‘Krao’ the ‘Missing Link.’ A Living Proof of Darwin’s Theory of the Descent of Man, (enlarged copies by J. W. Beattie of Hobart, Australia), 1883 (erroneously inscribed 1887)
Two flyers with wood engravings
The story of the Laotian child Krao is a good example of the interplay between science and commercial showmanship in Darwin’s day. Her family suffered from a hereditary condition called hypertrichosis, resulting in all-over body hair. However, when exhibited in Britain by the American impresario 'Farini' (William Leonard Hunt), she became 'A Living Proof of Darwin’s Theory of the Descent of Man.' The publicity photographs and posters exaggerated the family’s hairiness to suggest the 'Missing Link' between monkeys and human beings. Yet Darwin himself, in The Descent of Man, had mentioned the 'ludicrously hideous' effect of such 'excessive hairiness,' which he was inclined to explain as a chance reversion to the features of man’s ape ancestors.
Bodleian Library, University of Oxford, John Johnson Collection.
Link: The World's Hairiest Person and Me, Channel 4 television series.