POTW: Lionel the Lion-Faced Man


Brooklyn Daily Eagle photographs, CONE_0590, c1924, Center for Brooklyn History, Brooklyn Public Library.
Marie Roberts Dreamland Circus side show photographs, CONE_0590, c1924, Center for Brooklyn History, Brooklyn Public Library. 

Stephan Bibrowski (1890–1932), also known as "Lionel the Lion-Faced Man," was born outside Warsaw, Poland with a rare condition called hypertrichosis. Often called “werewolf syndrome” hypertrichosis causes excessive hair growth on the body and is now thought to be hereditary. While Stephan’s mother was pregnant with him she watched as his father was attacked by a lion, an event she believed caused Stephen’s condition.

At four years old Stephan was put in the custody of a German showman named Sedlmayer, who gave him the stagename “Lionel the Lion-Faced Boy,” and put on exhibit across Europe. In 1901 Stephan and Sedlmayer traveled to the United States where he was scounted by the Barnum and Bailey Circus. During his act he performed gymnastics and conversed with audience members in five languages. According to a friend he had dreams of becoming a dentist, but found sideshow work more profitable. In 1920 he moved to New York City where he became a popular attraction at the Coney Island Dreamland Circus. Stephan returned to Germany and reportedly died of a heart attack in 1932.

Interested in seeing more photos from CBH’s collections? Visit our online image gallery, which includes a selection of our images, or the digital collections portal at Brooklyn Public Library. We look forward to inviting you to CBH in the future to research in our entire collection of images, archives, maps, and special collections. In the meantime, please visit our resources page to search our collections. Questions? Our reference staff is available to help with your research! You can reach us at cbhreference@bklynlibrary.org.


This blog post reflects the opinions of the author and does not necessarily represent the views of Brooklyn Public Library.


Marie Roberts

My photo, my Uncle Lester A Roberts’ friend. Lester toured with Lionel and other cast members of the Dreamland Circus Sideshow.
Tue, Jun 8 2021 8:50 pm Permalink

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