Harry V. Lewis - The Thinnest Man in the World
Billed as the “Thinnest Man in the World,” Harry V. Lewis stood 5 feet, 7 1/2 inches and weighed 80 pounds. He didn’t always hold such a title. Born in 1895 in Leon, Iowa, Lewis was a normal boy until the age of 12. That was when he began to notice weakness in his shoulders and hips. Doctors diagnosed him with a juvenile form of muscular dystrophy. The illness spread and caused his body to waste away, emaciating him to the point where he became a frail, living skeleton. Lewis subsisted on a light diet of fruit, vegetables, milk, peas, beans, and occasionally an egg. His physicians recommended he stay on his feet to retain some form of strength. The thin man heeded this advice quite well working in the sideshow. Lewis stood on the platform all day, sometimes up to 12 hours. Sometimes called the “Shadow Man,” he worked briefly with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey show. Unlike such distinguished Human Skeleton predecessors as James W. Coffey and Isaac Sprague, Lewis didn’t don any dapper outfits. Rather, he wore only a pair of boxer shorts, allowing people to witness exactly what they paid to see – skin and bones.
Photo courtesy of the collection of Milo Anthony and Cristina Boothe