jump to navigation
  • Natator #3: the Fight with Fish Man March 30, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary , trackback



    In a previous post Beach outlined the early success of Natator, the frog man and Frank Buckland’s examination of this unusual specimen. The next chapter in Natator’s life is though a more traumatic one. Acts inevitably get old and Natator recognised this. By September of 1867, just three months after he had begun, Natator had decided to rope a Natator junior into the act and the two tumbled over like clowns in the water: the general opinion being that Natator original was the most impressive. But the Londoners’ loyalty could not be taken for granted. So Natator kept ramping up his act. In early 1868 he was, the newspapers claimed, sleeping under water. By April 1869 it was announced that Natator would be joined by a, you’ve guessed it, Madame Natator. And given the erotic charge that Victorians saw when they hear the word ‘mermaid’ this must have been quite a draw…   Aug 1870 he was still popular enough to feature at Wenlock Baths swimming festival between a race for  amateur all comers and a race for those lacking an arm and a leg. But these were difficult years and his most serious rival Fish Man, was gently doggy paddingly towards him.

    29 April 1871 one Professor Jefferson, ‘the Great Man Fish’ challenged Natator at the Mechanics of Hull to see who could stay under water the longest. Fishy beat Natator, Jefferson’s supporters claim, by some half a minute ‘amid terrific cheering’. Almost immediately after this shameful event the Great Man Fish began to advertise himself as Natator’s successor and Natator’s response was outraged but also tellingly shrill. These two adverts appeared in The Era 14 May

    Natator (the Original and Only Man-Frog), from the Cirque Napoleon, Paris, Cremorne, and Crystal Palace, London begs to inform Proprietors and Managers that the supposed Match between Jefferson which took place at the Mechanics’ Hull, on the 29 of April was a matter of money. Natator to receive the sum of £1, Jefferson the sum of £2 10s. Natator, having compassion on him, of course let him win [!]. The Man-Frog hopes that Professor Jefferson will not trade upon his name until a bona-fide match is made, although Natator will be most happy to accommodate him on the same conditions every night, but Professor Jefferson must understand that if a legitimate match is made, Natator will not leave out his Somersaults, Sleeping, Eating, Smoking, Writing, Undressing, Walking on the Hands &c, &c, under Water, as he did on the last occasion, to make him win. P.S. Will Professor Jefferson call back the Championship and £50 nominally mentioned in his advertisement, as it was a matter of £.S. d., no money being staked.

    Then immediately afterwards in the same number of the newspaper.

    Natator (the Original man Frog)… Just concluded a most Successful Engagement at the Alhambra Palace, Hull. Central Halle, Hamburg, June 1st to follow. Natator, the Champion Performer of the World, challenges any Performer in a Tank, for £100 to £200 a side. Jefferson can have 10 seconds start under water, 4 tricks in 12, or any other Performer in a Tank level, bona fide. PS This Challenge was thrown out on the Mecchanics’ stage on April 29, after the supposed competition for £50.

    Reading between the lines Beach would put the story of the fish vs frog rumble in Hull as follows. First, Natator was in Hull at the Alhambra. He, for some reason, found himself at the Mechanics where there was a stage, possibly a challenge from the dreadful Jefferson had brought him there? A small sum was bet and Jefferson beat Natator in staying underwater: or does the advert suggest it was fixed for money? Natator was convinced, in any case, that he was better at underwater tricks and in any case had not lost much money. Jefferson publicised, though, his victory as anattempt to start a career.

    More on the Great Man Fish and his rivalry with Natator? drbeachcombing At yahoo DOT com

    If you are coming to this late, follow the Natator tag.