16 April 2014


As part of research for a book I have been looking at fin de siecle spectacle and freakshows in Australia.

One spectacle towards the turn of last century was 'Jo-Jo the Dog-faced Boy' (aka Fyodor Yevtishchev, 1868-1904), promoted as a hairy-faced creature supposedly "captured in the wilds of Russia, his father being like himself, as far as faces goes, a true counterpart of a Skye terrier". PT Barnum (1810-1891) - "every crowd has a silver lining" - kindly informed consumers that the boy's father was the result of an affair between a bear and a Russian peasant woman.

The Queenscliff Sentinel, Drysdale, Portarlington & Sorrento Advertiser on 15 June 1889 noted that "This marvelous curiosity is now being exhibited around the Australian colonies". Other reports indicated that Jo-Jo was doing the circuit alongside flea circuses (and the usual bearded ladies, tattooed strongmen etc) and had previously been exhibited by Barnum.

The Queensland Times, Ipswich Herald & General Advertiser 28 September 1889 page 5 stated that -
"Jo-Jo" the dog-faced boy, and the Circassian youth were on exhibition at the School of Arts Thursday last. Many people entertained the idea that the lithographs of "Jo-Jo," displayed in various parts of the town were greatly exaggerated but this is not the case. In connection with this  phenomenon, it might be interesting to state that "Jo-Jo''s father was captured in a forest, in Central Russia, at the mouth of a large cave, in which he lived and sustained himself upon berries and birds which  came within his reach. When the hunter came upon him, he made great resistance to prevent his son being taken from him and himself captured. At this time the father was supposed to be about fifty years of age, and Jo-Jo between two and three years. All means were resorted to of training the father and teaching him a language, but without effect, and he died, a savage idiot, six years after his capture. It is owing to this circumstance that no information is to hand with regard to who was Jo-Jo's mother. "Jo-Jo" however, was docile and very susceptible and was educated in the  Russian language. He was then taken on a tour and has been travelling twelve  years, having visited all parts of the world except Africa. The hair on his face is very soft and silken, bearing a great resemblance to that of a Skye terrier; while that on his head is like human  hair. His teeth are pointed, like those of the canine tribe. "Jo-Jo" can converse in four languages - Russian, French, German, and English. He is nineteen years of age. 6ft. 2in. in height and professes the Grecian Roman Catholic religion. The Circassian youth, who was likewise on exhibition, has a splendid head of rich white hair, which is 6ft. in circumference. His eyes are of a pink colour and the pupils oscillate continuously. He is twenty-two years of age, 5ft. 10in. high, and is still unmarried. He was dressed in the costume of his native land, is well educated in the English language, and plays the piano and violin well. He showed how he did up his hair when he  went out walking, and the manner in which he put it into high hat caused some amusement.  There was only a very moderate attendance during the day but in the evening there was a much larger number of visitors.
The Sydney Evening News 5 August 1889 page 8 reported that
Mr. Frank M. Clark has struck a big bonanza in the shape of Jo-Jo, the Russian dog-faced boy, now on exhibition at the Australian Waxworks, opposite the Cathedral, in George Street. Throughout the week this extraordinary freak of nature has attracted an incessant stream of visitors, one and all of whom view Jo-Jo with wonder and astonishment. There is no deception about the natural, or perhaps it should be said, unnatural growth of hair, the peculiar look in the eyes, and the canine-like incisors. Jo-Jo is inspected by the visitors, and takes it all in very good part, albeit, some of them are enough to tire the patience of Job. Added to this novel attraction is another in the performing fleas, which are evidences of what can be done with the coleopterous 'crank.' At intervals an illusion is shown in the front window in the person of a handsome young lady, apparently devoid of her lower extremities, who attracts large numbers of enchanted beholders. Last night Jo-Jo held a reception, and was visited by a crowd of spectators.
The Bendigo Advertiser 1 July 1889 page 4 reported
The passenger who attracted the most attention on the arrival of the 10.55 am train from Melbourne on Saturday was "Jo-Jo," the dog faced boy. "Jo-Jo," whose Russian name is Theodor Jedtichejew, gave his opening reception in the Masonic Hall at two o'clock, when a very excellent attendance was present. The lad has just concluded a four weeks' successful season at the Melbourne waxworks, where he received hundreds of visitors daily. "Jo-Jo's" face is covered with a long wavy mass of silken hair, which in color is between dark brown and silver grey. It hangs upon his brow down to the eyes, parting in the centre, and waving off to either side like that of a fancy terrier. It droops from his cheeks in long wavy locks, grows from his nostrils, and hangs from both ears. The length of this luxuriant growth of hair varies from two to eight inches, and it is so thick that the skin beneath is visible only in scattered spots. The eyes of this dog faced boy resemble very closely those of a terrier. They are slightly blueish in color, almost perfectly round, and the whites are visible entirely around the pupils. His mouth is furnished with only the two canine teeth above, and too incisors below, and all four are thin and sharp, resembling miniature tusks, rather than human teeth. The entire body is covered with a growth of thin light hair, but the thick heavy locks are found only on the face. "Jo-Jo" was very amiable on Saturday, allowing visitors to assure themselves that his hair was not fastened on by artificial means. He speaks Russian, French, German and English, and took great pride in showing that he could write his name, by signing it to the back of  pictures in large flowing characters. "Jo-Jo's" father was of the same peculiar race, but described as a wild man, and the two were exhibited together until the elder "Jo-Jo" died some three years ago. "Jo-Jo" the dog-faced boy is a most marvelous freak of nature. Professor Ubini's performing fleas quite took everyone by surprise, and the way these little mites go through the ordinary course of manual labor was altogether marvelous, and must be seen to be believed. Professor Tregaski, "Mythia," and "Ihdas" the Gipsy Queen, and the Circassian youth, made up a very clever and extraordinary exhibition. Mr. Clark's novelty company and "Jo Jo" will appear at the Masonic Hall every day till Friday night from 11 to 1, 2 to 5, and 7 till 10.30 pm, and will no doubt be visited by very large numbers, as the exhibition is well worth witnessing.
Sixty years later The Picton Post 12 February 1941 page 4 reported on another celebrity -
Captain Davis, the well-known sideshow proprietor, who was 'doing' the Berry Show with his dog and monkey show, was called upon to part with 10/ that he had not budgeted for, says 'The Register.' It was all brought about because of, the meandering of the ourang-outang, Jo-Jo, before any members of the show were awake. Jumping the showground fence, Jo Jo selected Mr. A. T. Watson's residence, just across the street, as the most likely place to fill up, and so into the kitchen he went and invited himself to a tin of sugar. Having polished off the contents of the tin, Jo-Jo hopped into the laundry, where he partook of a supply of vegetables, But it was while in the laundry that he brought about the disapproval of the head of the house, because he pumped the contents of a tin of kerosene all over the floor. What a picture Jo-Jo must have presented as he ate onions and tomatoes as he pumped away at the kerosene. Having eaten everything he could find there, his next call was paid to the fowl house, where he scaled a high fence, and here he had a great party. Climbing a pole, he came across a tin of eggs, which he polished off in no time.
Jo-Jo's presence caused a sensation among the poultry, and so, after eating all the eggs, he next found a tree of luscious peaches — and was sampling these when he was discovered. By this time the whole Watson household was awakened, and Mrs. McKenzie went in search of the owner of the ape, while the two little girls — Mr. Watson's grandchildren — thought it was a great joke, and made friends with Jo-Jo by patting him on the head.
Captain Davis assured all concerned that the ape was as quiet as a lamb, and took him back to the tent without any trouble. Mr. Watson said he did not ask for any payment for the eggs, fruit and vegetables that Jo-Jo consumed, but thought it only a reasonable request for 10/ for the tin of kerosene, which was handed over by the captain without a murmur of disapproval. When we called on Captain Davis we were told that Jo-Jo often takes a stroll, and on one occasion he walked into a fruit shop, where the lady of the shop was pasting some paper on the wall, but when she saw the ape she dropped the brush and ran for her life. Jo-Jo immediately picked up the discarded brush and began splashing the paste on the wall. When the woman's nerves returned to her she re-entered the shop and yelled at Jo-Jo to 'put down the brush and go outside.' He complied, but as he did so he took an apple in each hand before walking oat of the door. Jo-Jo is 18 years old, and was bred by Captain Davis, who says he is worth his weight in gold, because he is a most intelligent animal, able to do anything but talk.