P. T. Barnum

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Phineas Taylor Barnum
Phineas Taylor Barnum
photo by Mathew Brady, c.1860
Phineas Taylor Barnum

(1810-07-05)July 5, 1810
DiedApril 7, 1891(1891-04-07) (aged 80)
Cause of deathStroke
Resting placeMountain Grove Cemetery, Bridgeport
Political partyDemocratic (1824-54)
Republican (1854-91)

Phineas Taylor Barnum (July 5, 1810 – April 7, 1891) was an American showman and businessman. He started his career in New York City by showing off a slave he owned named Joice Heth. He told people that Joice was 161 years old, Barnum removed her teeth to make her look older.[1] This made him famous at a young age. After her death, he showed off her dead body in a public autopsy.[2]

In New York City, Barnum founded two American Museums. In these museums, he showed real acts such as General Tom Thumb and hoaxes such as the Fiji mermaid. He introduced Jenny Lind to the public. After fire destroyed his second museum, Barnum created a circus. In the circus he displayed Jumbo the elephant. He suggested the circus setting for Horatio Alger, Jr.'s book The Young Acrobat.[3] Barnum is also well known for saying "There's a sucker born every minute."

He may have been the first "show business" millionaire. Barnum said "I am a showman by profession,"[4] but he was also an author and publisher. For a while, he was also a politician.

Movies[change | change source]

Barnum was portrayed by Hugh Jackman in The Greatest Showman (2017).

References[change | change source]

  1. Washington, Harriet A. (2006). Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present. New York: Anchor Books. pp. 86-89, 92. ISBN 978-0-7679-1547-2.
  2. Mansky, Jackie (2017-12-22). "P.T. Barnum Isn't the Hero the "Greatest Showman" Wants You to Think". Smithsonian Magazine. Retrieved 2020-11-08.
  3. Hoyt, Edwin. 1974. Horatio's Boys. Chilton Book Co. p. 145.
  4. Kunhardt, Kunhardt & Kunhardt 1995, p. vi