Isaac W. Sprague was born on May 21, 1841 in East Bridgewater, Massachusetts. He was a normal and active child until the age of twelve, he began to rapidly lose weight.
His concerned parents, alarmed by his weight lost, forbade young Isaac from high energy activities. Despite this, the boy continued to loose weight and his now terrified parents took Isaac to the best doctors they could find.
The young soon realized that he could earn a good living by capitalizing on his looks. He began touring as ‘The Living Skeleton’ and quickly rose in popularity. In less than a year he auditioned for P. T. Barnum and was hired on a salary of $80 a week.
An official measurement was taken by a physician when Isaac was forty-four. At a height of five feet and six inches, Isaac weighed only forty-three pounds.
Image: cabinet card from Sprague’s stint with Barnum, circa 1868.