Josephine Clofullia (The Bearded Lady) Begins Performing at Barnum's American Museum

Madame Clofullia was born Josephine Boisdechene in Switzerland.

She was born hairy and reputedly had a two-inch beard at the age of eight. At the age of fourteen she began to tour Europe, first accompanied by her father and an agent and then with her father alone. In Paris she met painter Fortune Clofullia and eventually married him. She also gained extra fame when she fashioned her beard in the imitation of that of Napoleon III. In return, the ruler gave her a large diamond.

Josephine gave birth to two children; the first, a daughter who was born in 1851, died in infancy. Her son Albert, who was born the next year, was as hirsute as his mother had been.

All four — Clofullia, her husband, son and father — moved to the United States where they joined forces with P. T. Barnum. Barnum had her beard officially measured as 6 inches, gave Albert a new name — "Infant Esau", after the biblical character — and took them to his American Museum.

In July 1853 William Charr took Clofullia to court, claiming that she was actually a man and an impostor. During the case doctors examined her and verified that she was a female and the case was eventually dismissed. Some have suspected that Barnum arranged the whole matter himself as a publicity stunt.