On this day in 1770, one of the heaviest people in recorded history and one of the first to showcase their size for paying customers was born. His name was Daniel Lambert, and at his heaviest he weighed upwards of 50 stone (320 kg, 705 lbs). Lambert was born in Leicester, England to the keeper of Bridewell Prison. As a slim, athletic young man, he was a sportsman passionate about game-keeping and hunting. In particular, Lambert was well respected as a dog breeder and handler.
Known for his strength, there is an account of him fighting a dancing bear in the streets of Leicester. After one of his dogs escaped and took off towards the dancing bear, it is alleged the bear’s handler removed its muzzle so that it could attack Lambert’s dog. In defense of the dog, Lambert delivered a fist to the bear’s head, sending the animal tumbling to the ground.
In 1791, Lambert took over for his father as keeper of Bridewell Prison. Soon after, his weight suddenly began to surge, despite repeated affirmations from him that he did not imbibe in alcohol, ate normal quantities of food, and slept no more than eight hours each night.
In 1805, Bridewell Prison closed leaving a 700-pound Daniel Lambert without a job and essentially unemployable. Embarrassed, Lambert became a recluse, confining himself to his London apartment. But in 1806, with the need to make an income Lambert decided to put himself up as an exhibition, charging people to come and bear witness to his mountainous size.
A skilled and pleasant conversationalist, Lambert was soon attracting almost 400 paying visitors a day. It got to the point where visiting Lambert at his Piccadilly apartment became something of a trend in high London society. By late 1806, Lambert had accumulated a small fortune and returned to Leicester, where he continued to display himself for charge, even partaking in small tours throughout England. That was until 1808, when he checked himself into an inn in Stamford, England and suddenly fell ill. Within ten minutes of reporting difficulty breathing, Lambert collapsed and died.
In 1845, circus pioneer P.T. Barnum along with the famous dwarf performer Charles Stratton, also known by his stage name as General Tom Thumb, visited Stamford. Barnum donated one of Thumb’s costumes to be displayed next to Lambert’s. Years later in 1866, Barnum and Thumb visited again. This time, they were accompanied by Lavinia Warren, Thumb’s equally short wife, her sister Minnie Warren, and Barnum’s other notable dwarf performer, Commodore Nutt. Together, the four of them were able to slink through one leg of Lambert’s short trousers with ease, it is reported.
Even all these years later, Lambert is still widely popular and considered one of Leicester’s “most cherished icons.” In Stamford, the local football club, Stamford A.F.C., are nicknamed The Daniels.
There is a place for everyone in show business.