Skip to main content
COLLECTION Identifier: TCS 8

Harvard Theatre Collection cabinet photographs of women in "freak shows"

This collection includes theatrical cabinet photographs of female performers who were designated as "freaks" for the purposes of popular entertainment. Also includes some animal acts. Includes portraits and group portraits.


  • 1866-1929

Language of Materials


Collection is in English.

Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on physical access to this material. Collection is open for research.


1 linear feet (1 box)

Biographical / Historical

Cabinet card photographs were in use from about 1866 through the late 1920s. They were a thin photograph mounted on cards measuring 4 1/4 by 6 1/2 inches. The reverse side of the card usually included extensive logos and advertising information of the photographer.

A "freak" was defined as a person with something extraordinary about their appearance or behavior. A "freak show" was an exhibition of rarities, "freaks of nature," such as unusually tall or short humans, and people with both male and female secondary sexual characteristics or other extraordinary diseases and conditions, and performances that were expected to be shocking to the viewers. Changes in popular culture and entertainment led to the decline of the freak show as a form of entertainment.


Arranged alphabetically by name of subject of photograph.

Physical Location


Immediate Source of Acquisition

No accession number. Various donors.

Processing Information

Processed by Sarah Mirseyedi, 2018.
Link to catalog
Harvard Theatre Collection cabinet photographs of women in "freak shows", 1866-1929 (TCS 8): Guide.
Houghton Library, Harvard University.
July 24, 2018
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Finding aid 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.

Harvard Yard
Harvard University
Cambridge MA 02138 USA
(617) 495-2440