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Biography of Three-Legged Wonder Franceso A. Lentini Part 1

About the famous three-legged circus performer Francesco A. Lentini, biography and history of the man.

FOOTNOTE PEOPLE IN U.S. HISTORY

FRANCESCO A. LENTINI (1889-1966). "The three-legged wonder."

He was billed as "the Three-Legged Wonder" because he had an almost full-sized third leg extending from the right side of his body. Lentini toured for many years with both Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Bros.

Frank Lentini was born in Rosolini, in the vicinity of Syracuse, Sicily, in 1889, the son of well-to-do parents. In a family of seven sisters and five brothers, he was the only one to have any physical abnormality. The midwife who delivered him was said to have hidden him under the bed and run screaming from the room.

Lentini's third leg was actually part of an undeveloped body, or incomplete twin, which was attached to his body at the base of the spine. The small body had a pelvic bone, a rudimentary set of male organs, and a tiny second foot growing out from the knee of the leg. It is believed that such abnormalities occasionally occur when a mother should have identical twins but, instead of dividing into two parts, the egg only partially divides. If both halves of the partially divided egg develop equally, Siamese twins result. If one of the twins fails to develop completely, a small body or appendage like Lentini's may appear on the fully formed twin.

By the time he was six, Lentini's normal legs were slightly different in length--one was 39 in., the other 38 in.--but the third leg was only 36 in., and the foot on it was clubbed.

Doctors had early determined that Lentini's extra appendage could not be removed surgically without grave danger of death or paralysis. Doomed to live as a human oddity, young Francesco suffered acutely from embarrassment and sank into a deep depression. Anxious to help their son adjust to his disability, Frank's parents took him to an institution for handicapped children, where he saw blind, crippled, and terribly deformed children who were far worse off than he was. "From that time to this," Lentini said later, recalling that visit, "I've never complained. I think life is beautiful and I enjoy living it."

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