The man who came to be known as Hopp the Frog Boy, Samuel ‘Sam’ Parks, lived a life both cursed and charmed .
Sam was born on October 20, 1874 in Boston and his first public appearance was at the age of 19 and for the benefit of medical students at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. Sam Parks was likely born with osteogenisis imperfecta – a condition that resulted in brittle bones and, as a result, regular painful fractures. According to a souvenir pamphlet distributed by Parks in his 16th year of public display he could personally recall breaking 58 bones during his lifetime. Parks likely broke many more in his youth and even more even as he was being born. These multiple fracture resulted in a dwarfed, stunted and contorted body. His legs, in particular, were twisted and bowed and it is from his bowed legs that his moniker of ‘The Frog Boy’ originated.
Parks was from a poor family. His father worked hard to support the family and struggled to do so. Sam learned to be independent during this time as to not be a burden and he endeavored to push the limits of his fragile body. As a result Sam would still require care and assistance but he was a proud man who would try and fail before asking for help.
Shortly after his first public appearance, Sam Park began a full fledged career in human exhibition. Parks embellished his true origins, played on his amphibian appearance and as a human oddity he began to earn a good living appearing across the United States in carnivals and dime museums.
Remarkably, in 1906, Parks found love and married Maryland native Ida Granville in Baltimore. However his euphoria was cut short when less than a year later his manager absconded with all his personal financial fortune and left him penniless on tour in Georgia.
A year later Parks had rebuilt his fortune and welcomed the birth of his first child, a health and happy son. Sadly this happiness was also short-lived and, as Parks prepared to welcome his second child into the world a year later, he found himself mourning for his wife Ida. Both she and the infant died during childbirth.
Parks was devastated and his shattered heart mirrored his broken exterior. By 1909 Sam Parks was a widower with a young child to feed. Parks was a broken man inside and out. His health deteriorated and his he found his mobility was becoming more and more difficult as his body continued to break beneath him. Parks prepared himself for a lifetime of lonely solitude as he knew his physical limitation would not allow him to care for his son and that a second chance at true love was unlikely.
In 1910, while touring Canada with Great Patterson Shows, Parks met a young dwarf in passing. The Austrian born little lady was charming and Sam found her adorable. As he did in childhood, Sam again refused to acknowledge his limitations and was determined to court the young lady. In that same year Sam Parks married Helen Himmel, the famous ‘Princess Wee-Wee’, and the two lovers were evermore billed together as ‘The World’s Strangest Couple’.
The couple continued to tour for a few more years. Sam eventually did welcome a second child, another son, into his family as Helen gave birth in 1911. After retiring from exhibition Sam worked a small newsstand in El Paso until his passing on October 23 1923 at the age of 49.
Samuel Park experienced a life of great pain. But in his lifetime his heart felt the joy of true love – a fair trade he paid with no complaints.
Excerpts of the above taken from the book Very Special People.