Isaac W. Sprague

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Sprague in 1867, age 26

Isaac W. Sprague (May 21, 1841 - January 5, 1887) was an entertainer and sideshow performer, billed as the living human skeleton.[1]


He was born on May 21, 1841, in East Bridgewater, Massachusetts.[2]

Although normal for most of his childhood, Sprague began losing weight at age 12 after feeling ill after swimming.[1][3] In 1865, he joined a circus sideshow, becoming "the Living Skeleton" or "the Original Thin Man".[3][4] The next year P. T. Barnum hired Sprague to work at his (newly reopened) American Museum until it burned down in 1868, continuing off and on to tour him throughout the country.[4] By the age of 44, he was 5 feet and 6 inches tall with a weight of only 43 pounds.[3]

He died on January 5, 1887, in poverty, of asphyxia in Chicago, Illinois.[4][2][1]

Personal life[edit]

He married Minnie Thompson[2] and the couple had three strong, healthy, robust sons.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d "Death of 'Living Skeleton'". New York Times. January 7, 1887. Retrieved 2015-03-28. Isaac Sprague, the "living skeleton," died here yesterday. He was born in Bridgeport, Mass., and was quite healthy until his twelfth year, when he caught a cramp while in swimming, fell sick, and lost flesh until he weighed only 46 pounds. Barnum took him all over the United States, Canada, and England. He was married and the father of three robust children. 
  2. ^ a b c Human Skeletons
  3. ^ a b c I. W. Sprague: Steven Bolin's Vintage Sideshow Photographs
  4. ^ a b c The Human Marvels: Isaac W. Sprague[unreliable source?]

External links[edit]