Capt. George Auger, and Company
TALLEST MAN ON EARTH
WEIGHS 320 POUNDS.
BORN IN CARDIFF, WALES.
SIZE OF HAT, 7 3-4; COLLAR, 18; SHOE, 16.
Curiously, the name
'Cardiff Giant' has an American sideshow history
that predates Mr. Auger. In August of 1869, a large
'petrified giant' was 'discovered' on the small farm
belonging to William Newell in Cardiff, New York.
The giant was found by a crew of workmen digging a
new well at a location precisely specified by
Newell. Word of this exciting find spread quickly,
and soon there was a tent erected over the 'grave'
and eager patrons flocking to see it, paying
50-cents each for the privilege. Within ten days, a
syndicate headed by banker David Hannum bought
controlling interest in this ancient specimen and
moved it to an exhibition hall in Syracuse. A
newspaper article brought national prominence and
even larger crowds who were now willing to pay a
dollar each to peek at the giant.
Phineas Taylor Barnum heard of the Cardiff Giant's
financial success and attempted to buy it for his
museum at a price of $50,000. Hannum wouldn't budge,
so rather than increase his offer Barnum had a
plaster replica of the Cardiff Giant crafted and
displayed it in his museum, claiming that Hannum's
giant was a fraud and that Barnum owned the true
Cardiff Giant. The replica of the hoax was soon
outpacing the original in drawing power. Apparently
believing his giant was genuine, Hannum sued Barnum
for slander. It was an exasperated Hannum — not
Barnum — who uttered the often misquoted phrase,
"There's a sucker born every minute."
During the trial, George
Hull stepped forward and revealed that he had
masterminded this fraud years earlier by hiring
stonemasons in Chicago to craft the Cardiff Giant
from a large block of gypsum. The masons worked in
absolute secrecy, carving in their spare time in a
secluded barn. The sculpture was given the patina of
age through the liberal use of darning needles, ink,
water and sulfuric acid. Hull shipped the finished
product to his cousin William Newell's farm and
secretly buried it under cover of darkness beside
the barn with the help of Newell and his sons in
anticipation of its eventual 'discovery' the
following year. This was precipitated by an
important fossil find nearby. The timing was right,
so Hull signalled his cousin to have the giant
The judge dismissed Hannum's slander claim, ruling
that Barnum had been absolutely correct in
describing Hannum's giant as a fraud.
So, it may be that George Auger — whether from the
original Cardiff in Wales or not — took a name
hearkening back to the earlier giant in his own
presentation. One thing is certain: Auger's height
was no fraud.
James G. Mundie's Prodigies
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