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COLLECTION — Folder: 1 Identifier: MS Thr 2079

Cabinet photograph and cartes de visite of "Circassian beauties"


Late 19th-century photographs of "Circassian beauties".


  • circa 1880-1890

Conditions Governing Access

Open for research.


.04 linear feet (1 folder)
Three images, one depicting Zula Zelick ("The Circassian Queen"), another Selena Beda, and the third an unknown woman; some have ink or pencil annotations.
Some photographs have ink or pencil annotations.

Biographical / Historical

"Circassian beauties" is a stereotype and a belief used to refer to an idealized image of the women of the Circassian people of the Northwestern Caucasus who were thought to be unusually beautiful, spirited, and elegant, and therefore desirable as concubines. (from Wikipedia contributors, "Circassian beauties," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia)
Circassian beauties were sideshow acts based on Johann Friedrich Blumenbach's pseudo-scientific theories of race. The women in the acts obtained wild and curly hair by shampooing with beer. Popularized by P.T. Barnum, these exhibits were accompanied by tales of harem life and rescue from slavery. (from dealer's description)


Arranged in order as received.

Physical Location

Pusey Library, 2, North [GEN]

Custodial History

Ownership before this acquisition unknown.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchased September 11, 2019, with the Beatrice, Benjamin and Richard Bader Fund in the Visual Arts of the Theatre.

Processing Information

Processing Information This collection was processed to a basic level with minimal rehousing, organization, and preservation (Melanie Wisner, 2021 February)
Link to catalog
Cabinet photograph and cartes de visite of "Circassian beauties" (MS Thr 2079): Guide
Houghton Library, Harvard University
2021 February 8
Description rules
Language of description
Finding aid is written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the Houghton Library Repository

Houghton Library is Harvard College's principal repository for rare books and manuscripts, literary and performing arts archives, and more. The library's holdings of primary source material are managed by an expert staff and shared with scholars, students and the public in the reading room.

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