This original CDV (carte-de-visite) photo dates to the 1870’s and is a wonderful studio portrait of 16-year-old Zuruly Hannum, a teenage girl who appeared at P.T. Barnum’s Museum in New York.
Billed in an 1866 newspaper as “A most beautiful specimen of the ‘Circassian race,’ having been ransomed at a great expense while on her way to a Turkish market,” Hannum poses here wearing her ethnic costume and wearing her hair in the very distinctively wild style worn by Circassian women of the day.
Circassian women were exhibited during the decades following the Civil War, where exhibitors such as P.T. Barnum frequently told tales of white slavery, harems, and rescue of such women to enthrall sideshow audiences.
In the early 1860s, after Russian conquest of their region of the Caucasus, nearly half a million Circassians migrated to Turkey. Many Circassian women, prized for their beauty, were sold into slavery. P.T. Barnum capitalized on this interest and began exhibiting a “Circassian Beauty” at the American Museum in 1865. By the 1870s and 1880s, Circassian women were popular attractions at dime museums and traveling medicine shows.
Photographed by Ray Nias (Sparta, Wisconsin), one of the earliest to set up shop in the American mid-west around the 1860’s. Other photographers of the period, such as James Birney Sabin, apprenticed under Nias.
The reverse side of CDV lists Hannum’s name, age and ‘Circassian Girl’ handwritten in pencil.
If you’re interested in selling antique circus or sideshow photographs or memorabilia at auction with us, check out our antique photography consignment page for more information.