Flea circuses possibly originated in England during the 16th century. However, one of the most famous flea performances occurred during the 1830s in London created by a man named L. Bertolotto. The circus featured fleas’ playing music in an orchestra, playing card games, and in costumes dancing, and even fleas’ pulling miniature coaches! Though it is hard to believe fleas could actually perform these feats, the little insects, either dead or alive, were manipulated to look like they were performing. In the United States, flea circuses became a regular feature in carnivals and side shows, even up until the mid -1950s. This particular diorama features four actual flea figures (heads only) in a village scene, mounted in a hazelnut and encased in a matchbox. The diorama probably dates from the early 1950s.
The Children's Museum of Indianapolis
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