In the late 19th century, the circus was one of the most popular forms of entertainment for folks in every class and corner of America. Due to a rare condition, Ella Harper was one of the famous and sought-after circus performers from sea to shining sea. And in a move of undeniable class, she left it all behind.
Born in 1870, Harper was afflicted with a condition known as congenital genu recurvatum, which causes knee joints to bend in the opposite direction. Because her knees bent backwards, Harper found it more comfortable to walk on all fours. it wasn't long before some folks were referring to her as the "Camel Girl."
With a moniker like that, it was only a matter of time until Ella joined the circus. Specifically, she became the star attraction of W.H. Harris's Nickel Plate Circus, earning $200 weekly for her appearances. That might not sound like too much now, but it was a substantial chunk of change at the time.
Eventually, though, Harper got out of the traveling circus game. While some stretches of her life remain mysterious, she married a teacher by the name of Robert Savely in 1905. They took up residence in Nashville, Tennessee, where Harper lived until her death from colon cancer in 1921.
Avoid the crowds at the three-ring circus with the video below, which provides a much snappier and more informative look at the life of the one and only "Camel Girl."