Q: What do you get when a giant sneezes?
A: Out of the way!
The Tallest Married Couple in the World
Once upon a time, there lived a couple of giants... Sounds like the beginning of a fairy tale, doesn’t it? But seriously, once upon a time – the 1930s to be specific – there lived a giant lady and a giant man, and when they wed they became the tallest married couple in the world.
At least, that’s how Elfriede and Gottlieb Fischer billed themselves when they carried their act around the United States with the "greatest show on earth," the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus. They had already entered show biz in Germany, where they met on the vaudeville circuit as solo song-and-dance performers. After their marriage in 1933, they came to the US and traveled with various circus companies as "Mr. and Mrs. Long, the tallest married couple in the world."
Though the Fischers never admitted to their exact heights, they were thought to have reached at least 8’. Because their size was inherited – both were born into families of very tall people – and not the result of a medical abnormality, the happy couple lived to a ripe old age and passed away in their 80s.
The pot-metal ring shown here never adorned the enormous hand of either of lady or gent, in all likelihood. It was sold as a souvenir at one of the many shows the couple worked until their retirement in 1949. They ended their days managing the Pioneer Apartments in Sarasota, Florida, where they welcomed many of their entertainer friends to their winter home.
The Norwegian Giant
Johan Aasen, said to be the owner of the ruby-stone ring shown above, also made a life for himself as a showman. With an unknown father and a mother who died when he was only twelve, he was forced early to earn his own way in the world. He worked in the restaurant and hotel business and then (perhaps inevitably) entered the fair and carnival circuit as "The Norwegian Giant". In 1922 film producer Hal Roach offered John a part in "Why Worry?," starring popular comedian Harold Lloyd.
The movie made him a familiar face to the public, and from then on, John didn’t lack for work. He alternated between film and fair appearances until his death in 1938 at the age of 48. Unlike the sturdy Fischers, he had been plagued with ill health all his life and had suffered hospitalization for blood poisoning, a brain tumor, and weight issues.
While some of John Aasen’s remains were interred at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale, California, his skeleton is on display in the Alfred Shryock Museum of Embryology in Loma Linda University’s School of Medicine.
(Photo from Mütter Museum: Historic Medical Photographs)
Peg Boettcher has been wrangling curios and working at Ye Olde Curiosity Shop for just shy of a decade.