The circus sideshows often featured acts like Aileen who were known as "double-bodied wonders" or "half woman/half man." Or so the sideshow barker pronounced... The promoters would usually claim that the double-bodied wonder was male on one side of the body and female on the other side, but it is unlikely that any were really hermaphrodites at all. Rather, this was probably just a gaff that was accomplished by only exercising one side of the body, which created the appearance of a breast on one side through flabbiness (i.e. the unexercised side) and a physically-fit man's chest on the other side (i.e. the exercised side).
The item pictured above is an original pamphlet featuring one of these gaff performers, Aileen. The sideshow acts would have pamphlets and pictures of themselves printed off, and then they would sell the items at their performances.
"The most interesting case of pseudo-hermaphroditism which has come to the public attention is that of Aileen, the double-bodied wonder, who has been on public exhibition for some years, creating something of a world-wide sensation. Viewed from the right side this man-woman presents the perfect profile of a normal man, while viewed from the left that of a normal woman, a delicately moulded hand, small, gracefully formed foot, and fully developed breast. The right breast is shaped like a man."
The pamphlet is undated but likely is circa 1940's.
FringePop is a showcase for uncommon and esoteric cultural artifacts. The focus is on unusual items from both popular and fringe culture, with an emphasis on subversive pieces. The items shown are from the author's personal collection, unless otherwise noted.
I am a pop culture buff and collector, who focuses on the odd, subversive, and fringe elements of Western culture. In 2005, I edited a book for Feral House called "Sin-A-Rama: Sleaze Sex Paperbacks of the Sixties." The vintage oddities in my collection include victoriana, sideshow, medical, and kitsch. I am also an amateur sewer, making clothing from vintage mod patterns.