Mlle. Edith Clifford, Champion Sword Swallower of the World, born Edith Clifford on the November 22, 1886, began swallowing swords when she was 13 years-old. She was said to have swallowed 18-20inch blades, and up to 24 swords at one time. In 1901, Edith married Thomas Holmes, a.k.a. the “Elastic Stretch Man”; they adopted the stage name “The Cliffords” and joined the Barnum & Bailey Circus in Vienna. The couple performed with the Barnum Show for five years; Edith became famous for swallowing large straight razors, scissors, saw blades, a serpentine blade, and bayonets.
“The Cliffords” briefly joined the Great Wallace Shows, in 1907, before joining the Gollmar Bros’ Circus the following year. In 1910, Thomas Holmes passed away “from paralysis of the bladder and kidney trouble”. Edith remained with the Gollmar Bros’ and married Karl Bauer, a German trapeze artist, in 1912. The couple continued to perform.
In 1919, Harry Houdini witnessed one of Edith’s feats at the Ringling Brothers, Barnum & Bailey Circus. Houdini wrote: “:"The sensation of her act was when the point of a bayonet 23 ½ inches long and fastened to the breech of a cannon was placed in her mouth and the cannon discharged with the recoil driving the bayonet down her throat”.
Edith and Karl retired in 1922. Edith was 36 years-old. They ran a corner grocery store in Canton, OH. Edith died on September 3rd 1942 and was buried at West Lawn Cemetery, in Canton, OH.