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.