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Anna Swan

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Anna Swan

Born in New Annan, Colchester County, Nova Scotia. Third child in a family of thirteen, her father was Alexander Swan, a native of Dumfries, Scotland, and her mother's name was Ann; she was from Dumbarton on the Clyde. Anna was educated in the Castle at Dumbarton. Her growth both in body and brain power was unusual to a marked extent; at the age of six she had reached the height of her mother - five feet two inches - and weighed one hundred and ten pounds; a year later her height equaled that of her father - five feet four inches. Tracing the geneology of both parental families failed to show any precedent of such growth. Her education was completed in the Truro Normal school; in the meantime her growth had reached that of a giantess; at the age of fifteen she had reached seven feet in height, had become a subject of wonder among her associates, was given unsolicited publicity and was annoyed by questions from countless curious strangers. Eventually P. T Barnum learned of this remarkable girl, a contract was made for her to appear at his Broadway and Ann Street American Museum, and Anna Swan started her show career as the "Nova Scotia Giantess." During her introductory engagement the American Museum burned; continuing under Barnum's management, she was sent on the steamer Columbia of the Anchor Line to Glascow, Scotland.
A visit to the home of her ancestors, exhibitions and receptions in the larger cities of Great Britain, then at the end of eight months, back to New York and again featured by Barnum in his new museum. After the second museum fire she was sent on a tour of Western cities. Then a company was organized by Judge H. P. Ingalls to make a tour of Europe; the "Kentucky Giant" was also engaged for this European tour. The company was organized at Elizabeth, New Jersey in November 1870, the two wonders of nature. were to be exhibited in the same company; thus they became daily in each others presence and a romance of "giant" proportions was begun.
The "Kentucky Giant" was the son of John W. and Sarah Bates of Whiteburg, Letcher County, Kentucky. He was the youngest of a family of twelve; he was born November 9, 1845. The father stood six feet two inches and weighed two hundred and twenty pounds; the mother was a woman of medium size; they owned and operated a good sized farm. Educated in Emma-Henry College, Washington County, Virginia, young Bates showed phenomenal growth; at the age of fifteen he had reached six feet in height. His father was a slave owner in Kentucky, his opinion on the slavery question in the excitment of pending war was naturally for protection of his father's interests; on the call for volunteers for the Fifth Kentucy Infantry C. S. A., he enlisted on September 15, 1861. Not yet 16, but in size a full grown man, he began service in the Southern Army.
Between the time of meeting at Elizabeth, New Jersey in November, up to presentation to Queen Victoria in June, a love match had sprung into existence between the Nova Scotia Giantess and the Kentucky Giant; following the visit to Buckingham Palace, the giant lovers decided on a life partnership; the wedding took place at the Church of St. Martins-in the-Fields on June 17, 1871. St. Martins is one of the most ancient of London's churches; it faces on Trafalger Square, and in all its history of wedding ceremonies, none was on record of a bride and groom whose combined height exceeded fifteen and one half feet. The ceremony for this notable wedding was performed by Rev. Rupert Cochran, a native of Halifax, Nova Scotia, then the minister at St. George's Church on Hanover Square. Rev. Dr. Roberts, the Vicar of St. Martins assisted. The bride's costume was white satin and orange blossoms. Elegant jewels adorned her person, among them a cluster diamond ring, the gift of England's much loved Queen. The bridesmaids were Mlle. Augustine and Mrs. Dr. Buckland. The groom wore a dress suit, no adornment save an elegant watch and chain, also a gift from Queen Victoria. The groom's best man was Honorable Henry Lee, scientific editor of "Land and Water." Judge Ingalls gave the bride away.
The wedding breakfast was served at this new home by the celebrated caterers, Spears and Ponds. Thus begun the wedded life of a couple who were destined to be viewed and interviewed by countless thousands of the show going public who seem to crave the sight of freaks of nature. Following the wedding, the routine of exhibitions begun. On June 21st a private reception was given at Masonic Hall for the benefit of the Prince of Wales who was accompanied by his staff, the Grand Duke Valadimer of Russia, and Prince John of Luxenburg. Twice, later, they appeared before the Queen; once at Buckingham Palace and once at Windsor Castle; they were also guests of the Princess of Wales at Marlborough House; where her children and her sister Princess Christina, second daughter of the King of Denmark, were present. All this attention from Royalty was of inestimable value in their introduction at St. James Hall, the Crystal Palace and Great Britain's theatres.

A tour of the Provincial towns and cities followed the London engagements; by the Christmas holiday season they had reached Edinburg, Scotland. Personal memoirs made by Captain Bates in later years gave to Scotland the credit of being the most interesting and pleasant part of their tour of the Provinces with the Ingalls' organization. The first blow of sadness in their married life came with the death at birth of their first born; it was a girl, and like the parents, of unusual size; the weight was eighteen pounds and the height twenty seven inches. This loss had such a depressing effect on both, and the health of the wife, that a rest and pleasure trip on the Continent was the advice of doctors; they were away from the strain of being exhibited for a considerable time, only appearing when so requested by Royal command.

Eventually a tour of Ireland ended their engagement with the Ingalls organization. They left England on July 2, 1874 and then the trip to Ohio which culminated in the purchase and equipment of the farm near Seville. In the years that followed, along with their blessings and pleasures, a second affliction came with the loss of their second child; it was a boy, and like the first born was a miniature giant at birth; twenty eight inches in length and weighing twenty-two pounds, it, had the appearance in size of an ordinary child six months old. It seemed the hope of this famous couple to have an heir to perpetuate their name and fame was not to be granted. It was, however, their pleasure as the years rolled by, to enjoy that home on the Medina county farm near Seville when season engagements were ended after a long circus tour, or on a museum platform with the routine grind of a lecturer's description of what nature had done to give them notoriety.