Sally Rand:   . . . .  Midgets?

Nudes and midgets drew big crowds to Chicago

Sept. 11, 1995


Calgary Herald

Imagine if a village filled with midgets, and a stripper who covers her naked body with white powder, were key attractions at a world's fair in Calgary.

It's a safe bet neither one will be here if the city secures rights to Expo 2005.  But both were hot properties at previous world's fairs, along with lots of other lowbrow lures.

Although the first world's fairs were filled with industrial exhibits, organizers gradually realized that to attract big crowds and avoid big losses, they had to generate some mass appeal.

One of the first successful responses was the "flume ride" at the Dublin fair in 1907.  A forerunner of log rides that are popular today at amusement parks , it featured a boat that quickly slid down a steep ramp into a pond.

Causing an even bigger splash was George Ferris' giant revolving wheel, capable of carrying hundreds of people aloft at a time, when it was introduced at the 1893 fair in Chicago.

Chicago organizers scored again 40 years later with their Midget Village at the 1933 fair.  More than 60 dwarfs lived in tiny houses and staged plays and other daily entertainment.

If that wasn't tacky enough, 1933 fairgoers could enjoy the obvious delights of Sally Rand.  The former model and silent movie actress covered herself in powder and danced behind two large feathered fans - raising them high at the end of her packed performances.

Although Rand first took to the stage in May, it was August before Chicago police finally got around to arresting her and insisting she wear clothes in future performances.  Rand ignored the warnings, was arrested again in September and sentenced to a year in jail.  The case was dismissed under appeal, and she returned to entertain when the fair reconvened in 1934.

Go back to the Sally Rand page.