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P.T. Barnum


P.T. Barnum was born in Bethel, Conn. as the eldest of five children. Barnum's father died when P.T. was only 15 and so had to go out and support his family. He opened a fruit and confection store in Bethel and sold legal lottery tickets on the side for extra money. He met many different and interesting people at his job including the father of his future partner James A. Bailey. But the most important person that he met was his future wife Charrity Hallet, Barnum married her at the age of 19 and quit his job at the store. Barnum them held a long line of jobs with poverty never far off. Barnum finally decided on being an editor for a small weekly newspaper at a time when editors had to be armed for fear of horse-whippings and shootings from angry readers. Barnum was so blunt and frank that he was arrested, sued for libel and served sixty days. Upon his release he was met by a carriage drawn by six horses, proceded by forty horsemen and followed by the local band. This excitement and attention whetted his showman's appetite and he never looked back. Barnum began looking for oddities and curiosities that people would pay to see, his first success was with a frail, blind Negro woman named Joice Heth. Barnum advertised her as being 161 years old and the former nurse of Pres. Washington. Washingto had died 36 years earlier and was by far the nations most popular hero. P.T. put his curiosity on display for six months until her death at which time a surgeon performed an autopsy finding that she was probably not much over eighty. After his success with Heth Barnum joined up with the Aarron Turner Traveling Circus, bring with him a Negro juggler and singer. Upon there arrival to North Carolinia his juggler escaped from slavery, and Barnum not wishing to loose a profit, darkened his face and did the act himself. With his knowledge from the Aarron Turner Circus Barnum started his own, by buying an old paddle-wheeler and traveled up and down the Mississippi putting on shows. Unfortunetly for Barnum his tour coincided with the worst depression the the nation had yet faced. His show was a flop and he returned home to his family with the knowledge of getting people to his show with posters, pamphlets, and lectures. Upon his return home he purchased the American Museaum with the help of Mr. Olmstead and turned it into a succesfull buisness. The Museaum was one of the most popular attractions in New York with thousands visiting it each year. He owned and operated the Museaum for 27 years from 1841 to 1868. Some of his most famous attractions included the Cardiff Giant, Tom Thumb, and Chang and Eng. Unfortunetly Barnum's museaum burned down on three seperate occasions finally retiring after the third time. During his retirement he was approached by a Mr. Coup who tried to conviece him to start a circus with himself and Mr. Costello. Barnum finally agreed and they started their circus, opening under three acres of canvas. They put on a popular circus for several years before Barnum merged with Hutchinson and Bailey to form the Barnum and Bailey Cirucs in 1881 after Hutchinson sold out. The Barnum and Bailey Circus was the most popular in the nation but they still had competion from a Philly banker and horse trader, Adam Forebank. Forebank changed his name to Forepaugh hoping people would think of big cats; he latter shortened his name to simply 4-Paw. Barnum died on April 7, 1891 only several months after 4-Paws. Upon Barnum's death Bailey bought out the 4-Paw cirucs leaving it in America to tour while he took the Barnum and Baiely cirucs to tour in Europe. Bailey was the head man for 16 years until 1907 when he died of an insect bite before a show in New York. After his death the Barnum and Bailey circus stocks plummeted allowing the Ringling Brothers to purchase the show in the same year forming the largest circus of all time. The Golden Age of the circus ended on July 16, 1956 when John Ringling announced that the tented circus had ended. This came as a shock to everyone leaving newspapers scrambling to put together stories of this historic announcement. The reasons he gave where that the circus was no longer the premier form of entertainment, finding open lots close to towns were hard to find, and it was becoming too expensive to feed and house and house the entertainers. The circus would be moving into enclosed arenas where the tricks could be higher, faster, and more exotic. The Golden Age of the Circus may be over but mueaums have sprung up across the the country allowing thousands of circus fans to visit them yearly. This is but a small portion of my speech and I may throughout the year be adding to it. Future stories will include the Scutter Museaum, the Cardiff Giant, and the history of clowns. Enjoy