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Tom Norman, born Thomas Noakes, (7 May 1860 – 24 August 1930), was an English businessman, showman and the last exhibitor of Joseph Merrick who was otherwise known as the "Elephant Man". Among his later exhibits were a troupe of midgets, a "Man in a Trance", "John Chambers the armless Carpenter", and the "World's Ugliest Woman". Norman died in 1930 and was survived by his wife and 10 children, five of whom followed him into the entertainment business.
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Tom Norman, born Thomas Noakes, (7 May 1860 – 24 August 1930), was an English businessman, showman and the last exhibitor of Joseph Merrick who was otherwise known as the "Elephant Man". Among his later exhibits were a troupe of midgets, a "Man in a Trance", "John Chambers the armless Carpenter", and the "World's Ugliest Woman". Norman started his working life as a butcher in Sussex before moving to London at the age of 14 where he sought a career on the music hall stage. There, he became interested in freak shows which he attended in his spare time. After viewing an exhibition called "Electric Lady" next door to his place of work, he went into business with the exhibition's manager and began his career as a showman of human oddities. He quickly became successful, for his patter as much as his exhibits, and was called the 'Silver King' by the American showman P. T. Barnum. In 1884, Norman took over the management of Joseph Merrick, otherwise known as the "Elephant Man", and exhibited him for a few weeks until police closed down the show. Merrick later went to live at the London Hospital under the care of Sir Frederick Treves. In his 1923 memoirs, Treves portrayed Norman as a cruel drunk who ruthlessly exploited his acts. Norman refuted this characterisation and said that he had provided Merrick (and his other "freaks") with a means of making money independently. Norman continued a successful career as a showman and later became an auctioneer of novelty shows and circuses. Norman died in 1930 and was survived by his wife and 10 children, five of whom followed him into the entertainment business.
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