Isaac W. Sprague, aka 'The Original Living Skeleton' Begins Performing at Barnum's American Museum

Isaac W. Sprague (May 21, 1841, in East Bridgewater, Massachusetts - January 5, 1887, in Chicago, Illinois) was a famous "human skeleton". Although normal for most of his childhood, Sprague began losing weight at age 12.

In 1865, he joined a circus sideshow, becoming "the Living Skeleton" or "the Original Thin Man". The next year P. T. Barnum hired Sprague to work at his American Museum until it burned down in 1868, continuing off and on to tour him throughout the country. By the age of 44, he was 5 feet and 6 inches tall with a weight of only 43 pounds. He died in poverty due to asphyxia.
He married Minnie Thompson or Tamar Moore, and the couple had three strong, healthy and robust sons.

As an adult, Isaac apprenticed under his father as a cobbler and later worked as a grocer. However, as his emaciation continued, Isaac found his energy depleted. It soon became too difficult for Isaac to continue working – it was then that the world of sideshow came calling.

In 1865, during a visit to a local carnival a promoter spotted Isaac and offered him a job. At first, the young man refused. But he 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.