Harlot Herpetologists of the Victorian era. I can not explain the popularity of snake women other than a mixture of revulsion tinged with eroticism. It started with Eve, I suppose, but carnival performers in the earliest days were nearly always male, a fake snake charmer "from the East" who would perform with a basket, a cobra and a flute. When promoters learned it would be easier to squeeze coins out of the local townsfolk if a dame was involved...presto, the Serpent Queen! Snakes were easy to transport, a small box did it, and there was certainly no shortage of mice for food. Any female member of the crew could put on a wig and lure rubes into the tent where a usually harmless snake would curl seductively around the performer's waist. Always popular, I am sure there are still plenty of strippers out there working with a snake. (Text overlay to prevent folks from swiping the images and selling them on Ebay, a more up-to-date and just as effective technique of separating coins from rubes)
See THE WONDROUS WORLD OF FRANK WENDT for more Photographs by this artist.
Original Cabinet Card Photographs, circa 1880-1900 Collection Jim Linderman