A vintage photo of The Shields Brothers hit the top of the “Most Viral Images” list on Imgur in January 2016. Today we take a look at the photo and the claims behind it.
The Shields Brothers
The photo was uploaded to Imgur on January 18, 2016 and remained atop the the “Most Viral Images” list on the site for days. The classic sepia-toned image includes a caption “Texas Giants: The Shields Brothers.” It includes the ages and height of the four brothers, Shade, Guss, Frank, and Jack. All of the men have heights listed between 7 ft 8 and 7 ft 11.75.
The four Shields brothers were from White Rock, Texas and toured as “The Texas Giants” with the Barnum & Bailey sideshow starting around 1877. One source states that they made about $6 per day, while another claims they collectively made $100 per week. Three of the brothers toured the U.S, Canada, and Europe for about a decade.
Shade married a tall woman known as Giantess Annie O’ Brian, who also joined the group on occasion. Shade was the only brother to tour as a giant for most of his life.
As was common practice among the unregulated sideshows of the 19th century, the height of the men was exaggerated in handbills and posters. Several pages devoted to The Shields Brothers cite the actual height of the men as follows:
- Guss Shields: Billed at 7 ft 10, actual height 6 ft 9
- Shadrick “Shade”: Billed at 7 ft 8, actual height 6 ft 8
- Frank: Billed at 7 ft 11.75, actual height 6 ft 10.5
- Jack: Billed at 7 ft 11.75, actual height 6 ft 11
In addition to exaggerated height, the poster also fudged the ages of the men, making Shade the youngest since he was the shortest of the group. Jack was actually the youngest of the four brothers.
A descendant of one of the men allegedly said the brothers wore elevated shoes while performing, along with tall police-style hats to enhance make them look even taller.
The four Shields Brothers were among 7 (other sources say 8 or 9) Shields brothers, although only four of them were tall enough to tour as “giants.” Other tall men filled in the group, posing as a brother.
Another common practice was for the tall brothers to pose alongside shorter individuals in order to accentuate their height.
An image showing sideshow Texans known as The Shields Brothers went viral in January 2016. Although the vintage photo cites the height of the men between 7 ft 8 and 7 ft 11, their actual height ranged from about 6 ft 8 to 6 ft 11.