Hubert’s Freaks

It’s fitting that I finished this book about Diane Arbus on the anniversary of her death, which is today, at least for 3 more minutes.  Thank you public library, for having a New Releases section which is why I stumbled on this book!

Hubert’s Freaks : The Rare-Book Dealer, the Times Square Talker, and the Lost Photos of Diane Arbus, by Gregory Gibson is a true story about Bob Langmuir, a rare-book dealer who stumbled onto trunks filled with papers and costumes from Hubert’s Museum in Times Square, which operated from the mid-1920 through 1965. It had a flea circus, sword swallowers, and freaks–at which Diane Arbus photographed and met many of her subjects through.

It’s an interesting look at how archives and fine art photographs are valued, the messy world of auction houses, museums and galleries, and the estate of Diane Arbus, which is run by her daughter Doon. It’s a great look into an obsessive collector’s world, the mystique of owning a piece of art from a master, and a little about the people Diane Arbus photographed and spent time with.
Gregory Gibson has a website with photographs and a recording that was in one of the trunks, and a video of Jack Dracula, the subject of this photograph:

Here’s a link if you want to buy the book from Powells.
Or, better yet, you could just check it out from the library. I recommend that option.

Also, if you’ve never seen a flea circus, you really should. Acme Flea Circus is today’s flea entertainment. So cool!

Here’s a website documenting Hubert’s history.

Don’t you want to know more about history? There is also an annotated bibliography, my favorite!


One response to “Hubert’s Freaks

  1. There is a good chapter on Hecklers and the Flea Circus in “Wild Tigers Tame Fleas” by Bill Ballantine.

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