Chief Debro and Wife

Description (Brief)
Albumen cabinet card portrait of a diminutive couple identified as "Chief Debro and Wife / Esquimaux." The man is wearing a long, checkered coat and a hat and has a long beard. The woman, on his left, is wearing a dark hoop skirt dress with ruffled fabric shoulder decoration. The couple is standing in front of a backdrop painted with images of tables and plants. The maker marked "Sells Bros. / ANNEX. / 1894" on the back of the card.
The Circus Collection includes the Photographic History Collection’s object holdings related to the history of circus from the end of the nineteenth to the turn of the twenty-first century. For the purpose of this finding aid, circus is defined as any activity relating to the staging and viewing of circus, sideshow, or “freak show” performances. The collection is primarily composed of thirty cabinet print and thirteen carte-de-visite photographs of performers in circus “freak shows.” Some of these prints are marked with the identities of the individuals depicted, including Chang and Eng, Siamese twins employed by the Barnum & Bailey circus and Tom Thumb, a famous performer with dwarfism. In a number of the photographs, the people who performed for the circus are accompanied by their families, or “normal” individuals to emphasize the distinctiveness of the performer. The collection also includes a photo album with twenty-three photographs of circus performers. These pictures show “freak show” performers, acrobats, and other individuals who may have performed in circus shows.
The collection also includes several books. In the handmade book, Record of an Idle Summer, Florence Albrecht details her summer activities and shares reflections on her time on the Jersey Shore in 1906. In the chapter “May,” the author describes the circus coming to town, including several photographs of circus tents, elephants, and a parade down the main street of the town. P.T. Barnum’s autobiography Struggles and Triumphs also exists in the Photographic History Collection. In the book, Barnum recounts his life’s endeavors, including his New York American Museum and eponymous circus. While there are no photographs in the book, there are a number of illustrations, including a portrait of P.T. Barnum based on G. K. Warren’s photograph, pictures of his museum and various aspects of his traveling show. There is a collection of gelatin silver photographs made in 1972 by Leslie Sussmann and Sally Bordwell documenting carnivals across the American South.
Currently not on view
Object Name
cabinet print
date made
ca 1894
Physical Description
paper (overall material)
overall: 7 in x 4 in; 17.78 cm x 10.16 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Photo History Collection
Circus Collection
See more items in
Culture and the Arts: Photographic History
Circus Collection
Photo History Collection
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Additional Media

Visitor Comments

7/15/2016 6:05:59 PM
Anita Whatley
I have a photograph from my great grandparents of this couple dated 1903
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