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Major Winner and his wife were noted Monticello residents in the early 20th century. An item in the Cresco Plain Dealer, November 14, 1913, notes that "Major N. G. W. Winner, the Monticello resident, is confined to his bed with a broken rib. While building a fence he fell over an obstruction, sustaining serious bruises and injuries."

Major Noble George Washington Winner was born in LaMotte, Iowa, on July 12, 1869. Mr. Winner joined the Barnum & Bailey Circus at the age of 18 and performed with them through the early 1890s. In 1896, while appearing with the John Robinson & Franklin Bros. Circus, he met Mary Jane Gongaware, who was born in Letonia, Ohio, February 3, 1878. Both Winners came from families of average-sized people and blamed their small size on childhood illnesses. Mr. Winner was 36 inches tall and Mrs. Winner 35. She weighed 65 lbs at age 22.

The dwarf couple were married in Mason, Michigan, on February 3, 1896, Mrs. Winner's birthday.

The Lima Times Democrat wrote in 1902, "...this little man left the impression that he had profited in more ways than one through his travels, and mingling with people of all classes. He is a splendid judge of character and reads faces like an open book, but experience has taught him to pass by the frequent thoughtless remarks which greet his ears as the crowds come and go. His reply to a fashionably dressed lady who aimed a remark at him in regard to what the Major smilingly terms his homeliness, would have done credit to a courtly wit, and the lady had enough good sense left to offer an abject apology.

"Mrs. Winner remarked that it was a long time before she got used to being gazed on as a curiosity, but she now rather enjoys meeting the people and seeing the sights which their travel permits."

Mrs. Winner suffered from chronic health problems; her appearance in photographs is consistent with tuberculosis. On November 9, 1925, she died while on a circus engagement in Seattle. Major Winner grew increasingly despondent after losing his companion of nearly thirty years. Three years later, he drowned himself in the bathtub of his San Francisco home.

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Last updated on Friday, 16-Apr-2021 16:54:31 MST