Sunday, October 27, 2013
Legend of the Fiji Mermaid
A creature with the upper body of a human and lower body of a fish is
heard to have circulated the world’s oceans for many years. With all the
glamorized illusions of a beautiful, flowing hair, model-type, half fish, half
women is what we think of when we hear the name mermaid. In the article “Barnum’s
‘Feejee’ no Disney Mermaid Monstrous wonder on display at Peale,” by Rafael
Alvarez, he interviewed a publicist from the Peale Museum, and he said, “We've
had a lot of children come here expecting to see the Little Mermaid or the cute
mermaid on the tuna can -- and they look at this and cry their eyes out.”
1822, the Turf Coffeehouse in London displayed a strange creature. It was a
two-foot tall specimen with a baboon-like head covered in thin hair, and human
eyes, chin, breasts and nails. The face held an expression of fear. It is known as the Fiji mermaid. The
mermaid had been brought to London by an American sailor, Captain Samuel
Barrett Eades. By the fall of 1822, the mermaid had become one of the
biggest showcases in London. Newspapers and articles named it “The Remarkable
Eades is not the only one to be
linked to the Fiji mermaid. P.T. Barnum is usually credited for the
origination of the mermaid because he made it known around the world. The
Feejee mermaid is one of Barnum’s biggest hoax.
Barnum leased the mermaid from Boston
showman Moses Kimball, who intern had bought it from a seaman. The Feejee
Mermaid is believed to have been created around 1810 by a Japanese fisherman. Barnum didn’t care that the mermaid
was a fake, all that
really mattered was that the public was led to believe it was real. So Barnum
hired a phony naturalist, Dr. Griffin, to vouch for the creature's
Barnum placed pictures of bare-breasted mermaids
in the newspapers to manipulate the public into wanting to see it Barnum
exhibited the mermaid for a month at his Museum, then he decided to send it on
a Southern state tour. A correspondent from the Charleston Post & Courier said,
“The Feejee mermaid was a sight that has forever robbed us and we shall never
again think of a mermaid as beautiful because the Feejee mermaid is the
incarnation of ugliness”.
During the next twenty years the Feejee Mermaid
split her time between Kimball's museum in Boston and Barnum's museum in New
York. The last known whereabouts of the mermaid was in June, 1859 in Kimball’s
museum. One theory is she was destroyed when Barnum's museum burned down in
1865. But this would be unlikely, since she was said to have been at Kimball's
Jan. “The Feejee Mermaid and Other Essays
in Natural and Unnatural History”.
Cornell University Press, 1999. Print
>Alvarez, Rafael. “Barnums ‘Feejee’ no Disney Meramaid
Monstrous wonder on display at Peale.” The
Baltimore Sun. 01 Mar. 1992. http://articles.baltimoresun.com. Web. 18 Oct. 2013.
Feejee Mermaid “Americas
First Mermaid Obsession.” Animal Planet. 29 May. 2013. Animal Planet. Discovery Communications. Web. 18 Oct. 2013
Steampunk. “The Incredible Myth Behind the Feejee
Mermaid.” http://www.environmentalgrafetti.com. Environmental Graffiti. 2009 Web. 18
Brennan Hagood, Catherine. “This Art Show is Full of
Freaks.” Post and Courier. 12 May.
2005. nl.newsbank.com. Web. 18 Oct. 2013.
Links for further research:
video shows recent evidence of mermaids.
Mermaid and Other Essays in Natural and Unnatural History by Jan Bondeson
link above takes you to a google books listing for an excerpt of Jan Bondeson book
of a collection of essays on ten fascinating
stories of myths and hoaxes.
Barnum, P.T. The Life of
P.T. Barnum Written By Himself. Redfield. 18551855.http://chnm.gmu.edu/lostmuseum/lm/182/
link above take you to an excerpt of P.T Barnums 1855 autobiography written by