The Great And Only BarnumThe Tremendous, Stupendous,Life Of Showman P.T. Barnum
Some LiesIn 1835, Barnum exhibited his first human curiosity, awoman claiming that she was 161 years of age namedJoice Heath whose owner (showman Coley Bartram)told Barnum that she was also George Washington’snurse. He eventually sold her to Barnum for a fortune.But the public was fooled. Barnum held a show forpeople to see her dissection, but then doctors testifiedthat the old woman was no older than 80! Barnumappeared shocked to find out the real truth about her –or did he already know this was a hoax?
Barnum’s American MuseumIn 1841, the showman bought the collection atScudder’s American Museum in New York, then re-opened it as Barnum’s American Museum. This museumconsisted of traditional museum exhibitions, unusualartifacts, animals, an aquarium, as well as the exhibit ofthe Fejee Mermaid. It became the most visited museumin the country.
Midget Tom ThumbIn November 1842, Barnum met his second greatestoddity, Charles Sherwood Stratton, a five year oldmidget just 25 inches tall living in Bridgeport, CT.Barnum renamed him General Tom Thumb and taughthim to sing and dance. Together, they toured the UnitedStates and Europe becoming a tremendous success.
Jenny LindIn 1850, Barnum promoted Jenny Lind, a Swedishsoprano, taking her to various cities around the UnitedStates. Even though few had heard of Lind in thiscountry, Barnum’s ingenious advertising skills helped tomake the tour a smashing success and the country had“Lindomania.” She was like the first “rock star”.
Political LifeIn 1854, Barnum purchased 224 acres of land to createthe new community of East Bridgeport. He attractedindustry to the town and innovators such as Elias Howe,inventor of the sewing machine. In 1865, he waselected to the Connecticut state legislature. Ten yearslater, in 1875, he became mayor of Bridgeport for oneterm making many improvements to the city.
His Traveling MuseumBarnum and his business partner W.C. Coup, ranone of the first circuses to travel entirely bytrain. “Barnum’s Great Traveling Museum,Menagerie, Caravan, Hippodrome & Circus” wasable to travel to more cities and capture a largeraudience in each city.
The Greatest Show On EarthP.T. Barnum teamed up with James A. Bailey to form“Barnum and Bailey’s Greatest Show On Earth” whichis still popular today. Together, they innovated theAmerican circus. The U.S. Army studied Bailey’s methodof moving masses of men, animals, and equipment soefficiently.
The Three-Ringed CircusLater, Barnum and Bailey invented the three-ringed circus. It gave the audience more than itcould ever take in at once so people had tocome back to see it all.
Jumbo: The Largest ElephantIn 1882, Barnum bought Jumbo, the largest elephant incaptivity at that time from the London Zoo. He broughtthe animal to America where Jumbomania quicklyswept the nation. The word “Jumbo” made its way intothe English language to mean “really big.”
P.T. Barnum: ZookeeperDuring Barnum’s lifetime, zoology was a new science.He earned a reputation among scientists as a greatzoologist, for not only observing his animals closely buthe also noted their habits and behaviors. He donatedhis animals’ skeletons and hides to many well-knowninstitutions, such as the Smithsonian Institution, theAmerican Museum of Natural History, and the PeabodyMuseum at Yale.