.

James Joyner:

Alex wonders, “What would the circus goers of 1890 have thought if they were told that in the America of 2010 Chauncy Morlan would be unremarkable?”

Cellania quips, “People paid money to look at him, because he was so unusually obese. A hundred years later, you can walk into any buffet restaurant and see a dozen people bigger than Morlan.”

Admittedly, Morlan doesn’t look fat enough in that picture that I’d pay to see him.   But, in actuality, Morlan was 512 pounds at age 18 and was reputedly well over 600 pounds later in life.  That’s hardly “unremarkable” even now.

1 Comment

Filed under Health Care, History

One response to “For The Benefit Of Mr. Morlan

  1. Pam E.

    Personally, i find it pretty sad that it sounds like most of you would actually pay to see a “remarkably” obese person. I, on the other hand, don’t feel the need to have to pay to see “remarkably” STUPID people, because there are certainly plenty to see (and hear) for free!

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