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.”
In 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 Stuffed Mermaid.”(Bondeson)
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 authenticity.
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 Boston museum.
Bondeson, 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:
This video shows recent evidence of mermaids.
The Feejee Mermaid and Other Essays in Natural and Unnatural History by Jan Bondeson
The 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/
This link above take you to an excerpt of P.T Barnums 1855 autobiography written by himself.