Carried Away

Maiden and Gorilla BW

In November of 1893, the Eden Musée of New York unveiled “The Gorilla and the Maiden,” a new exhibit in its Chamber of Horrors wax museum, in which a giant ape carried a “scantily draped” young woman into the jungle. The New York World said of the ape, “Moved by hidden mechanism, he turns, now to scowl upon those he has left behind, now to gloat over the hapless maiden in this grasp. His eyes roll as much in anticipation as in anger… He grinds his teeth, gnashing his jaws in a very ecstasy of rage.” The effect was “altogether horrid.”

Gorilla Plaster

The scary wax tableaux was based on an 1887 sculpture by Emmanuel Frémiet (1824–1910), telling a story set in the Stone Age. The woman in the ape’s embrace had been part of a party hunting the gorilla. Having turned the tables, the beast snarls at her would-be rescuers, and clutches a rock, ready to retaliate.

Of course Anthony Comstock would object to a scantily clad maiden being carried off by an ape. But no. Comstock went to the Eden Musée to complain to manager E.J. Crane about the posters advertising the attraction, 150 lurid lithographs posted all over New York, Brooklyn, Hoboken and the surrounding towns.  “They must come down,” he told Crane.

Eden Musee

At the Eden Musée, Crane told a reporter for the World, “We will not take down the lithographs. Mr. Comstock may force the bill posters to do that if he can.” Theodore Hellman, the president of the company, referred the matter to his lawyers, while the ape continued to horrify viewers.

In December, the Eastern State Journal of White Plains reported:

The approach of the holiday season has its general effect in bringing throngs of sight seers to New York, and few of them are missing an opportunity to see the new attraction at the Eden Musée. The wonderful wax-group the Maiden and the Gorilla has been the sensation of the month. Celebrities from out of town, the rank and file of Xmas purchasers who swarm Broadway and Sixth avenue, and new arrivals of all sorts have taken in this famous bit of German art before leaving the city.”

And so Anthony Comstock was not allowed to spoil the holiday.

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