Admiral Dot, Midget Performer, Archive
Lot of 65+ items related to the life of P.T. Barnum's midget performer Admiral Dot, including a presentation sword, a cane, several photographs, badges and medals, a handwritten opera, an autograph book, and other miscellaneous items.
Admiral Dot was born Leopold Kahn (ca 1860-1918) in San Francisco, CA. In 1870, when the famed showman P.T. Barnum was traveling across the country to the western U.S., he met and auditioned Kahn, and was quite taken with the young boy's intelligence and talent. After teaching him the ways of the circus, Barnum hired Kahn to be a part of the new business venture that he launched in 1871: P.T. Barnum's Grand Traveling Museum, Menagerie, Caravan and Circus. Barnum then christened Kahn Admiral Dot, and initially featured the young performer in the museum tent as one of his Living Curiosities. Although his circus tasks were initially simple, Dot's opportunities to act and sing increased with time.
During the 1880s, Dot began traveling with the American Star Lilliputian Company, in which he was the star. While with the Lilliputian Co., Dot fell in love with a singer by the name of Lottie Smartwood, who stood at approx. 49 in. tall, and the two were married in Manhattan in Aug. 1892. At about the same time, the admiral decided to leave the circus and settle down with his wife in White Plains, NY.
After moving, Admiral Dot began buying up land in White Plains, and over time, he owned practically an entire block. He first opened a hotel, with a bowling alley, and went on to open Lexington Hall, which was a catering facility. Upon moving to White Plains, Dot joined the local fire department. He also joined the Elks, among many other organizations.
Despite being a volunteer fireman, Admiral Dot could not extinguish a fire that ripped through almost the entire block he owned in White Plains, completely destroying Lexington Hall. Admiral Dot, Lottie, and their two children survived, but very little was saved otherwise. The following year, Dot and his family continued to live in the hotel, but he sold the remaining land and made a fortune. In 1918, Admiral Dot died of influenza (Viagas, 1986: 5-7).
Highlights of the archive include:
•A period copy of a miniaturized Civil War naval sword made for Admiral Dot, 21.5 in. blade with etched panels of military motifs and leather scabbard
•A short cane, 20.75 in. overall
•Two small photograph albums containing mounted 3 x 4.5 in. cabinet-sized albumen photographs of members of the Lilliputian Opera. One album containing 16 images showing members dressed for a performance of Pocahontas; the other badly fire damaged, and containing 10 images with newspaper and other clippings.
•Manuscript script for Po-ca-hontas, the play performed by the Lilliputian circus, listing the characters and various acts and scenes.
•Family photographs, including a cabinet card of Dot and Lottie in costume, ca 1880; a ca 1900-10 photograph of Dot wearing the uniform of a White Plains, NY fireman (note: the hat pin shown in this image is also included with the collection); two card mounted family portraits of Dot, his wife and children; a larger portrait of Dot holding a bowling ball superimposed over the backdrop of a bowling alley; a ca 1900-10 photograph album with ca 225 snapshots of the family, most taken after Admiral Dot's death, but containing about 10 images of Dot and Lottie
•Two 4 x 8 in. handbills advertising a performance of the Lilliputian Comedy Co.
•Admiral Dot's Personal Autograph Book. 8 x .825 in. velvet covered album containing 31 autographs, and 13 additional pages decorated with watercolor painting or elaborate calligraphy decorations. A number of the sentiments are apparently from fellow performers or other little people, including W. H. Stuart who signed his name in a scroll along with "Without Hands or Feet"; Mattie and Christine (Siamese twins); Mazie Gypsie Wonder, and others. Assembled in 1886.
•Autograph book of Hazel Kahn, Admiral Dot's daughter. Small oblong album, with sentimental celluloid cover, contains 55 autographs and sentiments from former classmates and friends, most written in 1905
•A hand-written note enclosed in a tiny 2.5 x 3 in. envelope, addressed to Admiral Dot Lilliputian Opera Unionville Co. Mo. The letter, written in pencil from his nearly illiterate nephew Major Atom, closes "i remain your little nephew."
•8 keytags, 1 token, 1 meal ticket, and 1 business card for Admiral Dot's Hotel
•2 tickets for Lexington Hall
•2 Deputy Sheriff Badges, one stamped Admiral Dot
•5 badges or hat devices from White Plains Fire Department and Exempt Fireman's Sons Assn. Brooklyn
•5 Admiral Dot pinbacks, 4 that are cello
•2 GAR medals, 1 Gettysburg Veteran Medal, and 1 Spanish American War medal
•Admiral Dot's leather wallet containing a business card
•Other assorted personal items, newspapers, and ephemera advertising Admiral Dot