ANNA SWAN – The Giantess of Nova Scotia

Anna Swan was born in Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia on August 6th, 1846. She was a large baby. She began her life at eighteen pounds and simply continued to grow. By the age of four she was almost five feet tall. By the time she was sixteen, Anna towered over her parents and 12 siblings. When she was done growing Anna stood a staggering seven feet, eleven and a half inches tall.

She began her exhibition career shortly after her seventeenth birthday. She started at the very top, working with P. T. Barnum in his New York Museum. Anna was often paired with the famous midget Tom Thumb, to better accentuate both of their statures.

Anna made a great deal of money under the management of Barnum. Unfortunately, her career with the famous promoter was rife with disaster. The original Barnum Museum caught fire while Anna was on exhibit there and she barely escaped with her life. Trapped on an upper floor, Firemen were unable to carry her to safety. Instead, an outside wall was demolished and a crane was called to facilitate the rescue. When Barnum rebuilt his museum, Anna returned only to lose all of her possessions in a second museum fire. Anna quit the business for a time and returned to Nova Scotia. However, in 1869, Barnum invited her on a tour of the United States.

While on tour Anna met a Kentucky gentleman named Martin Van Buren Bates. Bates had been a Confederate Captain during the Civil War. He was charming, soft spoken and eloquent. He also happened to be nearly eight feet tall. The pair fell in love and married on June 17th, 1871. The pair, billed as the ‘World’s Tallest Couple’ were showered with wedding gifts. Queen Victoria herself provided the gown and diamond ring.

The Gigantic couple settled in Seville, Ohio and used their vast career earnings to build a colossal home. The ceilings were fourteen feet high, every door was at over eight feet in height and every piece of furniture was custom build for their frames. The pair continued to tour, but only sparingly.

In 1872 Anna gave birth to her first child. The little girl weighted eighteen pounds, just like her mother had, but unfortunately did not survive long after birth. In 1879 the couple had another child, this time a twenty-two pound boy. Sadly, he too did not survive past infancy.

Despite these tragedies, the two titans lived together in their custom home quite happily in love. In 1888, one day before her forty-second birthday, Anna passed away unexpectedly. Her husband, Martin, erected a great funeral monument to his wife.

Atop her grave towers a fifteen foot statue of a Greek Goddess.

Although Martin later remarried he insisted that, upon his death, he be laid to rest next to his beloved Anna and their children. He request was granted and today they rest together.

Image: Anna Swan pitch card. From the author’s collection.
To learn more about Anna Swan and other Marvels purchase Carny Folk or American Sideshow.

Author, researcher and an expert of the odd, J. Tithonus Pednaud has been chronicling bizarre history and highlighting the lives of those born exceeding different for over a decade.

28 Comments

  • Reply October 15, 2007

    Anonymous

    Oh, darn, the writing on these has been so good up until now but … “only to loose all of her possessions”.

    Please fix, it’s just that so better when it’s right.

  • Reply October 15, 2007

    J. Tithonus Pednaud

    Ah, thank you. Editing is such a core…

  • Reply February 1, 2008

    Anonymous

    Susan Swan (no relation but also quite tall) wrote a novel based on the outline of Anna Swan’s life. It does take artistic licence, but it is a NOVEL. The Bigget Modern Woman of the World, is the title.

  • Reply February 11, 2008

    Anonymous

    Woow, yoour reely pikky, ad thatz sumewut ruude iff yu azsk mee!! Howe about yu tri riting thiz meny paqes wit purfect riting?? Serisously, tri noot toe bee zo megative, eets note tat biig off a deel! Yu siy, pleee fex. goosh! Hahaha. :)

  • Reply June 1, 2008

    Anonymous

    u must b hukd on fonix 2

  • Reply March 9, 2009

    Kristine

    Wondering if she or her husband were ever diagnosed with Marfan Syndrome or any other disorder genetic or chromosomal. Perhaps this could explain why their children did not live. Fascinating story. Glad she found love.

    • Reply October 4, 2012

      Mary

      This would not be Marfan’s syndrome. Mafan syndrome people are usually tall, very thin, their arms and longer than the normal arm would be as are their legs. Many baseball players have Marfan’s. Marfan’s comes with an array of other genetic conditons such as heart problems. This lady definately had giagantism. She had a relatively normal life in comparison to a lot of people with gigantism, who are plaqued with diabetes, and serious heart conditons.

  • Reply May 14, 2009

    Tom

    Great info about Ms Swan. What pics/info do you for Swan’s husband Martin V B Bates? Thanks

  • Reply June 21, 2009

    Julieann

    Great story. It’s sad that both of her kids died. :(

    Also isn’t ‘he request was granted…’ suppose to be his request?

  • Reply September 17, 2010

    Nadia

    I’ve read in an article http://www.elmundo.es/magazine/2003/215/1068216672.html (sorry it’s in spanish) That Anna’s kids were not Martin Bater’s and that he had genital problems. They say her children were Apolo Ingalls’…is it true or is it just an imaginary story of Susan Swan?
    Thanks so much!

    By the way, I love this site! It’s very interesting!

  • Reply September 18, 2010

    Russell Meade

    I am related to Martin VanBuren Bates.
    My Garndmother was Nancy Bates Daughter of Jesse Bates.
    Would like to hear from other relatives.

  • Reply September 26, 2010

    Anonymous

    I have the total chills. Their story is so heartwarming.

  • Reply October 8, 2010

    Russell Meade

    I have never heard that the children born to Martin VanBuren Bates and his wife were fathered by a Mr. Ingals.
    I am sceptical.
    I don’t believe I would be messing around in a giant’s backyard.

    Russ Meade

  • Reply October 27, 2010

    not telling

    !!!!!!!!!!! :)

  • Reply October 27, 2010

    ANONOMOUS

    This was a touching story! :) I am crying my eyes out I man why did her children have to die!!! :’( :’( :’(

  • Reply November 20, 2010

    Hmmmmm

    I find it very hard to believe that an 18lb baby could survive birth (and that the mother could survive!) in an era before c-sections. Much less a 22lb baby! Also, most very tall people are not born THAT big. I call bullsh*t.

  • Reply November 25, 2010

    Bosco

    Era a maior bucetuda do mundo!

  • Reply December 14, 2010

    Elijah Swan wilson

    that is my real great great great aunt

  • Reply May 21, 2011

    sarah

    Thank you, Anonymous. I can’t stand when people nit pick and are so rude like that. If you point out mistakes without actually having the intention of helping the person that made them, you are just trying to show everyone you are better than them. I’d rater b a baad speler then b ah jurk.

  • [...] Swan links: Personal. – View Article – NYTimes.com The Nova Scotia Giantess Archive ANNA SWAN – The Giantess of Nova Scotia | The Human Marvels The Giants’ Wedding | Anna Swan | Paul Slade – Journalist The Anna Swan Digital [...]

  • [...] Swan links: Personal. – View Article – NYTimes.com The Nova Scotia Giantess Archive ANNA SWAN – The Giantess of Nova Scotia | The Human Marvels The Giants’ Wedding | Anna Swan | Paul Slade – Journalist The Anna Swan Digital [...]

  • Reply September 29, 2011

    Heather

    Hello. I also would like to know other women in the family, especially those descended from Anna Swan’s grandmother. I have heard that Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis is passed down through the mother’s side, and I have Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. Anna, was diagnosed with a thyroid condition I believe. My maternal grandmother told us we were related to her, and I believe we were, through Anna’s grandmother. So that made Anna and my grandmother 2nd cousins. They grew up near each other in the Tatamagouche area of Nova Scotia. Giantism is a result of something wrong with the growth hormone originating in the Pituitary. My TSH is too low to lose weight, and it is at .057 at the last test. I am morbidly obese, and have given up trying to fix it. There are 5 or 6 hormones that are affected by the Pituitary, one is the growth hormone, and another is the Thyroid Stimulating Hormone, and there are others. I was tested for a Pituitary tumor but they found none. But I did have intra-cranial hypertension caused by spinal fluid overproduction. I have also been checked for my lactation producing hormones were too high and one doctor thought I was pregnant, but I was not! These are also connected to the Pituitary gland in the brain which stimulates all the normal body functions. I want to know if any other children of Anna Swan’s grandmother had any of the Pituitary symptoms of any of these diseases, and why, and if anything can be done about it. I also feel very odd, being of such a large size – obese; and not having anything help me to lose weight. Is there anyone out there who can answer any of these questions?

  • Reply November 13, 2011

    Laurie Taylor

    Dear Heather I am also related to Anna Swan she is my Great Great Great Aunt, I also have thyroid problems as does my sister my father and my Grandmother all on Annas side I didn’t realize that it was hereditary but now that you mention it i guess its too much of a coincidence. I too have tried too lose weight for years without any success . I hope this isn’t something that my children and grandchildren don’t have to suffer with, but doesn’t look too promising does it!

  • Reply November 24, 2011

    haley allen

    dear heather i do not have this nor am i tall our ramily is moving down to be short nor am i a adult i am 12 jenny im my grandmother fransis leavit is my great grand mother and then theres the swans hope we can continu our conversations

  • Reply November 24, 2011

    haley allen

    i see why all our family is full of courage

  • Reply December 4, 2011

    Heather

    Dear Laurie and Haley,
    Thanks so much for adding on to the family story! Laurie, you are the first one who confirmed my suspicions. My sister has an enlarged Thyroid, but hates needles and refused to get it checked. My other relatives have passed away, and or I could not find any other relatives who had the same problems. Thanks for sharing!

  • Reply January 26, 2014

    Kathryn Levack

    I am reading a wonderful book called”Among the Wonderful”. It is about Ana Swann, and her life with Barnum…Fiction, but very interesting facts about the Barnum Museum in New York…The book is by Stacy Carlson….

  • Reply March 29, 2014

    HeidiK

    Truly sad, that they lost both children so soon, but it’s touching to my heart that he loved her so dearly. She must have been a courageous woman, to return to a place after so narrowly escaping a fire! Is it known what caused either fire?

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