Today’s Uncoddled Yet Truly Morbid Fact!
Carl Herrmann Unthan (5 April 1848 – 1929) was a Prussian-born violinist and actor who was born without arms. Unthan’s father was a teacher who insisted he not be “coddled”. Whether this was the reason or not, Carl reportedly could feed himself at two and around the age of ten is said to have taught himself to play the violin by strapping it on to a stool. He was sent to a music conservatory at 16 and graduated a couple of years later.
By the age of 20 Unthan was performing to full concert halls. He would go on to perform notably in Vienna with classical orchestras. He began with personal concerts and later added additional tricks to his repertoire. During his maiden performance he broke a string; he replaced it and tuned the new string using only his toes. After this it is said he would deliberately weaken one string before each performance so that it would snap during his recital, giving him an opportunity to repeat his dexterity. He was also a marksman who could shoot the spots out of a playing card with a rifle operated by his feet. He toured Cuba, Mexico, South America, and Europe. Later he married Antonie Neschta, whom he had toured with for a time. He moved to the United States and eventually gained citizenship.
At the age of 65, Unthan, (credited as Charles Unthan) appeared in the Danish silent film Atlantis which includes a passenger liner sinking during a voyage. The author of the original story, Gerhart Hauptmann, had been impressed by Unthan during a cross-Atlantic voyage and was inspired to write the character of Arthur Stoss, an armless virtuoso, based upon him. Hauptmann’s contract with the Danish filmmakers stipulated that only Unthan could play the character.
In 1925, Unthan published his autobiography, Das Pediscript (instead of manuscript – because he had typed it with his feet, pedally, as opposed to manually) in Germany. In English translation it was published in 1935, six years after his death.
Culled from: Wikipedia
This story totally reminds me of the documentary A Day in the Life of Bonnie Consolo that we had to watch back in grade school. You know, in the days of film projectors. Anyone else remember that?
Grim Chicago: Garageland
Here’s another episode of Grim Chicago, where I search out and photograph the sites of Chicago morbidity. This one was within walking distance.