Various places, primarily ca. 1904-1912, with some later material. Item #18762
Harry Six, a small-town Ohio man born with a show-business name, had been gifted with a head for heights and a measure of confidence even when he had empty pockets that bordered at times on brashness—but to jump blindfolded from a two-foot wide platform, into a tub of water only three feet deep, and from a ladder some eight stories above the midway twice daily in front a crowd of paying customers requires a certain self-possession.
After Six went blind in 1917 (slamming head-first into the water for a decade from over a hundred feet up detached both his retinas), he gave up diving and briefly turned to promotion of other acts. Six also divorced his first wife, Bess—who is peripherally evident in this collection—around 1917; his sometime business partner Edith Thomas married him in 1922, and hints of at least one affair with another performer are included here to round out his personal life. Six died in 1948, evidently somewhat down on his luck and living in a trailer in Bryan, O.
For Six-specific material, this archive includes a stack of about 60 pieces of business correspondence, contracts, and bills relating to booking appearances in 1909 and 1910 (including his tour of Brazil), and a couple of instances of personal correspondence from Mae Eccleston, a female fellow-diver who had gone to Hollywood in the earliest days of Fox Studios “doing funny flops in the water” for $50 a week—and with whom Six appears to have been having the affair noted above. Also included are contracts for this Eccleston, negotiated by Six as her agent. Six’s charm was not universal, of course: a letter from another woman diver named Hilda Partridge in 1912 demands $82 in back pay, threatens to attach his property, makes a few personal observations, and notes “You do not bear a spotless reputation for paying bills.”
The collection of Sixiana also includes original artwork for a Six promotional letter sheet (with two example of the handsome color lithograph letterhead), examples of palm cards, postcards, and other promotional ephemera; material dating to his residency at the Ostrich Farm in Jacksonville, Fla. is also included.
The meat of the collections comes in its visual appeal—some 60 mounted photographs (ranging from 4 x 5 inches to 9.5 x 8 inches, plus mounts) of show venues, tents and banners for midway and sideshow attractions, show people relaxing by doing tumbling tricks with each other, and several of diving set-ups, generally from ca. 1904-1912; over 100 real photo postcards, including images of snake handlers, a pinhead, Harry Six diving, the woman diver “Mermaidia,” and others; some 30 or so unmounted snapshots, including candid shots of the midway; and numerous examples of other performers’ ephemera and promotional material, such as color lithograph letter sheets, promotional pieces, and miscellaneous ephemera.
The detailed description of the collection includes 34 lots more or less directly relating to Six, described under “Harry Six, World’s Greatest Headforemost Diver,” followed by 17 lots described under “Promotional material for other acts or related attractions.” This is then followed by a fairly detailed section under “Photographs,” a more or less itemized list organized roughly by topic, and then “Postcards.” A few heterogeneous items like halftone images may be grouped with photographs when it makes more sense to keep a coherent description of an act together.