Isaac Sprague

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Isaac W. Sprague
Isaac W Sprague, living skeleton, 1867.jpg
Sprague in 1867
BornMay 21, 1841
East Bridgewater, Massachusetts, United States
DiedJanuary 5, 1887 (aged 45–46)
NationalityAmerican
OccupationSideshow attraction
EmployerP. T. Barnum
Height66 in (168 cm) (in 1885)
Spouse(s)Tamar Moore
ChildrenThree sons
Parent(s)Nathaniel and Betsey Sprague

Isaac W. Sprague (May 21, 1841 - January 5, 1887) was an American sideshow attraction. His stage name was The Skeleton Man. He also appeared as The Living Skeleton and The Original Thin Man. He was born in Massachusetts. Doctors were puzzled when he began losing weight rapidly in his teens. He joined a sideshow in 1865, then got a job at P. T. Barnum's American Museum in New York City in 1868. He married and had three healthy sons. He died penniless in Chicago, Illinois in 1887.

Early years[change | change source]

Sprague was born in East Bridgewater, Massachusetts to Nathaniel Sprague, a shoemaker, and his wife, Betsey Sprague. He was a normal child who spent much time swimming. At 12 years, he began to lose weight quickly. His appetite was healthy. Sprague blamed the swimming for his weight loss, but doctors were puzzled.

Middle years[change | change source]

Sprague worked in his father's shoemaking business and later in his father's grocery store. The more weight Sprague lost, the weaker he grew. After his parents died, he was too weak to work and was forced to leave his job.

In 1865, a sideshow passed through town. He declined a job offer with the troupe, but reconsidered and joined the show. He appeared as The Living Skeleton or The Original Thin Man. He went to New York City and got a job in P. T. Barnum's American Museum at $80 a week. Sprague's job ended when the museum burned to the ground in 1868.[1]

Last years[change | change source]

Sprague married Tamar Moore, and sired three healthy boys upon her. He returned to work with Barnum and other showman. At age 44, Sprague stood five feet six inches, and weighed only 44 pounds. Physicians decided he suffered from extreme muscular atrophy. He died penniless in Chicago, Illinois in 1892.

References[change | change source]

  1. Hartzman, Marc (2006). American Sideshow. Penguin. ISBN 978-1-4406-4991-2. Retrieved 29 December 2020.

Notes[change | change source]

  • Hartzman, Marc. 2005. American Sideshow. Penguin. Unpaged.