“If I shoot at the sun I may hit a star”
— P.T. Barnum
Phineas Taylor Barnum was born in Bethel, Connecticut in 1810. He would be 202 years old today.
According to the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey website P.T. Barnum presented “the public of the 19th century shameless hucksterism, peerless spectacle and everything in between.” The consummate promoter, Barnum began by presenting acts in New York. Here’s a few of the live acts and curiosities the “Master Showman” brought to the public: Joice Heth — a blind, nearly paralyzed slave woman, whom he claimed was the 161 year old Nurse to George Washington; Charles Stratton, aka General Tom Thumb– “The Smallest Person that Ever Walked Alone;” and the embalmed remains of the “Feejee Mermaid.” In 1850 he presented a more refined act when he brought “The Swedish Nightingale” Jenny Lind to the American Stage.
In 1870 Barnum took his show on the road with P.T. Barnum’s Grand Traveling Museum, Menagerie, Caravan and Circus. The Circus made $400,000 its first year and quickly became known as the “The Greatest Show on Earth” Barnum also started America’s first aquarium.
Barnum lectured as a temperance speaker, served two terms in the Connecticut legislature and was mayor of Bridgeport.