Performing Arts Photography Sideshow

Clarence Dale – “The Boy with the Big Head” – Sideshow act in early 1900’s.

Clarence Dale – The Boy with the Big Head

A featured performer for many years on the sideshow and vaudeville circuit in the early 1900’s.

At one time he was managed by Sigmund Neuberger on Wikipedia (The Great Lafayette) after having shared a bill together.


Lindsey Birdseye, aka Clarence Dale, was born in Texas around 1882, and was first exhibited in 1890 by a manager named Davis as a 6-year-old at The Fifth Avenue Museum in Pittsburgh. Examined by doctors, his case was supposedly not hydrocephaly, as: “the skull is healthy and hard as other skulls are. The boy is intelligent, has a most pleasant appearance, and converses on most any subject, and is a musician of skill, playing well on a number of instruments.” ( Pittsburgh Dispatch, October 5, 1890)………………..Clarence was also managed early in his career by soon-to-be world famous magician and illusionist “The Great Lafayette,” who met him as they both played dime museums. On April 12, 1891 Clarence’s life was saved by Lafayette along with the albino Zola Lorenzo, the Fat Woman Mme. Carver and her son the midget General Willis Carver when a huge fire broke out in Chicago’s Kohl & Middleton Museum………………….Sadly, the last we hear of Clarence is in October 1900 when he is taken from a “gypsy camp” in Waverly, NJ to Elizabeth Hospital in NY. We are told he is now 18 years old, and that he had lost the use his limbs when he was 16 and they were now ossified. Six months earlier he had lost his sight: “A succession of fits he had on Monday night scared his gypsy custodians, and they took him to the hospital. He has only one sister living in Burlington, Iowa. If he recovers he will be sent to his sister. His mother has deserted him.” It is unknown whether Clarence ever recovered

Magic Performing Arts Photography Quick Change Artists Variety Arts

Introducing “The Great Lafayette” – A Man of Mystery – Rags to Riches Story

One of the most colorful personalities in the early 1900’s Vaudeville circuit was Sigmund Neuberger. (aka The Great Lafayette)

Here are some interesting excerpts from other very informed web sources about his life and career…

(Excerpt from The Edinburgh City Library Blog)

It’s one hundred years since the tragic death of one of the world’s greatest entertainers here in Edinburgh, and we’re marking the centenary with a series of events in libraries.

On May 9, 1911 a devastating fire broke out at the Empire Palace Theatre. Sigmund Neuberger, better known as the Great Lafayette, the self-proclaimed ‘Man of Mystery’,  was performing to a sell-out crowd when fire erupted on stage. The fire safety curtain descended preventing the spread of the fire and allowing all 3000 members of the audience to escape unharmed. However, those on stage and behind the scenes were less fortunate. Lafayette perished along with members of his troupe, his horse and his lion.

In an ironic twist of fate, the corpse of Lafayette’s stunt body double was initially mistaken for the magician’s. The remains of the real Lafayette were found the next day under the stage of the wrecked theatre. Huge crowds gathered in Edinburgh to see his funeral procession as it travelled to his final resting place. Lafayette is buried beside his beloved dog, Beauty, in Piershill Cemetery.

The Great Lafayette’s death sent cascades of emotion around the world. But before he died his life was a true rags to riches story. From simple beginnings he rose to command the highest fees for any stage performer of his time – the equivalent of £15,000,000. He had one love in his life – his dog Beauty, a gift from the great escapologist Harry Houdini. The Great Lafayette was a magician, a stage illusionist and a guaranteed success in theatres.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

During my Research for my book on American Quick Change Artist (that never came to fruition), I discovered quite a few documents about Lafayette.

Here are scans of a few of them I think are important to his story.

The Great Lafayette dressed up in his satin wardrobe for publicity photo.

A very tattered promotional page for his booklet “The Great Lafayette”.

His dog ‘Beauty’ (a gift from his friend Harry Houdini) was his pride and joy and upon Beauty’s death he was was struck with remorse.

To get a really clear insight into his amazing life read the new book by Ian Robertson and Gordon Rutter titled:

The Death and Life of THE GREAT LAFAYETTE

Here is where to get this new book “The Death and Life of The Great Lafayette”


Much more interesting than watching ‘reality shows’ on TV. The Great Lafayette was amazing!