“There is a sucker born every minute!” Anyone who has heard that phrase probably associates it with legendary showman PT Barnum. However, Barnum did not coin that phrase. This simple misunderstanding showcases just how misunderstood this incredible person is by the average public. While by no means a perfect gentleman, he is one of the leading contributing factors to modern celebrity culture. His many accomplishments far outweigh what the average person knows about him. Most people probably remember him for his circus, but he his activities stretched far beyond that.

In fact, even the (admittedly excellent) biography “The Greatest Showman” gets a lot wrong about PT Barnum. For example, he was certainly not as handsome as Hugh Jackman. Nor was he in love with Jenny Lind or any other performers in his retinue. However, Pt Barnum probably would have enjoyed the ways that this movie changed the reality of his life. After all, he was not afraid to tweak the truth to suit his personal needs.

That said, he deserves an accurate and detailed biography that stays away from exaggeration and dramatic re-imagining. That’s why we have spent time researching his life and trying to separate fact from fiction. Doing this still left us surprised at the busy and eventful life of this man. When he died on April 7, 1891, at the age of 80, he likely had very few regrets or unfinished business to manage.

So let’s take a look at the thrilling and engaging life of this fascinating figure. Along the way, you’ll discover how he helped (and perhaps hindered) the life of General Tom Thumb, learn how he helped to create circuses, and even hear about his rarely discussed philanthropic side. By the time you’re done, you will understand PT Barnum accurately and thoroughly.

The Early Life of PT Barnum

Phineas Taylor Barnum was born in Bethel, Connecticut on July 5, 1810. One assumes that later in life, he regretted not being born on July 4. There were many ways he could have used that fact to his advantage as a showman. He was the son of Philo Barnum, a businessman who kept himself very busy throughout his life. For example, Philo was an innkeeper, a tailor, and a storekeeper. This hardworking nature likely influenced his son to become the constantly busy and changing person he became later in life.

Barnum’s mother was a woman named Irene Taylor. Little is known about her other than the fact that she was Philo’s second wife. The most important influence on Pt Barnum’s early life appeared to by his maternal grandfather, Phineas Taylor. Taylor was also a very busy and skilled man who had his hand in many pots. For example, he was a Whig legislator, a justice of the peace, a landowner, and an early advocate for the lottery.

Pt Barnum was the favorite of his grandfather, and the two of them spent much time together. Young Phineas spent time working with his grandfather on many money-making schemes and learned how to attract people to his projects. For example, Pt Barnum was profoundly interested in the way people gladly gave money to the lottery for a minimal chance of winning.

This business scheme seemed to have a heavy impact on the young Phineas Barnum. While he was a skilled mathematician and an intelligent young man, he was considered very lazy. Young P.T. hated physical labor and did everything he could to avoid it as much as possible. As a result, he followed in his father’s footsteps by starting a small store and his grandfather’s by getting involved in the lottery. The profits from this business helped found several other ventures, including:

  • Book auctioning
  • Real estate speculation
  • Statewide lottery
  • Local politics
  • Journalism

While Pt Barnum was very active in many businesses, his main income came from running several lotteries. This career forced him into politics as a way of protecting his income. That’s because there was a movement gaining strength at the time that was strongly against gambling. Barnum worked to fight against these people and even started the newspaper “The Herald of Freedom” in 1829 to promote his pro-lottery viewpoints. He quickly became well known for his scathing editorials that attacked local Calvinist preachers by name.

However, Barnum ran into some legal problems in late 1830 when a libel suit was brought against him. He lost this case and was put in prison for two months. Even worse, all of his hard work promoting gambling and lotteries ended as a bust when Connecticut banned these activities in 1834. Left without a steady supply of income, Pt Barnum gathered what money he had, sold his store, and moved to New York City to find his fame.

Becoming a Showman

It was this move to New York City that got Pt Barnum involved in show business. After spending some time adrift in 1834, he purchased an exhibition from a friend in 1835 and used it to make some quick money. The nature of this exhibition showcases Barnum’s willingness to skirt controversy and behave in potentially unethical or immoral ways. What he purchased was a nearly paralyzed woman named Joice Heth. This woman, who was nearly 80 years old, was displayed as a 161-year-old ex-nurse of George Washington.

PT Barnum Greatest Show on Earth

Barnum was well aware that buying slavers was illegal in New York at the time. However, he used a slavery loophole that allowed him to lease her for a year. During this time, he would display this frail woman for up to 12 hours a day. As a result, Heth passed away a year later and left Barnum with no source of income. Thinking on his feet, he scheduled a live autopsy of her body and charged 50 cents (a hefty sum at the time) for people to watch.

Though Barnum worked Heth hard during this time, he was not unkind to her. He made sure that she was comfortable and well-fed during his displays. However, his willingness to work her so hard and showcase her body shows a readiness to exploit others for his profit. That said, the money he earned from this venture with Heth allowed him to open up a variety troupe.

This group was known as “Barnum’s Grand Scientific and Musical Theater.” It featured a variety of people, displays, and short musical numbers. During 1835 to around 1837, he toured this group with somewhat mixed success. However, the 1837 stock market panic pushed him into even more desperate financial circumstances that lasted for nearly three years.

Success at Last

In spite of these difficult years, Barnum saved enough money to purchase Scudder’s American Museum in 1841. This rather rundown attraction required many upgrades and improvements. After Barnum was down expanding the building and improving its appearance, he renamed it “Barnum’s American Museum.” This museum was his first major success as a showman. There were many high-quality displays showcased in this interesting museum. Some of them were quite groundbreaking for their time.

For example, he installed a lighthouse lamp on top of the building and shined it up and down Broadway. This innovative step is one of the first known uses of skylights being used to attract people to a business. The lighthouse lamp was strong enough to send a beam in the day, making it a particularly useful way of engaging potential visitors. Barnum also installed pictures of several rare and exotic animals in the upper windows. These paintings attracted people who were intrigued by the creatures of the world. In fact, it was probably the first introduction many had to these animals.

Inside of the museum, there was an ever-changing troupe of live acts. For example, Barnum employed magicians who showcased a variety of tricks and illusions. He also used other skilled performers, such as jugglers, dancing women, and more. However, he also focused on the “freak show” aspect by including albinos, giants, and tiny people. The non-live entertainment included detailed city models, a variety of battle models, and many stuffed (and real) animals.

The top of the museum was perhaps the most popular place for many visitors. Up here, he recreated a gorgeous strolling garden and used it to create a fabulous view of the city. However, he also installed a hot-air balloon and charged people for a short ride through the city. These attractions were costly to establish and maintain. However, Pt Barnum was able to make enough money to keep his museum running. That said, it took a wild hoax and a very small man to truly make his name as an entertainer.

Hitting the Big Time

PT Barnum by MoraWhile Pt Barnum’s museum was more than successful, he was always looking to find ways to attract more people to his business. One of the biggest draws of his early years was also his first serious hoax. In 1842, he started to display what he called the Feejee mermaid. This mermaid was owned by Moses Kimball, another museum owner who operated out of Boston. These two later became close friends who worked closely together on a variety of different acts.

After Pt Barnum announced the mermaid, people flocked to his museum in droves. It was, allegedly, the corpse of a real mermaid. However, it was no more than the head of a monkey sewed to the tail of a fish. That didn’t stop people from coming to his museum to see it regularly. It also didn’t prevent Barnum from using it to make a lot of money.

Many people who came to the display could see the reality of the mermaid right away. Others were shocked and amazed at it and accepted it as real. The wide-eyed excitement that the mermaid inspired pushed Barnum to continue trying new and exciting ways to attract people to his museum.

When it was later revealed to be a hoax, Pt Barnum defended himself against charges of lying to the public. He claimed that these hoaxes were “…advertisements to draw attention…to the Museum. I don’t believe in duping the public, but I believe in first attracting and then pleasing them.” As a result, the Feejee mermaid was far from his last hoax. Sometimes, he was honest about the event later. However, he was usually quite pleased to attract audiences and get their money.

Some other popular later hoaxes included:

  • Free Grand Buffalo Hunt – Barnum bought a handful of malnourished and weak Buffalo for $700 and claimed there would be real-life cowboys hauling and hunting these poor animals on a New Jersey island. Though he didn’t charge attendants for the event, he made money by getting a percentage of the ferry fees. The event was a disaster when the buffalo were frightened by the nearly 24,000 people and broke free of the barriers Barnum had built.
  • The Cardiff Giant – This infamous case was a hoax based on a hoax. In 1869, a large statue was dug up in New York, which the discoverer claimed to be the body of a 10-foot ancient man. It was claimed that this was one of the giants mentioned in the Bible. The creator of this hoax charged people 25 cents to view it, and people showed up in droves. After it was sold for $23,000 to another showman, Barnum built a giant and claimed that his giant was the real one. When the owner of the original statue tried to sue Barnum, the case was thrown out of court. This event was the origination of the “There’s a sucker born every minute” line, a quip that was spoken by the plaintiff in this case, not by Barnum.
  • Tom Thumb’s Baby – While we will talk more about General Tom Thumb below, this hoax was a somewhat cruel way for Barnum to make money. Thumb was a small person who married another Lavinia Warren, another small person, in 1863. Barnum photographed the two of them with a baby and claimed it was theirs. Unfortunately, Lavinia was unable to bear children. That didn’t stop Barnum from finding other babies to use in his photos. These pictures were then sold to the public or used to further promote his museum.

Ironically, Barnum eventually tried to fight against people who committed the same frauds that he performed earlier. All of these hoaxes brought increasing attention to his museum, but it wasn’t until his adoption of General Tom Thumb that Barnum fully reached the range of his incredible powers of titillation and excitement.

The Saga of General Tom Thumb

PT Barnum and General Tom Thumb by Root, c1850Before we talk about Pt Barnum and his success with General Tom Thumb, it is worth talking about the tiny man involved in this story. General Tom Thumb was born Charles Sherwood Stratton on January 4, 1838, in Bridgeport, Connecticut. His father was Sherwood Edward Stratton, a carpenter, and his mother was Cynthia Thompson.

Both of his parents were of average height, and Charles was a rather large baby at birth. He weighed nine pounds and eight ounces and grew to a height of 25 inches in his first six months. It was at this point that he stopped growing. Though he later grew after his 18th birthday, he remained around three-feet tall for his entire life.

There may have been some precedent for this in his family. For example, his grandmothers, Amy and Mary Ann Sharpe, were also allegedly small throughout their life. However, they were nowhere near as short as Charles. Later on, he had several siblings who grew to average heights and weights. Thankfully, beyond his small size, Stratton was a healthy child. There were none of the physical or mental problems that may occur with little people.

After his death in 1883, doctors studied his body to find reasons for his lack of growth. They were surprised to see no problems with organs, such as his pituitary gland, that would have caused his shortness. His relatively long life was also surprising, as many small people don’t live long lives. Part of his long life may have been due to the reasonably comfortable life he lived with Barnum.

Pt Barnum’s Adoption of Stratton

Oddly enough, Pt Barnum was a distant relative of Stratton and heard about his lack of growth. Intrigued by the possibilities the young man offered as an entertainer, he traveled to visit him. Barnum talked to the parents and received permission to teach him how to perform. They were all happily surprised to find that Stratton was a brilliant and skilled performer from a young age. As a result, Barnum was able to teach him how to:

  • Sing
  • Dance
  • Mime
  • Impersonate famous people

Fijian cannibals in PT Barnum's Circus, United StatesStratton was performing many of these acts when he was no more than four years old. With his parents’ permission, Barnum adopted Stratton and gave him the stage name of General Tom Thumb. At the age of five, Barnum took him on a world tour and showcased him as part freak and part real entertainer. Barnum paired him with other performers and showcased him in a variety of different ways. In spite of his youth, Stratton more than held his own with older and more experienced performers. In fact, he was easily the best performer in Barnum’s troupe. He had excellent comedic timing and was able to sing, dance, and exchange fast-paced banter with older and more experienced performers.

Stratton’s natural abilities inspired a huge round of success, as the tour expanded to include an even more significant number of areas. Naturally, Barnum didn’t hesitate to exaggerate a little about Stratton. He claimed that he was 11 during the tour instead of five. In this way, his short height would be even more surprising to people. One of his biggest successes was getting Queen Victoria to meet Stratton. She was charmed and saddened by Stratton. Another person charmed by him was a small boy who later became King Edward VII.

These tours of the world were definitely exhausting to Stratton and Barnum. His first tour of Europe lasted three years and made him a huge celebrity. He was nearly mobbed everywhere he went by excited fans. And if these trips were exhausting, they were very successful for both Barnum and Stratton.

As a result, he went to the United States after his European tour to attempt the same kind of success. Unsurprisingly, the by-now experienced Stratton reached even higher levels of stardom. In fact, the level of his success around the world was unprecedented at the time. That’s the reason why General Tom Thumb is often considered the very first superstar of all time.

The success of his performance also inspired a more significant public interest in the carnival and freak show circuit. That’s because he showcased a lighter and more entertaining side to an experience that was often thought distasteful or strange. In fact, many expert critics at the time didn’t even consider him to be a real “freak” performer. Many judged him as a straight professional entertainer and believed him to be the best of his time.

Stratton was also known to be a philanthropic person. One of his most famous donations was to those suffering during the famine in Ireland. While he continued to perform for many years after his initial success, he wasn’t as busy as those first few years had demanded. And when he turned 21, he became a Freemason, likely the shortest member on record.

Marriage and Later Life

As mentioned previously, Stratton married a little person named Lavinia Warren later in life. His wedding was front-page news and featured over 10,000 guests. It was such a popular event that Abraham Lincoln received the happy couple at the White House. The two them toured together across the world, performing a variety of acts in a skilled and entertaining manner.

The reason Stratton was able to tour the world on his own was due to Barnum’s financial fairness with him. While Barnum worked Stratton had from a very young age, he shared money with him to ensure his financial stability. In fact, Stratton became a wealthy man and owned a large and expensive home, a yacht, and was among the top members of the New York elite. In fact, Stratton later gave Barnum money during a financial crisis, and the two went into business together. He lived to the age of 45 when a stroke took his life.

Continued Success and an Expansion

The huge success of General Tom Thumb inspired Barnum to try even more wild events. For example, he started presenting many Native American performers. This act was at a time when many Native Americans were persecuted or misunderstood. While he exploited their culture in a certain way, he did help provide many of them with a home and a steady supply of income.

The success of General Tom Thumb also caused many people from Europe to fly over to visit Barnum’s museum. For example, kings, queens, and even the Czar of Russia came to visit. All of this attention made him the most successful entertainer of his time. He always looked for new ways to draw in customers, including robotic features, mechanical inventions, and even purchased several museums. Though he remained financially successful, he was continually investing back in his business to keep it going.

One of his biggest and riskiest moves was importing Jenny Lind (the Swedish Nightingale) to America and taking her on tours during 1850 through 1852. This singer was a huge deal in Europe but had yet to make an impact in America. Barnum, a notoriously unmusical person, noted her success and approached her for an American tour. He was willing to pay her $1,000 a night for a 150-night tour. He would pay all of the expenses during this tour.

Lind, who was a very unpretentious and shy woman, had a clear soprano voice and a persona that much appealed to those in Europe. She was very concerned about leaving Europe and demanded her $150,000 fee in advance. Barnum, taking a substantial financial risk, paid her this fee. In modern money, this is close to or more than $5,000,000. While the risk was enormous, Barnum believed that her reputation as a moral and philanthropic person would inspire the American public.

That’s because Lind was known as a devout and moral person who gave a majority of her income directly to various charities around the world. She was particularly interested in helping needy school children in Sweden. Barnum had to borrow heavily against his mansion and museum to raise funds for this tour. Even worse, he had to borrow $5,000 from a minister to fully fund the event. This risk was significant, particularly knowing what Barnum said about people before the tour began:

“The public’ is a very strange animal, and although a good knowledge of human nature will lead a caterer of amusement to hit the people right, they are fickle and ofttimes perverse.” However, Barnum’s instincts paid off hugely during Lind’s tour.

The Success of This Event

Pt Barnum’s advertising and hype acumen helped draw over 40,000 people to meet Lind when she arrived in America. During her initial press conference, she faced another 20,000 people and was shocked to see merchandise with her name on it available for sale. Her initial shock passed, and she renegotiated her contract with Barnum to make even more money for her charities.

Pt Barnum’s instincts on Lind were very accurate. By the time the tour was over, he had earned four times what he had invested. All who saw Lind on this tour highly praised her singing and her personality. Like Stratton before her, she became a successful superstar and created “Lind mania” wherever she went. The whole experience was exhausting for Lind, who used an early-exit clause to end her connection with him after 93 concerts.

This success was likely the biggest of both of their careers. She earned $350,000 or close to $12,000,000 in modern money while Pt Barnum earned $500,000 or over $14,000,000. Though she split with Barnum after 93 concerts, the two remained on good terms, and she finished the rest of the tour under her management. As always, the majority of her funds went to charity.

His Impact on Theater

Never one to rest on his laurels, Pt Barnum decided to improve the perception of theaters shared by a majority of the American population. Most people believed that theaters were places where every manner of sin was promoted and exploited. Pt Barnum did not like this concept and wanted to showcase them as a great source of high-brow entertainment for families.

He started by building the largest theater in New York City and named it the “Moral Lecture Room.” This name was a transparent attempt to break through the negative concepts most Americans held towards the theater. That said, it was a success when he opened it up and started showing a variety of plays.

Beyond this act, he opened the first theatrical matinee areas and started promoting these as a great place for families to visit. The first play he showed was “The Drunkard,” a temperance play that was inspired by his newfound soberness. His travels in Europe with Stratton had introduced him to severe alcoholism and encouraged him to become a teetotaler. Many historical plays, dramas, and comedies were held at his theaters. Barnum hired only the most experienced and respected actors of the time. No expenses were spared to make these theaters a legitimate family entertainment destination.

However, some critics at the time believed that Pt Barnum was weakening these plays by making them more family-oriented. All mentions of problematic actions or violent activities were carefully removed. Many dramatic and tragic plays were reworked to be happier. However, these performances remained popular with the public and helped to open the world up to a more respectable theatrical world.

During this time, he also started holding a variety of events, such as flower shows and beauty contests. The dog and poultry contests that he organized were among the earliest large-scale games of this type held. In fact, they helped to inspire the modern proliferation of such moments across the world.

However, his baby contests remained the most popular of these events. They showcased a multitude of babies in a fun and light-hearted way, such as “fattest baby” and “cutest twins.” Those who won would get a cash prize and a small plaque. These small-scale activities were mostly done to provide families with light and safe entertainment.

Late in 1853, he started a weekly newspaper focused on pictures. This paper was another success, as was his autobiography of 1854. It sold one million copies around the world. The public much enjoyed the record of his exploits, and Mark Twain even praised it. Critics at the time were, predictably, quite harsh towards it.

Many of these critics disdained Barnum and his focus on profit, so much so that they ignored his philanthropic activities. In fact, they were much pleased by his one failure in life, one that nearly cost him his success.

A Rare Failure for PT Barnum

During the early 1850s, Barnum started to invest in his hometown of East Bridgeport, Connecticut. He was attempting to build the industry of this town and make it a more successful and important area. Many of his business ventures during this time were quite successful. Unfortunately, he made one wrong move during these investments. He gave several large loans to Jerome Clock Company. These loans intended to get them to relocate to the area.

However, this company mishandled its money poorly and went bankrupt in 1856. Suddenly, Barnum found himself nearly penniless. In fact, the failure of this company not only wiped out the money he’d earned through his life but plunged him into debt. Even worse, he also fell into four years of lawsuits and ligation that further complicated his life. The lowest points of his life were when he was forced to sell his beloved museum and when he watched his mansion burn down in 1857.

It was during this time that Stratton and other friends pitched in to help Barnum succeed. His generous treatment of his performers early in his career helped to bail him out. Stratton and others toured Europe to raise funds for Barnum. On his own, Pt Barnum went on a tour of Europe as a lecturer. This event was one of the first of its kind.

Barnum talked mostly about temperance but also advised others on business success. All of these activities slowly pulled him out of debt and restored much of his lost funds. In fact, he was able to build a new mansion and purchased his museum back, to much acclaim. However, many of his critics believed that Barnum’s success was finished. That wasn’t entirely accurate.

Regaining His Status as a Showman

Pt Barnum got his groove back as an entertainer by opening the first aquarium in America, expanding his wax figure area in the museum, and by adding even more entertaining areas to it. For example, he created a section to showcase the Seven Wonders of the World. Then, he published a book to showcase the many items stored in his museum.

Chang The Chinese Giant (c1870) Attribution Unk (RESTORED) (4074710169)Even more significant success came when he booked the original Siamese Twins in late 1860. They appeared at his museum for six weeks and were a huge success. Pt Barnum also showcased giants and people he claimed spoke a unique language. These were, as always, hoaxes. During the Civil War, he created pro-Union sections and drew even larger crowds than expected.

The pro-Union sentiment expressed in his museum climaxed in 1864 when he hired an ex-spy to lecture on her adventures in Confederate territory. Unfortunately, this made him a target of Confederate sympathizers. One started a fire in his museum in 1864. This fire was stopped before it became too problematic. However, his museum was burned to the ground in 1865 by a fire many believed was started by similar Confederate arsonists.

Though he was able to re-open the museum in a new location in New York, it was destroyed by a fire just three years later. This loss devastated Pt Barnum and forced him into retirement. He never opened another museum again. However, it did inspire him to enter the business that many people know him for today.

The King of the Circus

Though Pt Barnum was over 60 in 1870, he couldn’t help but stay active. He came up with the idea of starting a traveling museum or circus that would showcase various performers and freaks. This show, known as PT Barnum’s Grand Traveling Museum, Menagerie, Caravan & Hippodrome, started up in Delavan, Wisconsin. Pt Barnum’s first business partner for this venture was William Cameron Coup.

Though the traveling circus was nothing new by 1870, Pt Barnum brought his particular skills to it with aplomb. For example, he made sure to advertise this event as the greatest show on Earth and to create hype wherever he went. By this point, his name had been etched in the American consciousness. As a result, many people went to his circus merely because they knew he had started it.

Like nearly all of his business adventures, this one was a success. That said, it went through many names throughout its first 11 years. For a time, it was known as P.T. Barnum’s Travelling World’s Fair. Later on, it was known as Great Roman Hippodrome and Greatest Show On Earth. However, Pt Barnum met with James Bailey and James L. Hutchinson in 1881 and merged their traveling shows into one.

Bailey and Hutchinson had a variety of entertainment possibilities that Pt Barnum had not considered. After their merger, their circus went through a variety of different names before finally settling on Barnum & Bailey’s. This name stuck with the circus for over 146 years. Unfortunately, the circus finally closed down in 2017. It was the longest running traveling circus ever.

Pt Barnum and his partners were able to innovate a broad range of concepts. For example, they were the first three-ring circus. They were also one of the first to display elephants after they purchased Jumbo from the London Zoo. Another innovation propelled by Pt Barnum was traveling by train.

In fact, it is believed that Barnum & Bailey was the first company to move a circus by train and the first to own their own train. These innovations helped to make this circus incredibly successful and kept Pt Barnum a wealthy man until he passed away.

Pt Barnum’s Surprising Philanthropic Side

Pt Barnum was a lifelong opponent of slavery and otherwise had a moral side to him that his critics ignored. For example, he left the Democratic Party in 1854 after they supported the pro-slavery Kansas-Nebraska act. In response to this change, he supported the emancipation of African American slaves by the Civil War and was a known Union sympathizer by many in New York City.

In fact, PT Barnum served as a Republican representative for four terms starting in 1865. During the discussion over the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment, he stated “A human soul, ‘that God has created and Christ died for,’ is not to be trifled with. It may tenant the body of a Chinaman, a Turk, an Arab or a Hottentot – it is still an immortal spirit.” This statement showcased his continuing support for emancipating African Americans from slavery.

Pt Barnum’s opposition to alcohol is another moral part of his character. His nearly lifelong support of temperance helped to raise awareness of the dangers of drinking and general addiction. It may have also led to the prohibition of alcohol in the early 1900s.

Beyond these causes, Pt Barnum also worked hard to improve Bridgeport, Connecticut throughout his life. He even attempted to purchase and develop various museums. Humorously, he dubbed his actions as “profitable philanthropy” and stated that he did these good deeds as an attempt to profit. However, he also gave large gifts to Tufts University. With these awards, the school was able to start a new museum and a Department of Natural History.

His Romantic Life Was Simple

Pt Barnum married Charity Hallet in 1829 and had four children with her before she passed away in 1873. During this time, he was known to be devoted to her and her well-being. After she passed away, he married Nancy Fish in 1874 and remained with her until he passed away in 1891 due to a stroke. His body was placed in Bridgeport, Connecticut in the Mountain Grove Cemetery.

Final Thoughts – Pt Barnum

Seaside Park - PT Barnum sculpturePT Barnum was a controversial man who did a lot of good in his life. However, he was also capable of bending the rules of ethics and even morals to benefit his bank account. That said, the impact he has had on the entertainment world is vast. The lessons he taught about catching the public attention has remained important for generations of entertainers around the world. His successes and failures also showcase the ways a person can drag themselves up from the brink of defeat.

As a result, Pt Barnum remains a fascinating person who is likely to interest people for generations. Just as importantly, he will continue to remind the world of the importance of escapist entertainment and the ways it helps it stay happy in a world that can seem out-of-control and depressing.


The Life of P.T. Barnum

Biography: The Life of P.T. Barnum

Encylopedia Britannica: P.T. Barnum

Lost Museum: General Tom Thumb

BBC News: The Real Tom Thumb and the Birth of Celebrity

Encyclopedia: Jenny Lind

Bridgeport Library: P.T. Barnum, The Later Years

History Vs. Hollywood: The Greatest Showman

Legacy: P.T. Barnum’s Greatest Hoaxes

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Last Update: June 27, 2024