Merrick was born in Leicester and began to develop abnormally before the age of five. His mother died when he was eleven and his father soon remarried. Rejected by his father and stepmother, he left home and went to live with his uncle Charles Merrick. In 1879, 17-year-old Merrick entered the Leicester Union Workhouse. In 1884, he contacted a showman named Sam Torr and proposed that Torr should exhibit him. Torr arranged for a group of men to manage Merrick, whom they named 'the Elephant Man'.
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