Carl Herman Unthan was born on April 5th, 1848 in Sommerfield, East Prussia. Some stories claim that he was very nearly smothered by the delivering midwife, a popular narrative in the birth accounts of many marvels, and that he was rescued by his father before the evil deed was done.
It was his father who pushed young Carl to use his feet as one would use hands. Before long, the boy was able to grasp objects and write legibly. In his early 20’s, Unthan began to learn the violin and quickly became very adept at playing the instrument with his feet. In addition to touring the globe, he was also invited to play before Strauss in Vienna.
Early in his career as a vaudevillian performer his performance was similar to other limbless marvels. Often he would perform various mundane tasks like shuffling cards and smoking cigarettes and he made these tasks amazing by using only his feet. However, Unthan’s ability with music soon took precedent and he was recognized more as a legitimate musician than odd exhibit.
During WWI, Carl was served with the German Army in a moral role. He would visit hospitals and demonstrate his abilities to recent amputees affirming that their lives were not over due to the loss of limbs. He even stared in a film which showcased his lack of physical limitations.In 1925, Unthan published an autobiography entitled Das Pediscript, as Unthan typed the book using only his feet he opted to title the book accordingly.
In 1928, at the age of 80, Carl Unthan passed away a fulfilled and wealthy man. In 1935 his autobiography was republished in English as ‘The Armless Fiddler’, and world mourned his passing for a second time.
Image: The cover of Unthan’s autobiography. Source unknown.