Montreal

Hidden treasures: The allure of Montreal's 'Midget Palace'

It's not a politically correct term now, but in the mid 1900s, Montrealers and tourists alike fell in love with an attraction in the city known as "The Midget's Palace." Check out the final instalment in our series on hidden treasures in Montreal museums.

Discover some rarely seen gems from the city's past for Montreal's 375th anniversary

Philippe Nicol, a man who had dwarfism, was tired of being exploited by others so he created the Midget's Palace. 2:25

To mark Montreal's 375th anniversary, curators from Montreal museums show us some of their favourite items hidden in their archives. This is final installment in our series.


It's not a politically correct term now, but in the mid 1900s, Montrealers and tourists alike fell in love with an attraction in the city known as "The Midget's Palace."

The attraction was the brainchild of Philippe Nicol, a man who had dwarfism and was tired of being exploited in what were called freak shows at the circus.

Instead, he opted to self-exploit, turning his home on Rachel Street in the Plateau to a museum of sorts. His wife, who was also a little person, also took part in the project.

Philippe Nicol (left) alongside his wife and son and their private nurse, all on full view at his Midget's Palace. (Centre d'histoire de Montréal)

"They bought a house and they furnished it with tiny furniture and they decided to invite tourists to be with them as if they were living their daily life," said Jean-François Leclerc, the curator at the Centre d'histoire de Montréal.

Tourist buses filled to the brim brought people to the home, where the Nicols welcomed them in to show them how they lived their everyday life.

Leclerc says the Nicols decided to give themselves the titles of count and countess.

"They were acting like very important persons," he said.

"It was a mix of self exploitation, you could say, and business, and a way to live like normal persons but making money with that."

More in this series