In the 1890s, Café Tortoni, a renowned Buenos Aires establishment, was a hub of cultural activity. A captivating photograph from that era, displayed on the left, captures the ambiance outside Café Tortoni. The popularity of the Argentine aperitif “Pineral” was so immense that it inspired Ángel Villoldo, the composer of the famous tango “El Choclo,” to compose a tango dedicated to this beverage. The sheet music for this tango can be seen on the right, serving as a testament to Pineral’s cultural significance.
Now, let’s delve into the intriguing story behind the photograph on the left, which might initially appear to depict a puppet but actually features “Smaun Sing-Hpoo.” Smaun had achieved celebrity status during his performances in Buenos Aires, which led Café Tortoni to hire him for this promotional photo to endorse Pineral drinks.
Smaun was born on September 6th 1883 in Mergui, British Burma. Standing at a height of 2 feet and 10 inches and weighing 20 pounds, he was an exceptionally small individual. Smaun had an elder sister named Fatma, who was two years older than him and two inches taller. Surprisingly, their parents and three other siblings were of average height.
Smaun and Fatma were part of the “Kingdom of Lilliput” circus, captivating audiences in Europe and the United States during the 1890s. Tragically, Fatma passed away in the United States in 1903 at the young age of 22. Her final resting place is at the Magnolia Cemetary in Beaumont, Texas.
For more in-depth information about Smaun’s life and adventures, we invite you to explore the detailed account available at Ko Toe Philately.