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Prince Nicholi, The Russian Prince

Prince Nicholi, smallest man in the world

Prince Nicholi, The Russian Prince
real photograph cabinet card, 6.5 x 4.25 inches, circa 1890
photographer: Frank Wendt, Boonton NJ


The wee Prince Nicholai is alleged to have been the smallest man who ever lived. Often called "The Little Russian Prince", he was reported to have measured only eighteen inches tall and weighed in at fifteen pounds. There is some debate over whether Nicholi had actually reached adulthood, or whether he was a child afflicted with progeria the condition which causes premature aging, tragically turning children into facsimiles of the elderly.

The back of this cabinet card contains a rather lengthy back story about the Prince, which I reproduce here:

A Sketch of the Life of
THE RUSSIAN PRINCE.

The Prince was born in the mines of Siberia, the off-spring of political prisoners. His father was an officer in the Russian Army, and with thirty-seven others was arrested for complicity in a plot to assassinate the Czar, and condemned to a life of servitude in the mines of Siberia. Under the laws of Russia any one sentenced to life imprisonment, the law allows them to take their family with them, if they wish to. Accompanied by his wife he begins his dreary career as a Siberian convict. Fourteen months after, the subject of this sketch was born. The laws of Russia compel every male to report for military duty upon reaching the age of 21 years, but the diminutive size and child-like appearance caused him to be overlooked, until one day while the Governor of the penal settlement was scrutinizing the records, the name of a child born 28 years previous was discovered, with no entry made of his disposition as a soldier of otherwise. Captain Nicholi, the father, was at work in the mines when an order was received to appear at once to account for the disposition of his son. Taking the little fellow by the hand he reported to the Governor, who upon seeing the midget he declared he could not be Nicholi's son. The latter should be 28 years of age according to the records, and the person presented was but a child. Becoming convinced however of the truth, the Governor reported the matter giving full description of the midget to the Czar, who at once ordered him to be returned from Siberia for further investigation. Brought before the ruler of all the Russians, that mighty personage was greatly surprised at his size. His appearance showed plainly that he was at full age of manhood. Questioned by the Czar, the little fellow maintained the innocence of his father and falling upon his knees, he begged His Majesty to investigate the proceedings which condemned his parents to imprisonment for life. The story is rather long for publication on the back of this photo, in full, so it will suffice to say that after a thorough investigation the Czar pardoned the older Nicholi, and permitted his return home to the City of Kieff and to mingle with the good people once more. Thus did the smallest man in the world save his father from many years of prison life, and assisted him in assuming his place in society. An incident which proves the contention that every person born in the world is created for a purpose; and God in His wisdom may have created diminutive Prince Nicholi to prove the innocence of his father.

My tribute, Dutch Still-Life with Prince Nicholai, may be seen here.




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All Images and Text James G. Mundie 2005 - 2010