The remarkable Eli Bowen was born in Ohio October 14, 1844 as one of ten children. While his siblings were physically average, Eli was born with his feet attached directly disproportionate to his pelvis.
In essence, Eli Bowen was a man born with feet but no legs. Despite its physical configuration, or perhaps because of it, Eli tried to live an extraordinary life. He tried to not only overcome the limitations of his deformity, but strives to be the best in a profession known for its morphology and perfect physically demanding routines.
Eli Bowen wanted to be an acrobat.
Eli learned early to use her arms and hands to compensate for his lack of legs. Eli would hold thick blocks of wood in his hands and use them as ‘shoes’, raising his torso to walk on their hands. As a result of this process as well as regular farm labor Bowen developed enormous strength and even into adulthood, he was able to navigate his 140 pound frame wherever he chose. He began his professional career at the age of 13 years in various car shows before eventually touring independently, running in dime museums and finally touring Europe with Barnum and Bailey Circus. He earned a reputation as a beautiful cup and effortlessly and acrobat and his phenomenal feats of strength.
Billed as “The Legless Acrobat ‘Eli Bowen was known for his remarkable abilities of tumbling, but was praised internationally for its extraordinary routine known simply as” routine pole. ” While Eli was only twenty-four inches in height he had no reservations about climbing a thirteen foot pole to balance on one hand at its peak. Grasp the pole Eli would stretch his torso straight, parallel to the ground and turn around the pole. Eli then be held parallel to the pole using only his right arm. Routine, not only evidence of Bowen’s strength, but was also exceptionally graceful. Soon, Eli Bowen commanded a salary of over $ 100 a week.
As he grew into adulthood, Eli Bowen also became well known for its beautiful looks and, at one point, he was considered by many to be the handsomest man in show business.
Eli Bowen good looks attracted many female fans with his performance. At the age of 26 Eli Mattie married 15 years and together he finally produced four healthy son. He took great pride in his family and the majority of photos featuring Eli and his family have. In fact, as if Eli was regularly photographed a collector can actually watch her children grow into young men and, eventually, adults.
Bowen continued to perform into his 80s, simply because he liked the stage. His son were successful, it became a merchant and one became a lawyer and judge and Eli property, including two farms in Michigan, and so money was never really a problem. Eli just loved life in the public eye and could not leave the scene.
On May 2, 1924 Eli Bowen passed of pleurisy, a few days before a show scheduled for The Dreamland Circus at Coney Island. During his long career he was regarded with great reverence by his fellow performers. They love referred to him as “Captain Eli.”