On 1 June 1933, J.P. Morgan Jr was in the Senate Caucus Room waiting to testify before the Senate Banking and Currency Committee. In a stunt worthy of P.T. Barnum himself, the press agent for the Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus dropped Lya Graf, a 27″ tall female circus dwarf, onto Morgan’s lap. As intended, cameras were going off instantly, and the picture of Morgan & Graf went out world-wide the next day.
Morgan profited immediately from the resulting PR. He went from being the greedy and ruthless devil that helped bring the country to the brink of ruin in 1929 to a benign, doddering, old man in the public eye. Morgan seized on that chance to humanize himself, and it worked, public opinion softened.
Lya Graf, however, was not comfortable with her new found fame. She was able to deal with her role as an ordinary, circus freak as it allowed her to make a living, but being a celebrity freak was something else. Hounded by fame, she left the United States two years later and returned to her native Germany. In 1937, Graf was arrested as a “useless person”. In 1941 she was sent to Auschwitz and never heard from again.