Ella Harper

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Ella Harper

Ella Harper (5 January 1870 – 19 December 1921),[1] known as "The Camel Girl",[2] 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.[3][4]

Harper received a $200 per week salary that likely opened new doors for her.[2]

Later life[edit]

According to a blogger, Harper returned home to Sumner County, Tennessee and was living there with her mother and a niece according to the 1900 census.[1] On 26 June 1905 she and Robert L. Savely obtained a marriage license and were married in Sumner County on 28 Jun 1905.[1] In 1906 she gave birth to a girl, Mabel E. Savely, who died in November of that year. Harper and her husband moved to Nashville, Tennessee in 1909, where they appear in the 1910 census with Harper's mother.[1] In 1918 she and her husband adopted a baby girl named Jewel Savely, who died at less than three months old.[1] At the 1920 census she and her husband were still living in Nashville.[1] Harper died 19 December 1921 in Nashville of colon cancer and was buried in Spring Hill Cemetery at her parents' family plot.[1] It is unclear if the Ella Harper in these records refers to this particular Ella Harper.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Finding Ella (my search for The Camel Girl)". 18 April 2015. Retrieved 13 May 2015. 
  2. ^ a b Pednaud, J. Tithonu. "The Human Marvels". thehumanmarvels.com. Retrieved 2010-04-24. 
  3. ^ Anderson, Elizabeth J. "Ella Harper - The Camel Girl". phreeque.com. Retrieved 2010-04-24. 
  4. ^ Harper, Ella (1886-11-19). "Ella Harper's 1886 Nickel Plate Circus Pitch Card". United States.