Kansas City Dime Museum

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Art gallery, William Rockhill Nelson, Dime Museum, Zella Zubalon Cirasscian, “The Human Balloon,” “The Stone Eater,” “The Mammoth Fatboy,” “The Albino Children”




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Soon after Kansas City claimed Abraham Judah, a Cincinnati-transplant known as “the best liked showman in the West,” he found fame as the pioneer for theatrical activities in Kansas City. Upon relocating to Kansas City, he brought with him a single attraction–the Wild Man of Borneo. After he took over management at the Dime Museum at the corners of 9th and Delaware Streets, the museum hosted exotic theatrical shows such as “Zella Zubalon Cirasscian,” “James Wilson, the human balloon,” and “Sig Franco, the stone eater.”


“[The museum hosts] refined and first-class stage performances in theatorium,” Judah claimed. “Everything is first-class.” The Sporting and Theatrical Journal, published in the 1880s out of Chicago and edited by Charles C. Corbett, included notes on weekly circus happenings and museum stage performances, and often discussed Kansas City’s own Dime Museum.


According to the journal’s coverage of the Kansas City Dime Museum for the week of March 22, 1884, the following shows were to take place:


“Kansas City Dime Museum–Attractions for coming week are Prof. De Jalma, the Mammoth Fat Boy, Harry Eads and the Albino Children, concluding nightly with the very funny musical comedy entitled “Snowed In.”


Keepin’ it classy, Judah.


The Dime Museum operated until 1890, when it became the first official public art gallery.  The collection, donated by William Rockhill Nelson, was soon moved to the city’s public library, and moved again in 1933 when the Nelson-Atkins Art Museum opened to the public.