The story of "Camel Girl" Ella Harper, Girl Who Exhibited in 19th-Century Sideshows

The story of “Camel Girl” Ella Harper, Girl Who Exhibited in 19th-Century Sideshows

"Camel Girl" Ella Harper

by Peter Barnes

The “Camel Girl” Ella Harper: “The Story of the Most Wonderful Freak in Nature”

Ella Harper, commonly known as “Camel Girl” was born on January 5, 1870, and she was diagnosed with congenital genu recuvatum, which literally means “bent knee.” This ailment is highly rare in the orthopedic world. This deformity gave her the nickname “The Camel Girl.” Due to the fact that she had to walk on all fours as a result of her ailment, she was given the nickname “Camel Girl.” She quickly amassed a fortune from it, despite the fact that it was challenging initially.

On the back of Ella Harper’s pitch card, which was later given to the crowd, it said:

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. 

Why does everyone call Ella Harper as the “Camel Girl”?

The story of "Camel Girl" Ella Harper, Girl Who Exhibited in 19th-Century Sideshows
Wikimedia Commons

Ella’s father worked the land, and Ella’s mother, Minerva Ann Childress stayed at home to take care of the family. Ella had four brothers and sisters, but none of them shared her impairment in the same way that she did. Ella thrived despite her deformities and was able to make a living despite them, in contrast to her twin brother, who passed away within a month of her birth. She also had a twin brother.

At the age of 12, Ella began her career as a performer in a traveling “freak show,” and she quickly found herself on circus stages all the way from St. Louis to New Orleans.

The showman, W.H. Harris, was keen to include the most diverse roaster of freaks that was available, and after learning about Ella Harper, he was successful in doing so. When he asked her to come and work for him on a temporary basis, he made her an attractive compensation offer. Acrobats doing acrobatic feats on racing horses and lions were already part of Harris’ circus.

By the year 1886, Ella had become the most popular performer at W.H. Harris’ Nickel Plate Circus. She was often shown to audiences with a camel, and each city where the circus stopped had a story about her in the local newspaper.

The story of "Camel Girl" Ella Harper, Girl Who Exhibited in 19th-Century Sideshows
Ella Harper at the young age of 12 | Public domain

Ella grew to fame while performing in Harris’ Nickel Plate Circus, where she received a weekly income of $200. This wage helped open numerous doors for Ella after she left the circus. Because of this, she was able to keep her successful job and move to a new home at the same time.

On the other hand, her career routinely embarrassed her; in addition to the nickname “Camel Girl,” she was forced on stage with a real camel, and paying viewers were allowed to marvel at the similarities between the two of them.

Newspapers referred to Ella as “the most magnificent quirk of nature since the beginning of the planet” in their articles about her. The article continued by stating that Harper was nothing more than a young woman with a nice face who had knees that turned backward rather than forward.

Life of Ella Harper after she left the circus

Ella had a good time working in the circus, but she was set on leaving the show business in the future to get a better education and get ready for a different line of work.

After she left the freak show circus, it is presumed that she immediately went to school and then returned to the house where she had grown up. It appeared that misfortune would find her no matter where she went. Around the year 1890, Harper’s father was one of the people who perished in a home fire. Her brother Willie passed away approximately five years later.

During this time, on June 28, 1905, Ella tied the knot with Robert L. Savely. Robert began his career as an educator and then found employment as a bookkeeper for a firm that specializes in photographic equipment. According to the census taken in 1910, Ella, her husband, and Ella’s mother were all residing in the city of Nashville, Tennessee.

On April 27 of the following year, Ella Harper, who was 35 years old at the time, gave birth to a daughter who was named Mabel Evans Savely. The happiness, however, did not last long since, on October 1, 1906, Mabel passed away at the young age of only six months. In the end, the family moved to Davidson County, and where, Harper and her husband made a place for Harper’s mother. Ella and Robert adopted a kid who was three months old after the passing of their own child, but regrettably, the infant passed away only 18 days after the adoption was finalized.

The death certificate for Ella Harper says that she was a housekeeper and that she died of colon cancer.
The death certificate for Ella Harper says that she was a housekeeper and that she died of colon cancer | Wikimedia Commons

Ella Harper suffered from colon cancer and passed away on December 19th, 1921 in Nashville, Tennessee. She was the mother of three young children when she passed away.

Source: Wikipedia | All the information & photo credit goes to respective authorities. DM for removal please.

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1 comment

21 dias de detox emocional November 10, 2022 - 10:14 pm

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