P. T. Barnum

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Phineas Taylor Barnum
Phineas Taylor Barnum portrait.jpg
Phineas Taylor Barnum
photo by Mathew Brady, c.1860
Born
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)
Signature
PT Barnum Signature.svg

Phineas Taylor Barnum (July 5, 1810 – April 7, 1891) was an American showman, businessman, and entertainer. 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 and removed her teeth to make her look older.[1] It was a lie, but it made him famous at a young age, and he even showed off her dead body in a public autopsy.[2]

In New York City, he founded two American Museums where he offered legitimate acts such as General Tom Thumb and hoaxes such as the Fiji mermaid. He introduced Jenny Lind to the American public. After fire destroyed his second museum, Barnum founded a circus. It was here that he displayed Jumbo the elephant. He suggested the circus setting for Horatio Alger, Jr.'s boys book The Young Acrobat.[3] Barnum is also widely 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, publisher, and for a while a politician.

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