The Life of Phineas T. Barnum, Joel Benton

The Life of Phineas T. Barnum

Phineas Taylor Barnum was born in Bethel Connecticut on(July 5, 1810. He was the quintessential American showman and an excellent businessman and founder of the Barnum & Bailey’s Circus. A man of many talents and careers – author, publisher, philanthropist, and for some time a politician, he said of himself, “I am a showman by profession…and all the gilding shall make nothing else of me” In moving to New York City in 1834 he embarked on an entertainment career with a variety troupe called “Barnum's Grand Scientific and Musical Theater.” He soon acquired Scudder's American Museum, which he rebranded to his own name and used it to promote various hoaxes and human curiosities such as the Feejee mermaid and General Tom Thumb. In 1850 he promoted the American tour of singer Jenny Lind, paying her the unheard of sum of $1,000 a night for 150 nights. Later in the decade his investments collapsed and he suffered litigation and public humiliation. A lecture tour,, mostly as a temperance speaker, help him to emerge from his debts. As a politician Barnum served two terms in the Connecticut legislature in 1865 as a Republican for Fairfield. With the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution over slavery and African-American suffrage, Barnum spoke before the legislature and said, «A human soul, ‘that God has created and Christ died for,’ is not to be trifled with. It may tenant the body of a Chinaman, a Turk, an Arab or a Hottentot – it is still an immortal spirit”. Elected in 1875 as Mayor of Bridgeport, Connecticut, he worked to improve the water supply, bring gas lighting to streets, and enforce liquor and prostitution laws. Barnum was instrumental in starting Bridgeport Hospital, founded in 1878, and was its first president. Barnum died in his sleep at home in 1891, and was buried in Mountain Grove Cemetery, Bridgeport, which he designed himself.
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