P. T. Barnum
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|Phineas Taylor Barnum|
|Known for||Opening the "Barnum and Bailey Circus"|
Barnum, P. T.(Phineas Taylor Barnum) (fĭn`ēəs, bär`nəm), 1810–91, American showman, b. Bethel, Conn. As a youth Barnum worked at diverse sales jobs and managed a boardinghouse. He made his first sensation in 1835 when he bought and exhibited Joice Heth, a slave who claimed she was 161 years old (she was about 80) and had been the nurse of George Washington. In 1842 he opened the American Museum in New York City in an attempt to "rapidly make money," and immediately became famous for his extravagant advertising and his exhibits of "freaks." Among his great attractions were the mummified Fiji Mermaid (formed by joining the upper half of a monkey to the tail end of a fish), "General Tom ThumbTom Thumb,
1838–83, American entertainer, whose original name was Charles Sherwood Stratton, b. Bridgeport, Conn. His career as General Tom Thumb began in 1842, when the showman P. T.
..... Click the link for more information. ," who was viewed by over 20 million people in the United States and Europe, and the original Siamese Twins, Chang and Eng (see conjoined twinsconjoined twins,
congenitally united organisms that are complete or nearly complete individuals, historically known as Siamese twins. They develop from a single fertilized ovum that has divided imperfectly; complete division would produce identical twins, having the same sex and
..... Click the link for more information. ). Also exhibited were wax figures, sculptures, and animals, both alive and preserved. In 1850, Barnum managed the American tour of the Swedish singer Jenny LindLind, Jenny,
1820–87, Swedish soprano. She made her debut in 1838 as Agathe in Weber's Der Freischütz. She studied in Paris and sang in Germany, England, and Sweden. In 1849 she abandoned opera for concert and oratorio until 1870. Under the management of P. T.
..... Click the link for more information. and, with his talent for publicity, made it a huge financial success for her and for himself. In 1855 he retired from show business; he served as mayor of Bridgeport, Conn., and in the Connecticut legislature. Driven into bankruptcy by unwise business ventures, he reopened the American Museum and then organized his famous circus, "The Greatest Show on Earth," which opened in Brooklyn, N.Y., in 1871. In 1881 he merged with his most successful competitor, James A. Bailey, and under the name Barnum and Bailey the circus continued for a generation after Barnum's death. The stellar attraction of the circus was Jumbo, the 6 1-2-ton African elephant that Barnum purchased from the London Zoo. His autobiography was published in 1855 and went through many editions. He also wrote Humbugs of the World (1865), Struggles and Triumphs (1869), and Money Getting (1883).
See his autobiography, ed. by W. R. Browne (1927, repr. 1961); biographies by C. Fleming (2009) and R. Wilson (2019); N. Harris, Humbug: The Art of P. T. Barnum (1981); A. Tompert, The Greatest Show on Earth (1987).
Barnum, P. T.
(1810–1891) circus impressario famous for his saying, “Never give a sucker an even break.” [Am. Hist.: Van Doren, 825–826]
Barnum, P. T.
(1810–1891) circus owner whose sideshows were sometimes fraudulent; wrote Humbugs of the World. [Am. Hist.: NCE, 234]