Friday, November 21, 2008
It all started with being dragged to a postcard show. I stumbled upon a real photo postcard of Frances O’Connor. I had recently watched the movie Freaks and couldn’t believe I was holding a postcard signed with her foot. Thus, my new obsession was born.
I’ve been collecting sideshow performer postcards for over ten years now. I try to learn as much as I can about the various performers, reading every book available. And although there are several books on the subject, very little is known about Frances O’Connor.
Frances Belle O’Connor was born in 1914 in Granite Falls, Minnesota. Born without arms, she learned to use her feet for everyday tasks.
With her mother as her manager, she began her sideshow career with the Al G. Barnes Circus in Wyoming. She was quickly billed as “The Living Venus De Milo”, and while not the first sideshow performer to have that nickname, she certainly exemplified the title. Beautiful with a sweet personality, she attracted scores of men to her shows and reportedly turned down many marriage proposals.
From the 1920s through the 1940’s, she worked with Cole Bros., Sells-Floto and Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circuses. Her act consisted of smoking cigarettes, sewing, shooting a rifle, eating and drinking, some of which she performed in the 1932 film Freaks.
After her mother passed away, Frances lost interest in show business and retired in California. She never married or had children and passed away in relative obscurity in 1982.