P(hineas) T(aylor) Barnum

Definition

Theater

  • (1810 - 91) The greatest US showman and publicist of hisday. His numerous fraudulent exhibits earned him the nickname thePrince of Humbugs. Despite this, Barnum established strictmoral codes for his shows, led a respectable family life, and foundeda model workers' community in East Bridgeport, Connecticut.

    Barnum began his show business career in 1834 in New York.In 1841 he purchased Scudder's American Museum in that cityand opened it as Barnum's American Museum, a venue for 'moral' plays,dioramas, and such curiosities as the first live hippopotamus seenin New York, a fake mermaid, and the midget General Tom Thumb(Charles Stratton), who toured Europe in 1844. In 1849 the museumbecame a stock company, and the following year he brought the 'SwedishNightingale' Jenny Lind over for a US singing tour.

    Barnum remained director of the museum until 1865. Six yearslater, at the age of 60, he set up his great circus and menagerie,which in 1881 merged with that of his rival James Bailey to becomethe three-ring Barnum and Bailey's Circus billed as "The GreatestShow on Earth". It was sold to the Ringling Brothers in 1907.The hit musical Barnum (1981) was based on his career (seePalladium).

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