The Mysterious Fading Man

September 24, 1890. The last known photograph of Edward T. Harrison: linguist, civil war general, inventor, hot air balloonist, and time traveler. Harrison was last seen boarding his hot air balloon, “The Omnivagum II” in Aberdeen, South Dakota for its maiden voyage around the world (and through time). His last words as he floated away through the blue Dakota sky remain unrecorded as they were drowned out by the shifting winds of the plain and the music of the Aberdeen Municipal Brass Band (led by a young John Philips Sousa). In attendance that historic day was L. Frank Baum, reporter for the Aberdeen Saturday Pioneer and eventual author of the beloved Wizard of Oz. Baum would later cite Harrison as his model for the character of the Great and Powerful Wizard of Oz, noting that both men – Harrison and the Wizard – were “humbugs.”

A Family Gathering

The entire family came to the front porch that hot August afternoon of 1911 to witness the unveiling of Uncle Edgar’s latest invention. Expectations were high, but, alas, the electrified butter churn proved nothing more than an empty promise and a greasy mess that some say reached half a block. As an adult, little Timothy would discover after years of psychoanalysis that this was in fact the root of his aversion to dairy products, and not lactose intolerance.

I was meant for the stage

Bertha O’Bannion, aged 9 months. Bertha’s future circus career as “Bountiful Bertha” may be anticipated through this early photograph taken during the star’s infancy. Referred to by Mr. P. T. Barnum himself as that “elusive, effervescent, enigmatic mountain of feminine flesh,” she is best known today as “Houdini’s Downfall.”