The Day by Day History of the
Phineas Taylor Barnum Was Born
July 5, 1810
Have you ever been to
the circus? What about a sideshow with bearded ladies, giant
elephants, and "real" mermaids? P.T. Barnum would like you to
see them all.
Born on July 5, 1810, in Bethel, Connecticut, Phineas Taylor
Barnum became a master showman of both the genuine and the
fantastic. Whether actual wonders or freakish fakes, Barnum's
attractions always drew crowds.
"Along in June P.T.
Barnum would come to Waterbury, [Connecticut]," said a Barnum
fan, Art Botsford, "We'd all go down on the morning train, and
spend the day there. Shops [were] shut down tight. If they
didn't nobody would work anyway."
Barnum was skilled at
fooling his audiences. When he was only 25 years old, he passed
off Joice Heth as George Washington's 161-year-old nurse. You
might not have been fooled by the hoax, but a lot of people came
to see her. What would you pay to see the bearded Princess Ali?
In 1842, P.T. Barnum took over the
American Museum in New York City. He brought oddities of all
sorts to the museum. Among the most famous of his attractions
was the fake FeeJee Mermaid, a cross between a human and a fish
Barnum's most famous
and profitable exhibit was Charles Stratton, a 25-inch-tall man
whom Barnum promoted as General Tom Thumb. The exhibit drew 20
million people. Barnum even took Stratton to the White House,
where the two of them met President Abraham Lincoln.
P.T. Barnum was over 60 when he and James Bailey created the
"Greatest Show on Earth." You may know it as the Ringling
Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus. There are all kinds of
circuses you can go to today, although it is unlikely you will
ever find another FeeJee Mermaid.