Article Category: Funereal Friday

Funeral of a Midget

Posted Friday, Oct 30

Che Mah (1838-1926) Striving towards a normal life in spite of an abnormal body, this dwarf was twice married, amassed a small fortune, and died at 88.The South Bend Tribune, September 30, 1956

Southern Calls, Vol. 22, December 2018

Funeral director Thomas C. Hite, of Knox, Indiana, not so long ago conducted the funeral of the smallest person in his experience. Che Mah, said to have been the smallest man in the world, died at Knox, and it fell to Mr. Hite to have charge of the obsequies. The body of the midget was laid away in a metal ivory casket, and, contrary to the age-old custom of his race, Che Mah made provision in his will that his body rest in American soil.

Che Mah was born in Ningpo, Island of Choo-Sang, April 15, 1838, which made him 88 years old. Being only 24 inches high, he attracted the notice of P. T. Barnum then in his heyday as master showman, who induced him to come to the United States for exhibition purposes. Landing in the county May 16, 1881, Che Mah traveled with Barnum, Ringling Brother, and was also exhibited in the old Johl & Middleton museum, Chicago. From there he went to Knox, Indiana, where he purchased a farm and other properties and remained until this death.

He was twice married, separating from his first wife many years ago, and marrying another, who survives. His first wife bore him a son, who has long been gone, but as an heir is being searched for. He Mah was a naturalized citizen, and alwayts took the opportunity to exercise his right of franchise.

The Embalmer Monthly | May, 1926

Che Mah was only 28 inches tall and weighed only 40 pounds. He was brought to the United States in 1881 by Barnum and Bailey Circus.  After retiring he moved to Knox, where he lived until his death in 1926.

He traveled with shows the greater part of his life. He was considered the most polite and intelligent manikin ever on exhibition, being with the largest shows in the country and having appeared before all the crowned heads of Europe. He also appeared and performed in all the big museums and circuses in Europe.

In retirement, Che Mah was one of the most highly respected citizens of Knox, and owned considerable property in Starke County.

He was interviewed by a writer and asked, “Are you the smallest man in the world?” 

“I am,” he replied, “and with no exception. Of course,” he continued, “there are children smaller than I, but I am the smallest man in the world.”

“How does it feel to be the smallest man in the world?” was asked of him.

“Well, ” he replied, “I don’t know as it feels any different from being any other kind of man.” “It’s not the size of the man that counts, but it is his brains or what he knows,” he said, pointing to his forehead. Che Mah was buried at the highest point in Crown Hill Cemetery, in Knox.
Starke County Historical Society

CHE MAH Headstone
Photo by Fionn mac Cumhaill

Subscribe today, or order this highly collectible issue online in our Shop

***

Check back every Friday for another nugget of funereal miscellany!

Other Recent Articles

Issue 32 Available Now

Issue 32 Available Now

Our June issue is out now! Read about Louisiana lady, Anna Wilbert Breaux, a 5th generation funeral director with a passion for saltwater fishing that provides leadership for a historic business with a service mark that dates back to 1850. Up next, Hart's Mortuary...

read more
Author-Undertaker | Todd Harra

Author-Undertaker | Todd Harra

“It’s such an honor to be able to walk with people during their time of need,” said Todd Harra, vice president of McCrery & Harra Funeral Homes and Crematory in Wilmington, Delaware. “But I never pictured myself doing this.” Harra has deep roots in the profession,...

read more
Funetorium | All Things Funereal

Funetorium | All Things Funereal

Attila Bethlenfalvy stands out in a crowd of funeral directors. With his gauged ears, shaven head and bushy, peppered beard, Bethlenfalvy doesn’t look the part, and he’s not a funeral director, though he arguably knows more about funerary antiques and ephemera than...

read more
The Charleston Nine

The Charleston Nine

Southern Mourning | from Southern Calls Issue 16, September 2017 (Opening Image: June 22, 2007 – Charleston 9 Firefighters ServicePresident, Mike McDaniel,1999-00 (head), President Thomas E. Baker II, 2007-08 (foot) Photographer – We are very appreciative to SCFDA...

read more
Man O’ War’s Funeral

Man O’ War’s Funeral

Southern Mourning | from Southern Calls Issue 9, September 2015 (Opening Image: As visitors look on, legendary thoroughbred Man O’ War lies in state in a casket lined with his racing colors at owner Samuel Riddle’s Faraway Farm in Lexington, Kentucky, Nov. 3, 1947....

read more

Join Our Newsletter

Sign up for our email newsletter to periodically receive article updates, industry news, and details about new issues before they are released.

The Magazine