At first glance, this is just another pleasant scene of historical interest, at the A&P Show in 1910. You can look at the clothes and the expressions of the people; you can marvel at the beards and hats – you can even wonder what people were looking at on the left.
Then, if you’re like me, you look to the back of the picture and see the sign for Casey, the almost man. What the? A genuine sideshow? Diving into Papers Past, I find that The Grey River Argus described Casey in 1911 as ‘the wonder of the age’. Were they overdoing it? Possibly; but Casey’s talents were more highly evolved than ‘almost-man’ suggests.
He played the mouth organ and the piano, swung his right like a prize fighter, and even toasted the audience’s health. As a finale, the Argus reported, he shook hands with spectators in a way that ‘makes one think he belongs to some Masonic lodge or secret society‘.
The paper’s review concludes with the line that audience members left freely expressing the opinion that:
never before in the history of Greymouth has such a marvellous and interesting entertainment been placed before the West Coast public.
Whew. High praise. Read more about Casey, the almost man, in Papers Past. And ponder this: What would today’s equivalent be?