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Saturday, 21 February 2015

Big and Little



Big and Little

I don't have anything to write about radio or television broadcasting, but the contrast in size of the two vehicles in the prompt photograph somehow reminded me of this photograph from the old family album that I inherited from my Aunty Pat, who in turn got it from her mother Mona Morrison nee Forbes.  Mona would have been given it by her mother Jane Isabella Young. The album itself was originally received on 17 January 1881 by Jane's brother Frederick, as a special prize in Standard VI at Kaiapoi Borough School, in Kaiapoi New Zealand.  I know this from the certificate pasted inside the front cover of the  album, scanned below, but unfortunately there is nothing else written in the album's photo index to identify any of the close to two hundred 'carte de visite' style photographs that have been carefully slotted into the album spots by someone, and I can only guess at who they might have been.




However, there is one photograph that stands out because it is so different to the rest, and here it is:


                                

 I was pretty sure that these two people were not related to any of my Anglo Saxon ancestors, so I  googled and discovered that this gentleman was  very probably Zhan Shichai, known as Chang the Chinese Giant, and is pictured here with his diminutive Chinese 'wife' Kin Foo. Also known as Chang Woo Gow, Chang was reputedly over 8 foot tall and spoke about ten languages. He toured the world, visiting New Zealand in 1870, where some of the Young family must have gone to see him and obtained his card, which was then duly added to the family album. 

There are numerous other cabinet cards depicting Chang.  Different sites tell different versions of Chang's story, but some suggest that the Chinese lady Kin Foo may only have been only posing as his wife.  Chang could have become family of course. After Kin Foo died, Chang visited Australia in 1871 and met and fell in love with a Liverpool-born Australian girl called Catherine Santley. They married and had two sons.  After Chang retired the family settled in Christchurch Dorset, where Chang opened a tea shop and sold oriental curios. Sadly Catherine Chang Gow died unexpectedly in 1893 aged 44 and Chang died four months later, reportedly of a broken heart, although it was also suspected that he suffered from tuberculosis. He was aged 52, according to British death records. Their boys Edwin and Ernest who were of normal height were only 14 and 12.


For more broadcasts on this week's Sepia Saturday topic, just click here.



16 comments:

  1. Did the death record say he died of a broken heart? That could be the beginning of a story... "His death record said he died of a broken heart."

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    1. Right, but I don't have Chang's death certificate, just the bmd index of names and dates, so I'm only going by what has been written about him. I index death notices for a local paper here and was sorry to see last week that 2 sisters aged 89 and 90 died on the exact same day.

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  2. Great photo and story. Chang was lucky to live that long and have a fairly normal life.

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  3. This is very interesting...both the story of Chang and the album of unknown people. Such a good reminder to put captions on all photos!

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  4. That’s so sad, but I believe ‘giants’ do not have a great life expectancy and to lose two wives is an emotional blow as well.

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  5. This week's theme has certainly brought out some interesting stories and this is yet another one.. And all those cartes de visite. It is so frustrating when you know that for each one there is probably someone out there who has an identical card and could identify it for you.

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    1. Some distant cousins and I have managed to identify about 40 between us, but that still leaves a lot of unknowns, and as it is several generations back, the number of descendants who might have known is ever decreasing. I have certainly tried to make contact with any that I can find!

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  6. The picture of Zhan Shichai & Kin Foo reminded me of William the Conqueror and Matilda of Flanders. He was just under 6' - rather tall for the times, and she was only around 4 1/2' tall, but for all intents & purposes, they had a good loving marriage & she gave him 8 or 9 children - all of good height.

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  7. 200 cdvs! What a treasure, even if they don't have names.
    Your post is a great match for the theme this week.

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  8. It is hard to imagine someone being over 8" tall. Imagine finding clothes to fit.....or having to build a custom made home so you didn't have to duck under doorways or could have a decent shower!

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  9. Fascinating photograph and I really enjoyed reading about Chang. How lovely to have so many cabinet cards that are connected to your family. I’ve purchased a few over the years, but sadly I don’t have any history for any of them.

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  11. That is an amazing album that you have inherited. An interesting story about the big guy and his little wife.

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