United States (1854-1855)

Opate Indian!

Advertisement from Worcester, Massachusetts performance, August 30-31, 1855

Since I have identified October 25, 1854 as the day that Pastrana likely left Veracruz on the S. S. Orizaba, we can use the New York Times archives, to pinpoint October 28, 1854 as the date that she probably arrived in New Orleans with Francisco Sepúlveda and Miguel Retes (New York Daily Times 6.974 [1854] 1).

According to one early newspaper article, "They arrived at New Orleans in Oct., 1854, and went directly to New York, to Mr. Barnum, with whom they expected to make an engagement, but the cold weather not agreeing with them, they returned to New Orleans, where they arrived on the first of February, 1855. Here her exhibitions commenced under the management of J. W. Beach" (Plain Dealer 11.93 [July 18, 1855] 3). Though not much is known about exactly when and how Beach became her manager, Pastrana did perform in New York City, December 1854-January 1855 in Gothic Hall (316 Broadway) and 16 Stuyvesant Institute (650 Broadway), returning to New Orleans to perform throughout February 1855 at the Ladies' Parlor at the Masonic Hall on Charles Street (as advertised in various New York City newspapers and the New Orleans paper The Daily Picayune). By mid-February, advertisements identified J.W. Beach as her manager and J.B. Chandler as her agent (Daily Picayune [Feb. 16, 1855], 3). 

One early decision by her management seems to have been to arrange for a doctor to examine Pastrana. On December 3, 1854, Dr. Alex B. Mott wrote a letter about his interaction with her: ""She is a perfect woman—a rational creature, endowed with speech which no monster has ever possessed. She is therefore a Hybrid, wherein the nature of woman predominates over the brute—the Ourang Outang. Altogether she is the most extraordinary being of the day." Mott's letter was used in numerous advertisements for years to come.

Like Dr. Mott, many who watched Pastrana perform seemed surprised to find in Pastrana intelligence, amiability and grace. Typical published audience reactions include the following:

Louisville, KY: “Her disposition is mild and affable and she has considerable intellect. She converses fluently and intelligently in Spanish, and has some knowledge of English. She has learnt some of the lighter female accomplishments, and has progressed so far as to be able to do any kind of sewing, and to attend to the arrangements of her room. We were surprised to hear her sing a very pretty little Spanish song” (The Louisville Daily Journal [May 17, 1855] 2).

New Orleans: “THE BEAR WOMAN.—M’lle Julia Pastrana still displays her graces at the hall of the Grand Lodge in St. Charles street, and is ’the observed of all observers.’ The question has been raised in artistic circles whether Julia’s flattering portrait, which adorns the lintels of the Grand Lodge building, or herself, be the more fascinating; and commentators greatly differ. The picture is certainly a master-piece of portraiture, but as to the original,

            ‘The soul, the music, breathing from her face,’

are altogether beyond the limner’s art to do justice to. Julia must been seen to be admired” (The Daily Picayune [Feb. 15, 1855] 1). 

Several months elapse before newspaper ads resume. It may be that she continued her levées or perhaps this time was used to refine her performances. Further research is necessary to ascertain where Pastrana was during these months and what she was doing. 

In any event, Pastrana soon was back in the news. Between May 14 and October 24, 1855, newspaper ads about Pastrana's performances appear throughout the Midwest, upstate New York, and New England, including these cities in chronological order: Chicago, IL; Terre Haute, IN; Louisville, KY; Columbus, OH; Fremont, OH; Sandusky, OH; Cleveland, OH; Albany, NY; Troy, NY; Oswego, NY; Worcester, MA; Lynn, MA; Salem, MA; and Boston, MA.

Pastrana's travel and performance schedule was grueling. Generally, she either gave several performances a day or was available to visitors for the entire day. It is difficult to imagine that she had much of a personal life--her managers seemed more focused on making money than on assuring her health and happiness. This may be the reason that Pastrana asserted herself by marrying Theodore Lent.