Isaac W. Sprague, also known as “The Living Skeleton,” was born on May 21, 1841, in East Bridgewater Massachusetts. He had a normal childhood until his health began deteriorating at age 12. Some early speculation indicated that he may have contracted a bacterial pathogen while swimming, which triggered his subsequent lifelong illness.
Sprague’s disease caused him to be unable to gain weight no matter the nutrients he consumed and he developed progressive muscle wasting and weakness. This combination led to his later famed and exploited skeletal frame in adulthood. It was said that Sprague would always have keep a flask of sugared milk with him at all times to sip on through the day just so he could get steady nutrients so he would not faint or die from starvation. The only official measurement of Sprague was taken by a physician in 1885 when he was 44 years old, where he weighed just 43 pounds at 5 feet 6 inches.