Ella Harper

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Ella Harper

Ella Harper (c. 1870–1921?), known as the "Camel Girl",[1] was born with a very rare orthopedic condition that caused her knees to bend backwards, called congenital genu recurvatum. Her preference to walk on all fours resulted in her nickname "Camel Girl". In 1886 she was featured as the star in W. H. Harris’s Nickel Plate Circus, appearing in newspapers wherever the circus visited. The back of her pitch card reads:

I am called the camel girl because my knees turn backward. I can walk best on my hands and feet as you see me in the picture. I have traveled considerably in the show business for the past four years and now, this is 1886 and I intend to quit the show business and go to school and fit myself for another occupation.[2][3]

Ella received a $200 a week salary that likely opened new doors for her.

Records exist indicating that someone named Ella Harper married Robert L. Savely in 1905 in Sumner County, Tennessee[4] and died in 1921 of colon cancer,[5] but it is unclear whether these records refer to the circus performer.[1]


  1. ^ a b Pednaud, J. Tithonu. "The Human Marvels". thehumanmarvels.com. Retrieved 2010-04-24. 
  2. ^ Anderson, Elizabeth J. "Ella Harper - The Camel Girl". phreeque.com. Retrieved 2010-04-24. 
  3. ^ Harper, Ella (1886-11-19). "Ella Harper's 1886 Nickel Plate Circus Pitch Card". United States. 
  4. ^ Ancestry.com. Tennessee State Marriages, 1780-2002 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2008. Original data: Tennessee State Marriages, 1780-2002. Nashville, TN, USA: Tennessee State Library and Archives. Microfilm.
  5. ^ Tennessee State Library and Archives; Nashville, Tennessee; Tennessee Death Records, 1908-1959; Roll #: 125.