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The Legless Acrobat

Meet Eli Bowen, a man born in 1844 with feet but without legs (he was born with feet attached directly to his pelvis). Despite of this, Eli strived to live an extraordinary life: see, he wanted to be ... an acrobat!

Eli learned early to use his arms and legs to compensate for his lack of legs. Eli would hold thick, wooden blocks in his palms and use them as ‘shoes’, elevating his torso in order to walk on his hands. As a result of that process as well as steady farm labour Bowen developed enormous strength and even in adulthood he was able to navigate his 140 pound frame anywhere he chose. He started his professional career at the age of 13 in various wagon shows before eventually touring independently, performing in dime museums and finally touring Europe with Barnum and Bailey Circus. He garnered a reputation for being a magnificent and effortless tumbler and acrobat and for his phenomenal feats of strength.

Billed as ‘The Legless Acrobat’ Eli Bowen was known for his remarkable tumbling abilities but was applauded internationally for his extraordinary routine known simply as ‘the pole routine’. While Eli stood only twenty-four inches in height he had no reservations about climbing a thirteen foot pole in order to balance on a single hand at its peak. Griping the pole Eli would stretch his torso straight, parallel to the ground, and spin around the pole. Eli would then hold himself parallel to the pole using only his right arm. The routine not only displayed Bowen’s strength, but was also unusually graceful. Soon, Eli Bowen was commanding a salary of over $100 a week.

Read more about the remarkable Eli Bowen (and why he's popular with the ladies!) at The Human Marvels: Link


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"Eli learned early to use his arms and legs to compensate for his lack of legs."

Heh. (yeah, I know it's the original site's slip-up, no worries)
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