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October 28: P.T. Barnum and Admiral Dot

October 28, 2014
220px-AdmiralDot16.midgetLeopold S. Kahn, a pituitary dwarf (once called a midget) who was exhibited from childhood by P.T. Barnum as “Admiral Dot,” died at 59 during the influenza epidemic on this date in 1918. As he grew up, Kahn became a popular comedian with the Locke & Davis Royal Lilliputian Company. He married a fellow dwarf performer, Charlotte Naomi “Lottie” Swartwood, who converted to Judaism. The couple had two average-sized children, but their daughter also died in the flu epidemic. Like many pituitary dwarfs, both Lottie and Leopold continued to grow, even as adults, with Leopold eventually standing four feet high and Lottie 4′2″. They lived in White Plains, New York, and invested their show business earnings in the Admiral Dot Hotel. Leopold became a volunteer firefighter and battled the blaze that took their hotel in 1911. For an interesting perspective on dwarfism in modern Israel, click here. To view a history of the circus sideshow, look below. “During the week we spent in seeing San Francisco and its suburbs, I discovered a dwarf more diminutive than General Tom Thumb was when first I found him, and so handsome, well-formed and captivating, that I could not resist the temptation to engage him. I gave him the soubriquet of Admiral Dot, dressed him in complete Admiral’s uniform, and invited the editors of the San Francisco journals to visit him in the parlors of the Cosmopolitan Hotel.”—P.T. Barnum