CONGRESS OF THE ODD
GEORGE AUGER – The Cardiff Giant
Captain William George Auger was Born in Cardiff, Wales on December 27, 1882 to parents of average size. By fourteen, George already stood over 6 feet in height. As an adult, Auger was often billed at standing over 8 feet in height however his true stature was much more honest at around seven and a half.
As a young man, George Auger served as a police officer in Cardiff and was likely the tallest officer in the history of the company. Despite his enormous size, George was know for his soft demeanor, outgoing charm as well as his playful smile. He was known as an officer who would go the extra mile and was well liked by the public and his peers. From Cardiff, Auger moved to London where he found work as a ‘Bobbie’. Due to his intimidating presence, he was often assigned to Queen Victoria’s personal police escort squad. It was the Queen herself who began calling George ‘Captain’ – despite the fact that he was not a ranking officer. Her Majesty likely believed that a man with George’s stature, personality and physical presence should be addressed with some formality and respect. The title stuck to Auger and he would be addressed as Captain’ for years to come – even by his work superiors.
When the Barnum and Bailey Circus toured London, Auger attended with his wife Bertha – all 5’4”inches of her – on his arm. When Auger stepped up to view the resident circus giant, he found that he stood a full head taller than the professional. This observation did not go unnoticed by the circus and Auger was immediately courted and offered employment as The Cardiff Giant. George did not hesitate long as he had grown bored of police work and he loved the idea of seeing the world and entertaining the public.
Auger made it to America in 1903 and appeared as part of the Barnum and Bailey Circus at Madison Square Garden. To accentuate his size, management grouped Auger with the Hungarian Horvarth midget family. This practice was common in circuses and Auger did his best to ensure the family felt welcome. Auger and the youngest member of the family, Paul, quickly became best of friends. Auger eventually served as witness when Paul was married.
Not content to just be a circus giant, Auger decided to become an actor as well. In 1906 he wrote a play called Jack the Giant Killer. The play premiered on the Orpheum vaudeville stage and stared Auger himself as the giant and the Horvarth midgets as the townsfolk. The show ran for nearly ten years due to its popularity. During that time, George also became an American citizen in 1911 and he did his best as a bond salesman in World War I.
By the 1920′s, George considered himself retired. He and Bertha had a lovely place near Fairfield, Connecticut where he spent his days on the porch with his bulldog Ringling at his side. However, in 1922 George decided he had another tour left in him. He joined up with Ringling Bros., Barnum and Bailey Circus where he was paid $50 a week and loved every moment of it.
That same year, The Cardiff Giant was approached by silent film star Harold Lloyd in regards to playing a giant in the film ‘Why Worry?“‘. As a film actor Augur would be paid $350 a week but more importantly, he would finally be a film star. Unfortunately, this final triumph was not to be.
On November 30th, while staying with friends in New Jersey, Auger complained of stomach pains shortly before drawing a pre-bedtime bath. His friends heard the gentle giant collapse in the bathroom but were unable to assist him as his body barricaded the door firmly closed. When the hinges were removed, the body of George Auger was discovered and mourned.
His funeral was attended by over a thousand friends and he was mourned by many, many more.
image: Auger with film star Harold Lloyd, midget Princess Wee Wee and Francesco Lentini – The Three- Legged Man
© 2011 – 2012, J Tithonus Pednaud. All rights reserved.
J Tithonus Pednaud has dedicated this site to highlighting the remarkable lives of those born exceedingly different. These so-called freaks and human oddities stand as uplifting testaments to human spirit and serve as inspiring examples of human tenacity.