Best known for their heartwarming roles in the 1932 film Freaks, where they stared in scenes alongside fellow famous pinhead Schlitzie, the Snow sisters were well-known staples of the World Circus Sideshow at Coney.
Usually promoted professionally as Pip and Flip, Jenny Lee Snow and Elvira Snow were billed as Pip and Zip in Freaks. The new monikers were perhaps an attempt to establish a connection to another famous pinhead named Zip – a human oddity who was enormously popular in his day and had recently passed. The sisters were often billed as hailing ‘from the Yucatan’ but were actually from Hartwell, Georgia and their parents basically ‘loaned’ the siblings to various shows in order to support their family. While their birthdates are debatable, IMDB lists Elvira’s birthday as March 2, 1901. Jenny’s birthday is unlisted, but it’s believed that she is 12 years younger than her sister.
The Snow Sisters were born with microcephaly, a neuro-developmental disorder characterized by an abnormally small cranium and brain. Biologically, during formation the head fails to grow in time with the face – which continues to develop at a normal rate – which produces a person with a small head and a receding forehead. As the individual grows older, the deformity often becomes more pronounced and obvious despite the fact that the afflicted individual is often underweight and stunted overall.
Billed as “Pinheads”, Jenny and Elvira were also intellectually delayed, possessing toddler-like mentalities, but it was that childlike innocence that charmed crowds and audiences. Freaks essentially begins with Schlitzie, Pip and Zip dancing and frolicking joyfully in the woods – and later scenes show their adorable bashfulness and sweet nature.
At their peak, the Pinhead Snow Sisters were earning as much as $75 per week – a stunning amount when you consider that their peak coincided with the great depression era.
Unfortunately Jenny Lee Snow was unable to enjoy her fame as she passed away at in her early 20’s on August 27, 1934. Elvira, however, lived a long life and passed away as a senior citizen on November 1, 1976.