American Museum



  • A Broadway theater opened by P. T. Barnum as a museumin 1841. It became a theater in 1849 and, after being enlarged andrefurbished, reopened a year later with W. H. Sedley-Smith's moralisticmelodrama The Drunkard, which had a record run. Cultural eventswere also staged, such as concerts by the opera singer Jenny Lind.Personal financial problems forced Barnum to sell the theater in 1855but he was able to repurchase it six years later. In the 1860s, playswere largely displaced by boxing, oddities, and freak shows, includingthe midget General Tom Thumb. The building burned down in 1865.

    Barnum briefly operated from the Winter Garden before openinghis New American Museum later that year in the former ChineseRooms on Broadway. A variety of shows were presented, including VanAmburgh's menagerie in 1867, but plays continued to be performed.This theater also burned down, during a performance of Harriet BeecherStowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin in 1868. Barnum never rebuilt it.