Monday, October 23, 2006

A Mother of the Highest Caliber

From The Evening News of Lincoln, Neb., Jan. 31, 1895:

A remarkable woman is Blanche Leon, who lives with her four children in a New York tenement house. As a mother Mrs. Leon claims distinction. Though only 47 years old, she has borne 33 children, of whom seven are now living.

She is the wife of Joseph Leon Navachelski, Barnum's old "solemn clown." She was born in Madrid and at 13 married Leon. She joined his company and was the original human "cannon ball."

She went under the name of Blanche Sullivan and was nightly shot from a cannon. In 1862 her first children were born. They were twins, and within five years she presented the happy Leon with four more pairs. The first four children were born in Havana, and of the others two were born in Paris, two in Russia and 25 in the United States. Mrs. Leon shows birth certificates and gives ample evidence of her statement that she is the mother of 33 children.
The 1880 census shows Joseph and Blanche living in Manhattan with exactly zero children. Note that Joseph's age was then reported as 28. If correct, he would have been about 8 when he married Blanche, and the father of ten children by the time he was 15. No wonder he was "solemn."

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