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THE GREAT LENTINI

Frank (Francesco) Lentini was born on May 18, 1889, in Rosolini, with three legs, two sets of genitals and one rudimentary foot growing from the knee of his third leg. So, in total, he had three legs, four feet, sixteen toes, and two sets of functioning male genitals, which included all that existed of a conjoined twin jutting from the right side of his body. “I am here to tell you that there are lots of people in the world who are a great deal worse off than I am, who have far less to live for, and who have but a fraction of the pleasure that I get out of life."

I was born in Rosolini in the province of Siracusa, Sicily, in the year 1889. I am of a family of twelve children (seven sisters and five brothers, who are all ordinary appearing people, there being nothing unusual in their personal appearance or physical characteristics).

Indeed, careful investigation does not reveal any peculiarity in any of my ancestors either on the maternal or paternal side of my family.

I am often asked the question, "What is the cause of my strange condition?" I have appeared before the leading medical world in Europe as well as in the United States, and the only cause that they can give me is that my mother gave birth not to three children, but more than one, yet not three.

Up to the age of six I was able to extend the third limb so that it was possible for me to reach the floor with it, but was never able to use it for walking purposes, but strange as it may seem at the end of the sixth year my body started outgrowing the third limb, so that at the present time you will notice that it is six or seven inches shorter than the two limbs that I stand on. And furthermore, you will notice, that none of my limbs are alike – yet, I have three and yet haven't a pair.

Often people look at me and pass the remark, "Isn't that too bad!" But I am here to tell you that there are lots of people in the world who are a great deal worse off than I am, who have far less to live for, and who have but a fraction of the pleasure that I get out of life.

When I grew to the age when boys are allowed to go out of doors to play it was then that the realization came to me of my usual peculiarity, and naturally, I grew a little despondent about everything. My parents were fairly well to do and I had every comfort and was not neglected, but I began to grow unhappy, nevertheless.

But one time I was taken to an institution where I saw a number of blind children and children who were badly crippled and otherwise mistreated by fate, and then and there I realized that my lot wasn’t so bad after all. Even though a child, I could appreciate the fact that I was possessed of all my faculties and senses. I could hear, talk, understand, appreciate and enjoy the beauties of life. I could read and they couldn’t. I could talk to my friends, but some of them couldn’t because they were mute. I could hear and enjoy beautiful music, while some of them couldn’t because they were deaf. I had my mental faculties and began to look forward to my education, and some of them couldn’t. The visit to that institution, unpleasant though it was because of the misery that I saw, was the best thing that could have happened to me. From that time to this I have never complained. I think life is beautiful and I enjoy living it.

When I was quite young my family moved to America. Wherever we went I was, of course, considered a curiosity, and while at first their curious, critical gaze was considerably embarrassing, I gradually became used to it. It was natural for everyone to suggest to my parents that I be put into the show business, but my father said "No," emphatically – at least until I should have gained an education. He said he could forsee [sic] eventually that I might travel, but that he would not allow it until I had the benefit of an education.

I am often asked the question if I know of any other case of my kind, of anyone being born as I am. Yes, I knew of two three-legged cases, and two four-legged cases — the three-legged being males, and the four-legged being females — but none of these had a normal extra lower limb, and none had control of their extra limbs and in fact they had all they could do to get around on their normal lower limbs. Only one of these lived to an old age, and that was Mertle Corbet [sic], the four-legged woman.

No, my limb does not bother me in the least. I can get about just as well and with the same ease as any normal person — walk, run, jump; ride a bicycle, horse; ice and roller skate; and drive my own car. I can swim — one advantage I have over the other fellow when I swim is that I use the extra limb as a rudder. I am sometimes asked how I buy my shoes; well, here’s how: I buy two pairs and give the extra left shoe to a one-legged friend of mine who had the misfortune to loose his right leg, so you see very time I buy a pair of shoes I really do a good deed along with it. Another question often asked is, “Does the extra limb bother in sleeping?” It does not; I can lie on my back or either side of my body without any hardship or loss of sleep.

Of course, it was a great shock to my parents that I was born as I was, but when they found that I was perfectly normal every other way they, too, began to be philosophical about it. I have been traveling for the most part of my life and must say that I enjoyed it very much.”

At the age of eight, Frank Lentini moved to the U.S. and entered the sideshow business as The Great Lentini, joining the Ringling Brothers Circus act. He gained US citizenship at the age of 30. His career spanned over forty years and he worked with every major circus and sideshow including Barnum and Bailey and Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show. Lentini was so respected that he was often simply called "The King". He married Theresa Murray, and they had four children: Josephine, Natale, Frank and James.

Frank Lentini died in Jacksonville, Florida, on 22 September 1966.

 

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