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Title: Struggles amd Triumphs: or, Forty Years' Recollections of P.T. Barnum
Author: Barnum, Phineas. T.
Language: English
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                  [Illustration: PHINEAS T. BARNUM.]

                        STRUGGLES AND TRIUMPHS:

                      FORTY YEARS’ RECOLLECTIONS


                             P. T. BARNUM.

                          WRITTEN BY HIMSELF.

                           AUTHOR’S EDITION.

                 [BIOGRAPHY COMPLETE TO APRIL, 1872.]

                       “----a map of busy life,
               Its fluctuations, and its vast concerns.”

                            BUFFALO, N. Y.
                         WARREN, JOHNSON & CO.


      Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1871, by

                             P. T. BARNUM,

      In the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington.

          Entered also at Stationer’s Hall, London, England.


                          MY WIFE AND FAMILY

                              I DEDICATE


                           DEVOTED TO THEIR

                        INTERESTS AND SERVICE.


_To the Public_:--Although the large octavo edition of STRUGGLES AND
TRIUMPHS, upon fine paper, has enjoyed an unprecedented large sale at
$3.50 and upwards, according to styles of binding; yet determined to
supply the popular demand for a cheaper edition, and thus in a measure
render to the great American people, who have lavished upon me so many
favors, a due recognition of their claims upon my gratitude and
esteem,--I have purchased, of the original publishers, the electrotype
plates of text and engravings together with the copyright of the work;
and, now enabled to control the publication myself, I give the same
precise text with the original, (together with an additional chapter
bringing the biography down to April 2d, 1872,) at the low price of

Copies of the cheap edition can be had on application to the American
News Company, New York, Warren, Johnson & Co., Buffalo, and elsewhere.

Your obedient humble servant,


No. 438 Fifth Avenue, New York City, April 2d, 1872.


This book is my Recollections of Forty Busy Years. Few men in civil life
have had a career more crowded with incident, enterprise, and various
intercourse with the world than mine. With the alternations of success
and defeat, extensive travel in this and foreign lands; a large
acquaintance with the humble and honored; having held the preëminent
place among all who have sought to furnish healthful entertainment to
the American people, and, therefore, having had opportunities for
garnering an ample storehouse of incident and anecdote, while, at the
same time, needing a sagacity, energy, foresight and fortitude rarely
required or exhibited in financial affairs, my struggles and experiences
(it is not altogether vanity in me to think) can not be without interest
to my fellow countrymen.

Various leading publishers have solicited me to place at their disposal
my Recollections of what I have been, and seen, and done. These
proposals, together with the partiality of friends and kindred, have
constrained me, now that I have retired from all active participation in
business, to put in a permanent form what, it seems to me, may be
instructive, entertaining and profitable.

Fifteen years since, for the purpose, principally, of advancing my
interests as proprietor of the American Museum, I gave to the press
some personal reminiscences and sketches. Having an extensive sale, they
were, however, very hastily, and, therefore, imperfectly, prepared.
These are not only out of print, but the plates have been destroyed.
Though including, necessarily, in common with them, some of the facts of
my early life, in order to make this autobiography a complete and
continuous narrative, yet, as the latter part of my life has been the
more eventful, and my recollections so various and abundant, this book
is new and independent of the former. It is the matured and leisurely
review of almost half a century of work and struggle, and final success,
in spite of fraud and fire--the story of which is blended with amusing
anecdotes, funny passages, felicitous jokes, captivating narratives,
novel experiences, and remarkable interviews--the sunny and sombre so
intermingled as not only to entertain, but convey useful lessons to all
classes of readers.

These Recollections are dedicated to those who are nearest and dearest
to me, with the feeling that they are a record which I am willing to
leave in their hands, as a legacy which they will value.

And above and beyond this personal satisfaction, I have thought that the
review of a life, with the wide contrasts of humble origin and high and
honorable success; of most formidable obstacles overcome by courage and
constancy; of affluence that had been patiently won, suddenly wrenched
away, and triumphantly regained--would be a help and incentive to the
young man, struggling, it may be, with adverse fortune, or, at the
start, looking into the future with doubt or despair.

All autobiographies are necessarily egotistical. If my pages are as
plentifully sprinkled with “I’s” as was the chief ornament of Hood’s
peacock, “who thought he had the eyes of Europe on his tail,” I can only
say, that the “I’s” are essential to the story I have told. It has been
my purpose to narrate, not the life of another, but that career in which
I was the principal actor.

There is an almost universal, and not unworthy curiosity to learn the
methods and measures, the ups and downs, the strifes and victories, the
mental and moral _personnel_ of those who have taken an active and
prominent part in human affairs. But an autobiography has attractions
and merits superior to those of a “Life” written by another, who,
however intimate with its subject, cannot know all that helps to give
interest and accuracy to the narrative, or completeness to the
character. The story from the actor’s own lips has always a charm it can
never have when told by another.

That my narrative is interspersed with amusing incidents, and even the
recital of some very practical jokes, is simply because my natural
disposition impels me to look upon the brighter side of life, and I hope
my humorous experiences will entertain my readers as much as they were
enjoyed by myself. And if this record of trials and triumphs, struggles
and successes, shall stimulate any to the exercise of that energy,
industry, and courage in their callings, which will surely lead to
happiness and prosperity, one main object I have in yielding to the
solicitations of my friends and my publishers will have been


Connecticut, July 5, 1869. }




1. PORTRAIT OF P. T. BARNUM,                               _Frontispiece_

2. MY PROPERTY AND MY TENANT,                                         32

3. MY DELIVERY FROM IMPRISONMENT,                                     65

4. BARNUM ON A RAIL,                                                  84

5. THE COWARD AND THE “BRAVE,”                                       100

6. VICTORY OVER VESTRYMEN,                                           138

7. SQUALLS AND BREEZES,                                              146

8. BATTLE OF THE GIANTS,                                             162

9. THE GREAT DUKE AND THE LITTLE GENERAL,                            184

10. ROYAL HONORS TO THE GENERAL,                                     192

11. MANURE CART EXPRESS,                                             217

12. PUT ME IN IRONS,                                                 243

13. IRANISTAN,                                                       263

14. WELCOME TO JENNY LIND,                                           288

15. J. G. BENNETT AND HIS MONKEY,                                    327

16. ELEPHANTINE AGRICULTURE,                                         358

17. MOUNTAIN GROVE CEMETERY,                                         369

18. THE “CUSTOMS” OF THE COUNTRY,                                    432

19. “THE LONG AND SHORT OF IT,”                                      510

20. GRIZZLY ADAMS AND HIS FAMILY,                                    530

21. THE PRINCE IN THE MUSEUM,                                        543

22. EAST BRIDGEPORT,                                                 549

23. CAPTURING WHITE WHALES,                                          562

24. TROUBLE IN A TURKISH HAREM,                                      580

25. MARRIAGE IN MINIATURE,                                           603

26. ALARM AT LINDENCROFT,                                            616

27. THE GREAT UNKNOWN,                                               680

28. AFTER THE FIRE,                                                  702

29. BARNUM FIVE SECONDS AHEAD,                                       705

30. A GROTESQUE FIRE COMPANY,                                        720

31. HALF-SHAVED,                                                     726

32. SEA SIDE PARK,                                                   758

33. WALDEMERE,                                                       768



















“AWFUL RICH MAN,”......133








TO LONDON,......208

























THE DEPTHS,......384
















































I was born in the town of Bethel, in the State of Connecticut, July 5,
1810. My name, Phineas Taylor, is derived from my maternal grandfather,
who was a great wag in his way, and who, as I was his first grandchild,
gravely handed over to my mother at my christening a gift-deed, in my
behalf, of five acres of land situated in that part of the parish of
Bethel known as the “Plum Trees.” I was thus a real estate owner almost
at my very birth; and of my property, “Ivy Island,” something shall be
said anon.

My father, Philo Barnum, was the son of Ephraim Barnum, of Bethel, who
was a captain in the revolutionary war. My father was a tailor, a
farmer, and sometimes a tavern-keeper, and my advantages and
disadvantages were such as fall to the general run of farmers’ boys. I
drove cows to and from the pasture, shelled corn, weeded the garden; as
I grew larger, I rode horse for ploughing, turned and raked hay; in due
time I handled the shovel and the hoe, and when I could do so I went to

I was six years old when I began to go to school, and the first date I
remember inscribing upon my writing-book was 1818. The ferule, in those
days, was the assistant school-master; but in spite of it, I was a
willing, and, I think, a pretty apt scholar; at least, I was so
considered by my teachers and schoolmates, and as the years went on
there were never more than two or three in the school who were deemed my
superiors. In arithmetic I was unusually ready and accurate, and I
remember, at the age of twelve years, being called out of bed one night
by my teacher who had wagered with a neighbor that I could calculate the
correct number of feet in a load of wood in five minutes. The dimensions
given, I figured out the result in less than two minutes, to the great
delight of my teacher and to the equal astonishment of his neighbor.

My organ of “acquisitiveness” was manifest at an early age. Before I was
five years of age, I began to accumulate pennies and “four-pences,” and
when I was six years old my capital amounted to a sum sufficient to
exchange for a silver dollar, the possession of which made me feel far
richer and more independent than I have ever since felt in the world.

Nor did my dollar long remain alone. As I grew older I earned ten cents
a day for riding the horse which led the ox team in ploughing, and on
holidays and “training days,” instead of spending money, I earned it. I
was a small peddler of molasses candy (of home make), ginger-bread,
cookies and cherry rum, and I generally found myself a dollar or two
richer at the end of a holiday than I was at the beginning. I was always
ready for a trade, and by the time I was twelve years old, besides other
property, I was the owner of a sheep and a calf, and should soon, no
doubt, have become a small Crœsus, had not my father kindly permitted
me to purchase my own clothing, which somewhat reduced my little store.

When I was nearly twelve years old I made my first visit to the
metropolis. It happened in this wise: Late one afternoon in January,
1822, Mr. Daniel Brown, of Southbury, Connecticut, arrived at my
father’s tavern, in Bethel, with some fat cattle he was driving to New
York to sell. The cattle were put into our large barnyard, the horses
were stabled, and Mr. Brown and his assistant were provided with a warm
supper and lodging for the night. After supper I heard Mr. Brown say to
my father that he intended to buy more cattle, and that he would be glad
to hire a boy to assist in driving the cattle. I immediately besought my
father to secure the situation for me, and he did so. My mother’s
consent was also gained, and at daylight next morning, after a slight
breakfast, I started on foot in the midst of a heavy snow storm to help
drive the cattle. Before reaching Ridgefield, I was sent on horseback
after a stray ox, and, in galloping, the horse fell and my ankle was
sprained. I suffered severely, but did not complain lest my employer
should send me back. But he considerately permitted me to ride behind
him on his horse; and, indeed, did so most of the way to New York, where
we arrived in three or four days.

We put up at the Bull’s Head Tavern, where we were to stay a week while
the drover was disposing of his cattle, and we were then to return home
in a sleigh. It was an eventful week for me. Before I left home my
mother had given me a dollar which I supposed would supply every want
that heart could wish. My first outlay was for oranges which I was told
were four pence apiece, and as “four-pence” in Connecticut was six
cents, I offered ten cents for two oranges which was of course readily
taken; and thus, instead of saving two cents, as I thought, I actually
paid two cents more than the price demanded. I then bought two more
oranges, reducing my capital to eighty cents. Thirty-one cents was the
“charge” for a small gun which would “go off” and send a stick some
little distance, and this gun I bought. Amusing myself with this toy in
the bar-room of the Bull’s Head, the arrow happened to hit the
barkeeper, who forthwith came from behind the counter and shook me and
soundly boxed my ears, telling me to put that gun out of the way or he
would put it into the fire. I sneaked to my room, put my treasure under
the pillow, and went out for another visit to the toy shop.

There I invested six cents in “torpedoes,” with which I intended to
astonish my schoolmates in Bethel. I could not refrain, however, from
experimenting upon the guests of the hotel, which I did when they were
going in to dinner. I threw two of the torpedoes against the wall of the
hall through which the guests were passing, and the immediate results
were as follows: two loud reports,--astonished guests,--irate
landlord,--discovery of the culprit, and summary punishment--for the
landlord immediately floored me with a single blow with his open hand,
and said:

“There, you little greenhorn, see if that will teach you better than to
explode your infernal fire crackers in my house again.”

The lesson was sufficient if not entirely satisfactory. I deposited the
balance of the torpedoes with my gun, and as a solace for my wounded
feelings I again visited the toy shop, where I bought a watch, breastpin
and top, leaving but eleven cents of my original dollar.

The following morning found me again at the fascinating toy shop, where
I saw a beautiful knife with two blades, a gimlet, and a corkscrew,--a
whole carpenter shop in miniature, and all for thirty-one cents. But,
alas! I had only eleven cents. Have that knife I must, however, and so I
proposed to the shop woman to take back the top and breastpin at a
slight deduction, and with my eleven cents to let me have the knife. The
kind creature consented, and this makes memorable my first “swap.” Some
fine and nearly white molasses candy then caught my eye, and I proposed
to trade the watch for its equivalent in candy. The transaction was made
and the candy was so delicious that before night my gun was absorbed in
the same way. The next morning the torpedoes “went off” in the same
direction, and before night even my beloved knife was similarly
exchanged. My money and my goods all gone I traded two pocket
handkerchiefs and an extra pair of stockings I was sure I should not
want for nine more rolls of molasses candy, and then wandered about the
city disconsolate, sighing because there was no more molasses candy to

I doubt not that in these first wanderings about the city I often passed
the corner of Broadway and Ann Street--never dreaming of the stir I was
destined at a future day to make in that locality as proprietor and
manager of the American Museum.

After wandering, gazing and wondering, for a week, Mr. Brown took me in
his sleigh and on the evening of the following day we arrived in Bethel.
I had a thousand questions to answer, and then and for a long time
afterwards I was quite a lion among my mates because I had seen the
great metropolis. My brothers and sisters, however, were much
disappointed at my not bringing them something from my dollar, and when
my mother examined my wardrobe and found two pocket handkerchiefs and
one pair of stockings missing she whipped me and sent me to bed. Thus
ingloriously terminated my first visit to New York.

Previous to my visit to New York, I think it was in 1820, when I was ten
years of age, I made my first expedition to my landed property, “Ivy
Island.” This, it will be remembered, was the gift of my grandfather,
from whom I derived my name. From the time when I was four years old I
was continually hearing of this “property.” My grandfather always spoke
of me (in my presence) to the neighbors and to strangers as the richest
child in town, since I owned the whole of “Ivy Island,” one of the most
valuable farms in the State. My father and mother frequently reminded me
of my wealth and hoped I would do something for the family when I
attained my majority. The neighbors professed to fear that I might
refuse to play with their children because I had inherited so large a

These constant allusions, for several years, to “Ivy Island” excited at
once my pride and my curiosity and stimulated me to implore my father’s
permission to visit my property. At last, he promised I should do so in
a few days, as we should be getting some hay near “Ivy Island.” The
wished for day at length arrived and my father told me that as we were
to mow an adjoining meadow, I might visit my property in company with
the hired man during the “nooning.” My grandfather reminded me that it
was to his bounty I was indebted for this wealth, and that had not my
name been Phineas I might never have been proprietor of “Ivy Island.” To
this my mother added:

“Now, Taylor, don’t become so excited when you see your property as to
let your joy make you sick, for remember, rich as you are, that it will
be eleven years before you can come into possession of your fortune.”

She added much more good advice, to all of which I promised to be calm
and reasonable and not to allow my pride to prevent me from speaking to
my brothers and sisters when I returned home.

When we arrived at the meadow, which was in that part of the “Plum
Trees” known as “East Swamp,” I asked my father where “Ivy Island” was.

“Yonder, at the north end of this meadow, where you see those beautiful
trees rising in the distance.”

All the forenoon I turned grass as fast as two men could cut it, and
after a hasty repast at noon, one of our hired men, a good natured
Irishman, named Edmund, took an axe on his shoulder and announced that
he was ready to accompany me to “Ivy Island.” We started, and as we
approached the north end of the meadow we found the ground swampy and
wet and were soon obliged to leap from bog to bog on our route. A
misstep brought me up to my middle in water. To add to the dilemma a
swarm of hornets attacked me. Attaining the altitude of another bog I
was cheered by the assurance that there was only a quarter of a mile of
this kind of travel to the edge of my property. I waded on. In about
fifteen minutes more, after floundering through the morass, I found
myself half-drowned, hornet-stung, mud-covered, and out of breath, on
comparatively dry land.

“Never mind, my boy,” said Edmund, “we have only to cross this little
creek, and ye’ll be upon your own valuable property.”

We were on the margin of a stream, the banks of which were thickly
covered with alders. I now discovered the use of Edmund’s axe, for he
felled a small oak to form a temporary bridge to my “Island” property.
Crossing over, I proceeded to the centre of my domain; I saw nothing but
a few stunted ivies and straggling trees. The truth flashed upon me. I
had been the laughing-stock of the family and neighborhood for years. My
valuable “Ivy Island” was an almost inaccessible, worthless bit of
barren land, and while I stood deploring my sudden downfall, a huge
black snake (one of my tenants) approached me with upraised head. I gave
one shriek and rushed for the bridge.

This was my first, and, I need not say, my last visit to “Ivy Island.”
My father asked me “how I liked my property?” and I responded that I
would sell it pretty cheap. My grandfather congratulated me upon my
visit to my property as seriously as if it had been indeed a valuable
domain. My mother hoped its richness had fully equalled my
anticipations. The neighbors desired to know if I was not now glad I was
named Phineas, and for five years forward I was frequently reminded of
my wealth in “Ivy Island.”

As I grew older, my settled aversion to manual labor, farm or other
kind, was manifest in various ways, which were set down to the general
score of laziness. In despair of doing better with me, my father
concluded to

[Illustration: _MY PROPERTY AND MY TENANT._]

make a merchant of me. He erected a building in Bethel, and with Mr.
Hiram Weed as a partner, purchased a stock of dry goods, hardware,
groceries, and general notions and installed me as clerk in this country

Of course I “felt my oats.” It was condescension on my part to talk with
boys who did out-door work. I stood behind the counter with a pen over
my ear, was polite to the ladies, and was wonderfully active in waiting
upon customers. We kept a cash, credit and barter store, and I drove
some sharp bargains with women who brought butter, eggs, beeswax and
feathers to exchange for dry goods, and with men who wanted to trade
oats, corn, buckwheat, axe-helves, hats, and other commodities for
tenpenny nails, molasses, or New England rum. But it was a drawback upon
my dignity that I was obliged to take down the shutters, sweep the
store, and make the fire. I received a small salary for my services and
the perquisite of what profit I could derive from purchasing candies on
my own account to sell to our younger customers, and, as usual, my
father stipulated that I should clothe myself.

There is a great deal to be learned in a country store, and principally
this--that sharp trades, tricks, dishonesty, and deception are by no
means confined to the city. More than once, in cutting open bundles of
rags, brought to be exchanged for goods, and warranted to be all linen
and cotton, I have discovered in the interior worthless woolen trash and
sometimes stones, gravel or ashes. Sometimes, too, when measuring loads
of oats, corn or rye, declared to contain a specified number of bushels,
say sixty, I have found them four or five bushels short. In such cases,
some one else was always to blame, but these happenings were frequent
enough to make us watchful of our customers. In the evenings and on wet
days trade was always dull, and at such times the story-telling and
joke-playing wits and wags of the village used to assemble in our store,
and from them I derived considerable amusement, if not profit. After the
store was closed at night, I frequently joined some of the village boys
at the houses of their parents, where, with story-telling and play, a
couple of hours would soon pass by, and then as late, perhaps, as eleven
o’clock, I went home and slyly crept up stairs so as not to awaken my
brother with whom I slept, and who would be sure to report my late
hours. He made every attempt, and laid all sorts of plans to catch me on
my return, but as sleep always overtook him, I managed easily to elude
his efforts.

Like most people in Connecticut in those days, I was brought up to
attend church regularly on Sunday, and long before I could read I was a
prominent scholar in the Sunday school. My good mother taught me my
lessons in the New Testament and the Catechism, and my every effort was
directed to win one of those “Rewards of Merit,” which promised to pay
the bearer one mill, so that ten of these prizes amounted to one cent,
and one hundred of them, which might be won by faithful assiduity every
Sunday for two years, would buy a Sunday school book worth ten cents.
Such were the magnificent rewards held out to the religious ambition of

There was but one church or “meeting-house” in Bethel, which all
attended, sinking all differences of creed in the Presbyterian faith.
The old meeting-house had neither steeple nor bell and was a plain
edifice, comfortable enough in summer, but my teeth chatter even now
when I think of the dreary, cold, freezing hours we passed in that place
in winter. A stove in a meeting-house in those days would have been a
sacrilegious innovation. The sermons were from an hour and one half to
two hours long, and through these the congregation would sit and shiver
till they really merited the title the profane gave them of “blue
skins.” Some of the women carried a “foot-stove” consisting of a small
square tin box in a wooden frame, the sides perforated, and in the
interior there was a small square iron dish, which contained a few live
coals covered with ashes. These stoves were usually replenished just
before meeting time at some neighbor’s near the meeting-house.

After many years of shivering and suffering, one of the brethren had the
temerity to propose that the church should be warmed with a stove. His
impious proposition was voted down by an overwhelming majority. Another
year came around, and in November the stove question was again brought
up. The excitement was immense. The subject was discussed in the village
stores and in the juvenile debating club; it was prayed over in
conference; and finally in general “society’s meeting,” in December, the
stove was carried by a majority of one and was introduced into the
meeting-house. On the first Sunday thereafter, two ancient maiden ladies
were so oppressed by the dry and heated atmosphere occasioned by the
wicked innovation, that they fainted away and were carried out into the
cool air where they speedily returned to consciousness, especially when
they were informed that owing to the lack of two lengths of pipe, no
fire had yet been made in the stove. The next Sunday was a bitter cold
day, and the stove, filled with well-seasoned hickory, was a great
gratification to the many, and displeased only a few. After the
benediction, an old deacon rose and requested the congregation to
remain, and called upon them to witness that he had from the first
raised his voice against the introduction of a stove into the house of
the Lord; but the majority had been against him and he had submitted;
now, if they _must_ have a stove, he insisted upon having a large one,
since the present one did not heat the whole house, but drove the cold
to the back outside pews, making them three times as cold as they were
before! In the course of the week, this deacon was made to comprehend
that, unless on unusually severe days, the stove was sufficient to warm
the house, and, at any rate, it did not drive all the cold in the house
into one corner.

During the Rev. Mr. Lowe’s ministrations at Bethel, he formed a Bible
class, of which I was a member. We used to draw promiscuously from a hat
a text of scripture and write a composition on the text, which
compositions were read after service in the afternoon, to such of the
congregation as remained to hear the exercises of the class. Once, I
remember, I drew the text, Luke x. 42: “But one thing is needful; and
Mary hath chosen that good part which shall not be taken away from her.”
_Question_, “What is the one thing needful?” My answer was nearly as

“This question ‘what is the one thing needful?’ is capable of receiving
various answers, depending much upon the persons to whom it is
addressed. The merchant might answer that ‘the one thing needful’ is
plenty of customers, who buy liberally, without beating down and pay
cash for all their purchases.’ The farmer might reply, that ‘the one
thing needful is large harvests and high prices.’ The physician might
answer that ‘it is plenty of patients.’ The lawyer might be of opinion
that ‘it is an unruly community, always engaged in bickerings and
litigations.’ The clergyman might reply, ‘It is a fat salary with
multitudes of sinners seeking salvation and paying large pew rents.’ The
bachelor might exclaim, ‘It is a pretty wife who loves her husband, and
who knows how to sew on buttons.’ The maiden might answer, ‘It is a good
husband, who will love, cherish and protect me while life shall last.’
But the most proper answer, and doubtless that which applied to the case
of Mary, would be, ‘The one thing needful is to believe on the Lord
Jesus Christ, follow in his footsteps, love God and obey His
commandments, love our fellow-man, and embrace every opportunity of
administering to his necessities. In short, ‘the one thing needful’ is
to live a life that we can always look back upon with satisfaction, and
be enabled ever to contemplate its termination with trust in Him who has
so kindly vouchsafed it to us, surrounding us with innumerable
blessings, if we have but the heart and wisdom to receive them in a
proper manner.”

The reading of a portion of this answer occasioned some amusement in the
congregation, in which the clergyman himself joined, and the name of
“Taylor Barnum” was whispered in connection with the composition; but at
the close of the reading I had the satisfaction of hearing Mr. Lowe say
that it was a well written and truthful answer to the question, “What is
the one thing needful?”




In the month of August, 1825, my maternal grandmother met with an
accident in stepping on the point of a rusty nail, and, though the
matter was at first considered trivial, it resulted in her death.
Alarming symptoms soon made her sensible that she was on her death-bed;
and while she was in full possession of her faculties, the day before
she died she sent for her grandchildren to take final leave of them. I
shall never forget the sensations I experienced when she took me by the
hand and besought me to lead a religious life, and especially to
remember that I could in no way so effectually prove my love to God as
by loving all my fellow-beings. The impressions of that death-bed scene
have ever been among my most vivid recollections, and I trust they have
proved in some degree salutary. A more exemplary woman, or a more
sincere Christian than my grandmother, I have never known.

My father, for his time and locality, was a man of much enterprise. He
could, and actually did, “keep a hotel”; he had a livery stable and ran,
in a small way, what in our day would be called a Norwalk Express; and
he also kept a country store. With greater opportunities and a larger
field for his efforts and energies, he might have been a man of mark and
means. Not that he was successful, for he never did a profitable
business; but I, who saw him in his various pursuits, and acted as his
clerk, caught something of his enterprising spirit, and, perhaps without
egotism, I may say I inherited that characteristic. My business
education was as good as the limited field afforded, and I soon put it
to account and service.

On the 7th of September, 1825, my father, who had been sick since the
month of March, died at the age of forty-eight years. My mother was left
with five children, of whom I, at fifteen years of age, was the eldest,
while the youngest was but seven. It was soon apparent that my father
had provided nothing for the support of his family; his estate was
insolvent, and it did not pay fifty cents on the dollar. My mother, by
economy, industry, and perseverance, succeeded in a few years afterwards
in redeeming the homestead and becoming its sole possessor; but, at the
date of the death of my father, the world looked gloomy indeed; the few
dollars I had accumulated and loaned to my father, holding his note
therefor, were decided to be the property of a minor, belonging to the
father and so to the estate, and my small claim was ruled out. I was
obliged to get trusted for the pair of shoes I wore to my father’s
funeral. I literally began the world with nothing, and was barefooted at

Leaving Mr. Weed, I went to Grassy Plain, a mile northwest of Bethel,
and secured a situation as clerk in the store of James S. Keeler & Lewis
Whitlock at six dollars a month and my board. I lived with Mrs. Jerusha
Wheeler and her daughters, Jerusha and Mary, and found an excellent
home. I chose my uncle, Alanson Taylor, as my guardian. I did my best to
please my employers and soon gained their confidence and esteem and was
regarded by them as an active clerk and a ‘cute trader. They afforded me
many facilities for making money on my own account and I soon entered
upon sundry speculations and succeeded in getting a small sum of money

I made a very remarkable trade at one time for my employers by
purchasing, in their absence, a whole wagon load of green glass bottles
of various sizes, for which I paid in unsalable goods at very profitable
prices. How to dispose of the bottles was then the problem, and as it
was also desirable to get rid of a large quantity of tin ware which had
been in the shop for years and was considerably “shop-worn,” I conceived
the idea of a lottery in which the highest prize should be twenty-five
dollars, payable in any goods the winner desired, while there were to be
fifty prizes of five dollars each, payable in goods, to be designated in
the scheme. Then there were one hundred prizes of one dollar each, one
hundred prizes of fifty cents each, and three hundred prizes of
twenty-five cents each. It is unnecessary to state that the minor prizes
consisted mainly of glass and tin ware; the tickets sold like wildfire,
and the worn tin and glass bottles were speedily turned into cash.

As my mother continued to keep the village tavern at Bethel, I usually
went home on Saturday night and stayed till Monday morning, going to
church with my mother on Sunday. This habit was the occasion of an
experience of momentous consequence to me. One Saturday evening, during
a violent thunder shower, Miss Mary Wheeler, a milliner, sent me word
that there was a girl from Bethel at her house, who had come up on
horseback to get a new bonnet; that she was afraid to go back alone; and
if I was going to Bethel that evening she wished me to escort her
customer. I assented, and went over to “Aunt Rushia’s” where I was
introduced to “Chairy” (Charity) Hallett, a fair, rosy-cheeked, buxom
girl, with beautiful white teeth. I assisted her to her saddle, and
mounting my own horse, we trotted towards Bethel.

My first impressions of this girl as I saw her at the house were
exceedingly favorable. As soon as we started I began a conversation with
her and finding her very affable I regretted that the distance to Bethel
was not five miles instead of one. A flash of lightning gave me a
distinct view of the face of my fair companion and then I wished the
distance was twenty miles. During our ride I learned that she was a
tailoress, working with Mr. Zerah Benedict, of Bethel. We soon arrived
at our destination and I bid her good night and went home. The next day
I saw her at church, and, indeed, many Sundays afterwards, but I had no
opportunity to renew the acquaintance that season.

Mrs. Jerusha Wheeler, with whom I boarded, and her daughter Jerusha were
familiarly known, the one as “Aunt Rushia,” and the other as “Rushia.”
Many of our store customers were hatters, and among the many kinds of
furs we sold for the nap of hats was one known to the trade as “Russia.”
One day a hatter, Walter Dibble, called to buy some furs. I sold him
several kinds, including “beaver” and “cony,” and he then asked for
some “Russia.” We had none, and, as I wanted to play a joke upon him, I
told him that Mrs. Wheeler had several hundred pounds of “Russia.”

“What on earth is a woman doing with ‘Russia?’” said he.

I could not answer, but I assured him that there were one hundred and
thirty pounds of old Rushia and one hundred and fifty pounds of young
Rushia in Mrs. Wheeler’s house, and under her charge, but whether or not
it was for sale I could not say. Off he started to make the purchase and
knocked at the door. Mrs. Wheeler, the elder, made her appearance.

“I want to get your Russia,” said the hatter.

Mrs. Wheeler asked him to walk in and be seated. She, of course,
supposed that he had come for her daughter “Rushia.”

“What do you want of Rushia?” asked the old lady.

“To make hats,” was the reply.

“To trim hats, I suppose you mean?” responded Mrs. Wheeler.

“No, for the outside of hats,” replied the hatter.

“Well, I don’t know much about hats,” said the old lady, “but I will
call my daughter.”

Passing into another room where “Rushia” the younger was at work, she
informed her that a man wanted her to make hats.

“Oh, he means sister Mary; probably. I suppose he wants some ladies’
hats,” replied Rushia, as she went into the parlor.

“This is my daughter,” said the old lady.

“I want to get your Russia,” said he, addressing the young lady.

“I suppose you wish to see my sister Mary; she is our milliner,” said
young Rushia.

“I wish to see whoever owns the property,” said the hatter.

Sister Mary was sent for, and as she was introduced, the hatter informed
her that he wished to buy her “Russia.”

“Buy Rushia!” exclaimed Mary in surprise; “I don’t understand you.”

“Your name is Miss Wheeler, I believe,” said the hatter, who was annoyed
by the difficulty he met with in being understood.

“It is, sir.”

“Ah! very well. Is there old and young Russia in the house?”

“I believe there is,” said Mary, surprised at the familiar manner in
which he spoke of her mother and sister, who were present.

“What is the price of old Russia per pound?” asked the hatter.

“I believe, sir, that old Rushia is not for sale,” replied Mary

“Well, what do you ask for young Russia?” pursued the hatter.

“Sir,” said Miss Rushia the younger, springing to her feet, “do you come
here to insult defenceless females? If you do, sir, we will soon call
our brother, who is in the garden, and he will punish you as you

“Ladies!” exclaimed the hatter, in astonishment, “what on earth have I
done to offend you? I came here on a business matter. I want to buy some
Russia. I was told you had old and young Russia in the house. Indeed,
this young lady just stated such to be the fact, but she says the old
Russia is not for sale. Now, if I can buy the young Russia I want to do
so--but if that can’t be done, please to say so and I will trouble you
no further.”

“Mother, open the door and let this man go out; he is undoubtedly
crazy,” said Miss Mary.

“By thunder! I believe I shall be if I remain here long,” exclaimed the
hatter, considerably excited. “I wonder if folks never do business in
these parts, that you think a man is crazy if he attempts such a thing?”

“Business! poor man!” said Mary soothingly, approaching the door.

“I am not a poor man, madam,” replied the hatter. “My name is Walter
Dibble; I carry on hatting extensively in Danbury; I came to Grassy
Plains to buy fur, and have purchased some ‘beaver’ and ‘cony,’ and now
it seems I am to be called ‘crazy’ and a ‘poor man,’ because I want to
buy a little ‘Russia’ to make up my assortment.”

The ladies began to open their eyes; they saw that Mr. Dibble was quite
in earnest, and his explanation threw considerable light upon the

“Who sent you here?” asked sister Mary.

“The clerk at the opposite store,” was the reply.

“He is a wicked young fellow for making all this trouble,” said the old
lady; “he has been doing this for a joke.”

“A joke!” exclaimed Dibble, in surprise. “Have you no Russia, then?”

“My name is Jerusha, and so is my daughter’s,” said Mrs. Wheeler, “and
that, I suppose, is what he meant by telling you about old and young

Mr. Dibble bolted through the door without another word and made
directly for our store. “You young scamp!” said he as he entered; “what
did you mean by sending me over there to buy Russia?”

“I did not send you to _buy_ Rushia; I supposed you were either a
bachelor or widower and wanted to _marry_ Rushia,” I replied, with a
serious countenance.

“You lie, you young dog, and you know it; but never mind, I’ll pay you
off some day”; and taking his furs, he departed with less ill-humor than
could have been expected under the circumstances.

Among our customers were three or four old Revolutionary pensioners, who
traded out the amounts of their pensions before they were due, leaving
their papers as security. One of these pensioners was old Bevans,
commonly known as “Uncle Bibbins,” a man who loved his glass and was
very prone to relate romantic Revolutionary anecdotes and adventures, in
which he, of course, was conspicuous. At one time he was in our debt,
and though we held his pension papers, it would be three months before
the money could be drawn. It was desirable to get him away for that
length of time, and we hinted to him that it would be pleasant to make a
visit to Guilford, where he had relations, but he would not go. Finally,
I hit upon a plan which “moved” him.

A journeyman hatter, named Benton, who was fond of a practical joke, was
let into the secret, and was persuaded to call “Uncle Bibbins” a coward,
to tell him that he had been wounded in the back, and thus to provoke a
duel, which he did, and at my suggestion “Uncle Bibbins” challenged
Benton to fight him with musket and ball at a distance of twenty yards.
The challenge was accepted, I was chosen second by “Uncle Bibbins,” and
the duel was to come off immediately. My principal, taking me aside,
begged me to put nothing in the guns but blank cartridges. I assured him
it should be so, and therefore that he might feel perfectly safe. This
gave the old man extra courage; he declared that he had not been so long
in bloody battles “for nothing,” and that he would put a bullet through
Benton’s heart at the first shot.

The ground was measured in the lot at the rear of our store, and the
principals and seconds took their places. At the word given both parties
fired. “Uncle Bibbins,” of course, escaped unhurt, but Benton leaped
several feet into the air, and fell upon the ground with a dreadful
yell, as if he had been really shot. “Uncle Bibbins” was frightened. As
his second, I ran to him, told him I had neglected to extract the bullet
from his gun (which was literally true, as there was no bullet in it to
extract), and he supposed, of course, he had killed his adversary. I
then whispered to him to go immediately to Guilford, to keep quiet, and
he should hear from me as soon as it would be safe to do so. He started
up the street on a run, and immediately quit the town for Guilford,
where he kept himself quiet until it was time for him to return and sign
his papers. I then wrote him that “he could return in safety; that his
adversary had recovered from his wound, and now forgave him all, as he
felt himself much to blame for having insulted a man of his known

“Uncle Bibbins” returned, signed the papers, and we obtained the pension
money. A few days thereafter he met Benton.

“My brave old friend,” said Benton, “I forgive you my terrible wound and
long confinement on the brink of the grave, and I beg you to forgive me
also. I insulted you without a cause.”

“I forgive you freely,” said “Uncle Bibbins”; “but,” he added, “you must
be careful next time how you insult a dead shot.”

Benton promised to be more circumspect in future, and “Uncle Bibbins”
supposed to the day of his death that the duel, wound, danger, and all,
were matters of fact.




Mr. Oliver Taylor removed from Danbury to Brooklyn, Long Island, where
he kept a grocery store and also had a large comb factory and a comb
store in New York. In the fall of 1826 he offered me a situation as
clerk in his Brooklyn store, and I accepted it. I soon became conversant
with the routine of my employer’s business and before long he entrusted
to me the purchasing of all goods for his store. I bought for cash
entirely, going into the lower part of New York City in search of the
cheapest market for groceries, often attending auctions of teas, sugars,
molasses, etc., watching the sales, noting prices and buyers, and
frequently combining with other grocers to bid off large lots, which we
subsequently divided, giving each of us the quantity wanted at a lower
rate than if the goods had passed into other hands, compelling us to pay
another profit.

Situated as I was, and well treated as I was by my employer, who
manifested great interest in me, still I was dissatisfied. A salary was
not sufficient for me. My disposition was of that speculative character
which refused to be satisfied unless I was engaged in some business
where my profits might be enhanced, or, at least, made to depend upon my
energy, perseverance, attention to business, tact, and “calculation.”
Accordingly, as I had no opportunity to speculate on my own account, I
became uneasy, and, young as I was, I began to talk of setting up for
myself; for, although I had no capital, several men of means had offered
to furnish the money and join me in business. I was in that uneasy,
transitory state between boyhood and manhood when I had unbounded
confidence in my own abilities, and yet needed a discreet counsellor,
adviser and friend.

In the following summer, 1827, I was taken down with the small-pox and
was confined to the house for several months. This sickness made a sad
inroad upon my means. When I was sufficiently recovered, I started for
home to recruit, taking passage on board a sloop for Norwalk, but the
remaining passengers were so frightened at the appearance of my face,
which still bore the marks of the disease, that I was obliged to go
ashore again, which I did, stopping at Holt’s, in Fulton Street, going
to Norwalk by steamboat next morning, and arriving at Bethel in the

During my convalescence at my mother’s house, I visited my old friends
and neighbors and had the opportunity to slightly renew my acquaintance
with the attractive tailoress, “Chairy” Hallett. A month afterwards, I
returned to Brooklyn, where I gave Mr. Taylor notice of my desire to
leave his employment; and I then opened a porter-house on my own
account. In a few months I sold out to good advantage and accepted a
favorable offer to engage as clerk in a similar establishment, kept by
Mr. David Thorp, 29 Peck Slip, New York. It was a great resort for
Danbury and Bethel comb makers and hatters and I thus had frequent
opportunities of seeing and hearing from my fellow-townsmen. I lived in
Mr. Thorp’s family and was kindly treated. I was often permitted to
visit the theatre with friends who came to New York, and, as I had
considerable taste for the drama, I soon became, in my own opinion, a
discriminating critic--nor did I fail to exhibit my powers to my
Connecticut friends who accompanied me to the play. Let me gratefully
add that my habits were not bad. Though I sold liquors to others, I do
not think I ever drank a pint of liquor, wine, or cordials before I was
twenty-two years of age. I always had a Bible, which I frequently read,
and I attended church regularly. These habits, so far as they go, are in
the right direction, and I am thankful to-day that they characterized my
early youth. However worthy or unworthy may have been my later years, I
_know_ that I owe much of the better part of my nature to my youthful
regard for Sunday and its institutions--a regard, I trust, still strong
in my character.

In February, 1828, I returned to Bethel and opened a retail fruit and
confectionery store in a part of my grandfather’s carriage-house, which
was situated on the main street, and which was offered to me rent free
if I would return to my native village and establish some sort of
business. This beginning of business on my own account was an eventful
era in my life. My total capital was one hundred and twenty dollars,
fifty of which I had expended in fitting up the store, and the remaining
seventy dollars purchased my stock in trade. I had arranged with fruit
dealers whom I knew in New York, to receive my orders, and I decided to
open my establishment on the first Monday in May--our “general
training” day.

It was a “red letter” day for me. The village was crowded with people
from the surrounding region and the novelty of my little shop attracted
attention. Long before noon I was obliged to call in one of my old
schoolmates to assist in waiting upon my numerous customers and when I
closed at night I had the satisfaction of reckoning up sixty-three
dollars as my day’s receipts. Nor, although I had received the entire
cost of my goods, less seven dollars, did the stock seem seriously
diminished; showing that my profits had been large. I need not say how
much gratified I was with the result of this first day’s experiment. The
store was a fixed fact. I went to New York and expended all my money in
a stock of fancy goods, such as pocket-books, combs, beads, rings,
pocket-knives, and a few toys. These, with fruit, nuts, etc., made the
business good through the summer, and in the fall I added stewed oysters
to the inducements.

My grandfather, who was much interested in my success, advised me to
take an agency for the sale of lottery tickets, on commission. In those
days, the lottery was not deemed objectionable on the score of morality.
Very worthy people invested in such schemes without a thought of evil,
and then, as now, churches even got up lotteries, with this
difference--that then they were called lotteries, and now they go under
some other name. While I am very glad that an improved public sentiment
denounces the lottery in general as an illegitimate means of getting
money, and while I do not see how any one, especially in or near a New
England State, can engage in a lottery without feeling a reproach which
no pecuniary return can compensate; yet I cannot now accuse myself for
having been lured into a business which was then sanctioned by good
Christian people, who now join with me in reprobating enterprises they
once encouraged. But as public sentiment was forty years ago, I obtained
an agency to sell lottery tickets on a commission of ten per cent, and
this business, in connection with my little store, made my profits quite

I used to have some curious customers. On one occasion a young man
called on me and selected a pocket-book which pleased him, asking me to
give him credit for a few weeks. I told him that if he wanted any
article of necessity in my line, I should not object to trust him for a
short time, but it struck me that a pocket-book was a decided
superfluity for a man who had no money; I therefore declined to trust
him as I did not see the necessity for his possessing such an article
till he had something to put into it. Later in life I have been credited
with the utterance of some sagacious remarks, but this with regard to
the pocket-book, trivial as the matter is in itself, seems to me quite
as deserving of note as any of my ideas which have created more

My store had much to do in giving shape to my future character as well
as career, in that it became a favorite resort; the theatre of village
talk, and the scene of many practical jokes. For any excess of the
jocose element in my character, part of the blame must attach to my
early surroundings as a village clerk and merchant. In that true resort
of village wits and wags, the country store, fun, pure and simple, will
be sure to find the surface. My Bethel store was the scene of many most
amusing incidents, in some of which I was an immediate participant,
though in many, of course, I was only a listener or spectator.

The following scene makes a chapter in the history of Connecticut, as
the State was when “blue-laws” were something more than a dead letter.
To swear in those days was according to custom, but contrary to law. A
person from New York State, whom I will call Crofut, who was a frequent
visitor at my store, was a man of property, and equally noted for his
self-will and his really terrible profanity. One day he was in my little
establishment engaged in conversation, when Nathan Seelye, Esq., one of
our village justices of the peace, and a man of strict religious
principles, came in, and hearing Crofut’s profane language he told him
he considered it his duty to fine him one dollar for swearing.

Crofut responded immediately with an oath, that he did not care a d--n
for the Connecticut blue-laws.

“That will make two dollars,” said Mr. Seelye.

This brought forth another oath.

“Three dollars,” said the sturdy justice.

Nothing but oaths were given in reply, until Esquire Seelye declared the
damage to the Connecticut laws to amount to fifteen dollars.

Crofut took out a twenty-dollar bill, and handed it to the justice of
the peace, with an oath.

“Sixteen dollars,” said Mr. Seelye, counting out four dollars to hand to
Mr. Crofut, as his change.

“Oh, keep it, keep it,” said Crofut, “I don’t want any change, I’ll d--d
soon swear out the balance.” He did so, after which he was more
circumspect in his conversation, remarking that twenty dollars a day
for swearing was about as much as he could stand.

On another occasion, a man arrested for assault and battery was to be
tried before my grandfather; who was a justice of the peace. A young
medical student named Newton, volunteered to defend the prisoner, and
Mr. Couch, the grand-juryman, came to me and said that as the prisoner
had engaged a pettifogger, the State ought to have some one to represent
its interests and he would give me a dollar to present the case. I
accepted the fee and proposition. The fame of the “eminent counsel” on
both sides drew quite a crowd to hear the case. As for the case itself,
it was useless to argue it, for the guilt of the prisoner was
established by evidence of half a dozen witnesses. However, Newton was
bound to display himself, and so, rising with much dignity, he addressed
my grandfather with, “May it please the honorable court,” etc.,
proceeding with a mixture of poetry and invective against Couch, the
grand-juryman whom he assumed to be the vindictive plaintiff in this
case. After alluding to him as such for the twentieth time, my
grandfather stopped Newton in the midst of his splendid peroration and
informed him that Mr. Couch was not the plaintiff in the case.

“Not the plaintiff! Then may it please your honor I should like to know
who is the plaintiff?” inquired Newton.

He was quietly informed that the State of Connecticut was the plaintiff,
whereupon Newton dropped into his seat as if he had been shot.
Thereupon, I rose with great confidence, and speaking from my notes,
proceeded to show the guilt of the prisoner from the evidence; that
there was no discrepancy in the testimony; that none of the witnesses
had been impeached; that no defence had been offered; that I was
astonished at the audacity of both counsel and prisoner in not pleading
guilty at once; and then, soaring aloft on general principles, I began
to look about for a safe place to alight, when my grandfather
interrupted me with--

“Young man, will you have the kindness to inform the court which side
you are pleading for--the plaintiff or the defendant?”

It was my turn to drop, which I did amid a shout of laughter from every
corner of the court-room. Newton, who had been very downcast, looked up
with a broad grin and the two “eminent counsel” sneaked out of the room
in company, while the prisoner was bound over to the next County Court
for trial.

While my business in Bethel continued to increase beyond my
expectations, I was also happy in believing that my suit with the fair
tailoress, Charity Hallett, was duly progressing. Of all the young
people with whom I associated in our parties, picnics, and sleigh-rides,
she stood highest in my estimation and continued to improve upon

How I managed at one of our sleigh rides is worth narrating. My
grandfather would, at any time, let me have a horse and sleigh, always
excepting his new sleigh, the finest in the village, and a favorite
horse called “Arabian.” I especially coveted this turnout for one of our
parties, knowing that I could eclipse all my comrades, and so I asked
grandfather if I could have “Arabian” and the new sleigh.

“Yes, if you have twenty dollars in your pocket,” was the reply.

I immediately showed the money, and, putting it back in my pocket, said
with a laugh: “you see I have the money. I am much obliged to you; I
suppose I can have ‘Arab’ and the new sleigh?”

Of course, he meant to deny me by making what he thought to be an
impossible condition, to wit: that I should hire the team, at a good
round price, if I had it at all, but I had caught him so suddenly that
he was compelled to consent, and “Chairy” and I had the crack team of
the party.

There was a young apprentice to the tailoring trade in Bethel, whom I
will call John Mallett, whose education had been much neglected, and who
had been paying his addresses to a certain “Lucretia” for some six
months, with a strong probability of being jilted at last. On a Sunday
evening she had declined to take his arm, accepting instead the arm of
the next man who offered, and Mallett determined to demand an
explanation. He accordingly came to me the Saturday evening following,
asking me, when I had closed my store, to write a strong and
remonstratory “love-letter” for him. I asked Bill Shepard, who was
present, to remain and assist, and, in due time, the joint efforts of
Shepard, Mallett, and myself resulted in the following production. I
give the letter as an illustrative chapter in real life. In novels such
correspondence is usually presented in elaborate rhetoric, with studied
elegance of phrase. But the true language of the heart is always nearly
the same in all time and in all tongues, and when the blood is up the
writer is far more intent upon the matter than the manner, and aims to
be forcible rather than elegant. The subjoined letter is certainly not
after the manner of Chesterfield, but it is such a letter as a
disappointed lover, spurred by

    The green-eyed monster, which doth mock
      The meat it feeds on,

frequently indites. With a demand from Mallett that we should begin in
strong terms, and Shepard acting as scribe, we concocted the following:

BETHEL, ----, 18--.

     MISS LUCRETIA,--I write this to ask an explanation of your conduct
     in giving me the mitten on Sunday night last. If you think, madam,
     that you can trifle with my affections, and turn me off for every
     little whipper-snapper that you can pick up, you will find yourself
     considerably mistaken. [We read thus far to Mallett, and it met his
     approval. He said he liked the idea of calling her “madam,” for he
     thought it sounded so “distant,” it would hurt her feelings very
     much. The term “little whipper-snapper” also delighted him. He said
     he guessed that would make her feel cheap. Shepard and myself were
     not quite so sure of its aptitude, since the chap who succeeded in
     capturing Lucretia, on the occasion alluded to, was a head and
     shoulders taller than Mallett. However, we did not intimate our
     thoughts to Mallett, and he desired us to “go ahead and give her
     another dose.”] You don’t know me, madam, if you think you can snap
     me up in this way. I wish you to understand that I can have the
     company of girls as much above you as the sun is above the earth,
     and I won’t stand any of your impudent nonsense no how. [This was
     duly read and approved. “Now,” said Mallett, “try to touch her
     feelings. Remind her of the pleasant hours we have spent together”;
     and we continued as follows:] My dear Lucretia, when I think of the
     many pleasant hours we have spent together--of the delightful walks
     which we have had on moonlight evenings to Fenner’s Rocks, Chestnut
     Ridge, Grassy Plains, Wildcat, and Puppy-town--of the strolls which
     we have taken upon Shelter Rocks, Cedar Hill--the visits we have
     made to Old Lane, Wolfpits, Toad-hole and Plum-trees[A]--when all
     these things come rushing on my mind, and when, my dear girl, I
     remember how often you have told me that you loved me better than
     anybody else, and I assured you my feelings were the same as yours,
     it almost breaks my heart to think of last Sunday night. [“Can’t
     you stick in some affecting poetry here?” said Mallett. Shepard
     could not recollect any to the point, nor could I, but as the
     exigency of the case seemed to require it, we concluded to
     manufacture a verse or two, which we did as follows:]

    Lucretia, dear, what have I done,
      That you should use me thus and so,
    To take the arm of Tom Beers’ son,
      And let your dearest true-love go?

    Miserable fate, to lose you now,
      And tear this bleeding heart asunder!
    Will you forget your tender vow?
      I can’t believe it--no, by thunder!

     [Mallett did not like the word “thunder,” but being informed that
     no other word could be substituted without destroying both rhyme
     and reason, he consented that it should remain, provided we added
     two more stanzas of a _softer_ nature; something, he said, that
     would make the tears come, if possible. We then ground out the

    Lucretia, dear, do write to Jack,
      And say with Beers you are not smitten;
    And thus to me in love come back,
      And give all other boys the mitten.

    Do this, Lucretia, and till death
      I’ll love you to intense distraction;
    I’ll spend for you my every breath,
      And we will live in satisfaction.

      [A] These were the euphonious names of localities in the vicinity of

     [“That will do very well,” said Mallett. “Now I guess you had
     better blow her up a little more.” We obeyed orders as follows:] It
     makes me mad to think what a fool I was to give you that
     finger-ring and bosom-pin, and spend so much time in your company,
     just to be flirted and bamboozled as I was on Sunday night last. If
     you continue this course of conduct, we part for ever, and I will
     thank you to send back that jewelry. I would sooner see it crushed
     under my feet than worn by a person who abused me as you have done.
     I shall despise you for ever if you don’t change your conduct
     towards me, and send me a letter of apology on Monday next. I shall
     not go to meeting to-morrow, for I would scorn to sit in the same
     meeting-house with you until I have an explanation of your conduct.
     If you allow any young man to go home with you to-morrow night, I
     shall know it, for you will be watched. [“There,” said Mallett,
     “that is pretty strong. Now I guess you had better touch her
     feelings once more, and wind up the letter.” We proceeded as
     follows:] My sweet girl, if you only knew the sleepless nights
     which I have spent during the present week, the torments and
     sufferings which I endure on your account; if you could but realize
     that I regard the world as less than nothing without you, I am
     certain you would pity me. A homely cot and a crust of bread with
     my adorable Lucretia would be a paradise, where a palace without
     you would be a hades. [“What in thunder is hades?” inquired Jack.
     We explained. He considered the figure rather bold, and requested
     us to close as soon as possible.] Now, dearest, in bidding you
     adieu, I implore you to reflect on our past enjoyments, look
     forward with pleasure to our future happy meetings, and rely upon
     your affectionate Jack in storm or calm, in sickness, distress, or
     want, for all these will be powerless to change my love. I hope to
     hear from you on Monday next, and, if favorable, I shall be happy
     to call on you the same evening, when in ecstatic joy we will laugh
     at the past, hope for the future, and draw consolation from the
     fact that “the course of true love never did run smooth.” This from
     your disconsolate but still hoping lover and admirer,


     P. S.--On reflection I have concluded to go to meeting to-morrow.
     If all is well, hold your pocket-handkerchief in your left hand as
     you stand up to sing with the choir--in which case I shall expect
     the pleasure of giving you my arm to-morrow night.

J. M.

The effect of this letter upon Lucretia, I regret to say, was not as
favorable as could have been desired or expected. She declined to remove
her handkerchief from her right hand and she returned the “ring and
bosom-pin” to her disconsolate admirer, while, not many months after,
Mallett’s rival led Lucretia to the altar. As for Mallett’s agreement to
pay Shepard and myself five pounds of carpet rags and twelve yards of
broadcloth “lists,” for our services, owing to his ill success, we
compromised for one-half the amount.




During this season I made arrangements with Mr. Samuel Sherwood, of
Bridgeport, to go on an exploring expedition to Pittsburg, Pennsylvania,
where we understood there was a fine opening for a lottery office and
where we meant to try our fortunes, provided the prospects should equal
our expectations. We went to New York where I had an interview with Mr.
Dudley S. Gregory, the principal business man of Messrs. Yates and
McIntyre, who dissuaded me from going to Pittsburg, and offered me the
entire lottery agency for the State of Tennessee, if I would go to
Nashville and open an office. The offer was tempting, but the distance
was too far from a certain tailoress in Bethel.

As the Pittsburg trip was given up, Sherwood and I went to Philadelphia
for a pleasure excursion and put up at Congress Hall in Chestnut Street
where we lived in much grander style than we had been accustomed to. The
array of waiters and display of dishes were far ahead of our former
experiences and for a week we lived in clover. At the end of that time,
however, when we concluded to start for home, the amount of our hotel
bill astounded us. After paying it and securing tickets for New York,
our combined purses showed a balance of but twenty-seven cents.

Twenty-five cents of this sum went to the boot-black, and as our
breakfast was included in our bill we secured from the table a few
biscuits for our dinner on the way to New York.

Arriving in New York we carried our own baggage to Holt’s Hotel. The
next morning Sherwood obtained a couple of dollars from a friend, and
went to Newark and borrowed fifty dollars from his cousin, Dr. Sherwood,
loaning me one-half the sum. After a few days’ sojourn in the city we
returned home.

During our stay in New York, I derived considerable information from the
city managers with regard to the lottery business, and thereafter I
bought my tickets directly from the Connecticut lottery managers at what
was termed “the scheme price,” and also established agencies throughout
the country, selling considerable quantities of tickets at handsome
profits. My uncle, Alanson Taylor, joined me in the business, and, as we
sold several prizes, my office came to be considered “lucky,” and I
received orders from all parts of the country.

During this time I kept a close eye upon the attractive tailoress,
Charity Hallett, and in the summer of 1829 I asked her hand in marriage.
My suit was accepted, and the wedding day was appointed; I, meanwhile,
applying myself closely to business, and no one but the parties
immediately interested suspecting that the event was so near at hand.
Miss Hallett went to New York in October, ostensibly to visit her uncle,
Nathan Beers, who resided at No. 3 Allen Street. I followed in November,
pressed by the necessity of purchasing goods for my store; and the
evening after my arrival, November 8, 1829, the Rev. Dr. McAuley married
us in the presence of sundry friends and relatives of my wife, and I
became the husband of one of the best women in the world. In the course
of the week we went back to Bethel and took board in the family where
Charity Barnum as “Chairy” Hallett had previously resided.

I do not approve or recommend early marriages. The minds of men and
women taking so important a step in life should be somewhat matured, and
hasty marriages, especially marriages of boys and girls, have been the
cause of untold misery in many instances. But although I was only little
more than nineteen years old when I was married, I have always felt
assured that if I had waited twenty years longer I could not have found
another woman so well suited to my disposition and so admirable and
valuable in every character as a wife, a mother, and a friend.

My business occupations amply employed nearly all my time, yet so strong
was my love of fun that when the opportunity for a practical joke
presented itself, I could not resist the temptation. On one occasion I
engaged in the character of counsel to conduct a case for an Irish
peddler whose complaint was that one of our neighbors had turned him out
of his house and had otherwise abused him.

The court was just as “real” as the attorney,--no more,--and consisted
of three judges, one a mason, the second a butcher, and the third an
old gentleman of leisure who was an ex-justice of the peace. The
constable was of my own appointment, and my “writ” arrested the culprit
who had turned my client out of house and home. The court was convened,
but as the culprit did not appear, and as it seemed necessary that my
client should get testimonials as to his personal character; the court
adjourned nominally for one week, the client consenting to “stand treat”
to cover immediate expenses.

I supposed that this was the end of it. But at the time named for the
re-assembling of the “court,” a _real_ lawyer from Newtown put in an
appearance. He had been engaged by the Irishman to assist me in
conducting the case! I saw at once that the joke was likely to prove a
sorry one, and immediately notified the members of the “court,” who were
quite as much alarmed as I was at the serious turn the thing had taken.
I need not say that while the danger threatened we all took precious
good care to keep out of the way. However, the affair was explained to
Mr. Belden, the lawyer, who in turn set forth the matter to the client,
but not in such a manner as to soothe the anger so natural under the
circumstances--in fact, he advised the Irishman to get out of the place
as soon as possible. The Irishman threatened me and my “court” with
prosecution--a threat I really feared he would carry into execution, but
which, to the great peace of mind of myself and my companions, he
concluded not to follow up. Considering the vexation and annoyance of
this Irishman, it was a mitigation to know that he was the party in the
wrong and that he really deserved a severer punishment than my practical
joke had put upon him.

In the winter of 1829-30, my lottery business had so extended that I had
branch offices in Danbury, Norwalk, Stamford and Middletown, as well as
agencies in the small villages for thirty miles around Bethel. I had
also purchased from my grandfather three acres of land on which I built
a house and went to housekeeping. My lottery business, which was with a
few large customers, was so arranged that I could safely entrust it to
an agent, making it necessary for me to find some other field for my
individual enterprise.

So I tried my hand as an auctioneer in the book trade. I bought books at
the auctions and from dealers and publishers in New York, and took them
into the country, selling them at auction and doing tolerably well; only
at Litchfield, Connecticut, where there was then a law school. At
Newburgh, New York, several of my best books were stolen, and I quit the
business in disgust.

In July, 1831, my uncle, Alanson Taylor, and myself opened a country
store, in a building, which I had put up in Bethel in the previous
spring, and we stocked the “yellow store,” as it was called, with a full
assortment of groceries, hardware, crockery, and “notions”; but we were
not successful in the enterprise, and in October following, I bought out
my uncle’s interest and we dissolved partnership.

About this time, circumstances partly religious and partly political in
their character led me into still another field of enterprise which
honorably opened to me that notoriety of which in later life I surely
have had a surfeit. Considering my youth, this new enterprise reflected
credit upon my ability, as well as energy, and so I may be excused if I
now recur to it with something like pride.

In a period of strong political excitement, I wrote several
communications for the Danbury weekly paper, setting forth what I
conceived to be the dangers of a sectarian interference which was then
apparent in political affairs. The publication of these communications
was refused and I accordingly purchased a press and types, and October
19, 1831, I issued the first number of my own paper, _The Herald of

I entered upon the editorship of this journal with all the vigor and
vehemence of youth. The boldness with which the paper was conducted soon
excited wide-spread attention and commanded a circulation which extended
beyond the immediate locality into nearly every State in the Union. But
lacking that experience which induces caution, and without the dread of
consequences, I frequently laid myself open to the charge of libel and
three times in three years I was prosecuted. A Danbury butcher, a
zealous politician, brought a civil suit against me for accusing him of
being a spy in a Democratic caucus. On the first trial the jury did not
agree, but after a second trial I was fined several hundred dollars.
Another libel suit against me was withdrawn and need not be mentioned
further. The third was sufficiently important to warrant the following

A criminal prosecution was brought against me for stating in my paper
that a man in Bethel, prominent in the church, had “been guilty of
taking _usury_ of an orphan boy,” and for severely commenting on the
fact in my editorial columns. When the case came to trial the truth of
my statement was substantially proved by


several witnesses and even by the prosecuting party. But “the greater
the truth, the greater the libel,” and then I had used the term “usury,”
instead of extortion, or note-shaving, or some other expression which
might have softened the verdict. The result was that I was sentenced to
pay a fine of one hundred dollars and to be imprisoned in the common
jail for sixty days.

The most comfortable provision was made for me in Danbury jail. My room
was papered and carpeted; I lived well; I was overwhelmed with the
constant visits of my friends; I edited my paper as usual and received
large accessions to my subscription list; and at the end of my sixty
days’ term the event was celebrated by a large concourse of people from
the surrounding country. The court room in which I was convicted was the
scene of the celebration. An ode, written for the occasion, was sung; an
eloquent oration on the freedom of the press was delivered; and several
hundred gentlemen afterwards partook of a sumptuous dinner followed by
appropriate toasts and speeches. Then came the triumphant part of the
ceremonial, which was reported in my paper of December 12, 1832, as

     “P. T. BARNUM and the band of music took their seats in a coach
     drawn by six horses, which had been prepared for the occasion. The
     coach was preceded by forty horsemen, and a marshal, bearing the
     national standard. Immediately in the rear of the coach was the
     carriage of the Orator and the President of the day, followed by
     the Committee of Arrangements and sixty carriages of citizens,
     which joined in escorting the editor to his home in Bethel.

     “When the procession commenced its march amidst the roar of cannon,
     three cheers were given by several hundred citizens who did not
     join in the procession. The band of music continued to play a
     variety of national airs until their arrival in Bethel, (a distance
     of three miles,) when they struck up the beautiful and appropriate
     tune of ‘Home, Sweet Home!’ After giving three hearty cheers, the
     procession returned to Danbury. The utmost harmony and unanimity of
     feeling prevailed throughout the day, and we are happy to add that
     no accident occurred to mar the festivities of the occasion.”

My editorial career was one of continual contest. I however published
the 160th number of _The Herald of Freedom_ in Danbury, November 5,
1834, after which my brother-in-law, John W. Amerman, issued the paper
for me at Norwalk till the following year, when the _Herald_ was sold to
Mr. George Taylor.

Meanwhile, I had taken Horace Fairchild into partnership in my
mercantile business, in 1831, and I had sold out to him and to a Mr.
Toucey, in 1833, they forming a partnership under the firm of Fairchild
& Co. So far as I was concerned my store was not a success. Ordinary
trade was too slow for me. I bought largely and in order to sell I was
compelled to give extensive credits. Hence I had an accumulation of bad
debts; and my old ledger presents a long series of accounts balanced by
“death,” by “running away,” by “failing,” and by other similarly
remunerative returns. I had expended money as freely as I had gained it,
for I had already learned that I could make money rapidly and in large
sums, when I set about it with a will, and hence I did not realize the
worth of what I seemed to gain so readily. I looked forward to a future
of saving when I should see the need of accumulation.

There was nothing more for me to do in Bethel; and in the winter of
1834-5, I removed my family to New York, where I hired a house in Hudson
Street. I had no pecuniary resources, excepting such as might be derived
from debts left for collection with my agent at Bethel, and I went to
the metropolis literally to seek my fortune. I hoped to secure a
situation in some mercantile house, not at a fixed salary, but so as to
derive such portion of the profits as might be due to my individual
tact, energy, and perseverance in the interests of the business. But I
could find no such position; my resources began to fail; my family were
in ill health; I must do something for a living; and so I acted as
“drummer” to several concerns which allowed me a small commission on
sales to customers of my introduction.

Every morning I used to look at the “wants” in the _Sun_ for something
that would suit me; and I had many a wildgoose chase in following up
those “wants.” In some instances success depended upon my advancing from
three hundred to five hundred dollars; in other cases a new patent
life-pill, or a self-acting mouse trap was to make my fortune. An
advertisement announcing “An immense speculation on a small capital!
$10,000 easily made in one year!” turned out to be an offer of Professor
Somebody at Scudder’s American Museum to sell a hydro-oxygen microscope,
offered to me at two thousand dollars--one thousand in cash and the
balance in sixty and ninety days, on good security,--and warranted to
secure an independence after a short public exhibition through the
country. If I had the desire to undertake this exhibition and
experiment, I had not the capital. Other and many similar temptations
were extended, but none of them seemed to open the door of fortune to

The advertisement in the _Sun_, of Mr. William Niblo, of Niblo’s Garden,
for a barkeeper first brought me in contact with that gentlemanly and
justly-popular proprietor. He wanted a well-recommended, well-behaved,
trustworthy man to fill a vacant situation, but as he wished him to bind
himself to remain three years, I, who was only seeking the means of
temporary support, was precluded from accepting the position.

Nor did all my efforts secure a situation for me during the whole
winter; but, in the spring, I received several hundred dollars from my
agent in Bethel, and finding no better business, May 1, 1835, I opened a
small private boarding-house at No. 52 Frankfort Street. We soon had a
very good run of custom from our Connecticut acquaintances who had
occasion to visit New York, and as this business did not sufficiently
occupy my time, I bought an interest with Mr. John Moody in a grocery
store, No. 156 South Street.

Although the years of manhood brought cares, anxieties, and struggles
for a livelihood, they did not change my nature and the jocose element
was still an essential ingredient of my being. I loved fun, practical
fun, for itself and for the enjoyment which it brought. During the year,
I occasionally visited Bridgeport where I almost always found at the
hotel a noted joker, named Darrow, who spared neither friend nor foe in
his tricks. He was the life of the bar-room and would always try to
entrap some stranger in a bet and so win a treat for the company. He
made several ineffectual attempts upon me, and at last, one evening,
Darrow, who stuttered, made a final trial as follows: “Come, Barnum,
I’ll make you another proposition; I’ll bet you hain’t got a whole shirt
on your back.” The catch consists in the fact that generally only
one-half of that convenient garment is on the back; but I had
anticipated the proposition--in fact I had induced a friend, Mr. Hough,
to put Darrow up to the trick,--and had folded a shirt nicely upon my
back, securing it there with my suspenders. The bar-room was crowded
with customers who thought that if I made the bet I should be nicely
caught, and I made pretence of playing off and at the same time
stimulated Darrow to press the bet by saying:

“That is a foolish bet to make; I am sure my shirt is whole because it
is nearly new; but I don’t like to bet on such a subject.”

“A good reason why,” said Darrow, in great glee; “it’s ragged. Come,
I’ll bet you a treat for the whole company you hain’t got a whole shirt
on your b-b-b-back!”

“I’ll bet my shirt is cleaner than yours,” I replied.

“That’s nothing to do w-w-with the case; it’s ragged, and y-y-you know

“I know it is not,” I replied, with pretended anger, which caused the
crowd to laugh heartily.

“You poor ragged f-f-fellow, come down here from D-D-Danbury, I’m sorry
for you,” said Darrow tantalizingly.

“You would not pay if you lost,” I remarked.

“Here’s f-f-five dollars I’ll put in Captain Hinman’s (the landlord’s)
hands. Now b-b-bet if you dare, you ragged c-c-creature, you.”

I put five dollars in Captain Hinman’s hands, and told him to treat the
company from it if I lost the bet.

“Remember,” said Darrow, “I b-b-bet you hain’t got a whole shirt on your

“All right,” said I, taking off my coat and commencing to unbutton my
vest. The whole company, feeling sure that I was caught, began to laugh
heartily. Old Darrow fairly danced with delight, and as I laid my coat
on a chair he came running up in front of me, and slapping his hands
together, exclaimed:

“You needn’t t-t-take off any more c-c-c-clothes, for if it ain’t all on
your b-b-back, you’ve lost it.”

“If it is, I suppose you have!” I replied, pulling the whole shirt from
off my back!

Such a shriek of laughter as burst forth from the crowd I scarcely ever
heard, and certainly such a blank countenance as old Darrow exhibited it
would be hard to conceive. Seeing that he was most incontinently “done
for,” and perceiving that his neighbor Hough had helped to do it, he ran
up to him in great anger, and shaking his fist in his face, exclaimed:

“H-H-Hough, you infernal r-r-rascal, to go against your own n-n-neighbor
in favor of a D-D-Danbury man. I’ll pay you for that some time, you see
if I d-d-don’t.”

All hands went up to the bar and drank with a hearty good will, for it
was seldom that Darrow got taken in, and he was such an inveterate joker
they liked to see him paid in his own coin. Never till the day of his
death did he hear the last of the “whole shirt.”




By this time it was clear to my mind that my proper position in this
busy world was not yet reached. I had displayed the faculty of getting
money, as well as getting rid of it; but the business for which I was
destined, and, I believe, made, had not yet come to me; or rather, I had
not found that I was to cater for that insatiate want of human
nature--the love of amusement; that I was to make a sensation on two
continents; and that fame and fortune awaited me so soon as I should
appear before the public in the character of a showman. These things I
had not foreseen. I did not seek the position or the character. The
business finally came in my way; I fell into the occupation, and far
beyond any of my predecessors on this continent, I have succeeded.

The show business has all phases and grades of dignity, from the
exhibition of a monkey to the exposition of that highest art in music or
the drama, which entrances empires and secures for the gifted artist a
world-wide fame which princes well might envy. Such art is merchantable,
and so with the whole range of amusements, from the highest to the
lowest. The old word “trade” as it applies to buying cheap and selling
at a profit, is as manifest here as it is in the dealings at a
street-comer stand or in Stewart’s store covering a whole square. This
is a trading world, and men, women and children, who cannot live on
gravity alone, need something to satisfy their gayer, lighter moods and
hours, and he who ministers to this want is in a business established by
the Author of our nature. If he worthily fulfils his mission, and amuses
without corrupting, he need never feel that he has lived in vain.

Whether I may claim a pre-eminence of grandeur in my career as a
dispenser of entertainment for mankind, I may not say. I have sometimes
been weak enough to think so, but let others judge; and whether I may
assume that on the whole, I have sought to make amusement harmless, and
have succeeded to a very great degree, in eliminating from public
entertainments certain corruptions which have made so many theatrical
“sensations” positively shameful, may safely be left, I think, to the
thousands upon thousands who have known me and the character of my
amusement so long and so well.

But I shall by no means claim entire faultlessness in my history as a
showman. I confess that I have not always been strong enough to rise out
of the exceptional ways which characterize the art of amusing--not more,
however, than any other art of trade. When, in beginning business under
my own name in Bethel, in 1831, I advertised that I would sell goods “25
per cent cheaper” than any of my neighbors, I was guilty of a trick of
trade, but so common a trick, that very few who saw my promise were
struck with a sense of any particular enormity therein, while,
doubtless, a good many, who claim to be specially exemplary, thought
they were reading one of their own advertisements. And in the show
business I was never guilty of a greater sin than this against
truthfulness and fair dealing.

The least deserving of all my efforts in the show line was the one which
introduced me to the business; a scheme in no sense of my own devising;
one which had been sometime before the public and which had so many
vouchers for its genuineness that at the time of taking possession of it
I honestly believed it to be genuine; something, too, which, as I have
said, I did not seek, but which by accident came in my way and seemed
almost to compel my agency--such was the “Joice Heth” exhibition which
first brought me forward as a showman.

In the summer of 1835, Mr. Coley Bartram, of Reading, Connecticut,
informed me that he had owned an interest in a remarkable negro woman
whom he believed to be one hundred and sixty-one years old, and whom he
also believed to have been the nurse of General Washington. He then
showed me a copy of the following advertisement in the _Pennsylvania
Inquirer_, of July 15, 1835:

     CURIOSITY.--The citizens of Philadelphia and its vicinity have an
     opportunity of witnessing at the Masonic Hall, one of the greatest
     natural curiosities ever witnessed, viz: JOYCE HETH, a negress,
     aged 161 years, who formerly belonged to the father of General
     Washington. She has been a member of the Baptist Church one hundred
     and sixteen years, and can rehearse many hymns, and sing them
     according to former custom. She was born near the old Potomac River
     in Virginia, and has for ninety or one hundred years lived in
     Paris, Kentucky, with the Bowling family.

     All who have seen this extraordinary woman are satisfied of the
     truth of the account of her age. The evidence of the Bowling
     family, which is respectable, is strong, but the original bill of
     sale of Augustine Washington, in his own handwriting, and other
     evidences which the proprietor has in his possession, will satisfy
     even the most incredulous.

     A lady will attend at the hall during the afternoon and evening for
     the accommodation of those ladies who may call.

Mr. Bartram further stated that he had sold out his interest to his
partner, R. W. Lindsay, of Jefferson County, Kentucky, who was then
exhibiting Joice Heth in Philadelphia, but was anxious to sell out and
go home--the alleged reason being that he had very little tact as a
showman. As the New York papers had also contained some account of Joice
Heth, I went on to Philadelphia to see Mr. Lindsay and his exhibition.

Joice Heth was certainly a remarkable curiosity, and she looked as if
she might have been far older than her age as advertised. She was
apparently in good health and spirits, but from age or disease, or both,
was unable to change her position; she could move one arm at will, but
her lower limbs could not be straightened; her left arm lay across her
breast and she could not remove it; the fingers of her left hand were
drawn down so as nearly to close it, and were fixed; the nails on that
hand were almost four inches long and extended above her wrist; the
nails on her large toes had grown to the thickness of a quarter of an
inch; her head was covered with a thick bush of grey hair; but she was
toothless and totally blind and her eyes had sunk so deeply in the
sockets as to have disappeared altogether.

Nevertheless she was pert and sociable, and would talk as long as people
would converse with her. She was quite garrulous about her _protege_
“dear little George,” at whose birth she declared she was present,
having been at the time a slave of Elizabeth Atwood, a half-sister of
Augustine Washington, the father of George Washington. As nurse she put
the first clothes on the infant and she claimed to have “raised him.”
She professed to be a member of the Baptist church, talking much in her
way on religious subjects, and she sang a variety of ancient hymns.

In proof of her extraordinary age and pretensions, Mr. Lindsay exhibited
a bill of sale, dated February 5, 1727, from Augustine Washington,
County of Westmoreland, Virginia, to Elizabeth Atwood, a half-sister and
neighbor of Mr. Washington, conveying “one negro woman, named Joice
Heth, aged fifty-four years, for and in consideration of the sum of
thirty-three pounds lawful money of Virginia.” It was further claimed
that as she had long been a nurse in the Washington family she was
called in at the birth of George and clothed the new-born infant. The
evidence seemed authentic and in answer to the inquiry why so remarkable
a discovery had not been made before, a satisfactory explanation was
given in the statement that she had been carried from Virginia to
Kentucky, had been on the plantation of John S. Bowling so long that no
one knew or cared how old she was, and only recently the accidental
discovery by Mr. Bowling’s son of the old bill of sale in the Record
Office in Virginia had led to the identification of this negro woman as
“the nurse of Washington.”

Everything seemed so straightforward that I was anxious to become
proprietor of this novel exhibition, which was offered to me at one
thousand dollars, though the price first demanded was three thousand. I
had five hundred dollars, borrowed five hundred dollars more, sold out
my interest in the grocery business to my partner, and began life as a
showman. At the outset of my career I saw that everything depended upon
getting people to think, and talk, and become curious and excited over
and about the “rare spectacle.” Accordingly, posters, transparencies,
advertisements, newspaper paragraphs--all calculated to extort
attention--were employed, regardless of expense. My exhibition rooms in
New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Albany and in other large and small
cities, were continually thronged and much money was made. In the
following February, Joice Heth died, literally of old age, and her
remains received a respectable burial in the town of Bethel.

At a post-mortem examination of Joice Heth by Dr. David L. Rogers, in
the presence of some medical students, it was thought that the absence
of ossification indicated considerably less age than had been assumed
for her; but the doctors disagreed, and this “dark subject” will
probably always continue to be shrouded in mystery.

I had at last found my true vocation. Indeed, soon after I began to
exhibit Joice Heth, I had entrusted her to an agent and had entered upon
my second step in the show line. The next venture, whatever it may have
been in other respects, had the merit of being, in every essential,
unmistakably genuine. I engaged from the Albany Museum an Italian who
called himself “Signor Antonio” and who performed certain remarkable
feats of balancing, stilt-walking, plate-spinning, etc. He had gone from
England to Canada, and thence to Albany, and had performed in other
American cities. I made terms with him for one year to exhibit anywhere
in the United States at twelve dollars a week and expenses, and induced
him to change his stage name to “Signor Vivalla.” I then wrote a notice
of his wonderful qualities and performances, printed it in one of the
Albany papers as news, sent copies to the theatrical managers in New
York and in other cities, and went with Vivalla to the metropolis.

Manager William Dinneford, of the Franklin Theatre, had seen so many
performances of the kind that he declined to engage my “eminent Italian
artist”; but I persuaded him to try Vivalla one night for nothing and by
the potent aid of printer’s ink the house was crammed. I appeared as a
supernumerary to assist Vivalla in arranging his plates and other
“properties”; and to hand him his gun to fire while he was hopping on
one stilt ten feet high. This was “my first appearance on any stage.”
The applause which followed Vivalla’s feats was tremendous, and Manager
Dinneford was so delighted that he engaged him for the remainder of the
week at fifty dollars. At the close of the performance, in response to a
call from the house, I made a speech for Vivalla, thanking the audience
for their appreciation and announcing a repetition of the exhibition
every evening during the week.

Vivalla remained a second week at the Franklin Theatre, for which I
received $150. I realized the same sum for a week in Boston. We then
went to Washington to fulfil an engagement which was far from
successful, since my remuneration depended upon the receipts, and it
snowed continually during the week. I was a loser to such an extent that
I had not funds enough to return to Philadelphia. I pawned my watch and
chain for thirty-five dollars, when fortunately Manager Wemyss arrived
on Saturday morning and loaned me the money to redeem my property.

As this was my first visit to Washington I was much interested in
visiting the capitol and other public buildings. I also satisfied my
curiosity in seeing Clay, Calhoun, Benton, John Quincy Adams, Richard M.
Johnson, Polk, and other leading statesmen of the time. I was also
greatly gratified in calling upon Anne Royall, author of the Black Book,
publisher of a little paper called “Paul Pry,” and quite a celebrated
personage in her day. I had exchanged _The Herald of Freedom_ with her
journal and she strongly sympathized with me in my persecutions. She was
delighted to see me and although she was the most garrulous old woman I
ever saw, I passed a very amusing and pleasant time with her. Before
leaving her, I manifested my showman propensity by trying to hire her to
give a dozen or more lectures on “Government,” in the Atlantic cities,
but I could not engage her at any price, although I am sure the
speculation would have been a very profitable one. I never saw this
eccentric woman again; she died at a very advanced age, October 1, 1854,
at her residence in Washington.

I went with Vivalla to Philadelphia and opened at the Walnut Street
Theatre. Though his performances were very meritorious and were well
received, theatricals were dull and houses were slim. It was evident
that something must be done to stimulate the public.

And now that instinct--I think it must be--which can arouse a community
and make it patronize, provided the article offered is worthy of
patronage--an instinct which served me strangely in later years,
astonishing the public and surprising me, came to my relief, and the
help, curiously enough, appeared in the shape of an emphatic hiss from
the pit!

This hiss, I discovered, came from one Roberts, a circus performer, and
I had an interview with him. He was a professional balancer and juggler,
who boasted that he could do all Vivalla had done and something more. I
at once published a card in Vivalla’s name, offering $1000 to any one
who would publicly perform Vivalla’s feats at such place as should be
designated, and Roberts issued a counter card, accepting the offer. I
then contracted with Mr. Warren, treasurer of the Walnut St. Theatre,
for one-third of the proceeds, if I should bring the receipts up to $400
a night--an agreement he could well afford to make as his receipts the
night before had been but seventy-five dollars. From him I went to
Roberts, who seemed disposed to “back down,” but I told him I should not
insist upon the terms of his published card, and asked him if he was
under any engagement? Learning that he was not, I offered him thirty
dollars to perform under my direction one night at the Walnut, and he
accepted. A great trial of skill between Roberts and Vivalla was duly
announced by posters and through the press. Meanwhile, they rehearsed
privately to see what tricks each could perform, and the “business” was
completely arranged.

Public excitement was at fever heat, and on the night of the trial the
pit and upper boxes were crowded to the full; indeed sales of tickets to
these localities were soon stopped, for there were no seats to sell. The
“contest” between the performers, was eager and each had his party in
the house. So far as I could learn, no one complained that he did not
get all he paid for on that occasion. I engaged Roberts for a month and
his subsequent “contests” with Vivalla amused the public and put money
in my purse.

Vivalla continued to perform for me in various places, including Peale’s
Museum, in New York, and I took him to different towns in Connecticut
and in New Jersey, with poor success sometimes, as frequently the
expenses exceeded the receipts.

In April, 1836, I connected myself with Aaron Turner’s travelling circus
company as ticket-seller, secretary and treasurer, at thirty dollars a
month and one-fifth of the entire profits, while Vivalla was to receive
a salary of fifty dollars. As I was already paying him eighty dollars a
month, our joint salaries reimbursed me and left me the chance of twenty
per cent of the net receipts. We started from Danbury for West
Springfield, Massachusetts, April 26th, and on the first day, instead of
halting to dine, as I expected, Mr. Turner regaled the whole company
with three loaves of rye bread and a pound of butter, bought at a farm
house at a cost of fifty cents, and, after watering the horses, we went
on our way.

We began our performances at West Springfield, April 28th, and as our
expected band of music had not arrived from Providence, I made a
prefatory speech announcing our disappointment, and our intention to
please our patrons, nevertheless. The two Turner boys, sons of the
proprietor, rode finely. Joe Pentland, one of the wittiest, best, and
most original of clowns, with Vivalla’s tricks and other performances in
the ring, more than made up for the lack of music. In a day or two our
band arrived and our “houses” improved. My diary is full of incidents of
our summer tour through numerous villages, towns, and cities in New
England, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland,
District of Columbia, Virginia, and North Carolina.

While we were at Cabotville, Massachusetts, on going to bed one night
one of my room-mates threw a lighted stump of a cigar into a spit-box
filled with sawdust and the result was that about one o’clock T. V.
Turner, who slept in the room, awoke in the midst of a dense smoke and
barely managed to crawl to the window to open it, and to awaken us in
time to save us from suffocation.

At Lenox, Massachusetts, one Sunday I attended church as usual, and the
preacher denounced our circus and all connected with it as immoral, and
was very abusive; whereupon when he had read the closing hymn I walked
up the pulpit stairs and handed him a written request, signed “P. T.
Barnum, connected with the circus, June 5, 1836,” to be permitted to
reply to him. He declined to notice it, and after the benediction I
lectured him for not giving me an opportunity to vindicate myself and
those with whom I was connected. The affair created considerable
excitement and some of the members of the church apologized to me for
their clergyman’s ill-behavior. A similar affair happened afterwards at
Port Deposit, on the lower Susquehanna, and in this instance I addressed
the audience for half an hour, defending the circus company against the
attacks of the clergyman, and the people listened, though their pastor
repeatedly implored them to go home. Often have I collected our company
on Sunday and read to them the Bible or a printed sermon, and one or
more of the men frequently accompanied me to church. We made no pretence
of religion, but we were not the worst people in the world, and we
thought ourselves entitled to at least decent treatment when we went to
hear the preaching of the gospel.

The proprietor of the circus, Aaron Turner, was a self-made man, who had
acquired a large fortune by his industry. He believed that any man with
health and common sense could become rich if he only resolved to be so,
and he was very proud of the fact that he began the world with no
advantages, no education, and without a shilling. Withal, he was a
practical joker, as I more than once discovered to my cost. While we
were at Annapolis, Maryland, he played a trick upon me which was fun to
him, but was very nearly death to me.

We arrived on Saturday night and as I felt quite “flush” I bought a fine
suit of black clothes. On Sunday morning I dressed myself in my new suit
and started out for a stroll. While passing through the bar-room Turner
called the attention of the company present to me and said:

“I think it very singular you permit that rascal to march your streets
in open day. It wouldn’t be allowed in Rhode Island, and I suppose that
is the reason the black-coated scoundrel has come down this way.”

“Why, who is he?” asked half a dozen at once.

“Don’t you know? Why that is the Rev. E. K. Avery, the murderer of Miss

“Is it possible!” they exclaimed, all starting for the door, eager to
get a look at me, and swearing vengeance.

It was only recently that the Rev. Ephraim K. Avery had been tried in
Rhode Island for the murder of Miss Cornell, whose body was discovered
in a stack-yard, and though Avery was acquitted in court, the general
sentiment of the country condemned him. It was this Avery whom Turner
made me represent. I had not walked far in my fine clothes, before I was
overtaken by a mob of a dozen, which rapidly increased to at least a
hundred, and my ears were suddenly saluted with such observations as,
“the lecherous old hypocrite,” “the sanctified murderer,” “the
black-coated villain,” “lynch the scoundrel,” “let’s tar and feather
him,” and like remarks which I had no idea applied to me till one man
seized me by the collar, while five or six more appeared on the scene
with a rail.

“Come,” said the man who collared me, “old chap, you can’t walk any
further; we know you, and as we always make gentlemen ride in these
parts, you may just prepare to straddle that rail!”

My surprise may be imagined. “Good heavens!” I exclaimed, as they all
pressed around me, “gentlemen, what have I done?”

“Oh, we know you,” exclaimed half a dozen voices; “you needn’t roll your
sanctimonious eyes; that game don’t take in this country. Come, straddle
the rail, and _remember the stack-yard_!”

I grew more and more bewildered; I could not imagine what possible
offence I was to suffer for, and I continued to exclaim, “Gentlemen,
what have I done? Don’t kill me, gentlemen, but tell me what I have

“Come, make him straddle the rail; well show him how to hang poor
factory girls,” shouted a man in the crowd.

The man who had me by the collar then remarked, “Come, _Mr. Avery_, it’s
no use, you see, we know you, and we’ll give you a touch of Lynch law,
and start you for home again.”

“My name is _not_ Avery, gentlemen; you are mistaken in your man,” I

“Come, come, none of your gammon; straddle the rail, Ephraim.”

The rail was brought and I was about to be placed on it, when the truth
flashed upon me.

“Gentlemen,” I exclaimed, “I am not Avery; I despise that villain as
much as you can; my name is Barnum; I belong to the circus which arrived
here last night, and I am sure Old Turner, my partner, has hoaxed you
with this ridiculous story.”

“If he has we’ll lynch him,” said one of the mob.

“Well, he has, I’ll assure you, and if you will walk to the hotel with
me, I’ll convince you of the fact.”

This they reluctantly assented to, keeping, however, a close hand upon
me. As we walked up the main street, the mob received a re-enforcement
of some fifty or sixty, and I was marched like a malefactor up to the
hotel. Old Turner stood on the piazza ready to explode with laughter. I
appealed to him for heaven’s sake to explain this matter, that I might
be liberated. He continued to laugh, but finally told them “he believed
there was some mistake about it. The fact is,” said he, “my friend
Barnum has a new suit of black clothes on and he looks so much like a
priest that I thought he must be Avery.”

The crowd saw the joke and seemed satisfied. My new coat had been half
torn from my back and I had been very roughly handled. But some of the
crowd apologized for the outrage, declaring that Turner ought to be
served in the same way, while others advised me to “get even with him.”
I was very much offended, and when the mob dispersed I asked Turner what
could have induced him to play such a trick upon me.

[Illustration: _BARNUM ON A RAIL._]

“My dear Mr. Barnum,” he replied, “it was all for our good. Remember,
all we need to insure success is notoriety. You will see that this will
be noised all about town as a trick played by one of the circus managers
upon the other, and our pavilion will be crammed to-morrow night.”

It was even so; the trick was told all over town and every one came to
see the circus managers who were in a habit of playing practical jokes
upon each other. We had fine audiences while we remained at Annapolis,
but it was a long time before I forgave Turner for his rascally “joke.”




An amusing incident occurred when we were at Hanover Court House, in
Virginia. It rained so heavily that we could not perform there and
Turner decided to start for Richmond immediately after dinner, when he
was informed by the landlord that as our agent had engaged three meals
and lodging for the whole company, the entire bill must be paid whether
we went then, or next morning. No compromise could be effected with the
stubborn landlord and so Turner proceeded to get the worth of his money
as follows:

He ordered dinner at twelve o’clock, which was duly prepared and eaten.
The table was cleared and re-set for supper at half-past twelve. At one
o’clock we all went to bed, every man carrying a lighted candle to his
room. There were thirty-six of us and we all undressed and tumbled into
bed as if we were going to stay all night. In half an hour we rose and
went down to the hot breakfast which Turner had demanded and which we
found smoking on the table. Turner was very grave, the landlord was
exceedingly angry, and the rest of us were convulsed with laughter at
the absurdity of the whole proceeding. We disposed of our breakfast as
if we had eaten nothing for ten hours and then started for Richmond with
the satisfaction that we fairly settled with our unreasonable landlord.

At Richmond, after performances were over one night, I managed to
partially pay Turner for his Avery trick. A dozen or more of us were
enjoying ourselves in the sitting room of the hotel, telling stories and
singing songs, when some of the company proposed sundry amusing
arithmetical questions, followed by one from Turner, which was readily
solved. Hoping to catch Turner I then proposed the following problem:

“Suppose a man is thirty years of age and he has a child one year of
age; he is thirty times older than his child. When the child is thirty
years old, the father, being sixty, is only twice as old as his child.
When the child is sixty the father is ninety, and therefore only
one-third older than the child. When the child is ninety the father is
one hundred and twenty, and therefore only one-fourth older than the
child. Thus you see, the child is gradually but surely gaining on the
parent, and as he certainly continues to come nearer and nearer, in time
he must overtake him. The question therefore is, suppose it was possible
for them to live long enough, how old would the father be when the child
overtook him and became of the same age?”

The company generally saw the catch; but Turner was very much interested
in the problem, and although he admitted he knew nothing about
arithmetic he was convinced that as the son was gradually gaining on the
father he must reach him if there was time enough--say, a thousand
years, or so--for the race. But an old gentleman gravely remarked that
the idea of a son becoming as old as his father while both were living
was simply nonsense, and he offered to bet a dozen of champagne that the
thing was impossible, even “in figures.” Turner, who was a betting man,
and who thought the problem might be proved, accepted the wager; but he
was soon convinced that however much the boy might relatively gain upon
his father, there would always be thirty years difference in their ages.
The champagne cost him $25, and he failed to see the fun of my
arithmetic, though at last he acknowledged that it was a fair offset to
the Avery trick.

We went from Richmond to Petersburg, and from that place to Warrenton,
North Carolina, where, October 30th, my engagement expired with a profit
to myself of $1,200. I now separated from the circus company, taking
Vivalla, James Sanford, (a negro singer and dancer,) several musicians,
horses, wagons, and a small canvas tent with which I intended to begin a
travelling exhibition of my own. My company started and Turner took me
on the way in his own carriage some twenty miles. We parted reluctantly
and my friend wished me every success in my new venture.

On Saturday, November 12, 1836, we halted at Rocky Mount Falls, North
Carolina, and on my way to the Baptist Church, Sunday morning, I noticed
a stand and benches in a grove near by, and determined to speak to the
people if I was permitted. The landlord who was with me said that the
congregation, coming from a distance to attend a single service, would
be very glad to hear a stranger and I accordingly asked the venerable
clergyman to announce that after service I would speak for half an hour
in the grove. Learning that I was not a clergyman, he declined to give
the notice, but said that he had no objection to my making the
announcement, which I did, and the congregation, numbering about three
hundred, promptly came to hear me.

I told them I was not a preacher and had very little experience in
public speaking; but I felt a deep interest in matters of morality and
religion, and would attempt, in a plain way, to set before them the
duties and privileges of man. I appealed to every man’s experience,
observation and reason, to confirm the Bible doctrine of wretchedness in
vice and happiness in virtue. We cannot violate the laws of God with
impunity, and he will not keep back the wages of well-doing. The outside
show of things is of very small account. We must look to realities and
not to appearances. “Diamonds may glitter on a vicious breast,” but “the
soul’s calm sunshine and the heart-felt joy is virtue’s prize.” The
rogue, the passionate man, the drunkard, are not to be envied even at
the best, and a conscience hardened by sin is the most sorrowful
possession we can think of. I went on in this way, with some scriptural
quotations and familiar illustrations, for three-quarters of an hour. At
the close of my address several persons took me by the hand, expressing
themselves as greatly pleased and desiring to know my name; and I went
away with the feeling that possibly I might have done some good in the
beautiful grove on that charming Sunday morning.

When we were at Camden, South Carolina, Sanford suddenly left me, and as
I had advertised negro songs and none of my company was competent to
fill Sanford’s place, not to disappoint my audience, I blacked myself
and sung the advertised songs, “Zip Coon,” etc., and to my surprise was
much applauded, while two of the songs were encored. One evening after
singing my songs I heard a disturbance outside the tent and going to the
spot found a person disputing with my men. I took part on the side of
the men, when the person who was quarrelling with them drew a pistol and
exclaiming, “you black scoundrel! how dare you use such language to a
white man,” he proceeded to cock it. I saw that he thought I was a negro
and meant to blow my brains out. Quick as thought I rolled my sleeve up,
showed my skin, and said, “I am as white as you are, sir.” He dropped
his pistol in positive fright and begged my pardon. My presence of mind
saved me.

On four different occasions in my life I have had a loaded pistol
pointed at my head and each time I have escaped death by what seemed a
miracle. I have also often been in deadly peril by accidents, and when I
think of these things I realize my indebtedness to an all-protecting
Providence. Reviewing my career, too, and considering the kind of
company I kept for years and the associations with which I was
surrounded and connected, I am surprised as well as grateful that I was
not ruined. I honestly believe that I owe my preservation from the
degradation of living and dying a loafer and a vagabond, to the single
fact that I was never addicted to strong drink. To be sure, I have in
times past drank liquor, but I have generally wholly abstained from
intoxicating beverages, and for more than twenty years past, I am glad
to say, I have been a strict “teetotaller.”

At Camden I lost one of my musicians, a Scotchman named Cochran, who was
arrested for advising the negro barber who was shaving him to run away
to the Free States or to Canada. I made every effort to effect Cochran’s
release, but he was imprisoned more than six months.

While I was away from home I generally wrote twice a week to my family
and received letters nearly as often from my wife. One of her letters,
which I received in Columbia, South Carolina, informed me it was
currently reported in Connecticut that I was under sentence of death in
Canada for murder! The story grew out of a rumor about a difficulty in
Canada between some rowdies and a circus company--not Turner’s,--for we
met his troupe at Columbia, December 5, 1836. That company was then to
be disbanded and I bought four horses and two wagons and hired Joe
Pentland and Robert White to join my company. White, as a negro-singer,
would relieve me from that roll, and Pentland, besides being a capital
clown, was celebrated as a ventriloquist, comic singer, balancer, and
legerdemain performer. My re-enforced exhibition was called “Barnum’s
Grand Scientific and Musical Theatre.”

Some time previously, in Raleigh, North Carolina, I had sold one-half of
my establishment to a man, whom I will call Henry, who now acted as
treasurer and ticket-taker. At Augusta, Georgia, the sheriff served a
writ upon this Henry for a debt of $500. As Henry had $600 of the
company’s money in his possession, I immediately procured a bill of sale
of all his property in the exhibition and returned to the theatre where
Henry’s creditor and the creditor’s lawyer were waiting for me. They
demanded the keys of the stable so as to levy on the horses and wagons.
I begged delay till I could see Henry, and they consented. Henry was
anxious to cheat his creditor and he at once signed the bill of sale. I
returned and informed the creditor that Henry refused to pay or
compromise the claim. The sheriff then demanded the keys of the stable
door to attach Henry’s interest in the property. “Not yet,” said I,
showing a bill of sale, “you see I am in full possession of the property
as entire owner. You confess that you have not yet levied on it, and if
you touch my property, you do it at your peril.”

They were very much taken aback and the sheriff immediately conveyed
Henry to prison. The next day I learned that Henry owed his creditors
thirteen hundred dollars and that he had agreed when the Saturday
evening performance was ended to hand over five hundred dollars (company
money) and a bill of sale of his interest, in consideration of which one
of the horses was to be ready for him to run away with, leaving me in
the lurch! Learning this, I had very little sympathy for Henry and my
next step was to secure the five hundred dollars he had secreted.
Vivalla had obtained it from him to keep it from the sheriff; I received
it from Vivalla, on Henry’s order, as a supposed means of procuring bail
for him on Monday morning. I then paid the creditor the full amount
obtained from Henry as the price of his half interest in the exhibition
and received in return an assignment of five hundred dollars of the
creditor’s claims and a guaranty that I should not be troubled by my
late partner on that score. Thus, promptness of action and good luck
relieved me from one of the most unpleasant positions in which I had
ever been placed.

While travelling with our teams and show through a desolate part of
Georgia, our advertiser, who was in advance of the party, finding the
route, on one occasion, too long for us to reach a town at night,
arranged with a poor widow woman named Hayes to furnish us with meals
and let us lodge in her hut and out-houses. It was a beggarly place,
belonging to one of the poorest of “poor whites.” Our horses were to
stand out all night, and a farmer, six miles distant, was to bring a
load of provender on the day of our arrival. Bills were then posted
announcing a performance under a canvas tent near Widow Hayes’s, for, as
a show was a rarity in that region, it was conjectured that a hundred or
more small farmers and “poor whites” might be assembled and that the
receipts would cover the expenses.

Meanwhile, our advertiser, who was quite a wag, wrote back informing us
of the difficulties of reaching a town on that part of our route and
stating that he had made arrangements for us to stay over night on the
plantation of “Lady Hayes,” and that although the country was sparsely
settled, we could doubtless give a profitable performance to a fair

Anticipating a fine time on this noble “plantation,” we started at four
o’clock in the morning so as to arrive at one o’clock, thus avoiding the
heat of the afternoon. Towards noon we came to a small river where some
men, whom we afterwards discovered to be down-east Yankees, from Maine,
were repairing a bridge. Every flooring plank had been taken up and it
was impossible for our teams to cross. “Could the bridge be fixed so
that we could go over?” I inquired; “No; it would take half a day, and
meantime if we must cross, there was a place about sixteen miles down
the river where we could get over.” “But we can’t go so far as that; we
are under engagement to perform on Lady Hayes’s place to-night and we
must cross here. Fix the bridge and we will pay you handsomely.”

They wanted no money, but if we would give them some tickets to our show
they thought they might do something for us. I gladly consented and in
fifteen minutes we crossed that bridge. The cunning rascals had seen our
posters and knew we were coming; so they had taken up the planks of the
bridge and had hidden them till they had levied upon us for tickets,
when the floor was re-laid in a quarter of an hour. We laughed heartily
at the trick and were very glad to cross so cheaply.

Towards dinner time, we began to look out for the grand mansion of “Lady
Hayes,” and seeing nothing but little huts we quietly pursued our
journey. At one o’clock--the time when we should have arrived at our
destination--I became impatient and riding up to a poverty-stricken
hovel and seeing a ragged, barefooted old woman, with her sleeves rolled
up to her shoulders, who was washing clothes in front of the door, I

“Hallo! can you tell me where Lady Hayes lives?”

The old woman raised her head, which was covered with tangled locks and
matted hair, and exclaimed--


“No, Hayes, Lady Hayes; where is her plantation?”

“This is the place,” she answered; “I’m Widder Hayes and you are all to
stay here to-night.”

We could not believe our ears or eyes; but after putting the dirty old
woman through a severe cross-examination she finally produced a
contract, signed by our advertiser, agreeing for board and lodging for
the company and we found ourselves booked for the night. It appeared
that our advertiser could find no better quarters in that forlorn
section and he had indulged in a joke at our expense by exciting our
appetites and imaginations in anticipation of the luxuries we should
find in the magnificent mansion of “Lady Hayes.”

Joe Pentland grumbled, Bob White indulged in some very strong language,
and Signor Vivalla laughed. He had travelled with his monkey and organ
in Italy and could put up with any fare that offered. I took the
disappointment philosophically, simply remarking that we must make the
best of it and compensate ourselves when we reached a town next day.

When the old woman called us to dinner we crept into her hut and found
that she had improvised benches at her table by placing boards upon the
only four chairs in her possession, and at that, some of us were obliged
to stand. The dinner consisted of a piece of boiled smoked bacon, a
large dish of “greens,” and corn bread. Three plates, two knives, and
three forks made up the entire table furniture and compelled a resort to
our jack-knives. “A short horse is soon curried,” and dinner was
speedily despatched. It did not seem possible for an audience to
assemble in that forsaken quarter, and we concluded not to take the
canvas tent out of the wagon.

By three o’clock, however, at least fifty persons had arrived on the
ground to attend the night show and they reported “more a coming.”
Accordingly we put up the tent and arranged our small stage and
curtains, preparing seats for two hundred people. Those who had already
arrived were mostly women, many of them from sixteen to twenty years
old--poor, thin, sallow-faced creatures, wretchedly clad, some of them
engaged in smoking pipes, while the rest were chewing snuff. This latter
process was new to me; each chewer was provided with a short stick,
softened at one end, by chewing it, and this stick was occasionally
dipped into a snuff box and then stuck into the mouth, from whence it
protruded like a cigar. The technical term for the proceeding is

Before night, stragglers had brought the number of people on Lady Hayes’
plantation up to one hundred, and soon after dark, we opened our
exhibition to an audience of about two hundred. The men were a pale,
haggard set of uncombed, uncouth creatures, whose constantly-moving jaws
and the streams of colored saliva exuding from the corners of their
mouths indicated that they were confirmed tobacco chewers. I never saw a
more stupid and brutish assemblage of human beings. The performance
delighted them; Pentland’s sleight-of-hand tricks astonished them and
led them to declare that he must be in league with the evil one; Signor
Vivalla’s ball-tossing and plate spinning elicited their loudest
applause; and Bob White’s negro songs and break-downs made them fairly
scream with laughter.

At last, the performance terminated and Pentland stepped forward and
delivered the closing address, which he had repeated, word for word, a
hundred times, and which was precisely as follows:

“Ladies and Gentlemen: The entertainments of the evening have now come
to a conclusion, and, we hope, to your general satisfaction.”

But now came a dilemma; the meaning of this announcement was quite
above the comprehension of the audience; they had not the remotest idea
that the performance was finished, and they sat like statues.

With a hearty laugh at Pentland I told him that his language was not
understood in this locality and that he must try again. He was
chagrined, and declared that he would not say another word. Little
Vivalla laughed, danced around like a monkey, and said, in his broken

“Ah, ha! Signor Pentland; you no speak good Eenglish, hah! These
educated peoples no understand you, eh? By gar what d----d fools. Ah,
Signor Barnum, let me speaks to them; I will make them jump double

I quite enjoyed the fun and said, “Well, Signor, go ahead.”

The little Italian jumped upon the stage and with a broad grimace and
tremendous gesture exclaimed--

“Eet is feenish!”

He then retired behind the curtain, but, of course, the audience did not
understand that he had told them the performance was finished. No one
would have understood him. Hence, the spectators sat still, wondering
what would come next. “By gar,” said Vivalla, losing his temper, “I will
give them a hint,” and he loosened the cord and down fell the curtain on
one side of the stage.

“Good, good,” cried out an enthusiastic “poor white,” giving his quid a
fresh roll to the other side of his mouth, “now we are going to have
something new.”

“I reckon they’s totin’ that plunder off to get ready for a dance,” said
a delicate “dipper,” making a lunge into her box for another mouthful of
the dust.

Things were becoming serious, and I saw that in order to get rid of
these people they must be addressed in plain language; so, walking upon
the stage, I simply said, making at the same time a motion for them to

“It is all over; no more performance; the show is out.”

This was understood, but they still stood upon the order of their going
and were loth to leave, especially as the, to them, extraordinary
announcements of Pentland and Vivalla had prepared them for something
fresh. Several days before, our band of musicians had left us, reducing
our orchestra to an organ and pipes, ground and blown by an Italian whom
we had picked up on the road. We had, in addition, a large bass drum,
with no one to beat it, and this drum was espied by some of the audience
in going out. Very soon I was waited upon by a masculine committee of
three, who informed me that “the young ladies were very anxious to hear
a tune on the big drum.” Pentland heard the request and replied, “I will
accommodate the young ladies,” and strapping on the drum he took a stick
in each hand and began to pound tremendously. Occasionally he would rap
the sticks together, toss one of them into the air, catching it as it
came down, and then pound away again like mad. In fact, he cut up all
sorts of pranks with that big drum and when he was tired out and
stopped, he was gratified at being told by the “young ladies” that they
had never heard a big drum before, but he “played it splendid,” and they
thought it was altogether the best part of the entire performance!

The next forenoon we arrived at Macon, and congratulated ourselves that
we had again reached the regions of civilization.

In going from Columbus, Georgia, to Montgomery, Alabama, we were obliged
to cross a thinly-settled, desolate tract, known as the “Indian Nation,”
and as several persons had been murdered by hostile Indians in that
region, it was deemed dangerous to travel the road without an escort.
Only the day before we started, the mail stage had been stopped and the
passengers murdered, the driver alone escaping. We were well armed,
however, and trusted that our numbers would present too formidable a
force to be attacked, though we dreaded to incur the risk. Vivalla alone
was fearless and was ready to encounter fifty Indians and drive them
into the swamp.

Accordingly, when we had safely passed over the entire route to within
fourteen miles of Montgomery, and were beyond the reach of danger, Joe
Pentland determined to test Vivalla’s bravery. He had secretly purchased
at Mount Megs, on the way, an old Indian dress with a fringed hunting
shirt and moccasins and these he put on, after coloring his face with
Spanish brown. Then, shouldering his musket he followed Vivalla and the
party and, approaching stealthily, leaped into their midst with a
tremendous whoop.

Vivalla’s companions were in the secret, and they instantly fled in all
directions. Vivalla himself ran like a deer and Pentland after him, gun
in hand and yelling horribly. After running a full mile the poor little
Italian, out of breath and frightened nearly to death, dropped on his
knees and begged for his life. The “Indian” levelled his gun at his
victim, but soon seemed to relent and signified that Vivalla should
turn his pockets inside out--which he did, producing and handing over a
purse, containing eleven dollars. The savage then marched Vivalla to an
oak and with a handkerchief tied him in the most approved Indian manner
to the tree, leaving him half dead with fright.

Pentland then joined us, and washing his face and changing his dress, we
all went to the relief of Vivalla. He was overjoyed to see us, and when
he was released his courage returned; he swore that after his companions
left him the Indian had been re-enforced by six more to whom, in default
of a gun or other means to defend himself, Vivalla had been compelled to
surrender. We pretended to believe his story for a week and then told
him the joke, which he refused to credit, and also declined to take the
money which Pentland offered to return, as it could not possibly be his
since seven Indians had taken his money. We had a great deal of fun over
Vivalla’s courage, but the matter made him so cross and surly that we
were finally obliged to drop it altogether. From that time forward,
however, Vivalla never boasted of his prowess.

We arrived at Montgomery, February 28th, 1837. Here I met Henry Hawley a
legerdemain performer, about forty-five years of age, but as he was
prematurely gray he looked at least seventy, and I sold him one-half of
my exhibition. He had a ready wit, a happy way of localizing his tricks,
was very popular in that part of the country, where he had been
performing for several years, and I never saw him nonplussed but once.
This was when he was performing on one occasion the well-known egg and
bag trick, which he did with his usual success, producing egg after egg
from the bag and

[Illustration: _THE COWARD AND THE “BRAVE.”_]

finally breaking one to show that they were genuine. “Now,” said Hawley,
“I will show you the old hen that laid them.” It happened, however, that
the negro boy to whom had been intrusted the duty of supplying the bag
had made a slight mistake which was manifest when Hawley triumphantly
produced, not “the old hen that laid the eggs,” but a rooster! The whole
audience was convulsed with laughter and the abashed Hawley retreated to
the dressing room cursing the stupidity of the black boy who had been
paid to put a hen in the bag.

After performing in different places in Alabama, Kentucky, and
Tennessee, we disbanded at Nashville in May, 1837, Vivalla going to New
York, where he performed on his own account for a while previous to
sailing for Cuba, Hawley staying in Tennessee to look after our horses
which had been turned out to grass, and I returning home to spend a few
weeks with my family.

Early in July, returning west with a new company of performers, I
rejoined Hawley and we began our campaign in Kentucky. We were not
successful; one of our small company was incompetent; another was
intemperate--both were dismissed; and our negro-singer was drowned in
the river at Frankfort. Funds were low and I was obliged to leave
pledges here and there, in payment for bills, which I afterwards
redeemed. Hawley and I dissolved in August and making a new partnership
with Z. Graves, I left him in charge of the establishment and went to
Tiffin, Ohio, where I re-engaged Joe Pentland, buying his horses and
wagons and taking him, with several musicians, to Kentucky.

During my short stay at Tiffin, a religious conversation at the hotel
introduced me to several gentlemen who requested me to lecture on the
subjects we had discussed, and I did so to a crowded audience in the
school-house Sunday afternoon and evening. At the solicitation of a
gentleman from Republic, I also delivered two lectures in that town on
the evenings of September 4th and 5th.

On our way to Kentucky, just before we reached Cincinnati, we met a
drove of hogs and one of the drivers making an insolent remark because
our wagons interfered with his swine, I replied in the same vein, when
he dismounted and pointing a pistol at my breast swore he would shoot me
if I did not apologize. I begged him to permit me to consult with a
friend in the next wagon, and the misunderstanding should be
satisfactorily settled. My friend was a loaded double-barreled gun which
I pointed at him and said:

“Now, sir, _you_ must apologize, for your brains are in danger. You drew
a weapon upon me for a trivial remark. You seem to hold human life at a
cheap price; and now, sir, you have the choice between a load of shot
and an apology.”

This led to an apology and a friendly conversation in which we both
agreed that many a life is sacrificed in sudden anger because one or
both of the contending parties carry deadly weapons.

In our subsequent southern tour we exhibited at Nashville (where I
visited General Jackson, at the Hermitage), Huntsville, Tuscaloosa,
Vicksburg and intermediate places, doing tolerably well. At Vicksburg we
sold all our land conveyances, excepting the band wagon and four horses,
bought the steamboat “Ceres” for six thousand dollars, hired the captain
and crew, and started down the river to exhibit at places on the way.
At Natchez our cook left us and in the search for another I found a
white widow who would go, only she expected to marry a painter. I called
on the painter who had not made up his mind whether to marry the widow
or not, but I told him if he would marry her the next morning I would
hire her at twenty-five dollars a month as cook, employ him at the same
wages as painter, with board for both, and a cash bonus of fifty
dollars. There was a wedding on board the next day and we had a good
cook and a good dinner.

During one of our evening performances at Francisville, Louisiana, a man
tried to pass me at the door of the tent, claiming that he had paid for
admittance. I refused him entrance; and as he was slightly intoxicated
he struck me with a slung shot, mashing my hat and grazing what
phrenologists call “the organ of caution.” He went away and soon
returned with a gang of armed and half-drunken companions who ordered us
to pack up our “traps and plunder” and to get on board our steamboat
within an hour. The big tent speedily came down. No one was permitted to
help us, but the company worked with a will and within five minutes of
the expiration of the hour we were on board and ready to leave. The
scamps who had caused our departure escorted us and our last load,
waving pine torches, and saluted us with a hurrah as we swung into the

The New Orleans papers of March 19, 1838, announced the arrival of the
“Steamer Ceres, Captain Barnum, with a theatrical company.” After a
week’s performances, we started for the Attakapas country. At Opelousas
we exchanged the steamer for sugar and molasses; our company was
disbanded, and I started for home, arriving in New York, June 4, 1838.




I have said that the show business has as many grades of dignity as
trade, which ranges all the way from the mammoth wholesale establishment
down to the corner stand. The itinerant amusement business is at the
bottom of the ladder. I had begun there, but I had no wish to stay
there; in fact, I was thoroughly disgusted with the trade of a
travelling showman, and although I felt that I could succeed in that
line, yet I always regarded it, not as an end, but as a means to
something better.

Longing now for some permanent respectable business, I advertised for a
partner, stating that I had $2,500 to invest and would add my
unremitting personal attention to the capital and the business. This
advertisement gave me an altogether new insight into human nature.
Whoever wishes to know how some people live, or want to live, let him
advertise for a partner, at the same time stating that he has a large or
small capital to invest. I was flooded with answers to my advertisements
and received no less than ninety-three different propositions for the
use of my capital. Of these, at least one-third were from porter-house
keepers. Brokers, pawnbrokers, lottery-policy dealers, patent medicine
men, inventors, and others also made application. Some of my
correspondents declined to specifically state the nature of their
business, but they promised to open the door to untold wealth.

I had interviews with some of these mysterious million-makers. One of
them was a counterfeiter, who, after much hesitation and pledges of
secrecy showed me some counterfeit coin and bank notes; he wanted $2,500
to purchase paper and ink and to prepare new dies, and he actually
proposed that I should join him in the business which promised, he
declared, a safe and rich harvest. Another sedate individual, dressed in
Quaker costume, wanted me to join him in an oat speculation. By buying a
horse and wagon and by selling oats, bought at wholesale, in bags, he
thought a good business could be done, especially as people would not be
particular to measure after a Quaker.

“Do you mean to cheat in measuring your oats?” I asked.

“O, I should probably make them hold out,” he answered, with a leer.

One application came from a Pearl street wool merchant, who failed a
month afterwards. Then came a “perpetual motion” man who had a
fortune-making machine, in which I discovered a main-spring slyly hid in
a hollow post, the spring making perpetual motion--till it ran down.
Finally, I went into partnership with a German, named Proler, who was a
manufacturer of paste-blacking, water-proof paste for leather, Cologne
water and bear’s grease. We took the store No. 101½ Bowery, at a rent
(including the dwelling) of $600 per annum, and opened a large
manufactory of the above articles. Proler manufactured and sold the
goods at wholesale in Boston, Charleston, Cleveland, and various other
parts of the country. I kept the accounts, and attended to sales in the
store, wholesale and retail. For a while the business seemed to
prosper--at least till my capital was absorbed and notes for stock began
to fall due, with nothing to meet them, since we had sold our goods on
long credits. In January, 1840, I dissolved partnership with Proler, he
buying the entire interest for $2,600 on credit, and then running away
to Rotterdam without paying his note, and leaving me nothing but a few
recipes. Proler was a good-looking, plausible, promising--scamp.

During my connection with Proler, I became acquainted with a remarkable
young dancer named John Diamond. He was one of the first and best of the
numerous negro and “break-down” dancers who have since surprised and
amused the public, and I entered into an engagement with his father for
his services, putting Diamond in the hands of an agent, as I did not
wish to appear in the transaction. In the spring of 1840, I hired and
opened the Vauxhall Garden saloon, in New York, and gave a variety of
performances, including singing, dancing, Yankee stories, etc. In this
saloon Miss Mary Taylor, afterwards so celebrated as an actress and
singer, made her first appearance on the stage. The enterprise, however,
did not meet my expectation and I relinquished it in August.

What was to be done next? I dreaded resuming the life of an itinerant
showman, but funds were low, I had a family to care for, and as nothing
better presented I made up my mind to endure the vexations and
uncertainties of a tour in the West and South. I collected a company,
consisting of Mr. C. D. Jenkins, an excellent singer and delineator of
Yankee and other characters; Master John Diamond, the dancer; Francis
Lynch, an orphan vagabond, fourteen years old, whom I picked up at Troy,
and a fiddler. My brother-in-law, Mr. John Hallett, preceded us as agent
and advertiser, and our route passed through Buffalo, Toronto, Detroit,
Chicago, Ottawa, Springfield, the intermediate places, and St. Louis,
where I took the steamboat for New Orleans with a company reduced by
desertions to Master Diamond and the fiddler.

Arriving in New Orleans, January 2, 1841, I had but $100 in my purse,
and I had started from New York four months before with quite as much in
my pocket. Excepting some small remittances to my family I had made
nothing more than current expenses; and, when I had been in New Orleans
a fortnight, funds were so low that I was obliged to pledge my watch as
security for my board bill. But on the 16th, I received from the St.
Charles Theatre $500 as my half share of Diamond’s benefit; the next
night I had $50; and the third night $479 was my share of the proceeds
of a grand dancing match at the theatre between Diamond and a negro
dancer from Kentucky. Subsequent engagements at Vicksburg and Jackson
were not so successful, but returning to New Orleans we again succeeded
admirably and afterwards at Mobile. Diamond, however, after extorting
considerable sums of money from me, finally ran away, and, March 12th, I
started homeward by way of the Mississippi and the Ohio.

While I was in New Orleans I made the acquaintance of that genial man,
Tyrone Power, who was just concluding an engagement at the St. Charles
Theatre. In bidding me farewell, he wished me every success and hoped we
should meet again. Alas, poor Power! All the world knows how he set sail
from our shores, and he and his ship were never seen again. Fanny
Ellsler was also in New Orleans, and when I saw seats in the dress
circle sold at an average of four dollars and one-half, I gave her
agent, Chevalier Henry Wyckoff, great credit for exciting public
enthusiasm to the highest pitch and I thought the prices enormous. I did
not dream then that, within twelve years, I should be selling tickets in
the same city for full five times that sum.

At Pittsburg, where I arrived March 30th, I learned that Jenkins, who
had enticed Francis Lynch away from me at St. Louis, was exhibiting him
at the Museum under the name of “Master Diamond,” and visiting the
performance, the next day I wrote Jenkins an ironical review for which
he threatened suit and he actually instigated R. W. Lindsay, from whom I
hired Joice Heth in Philadelphia in 1835, and whom I had not seen since,
though he was then residing in Pittsburg, to sue me for a pipe of brandy
which, it was pretended, was promised in addition to the money paid him.
I was required to give bonds of $500, which, as I was among strangers, I
could not immediately procure, and I was accordingly thrown into jail
till four o’clock in the afternoon, when I was liberated. The next day I
caused the arrest of Jenkins for trespass in assuming Master Diamond’s
name and reputation for Master Lynch, and he was sent to jail till four
o’clock in the afternoon. Each having had his turn at this amusement, we
adjourned our controversy to New York where I beat him. As for Lindsay,
I heard nothing more of his claim or him till twelve years afterwards
when he called on me in Boston with an apology. He was very poor and I
was highly prosperous, and I may add that Lindsay did not lack a friend.

I arrived in New York, April 23rd, 1841, after an absence of eight
months; finding my family in good health, I resolved once more that I
would never again be an itinerant showman. Three days afterwards I
contracted with Robert Sears, the publisher, for five hundred copies of
“Sears’ Pictorial Illustrations of the Bible,” at $500, and accepting
the United States agency, I opened an office, May 10th, at the corner of
Beekman and Nassau Streets, the site of the present Nassau Bank. I had
had a limited experience with that book in this way: When I was in
Pittsburg, an acquaintance, Mr. C. D. Harker, was complaining that he
had nothing to do, when I picked up a New York paper and saw the
advertisement of “Sears’s Pictorial Illustrations of the Bible, price $2
a copy.” Mr. Harker thought he could get subscribers, and I bought him a
specimen copy, agreeing to furnish him with as many as he wanted at
$1.37½ a copy, though I had never before seen the work and did not know
the wholesale price. The result was that he obtained eighty subscribers
in two days, and made $50. My own venture in the work was not so
successful; I advertised largely, had plenty of agents, and, in six
months, sold thousands of copies; but irresponsible agents used up all
my profits and my capital.

While engaged in this business I once more leased Vauxhall saloon,
opening it June 14th, 1841, employing Mr. John Hallett, my
brother-in-law, as manager under my direction, and at the close of the
season, September 25th, we had cleared about two hundred dollars. This
sum was soon exhausted, and with my family on my hands and no employment
I was glad to do anything that would keep the wolf from the door. I
wrote advertisements and notices for the Bowery Amphitheatre, receiving
for the service four dollars a week, which I was very glad to get, and I
also wrote articles for the Sunday papers, deriving a fair remuneration
and managing to get a living. But I was at the bottom round of fortune’s
ladder, and it was necessary to make an effort which would raise me
above want.

I was specially stimulated to this effort by a letter which I received,
about this time, from my esteemed friend, Hon. Thomas T. Whittlesey, of
Danbury. He held a mortgage of five hundred dollars on a piece of
property I owned in that place, and, as he was convinced that I would
never lay up anything, he wrote me that I might as well pay him then as
ever. This letter made me resolve to live no longer from hand to mouth,
but to concentrate my energies upon laying up something for the future.

While I was forming this practical determination I was much nearer to
its realization than my most sanguine hopes could have predicted. The
road to fortune was close by. Without suspecting it, I was about to
enter upon an enterprise, which, while giving full scope for whatever
tact, industry and pluck I might possess, was to take me from the foot
of the ladder and place me many rounds above.

As outside clerk for the Bowery Amphitheatre I had casually learned that
the collection of curiosities comprising Scudder’s American Museum, at
the corner of Broadway and Ann Street, was for sale. It belonged to the
daughters of Mr. Scudder, and was conducted for their benefit by John
Furzman, under the authority of Mr. John Heath, administrator. The price
asked for the entire collection was fifteen thousand dollars. It had
cost its founder, Mr. Scudder, probably fifty thousand dollars, and from
the profits of the establishment he had been able to leave a large
competency to his children. The Museum, however, had been for several
years a losing concern, and the heirs were anxious to sell it. Looking
at this property, I thought I saw that energy, tact and liberality, were
only needed to make it a paying institution, and I determined to
purchase it if possible.

“You buy the American Museum!” said a friend, who knew the state of my
funds, “what do you intend buying it with?”

“Brass,” I replied, “for silver and gold have I none.”

The Museum building belonged to Mr. Francis W. Olmsted, a retired
merchant, to whom I wrote stating my desire to buy the collection, and
that although I had no means, if it could, be purchased upon reasonable
credit, I was confident that my tact and experience, added to a
determined devotion to business, would enable me to make the payments
when due. I therefore asked him to purchase the collection in his own
name; to give me a writing securing it to me provided I made the
payments punctually, including the rent of his building; to allow me
twelve dollars and a half a week on which to support my family; and if
at any time I failed to meet the instalment due, I would vacate the
premises and forfeit all that might have been paid to that date. “In
fact, Mr. Olmsted,” I continued in my earnestness, “you may bind me in
any way, and as tightly as you please--only give me a chance to dig out,
or scratch out, and I will do so or forfeit all the labor and trouble I
may have incurred.”

In reply to this letter, which I took to his house myself, he named an
hour when I could call on him, and as I was there at the exact moment,
he expressed himself pleased with my punctuality. He inquired closely as
to my habits and antecedents, and I frankly narrated my experiences as a
caterer for the public, mentioning my amusement ventures in Vauxhall
Garden, the circus, and in the exhibitions I had managed at the South
and West.

“Who are your references?” he inquired.

“Any man in my line,” I replied, “from Edmund Simpson, manager of the
Park Theatre, or William Niblo, to Messrs. Welch, June, Titus, Turner,
Angevine, or other circus or menagerie proprietors; also Moses Y. Beach,
of the New York _Sun_.

“Can you get any of them to call on me?” he continued.

I told him that I could, and the next day my friend Niblo rode down and
had an interview with Mr. Olmsted, while Mr. Beach and several other
gentlemen also called, and the following morning I waited upon him for
his decision.

“I don’t like your references, Mr. Barnum,” said Mr. Olmsted, abruptly,
as soon as I entered the room.

I was confused, and said “I regretted to hear it.”

“They all speak too well of you,” he added, laughing; “in fact they all
talk as if they were partners of yours, and intended to share the

Nothing could have pleased me better. He then asked me what security I
could offer in case he concluded to make the purchase for me, and it was
finally agreed that, if he should do so, he should retain the property
till it was entirely paid for, and should also appoint a ticket-taker
and accountant (at my expense), who should render him a weekly
statement. I was further to take an apartment hitherto used as a
billiard room in an adjoining building, allowing therefor, $500 a year,
making a total rent of $3,000 per annum, on a lease of ten years. He
then told me to see the administrator and heirs of the estate, to get
their best terms, and to meet him on his return to town a week from that

I at once saw Mr. John Heath, the administrator, and his price was
$15,000. I offered $10,000, payable in seven annual instalments, with
good security. After several interviews, it was finally agreed that I
should have it for $12,000, payable as above--possession to be given on
the 15th November. Mr. Olmsted assented to this, and a morning was
appointed to draw and sign the writings. Mr. Heath appeared, but said he
must decline proceeding any farther in my case, as he had sold the
collection to the directors of Peale’s Museum (an incorporated
institution), for $15,000, and had received $1,000 in advance.

I was shocked, and appealed to Mr. Heath’s honor. He said that he had
signed no writing with me; was in no way legally bound, and that it was
his duty to do the best he could for the heirs. Mr. Olmsted was sorry,
but could not help me; the new tenants would not require him to incur
any risk, and my matter was at an end.

Of course, I immediately informed myself as to the character of Peale’s
Museum company. It proved to be a band of speculators who had bought
Peale’s collection for a few thousand dollars, expecting to join the
American Museum with it, issue and sell stock to the amount of $50,000,
pocket $30,000 profits, and permit the stockholders to look out for

I went immediately to several of the editors, including Major M. M.
Noah, M. Y. Beach, my good friends West, Herrick and Ropes, of the
_Atlas_, and others, and stated my grievances. “Now,” said I, “if you
will grant me the use of your columns, I’ll blow that speculation
sky-high.” They all consented, and I wrote a large number of squibs,
cautioning the public against buying the Museum stock, ridiculing the
idea of a board of broken-down bank directors engaging in the exhibition
of stuffed monkey and gander skins; appealing to the case of the
Zoölogical Institute, which had failed by adopting such a plan as the
one now proposed; and finally I told the public that such a speculation
would be infinitely more ridiculous than Dickens’s “Grand United
Metropolitan Hot Muffin and Crumpet-baking and Punctual Delivery

The stock was as “dead as a herring!” I then went to Mr. Heath and asked
him when the directors were to pay the other $14,000. “On the 26th day
of December, or forfeit the $1,000 already paid,” was the reply. I
assured him that they would never pay it, that they could not raise it,
and that he would ultimately find himself with the Museum collection on
his hands, and if once I started off with an exhibition for the South, I
would not touch the Museum at _any_ price. “Now,” said I, “if you will
agree with me confidentially, that in case these gentlemen do not pay
you on the 26th of December, I may have it on the 27th for $12,000, I
will run the risk, and wait in this city until that date.” He readily
agreed to the proposition, but said he was sure they would not forfeit
their $1,000.

“Very well,” said I; “all I ask of you is, that this arrangement shall
not be mentioned.” He assented. “On the 27th day of December, at ten
o’clock A. M., I wish you to meet me in Mr. Olmsted’s apartments,
prepared to sign the writings, provided this incorporated company do not
pay you $14,000 on the 26th.” He agreed to this, and by my request put
it in writing.

From that moment I felt that the Museum was mine. I saw Mr. Olmsted, and
told him so. He promised secrecy, and agreed to sign the documents if
the other parties did not meet their engagement.

This was about November 15th, and I continued my shower of newspaper
squibs at the new company, which could not sell a dollar’s worth of its
stock. Meanwhile, if any one spoke to me about the Museum, I simply
replied that I had lost it.




My newspaper squib war against the Peale combination was vigorously kept
up; when one morning, about the first of December, I received a letter
from the Secretary of that company (now calling itself the “New York
Museum Company,”) requesting me to meet the directors at the Museum on
the following Monday morning. I went, and found the directors in
session. The venerable president of the board, who was also the
ex-president of a broken bank, blandly proposed to hire me to manage the
united museums, and though I saw that he merely meant to buy my silence,
I professed to entertain the proposition, and in reply to an inquiry as
to what salary I should expect, I specified the sum of $3,000 a year.
This was at once acceded to, the salary to begin January 1, 1842, and
after complimenting me on my ability, the president remarked: “Of
course, Mr. Barnum, we shall have no more of your squibs through the
newspapers”--to which I replied that I should “ever try to serve the
interests of my employers,” and I took my leave.

It was as clear to me as noonday that after buying my silence so as to
appreciate their stock, these directors meant to sell out to whom they
could, leaving me to look to future stockholders for my salary. They
thought, no doubt, that they had nicely entrapped me, but I knew I had
caught them.

For, supposing me to be out of the way, and having no other rival
purchaser, these directors postponed the advertisement of their stock to
give people time to forget the attacks I had made on it, and they also
took their own time for paying the money promised to Mr. Heath, December
26th--indeed, they did not even call on him at the appointed time. But
on the following morning, as agreed, I was promptly and hopefully at Mr.
Olmstead’s apartments with my legal adviser, at half-past nine o’clock;
Mr. Heath came with his lawyer at ten, and before two o’clock that day I
was in formal possession of the American Museum. My first managerial act
was to write and despatch the following complimentary note:


     _To the President and Directors of the New York Museum:_

     GENTLEMEN:--It gives me great pleasure to inform you that you are
     placed upon the Free List of this establishment until further

P. T. BARNUM, _Proprietor_.

It is unnecessary to say that the “President of the New York Museum” was
astounded, and when he called upon Mr. Heath, and learned that I had
bought and was really in possession of the American Museum, he was
indignant. He talked of prosecution, and demanded the $1,000 paid on
his agreement, but he did not prosecute, and he justly forfeited his
deposit money.

And now that I was proprietor and manager of the American Museum I had
reached a new epoch in my career which I felt was the beginning of
better days, though the full significance of this important step I did
not see. I was still in the show business, but in a settled, substantial
phase of it, that invited industry and enterprise, and called for ever
earnest and ever heroic endeavor. Whether I should sink or swim depended
wholly upon my own energy. I must pay for the establishment within a
stipulated time, or forfeit it with whatever I had paid on account. I
meant to make it my own, and brains, hands and every effort were devoted
to the interests of the Museum.

The nucleus of this establishment, Scudder’s Museum, was formed in 1810,
the year in which I was born. It was begun in Chatham Street, and was
afterwards transferred to the old City Hall, and from small beginnings,
by purchases, and to a considerable degree by presents, it had grown to
be a large and valuable collection. People in all parts of the country
had sent in relics and rare curiosities; sea captains, for years, had
brought and deposited strange things from foreign lands; and besides all
these gifts, I have no doubt that the previous proprietor had actually
expended, as was stated, $50,000 in making the collection. No one could
go through the halls, as they were when they came under my
proprietorship, and see one-half there was worth seeing in a single day;
and then, as I always justly boasted afterwards, no one could visit my
Museum and go away without feeling that he had received the full worth
of his money. In looking over the immense collection, the accumulation
of so many years, I saw that it was only necessary to properly present
its merits to the public, to make it the most attractive and popular
place of resort and entertainment in the United States.

Valuable as the collection was when I bought it, it was only the
beginning of the American Museum as I made it. In my long proprietorship
I considerably more than doubled the permanent attractions and
curiosities of the establishment. In 1842, I bought and added to my
collection the entire contents of Peale’s Museum; in 1850, I purchased
the large Peale collection in Philadelphia; and year after year, I
bought genuine curiosities, regardless of cost, wherever I could find
them, in Europe or America.

At the very outset, I was determined to deserve success. My plan of
economy included the intention to support my family in New York on $600
a year, and my treasure of a wife not only gladly assented, but was
willing to reduce the sum to $400, if necessary. Some six months after I
had bought the Museum, Mr. Olmsted happened in at my ticket-office at
noon and found me eating a frugal dinner of cold corned beef and bread,
which I had brought from home.

“Is this the way you eat your dinner?” he asked.

“I have not eaten a warm dinner, except on Sundays,” I replied, “since I
bought the Museum, and I never intend to, on a week day, till I am out
of debt.”

“Ah!” said he, clapping me on the shoulder, “you are safe, and will pay
for the Museum before the year is out.”

And he was right, for within twelve months I was in full possession of
the property as my own and it was entirely paid for from the profits of
the business.

In 1865, the space occupied for my Museum purposes was more than double
what it was in 1842. The Lecture Room, originally narrow, ill-contrived
and inconvenient, was so enlarged and improved that it became one of the
most commodious and beautiful amusement halls in the City of New York.
At first, my attractions and inducements were merely the collection of
curiosities by day, and an evening entertainment, consisting of such
variety performances as were current in ordinary shows. Then Saturday
afternoons, and, soon afterwards, Wednesday afternoons were devoted to
entertainments and the popularity of the Museum grew so rapidly that I
presently found it expedient and profitable to open the great Lecture
Room every afternoon, as well as every evening, on every week-day in the
year. The first experiments in this direction, more than justified my
expectations, for the day exhibitions were always more thronged than
those of the evening. Of course I made the most of the holidays,
advertising extensively and presenting extra inducements; nor did
attractions elsewhere seem to keep the crowd from coming to the Museum.
On great holidays, I gave as many as twelve performances to as many
different audiences.

By degrees the character of the stage performances was changed. The
transient attractions of the Museum were constantly diversified, and
educated dogs, industrious fleas, automatons, jugglers, ventriloquists,
living statuary, tableaux, gipsies, Albinoes, fat boys, giants, dwarfs,
rope-dancers, live “Yankees,” pantomime, instrumental music, singing and
dancing in great variety, dioramas, panoramas, models of Niagara,
Dublin, Paris, and Jerusalem; Hannington’s dioramas of the Creation,
the Deluge, Fairy Grotto, Storm at Sea; the first English Punch and Judy
in this country, Italian Fantoccini, mechanical figures, fancy
glass-blowing, knitting machines and other triumphs in the mechanical
arts; dissolving views, American Indians, who enacted their warlike and
religious ceremonies on the stage,--these, among others, were all
exceedingly successful.

I thoroughly understood the art of advertising, not merely by means of
printer’s ink, which I have always used freely, and to which I confess
myself so much indebted for my success, but by turning every possible
circumstance to my account. It was my monomania to make the Museum the
town wonder and town talk. I often seized upon an opportunity by
instinct, even before I had a very definite conception as to how it
should be used, and it seemed, somehow, to mature itself and serve my
purpose. As an illustration, one morning a stout, hearty-looking man,
came into my ticket-office and begged some money. I asked him why he did
not work and earn his living? He replied that he could get nothing to do
and that he would be glad of any job at a dollar a day. I handed him a
quarter of a dollar, told him to go and get his breakfast and return,
and I would employ him at light labor at a dollar and a half a day. When
he returned I gave him five common bricks.

“Now,” said I, “go and lay a brick on the sidewalk at the corner of
Broadway and Ann Street; another close by the Museum; a third diagonally
across the way at the corner of Broadway and Vesey Street, by the Astor
House: put down the fourth on the sidewalk in front of St Paul’s Church,
opposite; then, with the fifth brick in hand, take up a rapid march
from one point to the other, making the circuit, exchanging your brick
at every point, and say nothing to any one.”

“What is the object of this?” inquired the man.

“No matter,” I replied; “all you need to know is that it brings you
fifteen cents wages per hour. It is a bit of my fun, and to assist me
properly you must seem to be as deaf as a post; wear a serious
countenance; answer no questions; pay no attention to any one; but
attend faithfully to the work and at the end of every hour by St. Paul’s
clock show this ticket at the Museum door; enter, walking solemnly
through every hall in the building; pass out, and resumé your work.”

With the remark that it was “all one to him, so long as he could earn
his living,” the man placed his bricks and began his round. Half an hour
afterwards, at least five hundred people were watching his mysterious
movements. He had assumed a military step and bearing, and looking as
sober as a judge, he made no response whatever to the constant inquiries
as to the object of his singular conduct. At the end of the first hour,
the sidewalks in the vicinity were packed with people all anxious to
solve the mystery. The man, as directed, then went into the Museum,
devoting fifteen minutes to a solemn survey of the halls, and afterwards
returning to his round. This was repeated every hour till sundown and
whenever the man went into the Museum a dozen or more persons would buy
tickets and follow him, hoping to gratify their curiosity in regard to
the purpose of his movements. This was continued for several days--the
curious people who followed the man into the Museum considerably more
than paying his wages--till finally the policeman, to whom I had
imparted my object, complained that the obstruction of the sidewalk by
crowds had become so serious that I must call in my “brick man.” This
trivial incident excited considerable talk and amusement; it advertised
me; and it materially advanced my purpose of making a lively corner near
the Museum.

I am tempted to relate some of the incidents and anecdotes which
attended my career as owner and manager of the Museum. The stories
illustrating merely my introduction of novelties would more than fill
this book, but I must make room for a few of them.

An actor, named La Rue, presented himself as an imitator of celebrated
histrionic personages, including Macready, Forrest, Kemble, the elder
Booth, Kean, Hamblin, and others. Taking him into the green-room for a
private rehearsal, and finding his imitations excellent, I engaged him.
For three nights he gave great satisfaction, but early in the fourth
evening he staggered into the Museum so drunk that he could hardly
stand, and in half an hour he must be on the stage! Calling an
assistant, we took La Rue between us, and marched him up Broadway as far
as Chambers Street, and back to the lower end of the Park, hoping to
sober him. At this point we put his head under a pump, and gave him a
good ducking, with visible beneficial effect,--then a walk around the
Park, and another ducking,--when he assured me that he should be able to
give his imitations “to a charm.”

“You drunken brute,” said I, “if you fail, and disappoint my audience, I
will throw you out of the window.”

He declared that he was “all right,” and I led him behind the scenes,
where I waited with considerable trepidation to watch his movements on
the stage. He began by saying:

“Ladies and gentlemen: I will now give you an imitation of Mr. Booth,
the eminent tragedian.”

His tongue was thick, his language somewhat incoherent, and I had great
misgivings as he proceeded; but as no token of disapprobation came from
the audience, I began to hope he would go through with his parts without
exciting suspicion of his condition. But before he had half finished his
representation of Booth, in the soliloquy in the opening act of Richard
III., the house discovered that he was very drunk, and began to hiss.
This only seemed to stimulate him to make an effort to appear sober,
which, as is usual in such cases, only made matters worse, and the
hissing increased. I lost all patience, and going on the stage and
taking the drunken fellow by the collar, I apologized to the audience,
assuring them that he should not appear before them again. I was about
to march him off, when he stepped to the front, and said:

“Ladies and gentlemen: Mr. Booth often appeared on the stage in a state
of inebriety, and I was simply giving you a truthful representation of
him on such occasions. I beg to be permitted to proceed with my

The audience at once supposed it was all right, and cried out, “go on,
go on”; which he did, and at every imitation of Booth, whether as
Richard, Shylock, or Sir Giles Overreach, he received a hearty round of
applause. I was quite delighted with his success; but when he came to
imitate Forrest and Hamblin, necessarily representing them as drunk
also, the audience could be no longer deluded; the hissing was almost
deafening, and I was forced to lead the actor off. It was his last
appearance on my stage.

From the first, it was my study to give my patrons a superfluity of
novelties, and for this I make no special claim to generosity, for it
was strictly a business transaction. To send away my visitors more than
doubly satisfied, was to induce them to come again and to bring their
friends. I meant to make people talk about my Museum; to exclaim over
its wonders; to have men and women all over the country say: “There is
not another place in the United States where so much can be seen for
twenty-five cents as in Barnum’s American Museum.” It was the best
advertisement I could possibly have, and one for which I could afford to
pay. I knew, too, that it was an honorable advertisement, because it was
as deserved as it was spontaneous. And so, in addition to the permanent
collection and the ordinary attractions of the stage, I labored to keep
the Museum well supplied with transient novelties; I exhibited such
living curiosities as a rhinoceros, giraffes, grizzly bears,
ourang-outangs, great serpents, and whatever else of the kind money
would buy or enterprise secure.

Knowing that a visit to my varied attractions and genuine curiosities
was well worth to any one three times the amount asked as an entrance
fee, I confess that I was not so scrupulous, as possibly I should have
been, about the methods used to call public attention to my
establishment. The one end aimed at was to make men and women think and
talk and wonder, and, as a practical result, go to the Museum. This was
my constant study and occupation.

It was the world’s way then, as it is now, to excite the community with
flaming posters, promising almost everything for next to nothing. I
confess that I took no pains to set my enterprising fellow-citizens a
better example. I fell in with the world’s way; and if my “puffing” was
more persistent, my advertising more audacious, my posters more glaring,
my pictures more exaggerated, my flags more patriotic and my
transparencies more brilliant than they would have been under the
management of my neighbors, it was not because I had less scruple than
they, but more energy, far more ingenuity, and a better foundation for
such promises. In all this, if I cannot be justified, I at least find
palliation in the fact that I presented a wilderness of wonderful,
instructive and amusing realities of such evident and marked merit that
I have yet to learn of a single instance where a visitor went away from
the Museum complaining that he had been defrauded of his money. Surely
this is an offset to any eccentricities to which I may have resorted to
make my establishment widely known.

Very soon after introducing my extra exhibitions, I purchased for $200,
a curiosity which had much merit and some absurdity. It was a model of
Niagara Falls, in which the merit was that the proportions of the great
cataract, the trees, rocks, and buildings in the vicinity were
mathematically given, while the absurdity was in introducing “real
water” to represent the falls. Yet the model served a purpose in making
“a good line in the bill”--an end in view which was never neglected--and
it helped to give the Museum notoriety. One day I was summoned to appear
before the Board of Croton Water Commissioners, and was informed that as
I paid only $25 per annum for water at the Museum, I must pay a large
extra compensation for the supply for my Niagara Falls. I begged the
board not to believe all that appeared in the papers, nor to interpret
my show-bills too literally, and assured them that a single barrel of
water, if my pump was in good order, would furnish my falls for a month.

It was even so, for the water flowed into a reservoir behind the scenes,
and was forced back with a pump over the falls. On one occasion, Mr.
Louis Gaylord Clark, the editor of the _Knickerbocker_, came to view my
museum, and introduced himself to me. As I was quite anxious that my
establishment should receive a first-rate notice at his hands, I took
pains to show him everything of interest, except the Niagara Falls,
which I feared would prejudice him against my entire show. But as we
passed the room the pump was at work, warning me that the great cataract
was in full operation, and Clark, to my dismay, insisted upon seeing it.

“Well, Barnum, I declare, this is quite a new idea; I never saw the like

“No?” I faintly inquired, with something like reviving hope.

“No,” said Clark, “and I hope, with all my heart, I never shall again.”

But the _Knickerbocker_ spoke kindly of me, and refrained from all
allusions to “the Cataract of Niagara, with real water.” Some months
after, Clark came in breathless one day, and asked me if I had the club
with which Captain Cook was killed? As I had a lot of Indian war clubs
in the collection of aboriginal curiosities, and owing Clark something
on the old Niagara Falls account, I told him I had the veritable club
with documents which placed its identity beyond question, and I showed
him the warlike weapon.

“Poor Cook! poor Cook!” said Clark, musingly. “Well, Mr. Barnum,” he
continued, with great gravity, at the same time extending his hand and
giving mine a hearty shake, “I am really very much obliged to you for
your kindness. I had an irrepressible desire to see the club that killed
Captain Cook, and I felt quite confident you could accommodate me. I
have been in half a dozen smaller museums, and as they all had it, I was
sure a large establishment like yours would not be without it.”

A few weeks afterwards, I wrote to Clark that if he would come to my
office I was anxious to consult him on a matter of great importance. He
came, and I said:

“Now, I don’t want any of your nonsense, but I want your sober advice.”

He assured me that he would serve me in any way in his power, and I
proceeded to tell him about a wonderful fish from the Nile, offered to
me for exhibition at $100 a week, the owner of which was willing to
forfeit $5,000, if, within six weeks, this fish did not pass through a
transformation in which the tail would disappear and the fish would then
have legs.

“Is it possible!” asked the astonished Clark.

I assured him that there was no doubt of it.

Thereupon he advised me to engage the wonder at any price; that it would
startle the naturalists, wake up the whole scientific world, draw in the
masses, and make $20,000 for the Museum. I told him that I thought well
of the speculation, only I did not like the name of the fish.

“That makes no difference whatever,” said Clark; “what is the name of
the fish?”

“Tadpole,” I replied with becoming gravity, “but it is vulgarly called

“Sold, by thunder!” exclaimed Clark, and he left.

A curiosity, which in an extraordinary degree served my ever-present
object of extending the notoriety of the Museum was the so-called “Fejee
Mermaid.” It has been supposed that this mermaid was manufactured by my
order, but such is not the fact. I was known as a successful showman,
and strange things of every sort were brought to me from all quarters
for sale or exhibition. In the summer of 1842, Mr. Moses Kimball, of the
Boston Museum, came to New York and showed me what purported to be a
mermaid. He had bought it from a sailor whose father, a sea captain, had
purchased it in Calcutta, in 1822, from some Japanese sailors. I may
mention here that this identical preserved specimen was exhibited in
London in 1822, as I fully verified in my visit to that city in 1858,
for I found an advertisement of it in an old file of the London _Times_,
and a friend gave me a copy of the _Mirror_, published by J. Limbird,
335 Strand, November 9, 1822, containing a cut of this same creature and
two pages of letter-press describing it, together with an account of
other mermaids said to have been captured in different parts of the
world. The _Mirror_ stated that this specimen was “the great source of
attraction in the British metropolis, and three to four hundred people
every day pay their shilling to see it.”

This was the curiosity which had fallen into Mr. Kimball’s hands. I
requested my naturalist’s opinion of the genuineness of the animal and
he said he could not conceive how it could have been manufactured, for
he never saw a monkey with such peculiar teeth, arms, hands, etc., and
he never saw a fish with such peculiar fins; but he did not believe in
mermaids. Nevertheless, I concluded to hire this curiosity and to
modify the general incredulity as to the possibility of the existence of
mermaids, and to awaken curiosity to see and examine the specimen, I
invoked the potent power of printer’s ink.

Since Japan has been opened to the outer world it has been discovered
that certain “artists” in that country manufacture a great variety of
fabulous animals, with an ingenuity and mechanical perfection well
calculated to deceive. No doubt my mermaid was a specimen of this
curious manufacture. I used it mainly to advertise the regular business
of the Museum, and this effective indirect advertising is the only
feature I can commend, in a special show of which, I confess, I am not
proud. I might have published columns in the newspapers, presenting and
praising the great collection of genuine specimens of natural history in
my exhibition, and they would not have attracted nearly so much
attention as did a few paragraphs about the mermaid which was only a
small part of my show. Newspapers throughout the country copied the
mermaid notices, for they were novel and caught the attention of
readers. Thus was the fame of the Museum, as well as the mermaid, wafted
from one end of the land to the other. I was careful to keep up the
excitement, for I knew that every dollar sown in advertising would
return in tens, and perhaps hundreds, in a future harvest, and after
obtaining all the notoriety possible by advertising and by exhibiting
the mermaid at the Museum, I sent the curiosity throughout the country,
directing my agent to everywhere advertise it as “From Barnum’s Great
American Museum, New York.” The effect was immediately felt; money
flowed in rapidly and was readily expended in more advertising.

While I expended money liberally for attractions for the inside of my
Museum, and bought or hired everything curious or rare which was offered
or could be found, I was prodigal in my outlays to arrest or arouse
public attention. When I became proprietor of the establishment, there
were only the words: “American Museum,” to indicate the character of the
concern; there was no bustle or activity about the place; no posters to
announce what was to be seen;--the whole exterior was as dead as the
skeletons and stuffed skins within. My experiences had taught me the
advantages of advertising. I printed whole columns in the papers,
setting forth the wonders of my establishment. Old “fogies” opened their
eyes in amazement at a man who could expend hundreds of dollars in
announcing a show of “stuffed monkey skins”; but these same old fogies
paid their quarters, nevertheless, and when they saw the curiosities and
novelties in the Museum halls, they, like all other visitors, were
astonished as well as pleased, and went home and told their friends and
neighbors and thus assisted in advertising my business.

For other and not less effective advertising,--flags and banners, began
to adorn the exterior of the building. I kept a band of music on the
front balcony and announced “Free Music for the Million.” People said,
“Well, that Barnum is a liberal fellow to give us music for nothing,”
and they flocked down to hear my outdoor free concerts. But I took pains
to select and maintain the poorest band I could find--one whose
discordant notes would drive the crowd into the Museum, out of earshot
of my outside orchestra. Of course, the music was poor. When people
expect to get “something for nothing” they are sure to be cheated, and
generally deserve to be, and so, no doubt, some of my out-door patrons
were sorely disappointed; but when they came inside and paid to be
amused and instructed, I took care to see that they not only received
the full worth of their money, but were more than satisfied. Powerful
Drummond lights were placed at the top of the Museum, which, in the
darkest night, threw a flood of light up and down Broadway, from the
Battery to Niblo’s, that would enable one to read a newspaper in the
street. These were the first Drummond lights ever seen in New York, and
they made people talk, and so advertise my Museum.




The American Museum was the ladder by which I rose to fortune. Whenever
I cross Broadway at the head of Vesey Street, and see the _Herald_
building and that gorgeous pile, the Park Bank, my mind’s eye recalls
that less solid, more showy edifice which once occupied the site and was
covered with pictures of all manner of beasts, birds and creeping
things, and in which were treasures that brought treasures and notoriety
and pleasant hours to me. The Jenny Lind enterprise was more audacious,
more immediately remunerative, and I remember it with a pride which I do
not attempt to conceal; but instinctively I often go back and live over
again the old days of my struggles and triumphs in the American Museum.

The Museum was always open at sunrise, and this was so well known
throughout the country that strangers coming to the city would often
take a tour through my halls before going to breakfast or to their
hotels. I do not believe there was ever a more truly popular place of
amusement. I frequently compared the annual number of visitors with the
number officially reported as visiting (free of charge), the British
Museum in London, and my list was invariably the larger. Nor do I
believe that any man or manager ever labored more industriously to
please his patrons. I furnished the most attractive exhibitions which
money could procure; I abolished all vulgarity and profanity from the
stage, and I prided myself upon the fact that parents and children could
attend the dramatic performances in the so-called Lecture Room, and not
be shocked or offended by anything they might see or hear; I introduced
the “Moral Drama,” producing such plays as “The Drunkard,” “Uncle Tom’s
Cabin,” “Moses in Egypt,” “Joseph and His Brethren,” and occasional
spectacular melodramas produced with great care and at considerable

Mr. Sothern, who has since attained such wide-spread celebrity at home
and abroad as a character actor, was a member of my dramatic company for
one or two seasons. Mr. Barney Williams also began his theatrical career
at the Museum, occupying, at first, quite a subordinate position, at a
salary of ten dollars a week. During the past twelve or fifteen years, I
presume his weekly receipts, when he has acted, have been nearly $3,000.
The late Miss Mary Gannon also commenced at the Museum, and many more
actors and actresses of celebrity have been, from time to time, engaged
there. What was once the small Lecture Room was converted into a
spacious and beautiful theatre, extending over the lots adjoining the
Museum, and capable of holding about three thousand persons. The saloons
were greatly multiplied and enlarged, and the “egress” having been made
to work to perfection, on holidays I advertised Lecture Room
performances every hour through the afternoon and evening, and
consequently the actors and actresses were dressed for the stage as
early as eleven o’clock in the morning, and did not resume their
ordinary clothes till ten o’clock at night. In these busy days the meals
for the company were brought in and served in the dressing-rooms and
green-rooms, and the company always received extra pay.

Leaving nothing undone that would bring Barnum and his Museum before the
public, I often engaged some exhibition, knowing that it would directly
bring no extra dollars to the treasury, but hoping that it would incite
a newspaper paragraph which would float through the columns of the
American press and be copied, perhaps, abroad, and my hopes in this
respect were often gratified.

I confess that I liked the Museum mainly for the opportunities it
afforded for rapidly making money. Before I bought it, I weighed the
matter well in my mind, and was convinced that I could present to the
American public such a variety, quantity and quality of amusement,
blended with instruction, “all for twenty-five cents, children half
price,” that my attractions would be irresistible, and my fortune
certain. I myself relished a higher grade of amusement, and I was a
frequent attendant at the opera, first-class concerts, lectures, and the
like; but I worked for the million, and I knew the only way to make a
million from my patrons was to give them abundant and wholesome
attractions for a small sum of money.

About the first of July, 1842, I began to make arrangements for extra
novelties, additional performances, a large amount of extra advertising,
and an outdoor display for the “Glorious Fourth.” Large particolored
bills were ordered, transparencies were prepared, the free band of music
was augmented by a trumpeter, and columns of advertisements, headed with
large capitals, were written and put on file.

I wanted to run out a string of American flags across the street on that
day, for I knew there would be thousands of people passing the Museum
with leisure and pocket-money, and I felt confident that an unusual
display of national flags would arrest their patriotic attention, and
bring many of them within my walls. Unfortunately for my purpose, St.
Paul’s Church stood directly opposite, and there was nothing to which I
could attach my flag-rope, unless it might be one of the trees in the
church-yard. I went to the vestrymen for permission to so attach my flag
rope on the Fourth of July, and they were indignant at what they called
my “insulting proposition”; such a concession would be “sacrilege.” I
plied them with arguments, and appealed to their patriotism, but in

Returning to the Museum I gave orders to have the string of flags made
ready, with directions at daylight on the Fourth of July to attach one
end of the rope to one of the third story windows of the Museum, and the
other end to a tree in St. Paul’s churchyard. The great day arrived, and
my orders were strictly followed. The flags attracted great attention,
and before nine o’clock I have no doubt that hundreds of additional
visitors were drawn by this display into the Museum. By half-past nine
Broadway was thronged, and about that time two gentlemen in a high
state of excitement rushed into my office, announcing themselves as
injured and insulted vestrymen of St. Paul’s Church.

“Keep cool, gentlemen,” said I; “I guess it is all right.”

“Right!” indignantly exclaimed one of them, “do you think it is right to
attach your Museum to our Church? We will show you what is ‘right’ and
what is law, if we live till to-morrow; those flags must come down

“Thank you,” I said, “but let us not be in a hurry. I will go out with
you and look at them, and I guess we can make it all right.”

Going into the street I remarked: “Really, gentlemen, these flags look
very beautiful; they do not injure your tree; I always stop my balcony
music for your accommodation whenever you hold week-day services, and it
is but fair that you should return the favor.”

“We could indict your ‘music,’ as you call it, as a nuisance, if we
chose,” answered one vestryman, “and now I tell you that if these flags
are not taken down in ten minutes, _I_ will cut them down.”

His indignation was at the boiling point. The crowd in the street was
dense, and the angry gesticulation of the vestryman attracted their
attention. I saw there was no use in trying to parley with him or coax
him, and so, assuming an angry air, I rolled up my sleeves, and
exclaimed, in a loud tone,--

“Well, Mister, I should just like to see you dare to cut down the
American flag on the Fourth of July; you must be a ‘Britisher’ to make
such a threat as that; but I’ll show you a thousand pairs of Yankee
hands in two minutes, if you dare to attempt to take down the stars and
stripes on this great birth-day of American freedom!”

“What’s that John Bull a-saying,” asked a brawny fellow, placing himself
in front of the irate vestryman; “Look here, old fellow,” he continued,
“if you want to save a whole bone in your body, you had better slope,
and never dare to talk again about hauling down the American flag in the
city of New York.”

Throngs of excited, exasperated men crowded around, and the vestryman,
seeing the effect of my ruse, smiled faintly and said, “Oh, of course it
is all right,” and he and his companion quietly edged out of the crowd.
The flags remained up all day and all night. The next morning I sought
the vanquished vestrymen and obtained formal permission to make this use
of the tree on following holidays, in consideration of my willingness to
arrest the doleful strains of my discordant balcony band whenever
services were held on week days in the church.

On that Fourth of July, at one o’clock, P. M., my Museum was so densely
crowded that we could admit no more visitors, and we were compelled to
stop the sale of tickets. I pushed through the throng until I reached
the roof of the building, hoping to find room for a few more, but it was
in vain. Looking down into the street it was a sad sight to see the
thousands of people who stood ready with their money to enter the
Museum, but who were actually turned away. It was exceedingly harrowing
to my feelings. Rushing down stairs, I told my carpenter and his
assistants to cut through the partition and floor in the rear and to put
in a temporary flight of stairs so as to let out people by that egress
into Ann Street. By three o’clock the egress


was opened and a few people were passed down the new stairs, while a
corresponding number came in at the front. But I lost a large amount of
money that day by not having sufficiently estimated the value of my own
advertising, and consequently not having provided for the thousands who
had read my announcements and seen my outside show, and had taken the
first leisure day to visit the Museum. I had learned one lesson,
however, and that was to have the egress ready on future holidays.

Early in the following March, I received notice from some of the Irish
population that they meant to visit me in great numbers on “St.
Patrick’s day in the morning.” “All right,” said I to my carpenter, “get
your egress ready for March 17”; and I added, to my assistant manager:
“If there is much of a crowd, don’t let a single person pass out at the
front, even if it were St. Patrick himself; put every man out through
the egress in the rear.” The day came, and before noon we were caught in
the same dilemma as we were on the Fourth of July; the Museum was jammed
and the sale of tickets was stopped. I went to the egress and asked the
sentinel how many hundreds had passed out?

“Hundreds,” he replied, “why only three persons have gone out by this
way and they came back, saying that it was a mistake and begging to be
let in again.”

“What does this mean?” I inquired; “surely thousands of people have been
all over the Museum since they came in.”

“Certainly,” was the reply “but after they have gone from one saloon to
another and have been on every floor, even to the roof, they come down
and travel the same route over again.”

At this time I espied a tall Irish woman with two good-sized children
whom I had happened to notice when they came in early in the morning.

“Step this way, madam,” said I politely, “you will never be able to get
into the street by the front door without crushing these dear children.
We have opened a large egress here and you can pass by these rear stairs
into Ann Street and thus avoid all danger.”

“Sure,” replied the woman, indignantly, “an’ I’m not going out at all,
at all, nor the children aither, for we’ve brought our dinners and we
are going to stay all day.”

Further, investigation showed that pretty much all of my visitors had
brought their dinners with the evident intention of literally “making a
day of it.” No one expected to go home till night; the building was
overcrowded, and meanwhile hundreds were waiting at the front entrance
to get in when they could. In despair I sauntered upon the stage behind
the scenes, biting my lips with vexation, when I happened to see the
scene-painter at work and a happy thought struck me: “Here,” I
exclaimed, “take a piece of canvas four feet square, and paint on it, as
soon as you can, in large letters--

                           ☞TO THE EGRESS.”

Seizing his brush he finished the sign in fifteen minutes, and I
directed the carpenter to nail it over the door leading to the back
stairs. He did so, and as the crowd, after making the entire tour of the
establishment, came pouring down the main stairs from the third story,
they stopped and looked at the new sign, while some of them read
audibly: “To the Aigress.”

“The Aigress,” said others, “sure: that’s an animal we haven’t seen,”
and the throng began to pour down the back stairs only to find that the
“Aigress” was the elephant, and that the elephant was all out o’ doors,
or so much of it as began with Ann Street. Meanwhile, I began to
accommodate those who had long been waiting with their money at the
Broadway entrance.

Notwithstanding my continual outlays for additional novelties and
attractions, or rather I might say, because of these outlays, money
poured in upon me so rapidly that I was sometimes actually embarrassed
to devise means to carry out my original plan for laying out the entire
profits of the first year in advertising. I meant to sow first and reap
afterwards. I finally hit upon a plan which cost a large sum, and that
was to prepare large oval oil paintings to be placed between the windows
of the entire building, representing nearly every important animal known
in zoology. These paintings were put on the building in a single night,
and so complete a transformation in the appearance of an edifice is
seldom witnessed. When the living stream rolled down Broadway the next
morning and reached the Astor House corner, opposite the Museum, it
seemed to meet with a sudden check. I never before saw so many open
mouths and astonished eyes. Some people were puzzled to know what it all
meant; some looked as if they thought it was an enchanted palace that
had suddenly sprung up; others exclaimed, “Well, the animals all seem to
have ‘broken out’ last night,” and hundreds came in to see how the
establishment survived the sudden eruption. At all events, from that
morning the Museum receipts took a jump forward of nearly a hundred
dollars a day, and they never fell back again. Strangers would look at
this great pictorial magazine and argue that an establishment with so
many animals on the outside must have something on the inside, and in
they would go to see. Inside, I took particular pains to please and
astonish these strangers, and when they went back to the country, they
carried plenty of pictorial bills and lithographs, which I always
lavishly furnished, and thus the fame of Barnum’s Museum became so
wide-spread, that people scarcely thought of visiting the city without
going to my establishment.

In fact, the Museum had become an established institution in the land.
Now and then some one would cry out “humbug” and “charlatan,” but so
much the better for me. It helped to advertise me, and I was willing to
bear the reputation--and I engaged queer curiosities, and even
monstrosities, simply to add to the notoriety of the Museum.

Dr. Valentine will be remembered by many as a man who gave imitations
and delineations of eccentric characters. He was quite a card at the
Museum when I first purchased that establishment, and before I
introduced dramatic representations into the “Lecture Room.” His
representations were usually given as follows: A small table was placed
in about the centre of the stage; a curtain reaching to the floor
covered the front and two ends of the table; under this table, on little
shelves and hooks, were placed caps, hats, coats, wigs, moustaches,
curls, cravats, and shirt collars, and all sorts of gear for changing
the appearance of the upper portion of the person. Dr. Valentine would
seat himself in a chair behind the table, and addressing his audience,
would state his intention to represent different peculiar characters,
male and female, including the Yankee tin peddler; “Tabitha Twist,” a
maiden lady; “Sam Slick, Jr.,” the precocious author; “Solomon
Jenkins,” a crusty old bachelor, with a song; the down-east
school-teacher with his refractory pupils, with many other characters;
and he simply asked the indulgence of the audience for a few seconds
between each imitation, to enable him to stoop down behind the table and
“dress” each character appropriately.

The Doctor himself was a most eccentric character. He was very nervous,
and was always fretting lest his audience should be composed of persons
who would not appreciate his “imitations.” During one of his engagements
the Lecture Room performances consisted of negro minstrelsy and Dr.
Valentine’s imitations. As the minstrels gave the entire first half of
the entertainment, the Doctor would post himself at the entrance to the
Museum to study the character of the visitors from their appearance. He
fancied that he was a great reader of character in this way, and as most
of my visitors were from the country, the Doctor, after closely perusing
their faces, would decide that they were not the kind of persons who
would appreciate his efforts, and this made him extremely nervous. When
this idea was once in his head, it took complete possession of the poor
Doctor, and worked him up into a nervous excitement which it was often
painful to behold. Every country-looking face was a dagger to the
Doctor, for he had a perfect horror of exhibiting to an unappreciative
audience. When so much excited that he could stand at the door no
longer, the disgusted Doctor would come into my office and pour out his
lamentations in this wise:

“There, Barnum, I never saw such a stupid lot of country bumpkins in my
life. I shan’t be able to get a smile out of them. I had rather be
horse-whipped than attempt to satisfy an audience who have not got the
brains to appreciate me. Sir, mine is a highly intellectual
entertainment, and none but refined and educated persons can comprehend

“Oh, I think you will make them laugh some, Doctor,” I replied.

“Laugh, sir, laugh! why, sir, they have no laugh in them, sir; and if
they had, your devilish nigger minstrels would get it all out of them
before I commenced.”

“Don’t get excited, Doctor,” I said; “you will please the people.”

“Impossible, sir! I was a fool to ever permit my entertainment to be
mixed up with that of nigger singers.”

“But you could not give an entire entertainment satisfactorily to the
public; they want more variety.”

“Then you should have got something more refined, sir. Why, one of those
cursed nigger break-downs excites your audience so they don’t want to
hear a word from me. At all events, I ought to commence the
entertainment and let the niggers finish up. I tell you, Mr. Barnum, I
won’t stand it! I would rather go to the poor-house. I won’t stay here
over a fortnight longer! It is killing me!”

In this excited state the Doctor would go upon the stage, dressed very
neatly in a suit of black. Addressing a few pleasant words to the
audience, he would then take a seat behind his little table, and with a
broad smile covering his countenance would ask the audience to excuse
him a few seconds, and he would appear as “Tabitha Twist,” a literary
spinster of fifty-five. On these occasions I was usually behind the
scenes, standing at one of the wings opposite the Doctor’s table, where
I could see and hear all that occurred “behind the curtain.” The moment
the Doctor was down behind the table, a wonderful change came over that
smiling countenance.

“Blast this infernal, stupid audience! they would not laugh to save the
city of New York!” said the Doctor, while he rapidly slipped on a lady’s
cap and a pair of long curls. Then, while arranging a lace handkerchief
around his shoulders, he would grate his teeth and curse the Museum, its
manager, the audience and everybody else. The instant the handkerchief
was pinned, the broad smile would come upon his face, and up would go
his head and shoulders showing to the audience a rollicking specimen of
a good-natured old maid.

“How do you do, ladies and gentlemen? You all know me, Tabitha Twist,
the happiest maiden in the village; always laughing. Now, I’ll sing you
one of my prettiest songs.”

The mock maiden would then sing a lively, funny ditty, followed by faint
applause, and down would bob the head behind the table to prepare for a
presentation of “Sam Slick, junior.”

“Curse such a set of fools” (off goes the cap, followed by the curls).
“They think it’s a country Sunday school” (taking off the lace
handkerchief). “I expect they will hiss me next, the donkeys” (on goes a
light wig of long, flowing hair). “I wish the old Museum was sunk in the
Atlantic” (puts on a Yankee round-jacket, and broadbrimmed hat). “I
never will be caught in this infernal place, curse it;” up jump head
and shoulders of the Yankee, and Sam Slick, junior, sings out a merry--

“Ha! ha! why, folks, how de dew. Darn glad to see you, by hokey; I came
down here to have lots of fun, for you know I always believe we must
laugh and grow fat.”

After five minutes of similar rollicking nonsense, down would bob the
head again, and the cursing, swearing, tearing, and teeth-grating would
commence, and continue till the next character appeared to the audience,
bedecked with smiles and good-humor.

On several occasions I got up “Baby shows,” at which I paid liberal
prizes for the finest baby, the fattest baby, the handsomest twins, for
triplets, and so on. I always gave several months’ notice of these
intended shows and limited the number of babies at each exhibition to
one hundred. Long before the appointed time, the list would be full and
I have known many a fond mother to weep bitterly because the time for
application was closed and she could not have the opportunity to exhibit
her beautiful baby. These shows were as popular as they were unique, and
while they paid in a financial point of view, my chief object in getting
them up was to set the newspapers to talking about me, thus giving
another blast on the trumpet which I always tried to keep blowing for
the Museum. Flower shows, dog shows, poultry shows and bird shows, were
held at intervals in my establishment and in each instance the same end
was attained as by the baby shows. I gave prizes in the shape of medals,
money and diplomas and the whole came back to me four-fold in the shape
of advertising.

There was great difficulty, however, in awarding the

[Illustration: _SQUALLS AND BREEZES._]

principal prize of $100 at the baby shows. Every mother thought her own
baby the brightest and best, and confidently expected the capital prize.

    For where was ever seen the mother
    Would give her baby for another?

Not foreseeing this when I first stepped into the expectant circle and
announced in a matter of fact way that a committee of ladies had decided
upon the baby of Mrs. So and So as entitled to the leading prize, I was
ill-prepared for the storm of indignation that arose on every side.
Ninety-nine disappointed, and as they thought, deeply injured, mothers
made common cause and pronounced the successful little one the meanest,
homeliest baby in the lot, and roundly abused me and my committee for
our stupidity and partiality. “Very well, ladies,” said I in the first
instance, “select a committee of your own and I will give another $100
prize to the baby you shall pronounce to be the best specimen.” This was
only throwing oil upon flame; the ninety-nine confederates were deadly
enemies from the moment and no new babies were presented in competition
for the second prize. Thereafter, I took good care to send in a written
report and did not attempt to announce the prize in person.

At the first exhibition of the kind, there was a vague, yet very current
rumor, that in the haste of departure from the Museum several young
mothers had exchanged babies (for the babies were nearly all of the same
age and were generally dressed alike) and did not discover the mistake
till they arrived home and some such conversation as this occurred
between husband and wife:

“Did our baby take the prize?”

“No! the darling was cheated out of it.”

“Well, why didn’t you bring home the same baby you carried to the

I am glad to say that I could not trace this cruel rumor to an authentic

In June 1843, a herd of yearling buffaloes was on exhibition in Boston.
I bought the lot, brought them to New Jersey, hired the race course at
Hoboken, chartered the ferry-boats for one day, and advertised that a
hunter had arrived with a herd of buffaloes--I was careful not to state
their age--and that August 31st there would be a “Grand Buffalo Hunt” on
the Hoboken race course--all persons to be admitted free of charge.

The appointed day was warm and delightful, and no less than twenty-four
thousand people crossed the North River in the ferry-boats to enjoy the
cooling breeze and to see the “Grand Buffalo Hunt.” The hunter was
dressed as an Indian, and mounted on horseback; he proceeded to show how
the wild buffalo is captured with a lasso, but unfortunately the
yearlings would not run till the crowd gave a great shout, expressive at
once of derision and delight at the harmless humbug. This shout started
the young animals into a weak gallop and the lasso was duly thrown over
the head of the largest calf. The crowd roared with laughter, listened
to my balcony band, which I also furnished “free,” and then started for
New York, little dreaming who was the author of this sensation, or what
was its object.

Mr. N. P. Willis, then editor of the _Home Journal_, wrote an article
illustrating the perfect good nature with which the American public
submit to a clever humbug. He said that he went to Hoboken to witness
the Buffalo Hunt. It was nearly four o’clock when the boat left the
foot of Barclay Street, and it was so densely crowded that many persons
were obliged to stand on the railings and hold on to the awning posts.
When they reached the Hoboken side a boat equally crowded was coming out
of the slip. The passengers just arriving cried out to those who were
coming away, “Is the Buffalo Hunt over?” To which came the reply, “Yes,
and it was the biggest humbug you ever heard of!” Willis added that
passengers on the boat with him instantly gave three cheers for the
author of the humbug, whoever he might be.

After the public had enjoyed a laugh for several days over the Hoboken
“Free Grand Buffalo Hunt,” I permitted it to be announced that the
proprietor of the American Museum was responsible for the joke, thus
using the buffalo hunt as a sky-rocket to attract public attention to my
Museum. The object was accomplished and although some people cried out
“humbug,” I had added to the notoriety which I so much wanted and I was
satisfied. As for the cry of “humbug,” it never harmed me, and I was in
the position of the actor who had much rather be roundly abused than not
to be noticed at all. I ought to add, that the forty-eight thousand
sixpences--the usual fare--received for ferry fares, less what I paid
for the charter of the boats on that one day, more than remunerated me
for the cost of the buffaloes and the expenses of the “hunt,” and the
enormous gratuitous advertising of the Museum must also be placed to my

With the same object--that is, advertising my Museum,--I purchased, for
$500, in Cincinnati, Ohio, a “Woolly Horse” I found on exhibition in
that city. It was a well formed, small sized horse, with no mane, and
not a particle of hair on his tail, while his entire body and legs were
covered with thick, fine hair or wool, which curled tight to his skin.
This horse was foaled in Indiana, and was a remarkable freak of nature,
and certainly a very curious looking animal.

I had not the remotest idea, when I bought this horse, what I should do
with him; but when the news came that Colonel John C. Fremont (who was
supposed to have been lost in the snows of the Rocky Mountains) was in
safety, the “Woolly Horse” was exhibited in New York, and was widely
advertised as a most remarkable animal that had been captured by the
great explorer’s party in the passes of the Rocky Mountains. The
exhibition met with only moderate success in New York, and in several
Northern provincial towns, and the show would have fallen flat in
Washington, had it not been for the over-zeal of Colonel Thomas H.
Benton, then a United States Senator from Missouri. He went to the show,
and then caused the arrest of my agent for obtaining twenty-five cents
from him under “false pretences.” No mention had been made of this
curious animal in any letter he had received from his son-in-law,
Colonel John C. Fremont, and therefore the Woolly Horse had not been
captured by any of Fremont’s party. The reasoning was hardly as sound as
were most of the arguments of “Old Bullion,” and the case was dismissed.
After a few days of merriment, public curiosity no longer turned in that
direction, and the old horse was permitted to retire to private life. My
object in the exhibition, however, was fully attained. When it was
generally known that the proprietor of the American Museum was also the
owner of the famous “Woolly Horse,” it caused yet more talk about me
and my establishment, and visitors began to say that they would give
more to see the proprietor of the Museum than to view the entire
collection of curiosities. As for my ruse in advertising the “Woolly
Horse” as having been captured by Fremont’s exploring party, of course
the announcement neither added to nor took from the interest of the
exhibition; but it arrested public attention, and it was the only
feature of the show that I now care to forget.

It will be seen that very much of the success which attended my many
years proprietorship of the American Museum was due to advertising, and
especially to my odd methods of advertising. Always claiming that I had
curiosities worth showing and worth seeing, and exhibited “dog cheap” at
“twenty-five cents admission, children half price”--I studied ways to
arrest public attention; to startle, to make people talk and wonder; in
short, to let the world know that I had a Museum.

About this time, I engaged a band of Indians from Iowa. They had never
seen a railroad or steamboat until they saw them on the route from Iowa
to New York. Of course they were wild and had but faint ideas of
civilization. The party comprised large and noble specimens of the
untutored savage, as well as several very beautiful squaws, with two or
three interesting “papooses.” They lived and lodged in a large room on
the top floor of the Museum, and cooked their own victuals in their own
way. They gave their war-dances on the stage in the Lecture Room with
great vigor and enthusiasm, much to the satisfaction of the audiences.
But these wild Indians seemed to consider their dances as realities.
Hence when they gave a real War Dance, it was dangerous for any
parties, except their manager and interpreter, to be on the stage, for
the moment they had finished their war dance, they began to leap and
peer about behind the scenes in search of victims for their tomahawks
and scalping knives! Indeed, lest in these frenzied moments they might
make a dash at the orchestra or the audience, we had a high rope barrier
placed between them and the savages on the front of the stage.

After they had been a week in the Museum, I proposed a change of
performance for the week following, by introducing new dances. Among
these was the Indian Wedding Dance. At that time I printed but one set
of posters (large bills) per week, so that whatever was announced for
Monday, was repeated every day and evening during that week. Before the
Wedding Dance came off on Monday afternoon, I was informed that I was to
provide a large new red woollen blanket, at a cost of ten dollars, for
the bridegroom to present to the father of the bride. I ordered the
purchase to be made; but was considerably taken aback, when I was
informed that I must have another new blanket for the evening, inasmuch
as the savage old Indian Chief, father-in-law to the bridegroom, would
not consent to his daughter’s being approached with the Wedding Dance
unless he had his blanket present.

I undertook to explain to the chief, through the interpreter, that this
was only a “make believe” wedding; but the old savage shrugged his
shoulders, and gave such a terrific “Ugh!” that I was glad to make my
peace by ordering another blanket. As we gave two performances per day,
I was out of pocket $120 for twelve “wedding blankets,” that week.

One of the beautiful squaws named Do-humme died in the Museum. She had
been a great favorite with many ladies,--among whom I can especially
name Mrs. C. M. Sawyer, wife of the Rev. Dr. T. J. Sawyer. Do-humme was
buried on the border of Sylvan Water, at Greenwood Cemetery, where a
small monument, erected by her friends, designates her last resting

The poor Indians were very sorrowful for many days, and desired to get
back again to their western wilds. The father and the betrothed of
Do-humme cooked various dishes of food and placed them upon the roof of
the Museum, where they believed the spirit of their departed friend came
daily for its supply; and these dishes were renewed every morning during
the stay of the Indians at the Museum.

It was sometimes very amusing to hear the remarks of strangers who came
to visit my Museum. One afternoon a prim maiden lady from Portland,
Maine, walked into my private office, where I was busily engaged in
writing, and taking a seat on the sofa she asked:

“Is this Mr. Barnum?”

“It is,” I replied.

“Is this Mr. P. T. Barnum, the proprietor of the Museum?” she asked.

“The same,” was my answer.

“Why, really, Mr. Barnum,” she continued, “you look much like other
common folks, after all.”

I remarked that I presumed I did; but I could not help it, and I hoped
she was not disappointed at my appearance.

“Oh, no,” she said; “I suppose I have no right to be disappointed, but I
have read and heard so much about you and your Museum that I was quite
prepared to be astonished.”

I asked her if she had been through the establishment.

“I have,” she replied; “I came in immediately after breakfast; I have
been here ever since, and, I can say I think with the Queen of Sheba,
that ‘the half had not been told me.’ But, Mr. Barnum,” she, continued,
“I have long felt a desire to see you; I wanted to attend when you
lectured on temperance in Portland, but I had a severe cold and could
not go out.”

“Do you like my collection as well as you do the one in the Boston
Museum?” I asked.

“Dear me! Mr. Barnum,” said she, “I never went to any Museum before, nor
to any place of amusement or public entertainment, excepting our school
exhibitions; and I have sometimes felt that they even may be wicked, for
some parts of the dialogues seemed frivolous; but I have heard so much
of your ‘moral drama’ and the great good you are doing for the rising
generation that I thought I must come here and see for myself.”

“We represent the pathetic story of ‘Charlotte Temple’ in the Lecture
Room to-day,” I remarked, with an inward chuckle at the peculiarities of
my singular visitor, who, although she was nearly fifty years of age,
had probably never been in an audience of a hundred persons, unless it
might be at a school exhibition, or in Sunday school, or in church.

“Indeed! I am quite familiar with the sad history of Miss Temple, and I
think I can derive great consolation from witnessing the representation
of the touching story.”

At this moment the gong sounded to announce the opening of the Lecture
Room, and the crowd passed on in haste to secure seats. My spinster
visitor sprang to her feet and anxiously inquired:

“Are the services about to commence?”

“Yes,” I replied, “the congregation is now going up.”

She marched along with the crowd as demurely as if she was going to a
funeral. After she was seated, I watched her, and in the course of the
play I noticed that she was several times so much overcome as to be
moved to tears. She was very much affected, and when the “services” were
over, without seeking another interview with me, she went silently and
tearfully away.

One day, two city boys who had thoroughly explored the wonders of the
Museum, on their way out passed the open door of my private office, and
seeing me sitting there, one of them exclaimed to his companion:

“There! That’s Mr. Barnum.”

“No! is it?” asked the other, and then with his mind full of the glories
of the stuffed gander-skins, and other wealth which had been displayed
to his wondering eyes in the establishment, he summed up his views of
the vastness and value of the whole collection, and its fortunate
proprietor in a single sentence:

“Well, he’s an awful rich old cuss, ain’t he!”

Those boys evidently took a strictly financial view of the




The president and directors of the “New York Museum Company” not only
failed to buy the American Museum as they confidently expected to do,
but, after my newspaper squib war and my purchase of the Museum, they
found it utterly impossible to sell their stock. By some arrangement,
the particulars of which I do not remember, if, indeed, I ever cared to
know them, Mr. Peale was conducting Peale’s Museum which he claimed was
a more “scientific” establishment than mine, and he pretended to appeal
to a higher class of patrons. Mesmerism was one of his scientific
attractions, and he had a subject upon whom he operated at times with
the greatest seeming success, and fairly astonished his audiences. But
there were times when the subject was wholly unimpressible and then
those who had paid their money to see the woman put into the mesmeric
state cried out “humbug,” and the reputation of the establishment
seriously suffered.

It devolved upon me to open a rival mesmeric performance, and
accordingly I engaged a bright little girl who was exceedingly
susceptible to such mesmeric influences as I could induce. That is, she
learned her lesson thoroughly, and when I had apparently put her to
sleep with a few passes and stood behind her, she seemed to be duly
“impressed” as I desired; raised her hands as I willed; fell from her
chair to the floor; and if I put candy or tobacco into my mouth, she was
duly delighted or disgusted. She never failed in these routine
performances. Strange to say, believers in mesmerism used to witness her
performances with the greatest pleasure and adduce them as positive
proofs that there was something in mesmerism, and they applauded
tremendously--up to a certain point.

That point was reached, when leaving the girl “asleep,” I called up some
one in the audience, promising to put him “in the same state” within
five minutes, or forfeit fifty dollars. Of course, all my “passes” would
not put any man in the mesmeric state; at the end of three minutes he
was as wide awake as ever.

“Never mind,” I would say, looking at my watch; “I have two minutes
more, and meantime, to show that a person in this state is utterly
insensible to pain, I propose to cut off one of the fingers of the
little girl who is still asleep.” I would then take out my knife and
feel of the edge, and when I turned around to the girl whom I left on
the chair she had fled behind the scenes to the intense amusement of the
greater part of the audience and to the amazement of the mesmerists who
were present.

“Why! where’s my little girl?” I asked with feigned astonishment.

“Oh! she ran away when you began to talk about cutting off fingers.”

“Then she was wide awake, was she?”

“Of course she was, all the time.”

“I suppose so; and, my dear sir, I promised that you should be ‘in the
same state’ at the end of five minutes, and as I believe you are so, I
do not forfeit fifty dollars.”

I kept up this performance for several weeks, till I quite killed
Peale’s “genuine” mesmerism in the rival establishment. After Peale,
“Yankee” Hill undertook the management of that Museum, but in a little
while he failed. It was then let to Henry Bennett, who reduced the
entrance price to one shilling,--a half price which led me to
characterize his concern as “cheap and nasty,”--and he began a serious
rivalry with my Museum. His main reliances were burlesques and
caricatures of whatever novelties I was exhibiting; thus, when I
advertised an able company of vocalists, well-known as the Orphean
Family, Bennett announced the “Orphan Family;” my Fejee Mermaid he
offset with a figure made of a monkey and codfish joined together and
called the “Fudg-ee Mermaid.” These things created some laughter at my
expense, but they also served to advertise my Museum.

When the novelty of this opposition died away, Bennett did a decidedly
losing business. I used to send a man with a shilling to his place every
night and I knew exactly how much he was doing and what were his
receipts. The holidays were coming and might tide him over a day or two,
but he was at the very bottom and I said to him, one day:

“Bennett, if you can keep open one week after New Year’s I will give you
a hundred dollars.”

He made every effort to win the money, and even went to the landlord and
offered him the entire receipts for a week if he would only let him stay
there; but he would not do it, and the day after New Year’s, January 2,
1843, Bennett shut up shop, having lost his last dollar and even failing
to secure the handsome premium I offered him.

The entire collection fell into the hands of the landlord for arrearages
of rent, and I privately purchased it for $7,000 cash, hired the
building, and secretly engaged Bennett as my agent. We ran a very
spirited opposition for a long time and abused each other terribly in
public. It was very amusing when actors and performers failed to make
terms with one of us and went to the other, carrying from one to the
other the price each was willing to pay for an engagement. We thus used
to hear extraordinary stories about each other’s “liberal terms,” but
between the two we managed to secure such persons as we wanted at about
the rates at which their services were really worth. While these people
were thus running from one manager to the other, supposing we were
rivals, Bennett said to me one day:

“You and I are like a pair of shears; we seem to cut each other, but we
only cut what comes between.”

I ran my opposition long enough to beat myself. It answered every
purpose, however, in awakening public attention to my Museum, and was an
advantage in preventing others from starting a genuine opposition. At
the end of six months, the whole establishment, including the splendid
gallery of American portraits, was removed to the American Museum and I
immediately advertised the great card of a “Double attraction” and “Two
Museums in One,” without extra charge.

A Museum proper obviously depends for patronage largely upon country
people who visit the city with a worthy curiosity to see the novelties
of the town. As I had opened a dramatic entertainment in connection with
my curiosities, it was clear that I must adapt my stage to the wants of
my country customers. While I was disposed to amuse my provincial
patrons, I was determined that there should be nothing in my
establishment, where many of my visitors would derive their first
impressions of city life, that could contaminate or corrupt them. At
this period, it was customary to tolerate very considerable license on
the stage. Things were said and done and permitted in theatres that
elsewhere would have been pronounced highly improper. The public seemed
to demand these things, and it is an axiom in political economy, that
the demand must regulate the supply. But I determined, at the start,
that, let the demand be what it might, the Museum dramatic
entertainments should be unexceptionable on the score of morality.

I have already mentioned some of the immediate reforms I made in the
abuses of the stage. I went farther, and, at the risk of some pecuniary
sacrifice, I abolished what was common enough in other theatres, even
the most “respectable,” and was generally known as the “third tier.” Nor
was a bar permitted on my premises. To be sure, I had no power to
prevent my patrons from going out between the acts and getting liquor if
they chose to do so, and I gave checks, as is done in other theatres,
and some of my city customers availed themselves of the opportunity to
go out for drinks and return again. Practically, then, it was much the
same as if I had kept a bar in the Museum, and so I abolished the check
business. There was great reason to apprehend that such a course would
rob me of the patronage of a considerable class of play-goers, but I
rigidly adhered to the new rule, and what I may have lost in money, I
more than gained in the greater decorum which characterized my

The Museum became a mania with me and I made everything possible
subservient to it. On the eve of elections, rival politicians would ask
me for whom I was going to vote, and my answer invariably was, “I vote
for the American Museum.” In fact, at that time, I cared very little
about politics, and a great deal about my business. Meanwhile the Museum
prospered wonderfully, and everything I attempted or engaged in seemed
at the outset an assured success.

The giants whom I exhibited from time to time were always literally
great features in my establishment, and they oftentimes afforded me, as
well as my patrons, food for much amusement as well as wonder. The
Quaker giant, Hales, was quite a wag in his way. He went once to see the
new house of an acquaintance who had suddenly become rich, but who was a
very ignorant man. When he came back he described the wonders of the
mansion and said that the proud proprietor showed him everything from
basement to attic; “parlors, bed-rooms, dining room, and,” said Hales,
“what he called his ‘study’--meaning, I suppose, the place where he
intends to study his spelling-book!”

I had at one time two famous men, the French giant, M. Bihin, a very
slim man, and the Arabian giant, Colonel Goshen. These men generally got
on together very well, though, of course, each was jealous of the
other, and of the attention the rival received, or the notice he
attracted. One day they quarrelled, and a lively interchange of
compliments ensued, the Arabian calling the Frenchman a “Shanghai,” and
receiving in return the epithet of “Nigger.” From words both were eager
to proceed to blows, and both ran to my collection of arms, one seizing
the club with which Captain Cook or any other man might have been
killed, if it were judiciously wielded, and the other laying hands on a
sword of the terrific size which is supposed to have been conventional
in the days of the Crusades. The preparations for a deadly encounter,
and the high words of the contending parties brought a dozen of the
Museum _attaches_ to the spot, and these men threw themselves between
the gigantic combatants. Hearing the disturbance, I ran from my private
office to the duelling ground, and said:

“Look here! This is all right; if you want to fight each other, maiming
and perhaps killing one or both of you, that is your affair; but my
interest lies here--you are both under engagement to me, and if this
duel is to come off, I and the public have a right to participate. It
must be duly advertised, and must take place on the stage of the Lecture
Room. No performance of yours would be a greater attraction, and if you
kill each other, our engagement can end with your duel.”

This proposition, made in apparent earnest, so delighted the giants that
they at once burst into a laugh, shook hands, and quarrelled no more.

I now come to the details of one of the most interesting, as well as
successful, of all the show enterprises in which I have engaged--one
which not only taxed all my ingenuity and industry, but which gave

[Illustration: _BATTLE OF THE GIANTS._]

delight to thousands of people on two continents and put enormous sums
of money into many pockets besides my own.

In November, 1842, I was in Albany on business, and as the Hudson River
was frozen over, I returned to New York by the Housatonic Railroad,
stopping one night at Bridgeport, Connecticut, with my brother, Philo F.
Barnum, who at that time kept the Franklin Hotel. I had heard of a
remarkably small child in Bridgeport, and, at my request, my brother
brought him to the hotel. He was not two feet high; he weighed less than
sixteen pounds, and was the smallest child I ever saw that could walk
alone; but he was a perfectly formed, bright-eyed little fellow, with
light hair and ruddy cheeks and he enjoyed the best of health. He was
exceedingly bashful, but after some coaxing he was induced to talk with
me, and he told me that he was the son of Sherwood E. Stratton, and that
his own name was Charles S. Stratton. After seeing him and talking with
him, I at once determined to secure his services from his parents and to
exhibit him in public.

But as he was only five years of age, to exhibit him as a “dwarf” might
provoke the inquiry “How do you know he is a dwarf?” Some liberty might
be taken with the facts, but even with this license, I felt that the
venture was only an experiment, and I engaged him for four weeks at
three dollars a week, with all travelling and boarding charges for
himself and his mother at my expense. They came to New York,
Thanksgiving day, December 8, 1842, and Mrs. Stratton was greatly
surprised to see her son announced on my Museum bills as “General Tom

I took the greatest pains to educate and train my diminutive prodigy,
devoting many hours to the task by day and by night, and I was very
successful, for he was an apt pupil with a great deal of native talent,
and a keen sense of the ludicrous. He made rapid progress in preparing
himself for such performances as I wished him to undertake and he became
very much attached to his teacher.

When the four weeks expired, I re-engaged him for one year at seven
dollars a week, with a gratuity of fifty dollars at the end of the
engagement, and the privilege of exhibiting him anywhere in the United
States, in which event his parents were to accompany him and I was to
pay all travelling expenses. He speedily became a public favorite, and,
long before the year was out, I voluntarily increased his weekly salary
to twenty-five dollars, and he fairly earned it. Sometimes I exhibited
him for several weeks in succession at the Museum, and when I wished to
introduce other novelties I sent him to different towns and cities,
accompanied by my friend, Mr. Fordyce Hitchcock, and the fame of General
Tom Thumb soon spread throughout the country.

Two years had now elapsed since I bought the Museum and I had long since
paid for the entire establishment from the profits; I had bought out my
only rival; I was free from debt, and had a handsome surplus in the
treasury. The business had long ceased to be an experiment; it was an
established success and was in such perfect running order, that it could
safely be committed to the management of trustworthy and tried agents.

Accordingly, looking for a new field for my individual efforts, I
entered into an agreement for General Tom Thumb’s services for another
year, at fifty dollars a week and all expenses, with the privilege of
exhibiting him in Europe. I proposed to test the curiosity of men and
women on the other side of the Atlantic. Much as I hoped for success, in
my most sanguine moods, I could not anticipate the half of what was in
store for me; I did not foresee nor dream that I was shortly to be
brought in close contact with kings, queens, lords and illustrious
commoners, and that such association, by means of my exhibition, would
afterwards introduce me to the great public and the public’s money,
which was to fill my coffers. Or, if I saw some such future, it was
dreamily, dimly, and with half-opened eyes, as the man saw the “trees

After arranging my business affairs for a long absence, and making every
preparation for an extended foreign tour, on Thursday, January 18, 1844,
I went on board the new and fine sailing ship “Yorkshire,” Captain D. G.
Bailey, bound for Liverpool. Our party included General Tom Thumb, his
parents, his tutor, and Professor Guillaudeu, the French naturalist. We
were accompanied by several personal friends, and the City Brass Band
kindly volunteered to escort us to Sandy Hook.

My name has been so long associated with mirthful incidents that I
presume many persons do not suppose I am susceptible of sorrowful, or
even sentimental emotions; but when the bell of the steamer that towed
our ship down the bay announced the hour of separation, and then
followed the hastily-spoken words of farewell, and the parting grasp of
friendly hands, I confess that I was very much in the “melting mood,”
and when the band played “Home, Sweet Home,” I was moved to tears.

A voyage to Liverpool is now an old, familiar story, and I abstain from
entering into details, though I have abundant material respecting my own
experiences of my first sea-voyage in the first two of a series of one
hundred letters which I wrote in Europe as correspondent of the New York
_Atlas_. But some of the incidents and adventures of my voyage on the
“Yorkshire” are worth transcribing in these pages of my personal

Occasional calms and adverse winds protracted our passage to nineteen
days, but a better ship and a more competent captain never sailed. I was
entirely exempt from sea-sickness, and enjoyed the voyage very much.
Good fellowship prevailed among the passengers, the time passed rapidly,
and we had a good deal of fun on board.

Several of the passengers were English merchants from Canada and one of
the number, who reckoned himself “A, No. 1,” and often hinted that he
was too ‘cute for any Yankee, boasted so much of his shrewdness that a
Yankee friend of mine confederated with me to test it. I thought of an
old trick and arranged with my friend to try it on the boastful John
Bull. Coming out of my state-room, with my hand to my face, and
apparently in great pain, I asked my fellow passengers what was good for
the tooth-ache. My friend and confederate recommended heating tobacco,
and holding it to my face. I therefore borrowed a little tobacco, and
putting it in a paper of a peculiar color, placed it on the stove to
warm. I then retired for a few minutes, during which time the Yankee
proposed playing a trick on me by emptying the tobacco, and filling the
paper with ashes, which our smart Englishman thought would be a very
fine joke, and he himself made the substitution, putting ashes into the
paper and throwing the tobacco into the fire.

I soon reappeared and gravely placed the paper to my face to the great
amusement of the passengers and walked up and down the cabin as if I was
suffering terribly. At the further end of the cabin I slyly exchanged
the paper for another in my pocket of the same color and containing
tobacco and then walked back again a picture of misery. Whereupon, the
Merry Englishman cried out:

“Mr. Barnum, what have you got in that paper?”

“Tobacco,” I replied.

“What will you bet it is tobacco?” said the Englishman.

“Oh, don’t bother me,” said I; “my tooth pains me sadly; I know it is
tobacco, for I put it there myself.”

“I’ll bet you a dozen of champagne that it is not tobacco,” said the

“Nonsense,” I replied, “I will not bet, for it would not be fair; I know
it is tobacco.”

“I’ll bet you fifty dollars it is not,” said John Bull, and he counted
ten sovereigns upon the table.

“I’ll not bet the money,” I replied, “for I tell you I know it is
tobacco; I placed it there myself.”

“You dare not bet!” he rejoined.

At last, merely to accommodate him, I bet a dozen of champagne. The
Englishman fairly jumped with delight, and roared out:

“Open the paper! open the paper!”

The passengers crowded round the table in great glee to see me open the
paper, for all but the Yankee thought I was taken in. I quietly opened
the paper, and remarked:

“There, I told you it was tobacco--how foolish you were to suppose it
was not--for, as I told you, I put it there myself.”

The passengers, my confederate excepted, were amazed and the Englishman
was absolutely astounded. It was the biter bitten. But he told the
steward to bring the champagne, and turning to my confederate who had so
effectually assisted in “selling” him, he pronounced the affair “a
contemptible Yankee trick.” It was several days before he recovered his
good humor, but he joined at last with the rest of us in laughing at the
joke, and we heard no more about his extraordinary shrewdness.

On our arrival at Liverpool, quite a crowd had assembled at the dock to
see Tom Thumb, for it had been previously announced that he would arrive
in the “Yorkshire,” but his mother managed to smuggle him ashore
unnoticed, for she carried him, as if he was an infant, in her arms. We
went to the Waterloo Hotel, and, after an excellent dinner, walked out
to take a look at the town. While I was viewing the Nelson monument a
venerable looking, well-dressed old gentleman volunteered to explain to
me the different devices and inscriptions. I looked upon him as a
disinterested and attentive man of means who was anxious to assist a
stranger and to show his courtesy; but when I gave him a parting bow of
thanks, half ashamed that I had so trespassed on his kindness, he put
out the hand of a beggar and said that he would be thankful for any
remuneration I saw fit to bestow upon him for his trouble. I was
certainly astonished, and I thrust a shilling into his hand and walked
rapidly away.

In the evening of the same day, a tall, raw-boned man came to the hotel
and introduced himself to me as a brother Yankee, who would be happy in
pointing out the many wonders in Liverpool that a stranger would be
pleased to see.

I asked him how long he had been in Liverpool, and he replied, “Nearly a
week.” I declined his proffered services abruptly, remarking that if he
had been there only a week, I probably knew as much about England as he

“Oh,” said he, “you are mistaken. I have been in England before, though
never till recently in Liverpool.”

“What part of England?” I inquired.

“Opposite Niagara Falls,” he replied; “I spent several days there with
the British soldiers.”

I laughed in his face, and reminded him that England did not lie
opposite Niagara Falls. The impudent fellow was confused for a moment,
and then triumphantly exclaimed:

“I didn’t mean England. I know what country it is as well as you do.”

“Well, what country is it?” I asked, quite assured that he did not know.

“Great Britain, of course,” he replied.

It is needless to add that the honor of his company as a guide in
Liverpool was declined, and he went off apparently in a huff because his
abilities were not appreciated.

Later in the evening, the proprietor of a cheap wax-works show, at three
ha’ pence admission, called upon me. He had heard of the arrival of the
great American curiosity, and he seized the earliest opportunity to make
the General and myself the magnificent offer of ten dollars a week if
we would join ourselves to his already remarkable and attractive
exhibition. I could not but think, that dwarfs must be literally at a
“low figure” in England, and my prospects were gloomy indeed. I was a
stranger in the land; my letters of introduction had not been delivered;
beyond my own little circle, I had not seen a friendly face, nor heard a
familiar voice. I was “blue,” homesick, almost in despair. Next morning,
there came a ray of sunshine in the following note:

     “Madame CELESTE presents her compliments to Mr. Barnum, and begs to
     say that her private box is quite at his service, any night, for
     himself and friends.

     “Theatre Royal, Williamson Square.”

This polite invitation was thankfully accepted, and we went to the
theatre that evening. Our party, including the General, who was partly
concealed by his tutor’s cloak, occupied Celeste’s box, and in the box
adjoining sat an English lady and gentleman whose appearance indicated
respectability, intelligence and wealth. The General’s interest in the
performance attracted their attention, and the lady remarked to me:

“What an intelligent-looking child you have! He appears to take quite an
interest in the stage.”

“Pardon me, madam,” said I, “this is not a child. This is General Tom

“Indeed!” they exclaimed. They had seen the announcements of our visit
and were greatly gratified at an interview with the pigmy prodigy. They
at once advised me in the most complimentary and urgent manner to take
the General to Manchester, where they resided, assuring me that an
exhibition in that place would be highly remunerative. I thanked my new
friends for their counsel and encouragement, and ventured to ask them
what price they would recommend me to charge for admission.

“The General is so decidedly a curiosity,” said the lady, “that I think
you might put it as high as tuppence!” (two-pence.)

She was, however, promptly interrupted by her husband, who was evidently
the economist of the family: “I am sure you would not succeed at that
price,” said he; “you should put admission at one penny, for that is the
usual price for seeing giants and dwarfs in England.”

This was worse than the ten dollars a week offer of the wax-works
proprietor, but I promptly answered “Never shall the price be less than
one shilling sterling and some of the nobility and gentry of England
will yet pay gold to see General Tom Thumb.”

My letters of introduction speedily brought me into friendly relations
with many excellent families and I was induced to hire a hall and
present the General to the public, for a short season, in Liverpool. I
had intended to proceed directly to London and begin operations at
“head-quarters,” that is, in Buckingham Palace, if possible; but I had
been advised that the royal family was in mourning for the death of
Prince Albert’s father, and would not permit the approach of any

Meanwhile confidential letters from London informed me that Mr. Maddox,
Manager of Princess’s Theatre, was coming down to witness my exhibition,
with a view to making an engagement. He came privately, but I was fully
informed as to his presence and object. A friend pointed him out to me
in the hall, and when I stepped up to him, and called him by name, he
was “taken all aback,” and avowed his purpose in visiting Liverpool. An
interview resulted in an engagement of the General for three nights at
Princess’s Theatre. I was unwilling to contract for a longer period, and
even this short engagement, though on liberal terms, was acceded to only
as a means of advertisement. So soon, therefore, as I could bring my
short, but highly successful season in Liverpool to a close, we went to




Immediately after our arrival in London, the General came out at the
Princess’s Theatre, and made so decided a “hit” that it was difficult to
decide who was best pleased, the spectators, the manager, or myself. The
spectators were delighted because they could not well help it; the
manager was satisfied because he had coined money by the engagement; and
I was greatly pleased because I now had a visible guaranty of success in
London. I was offered far higher terms for a re-engagement, but my
purpose had been already answered; the news was spread everywhere that
General Tom Thumb, an unparalleled curiosity, was in the city; and it
only remained for me to bring him before the public, on my own account
and in my own time and way.

I took a furnished mansion in Grafton Street, Bond Street, West End, in
the very centre of the most fashionable locality. The house had
previously been occupied for several years by Lord Talbot, and Lord
Brougham and half a dozen families of the aristocracy and many of the
gentry were my neighbors. From this magnificent mansion, I sent letters
of invitation to the editors and several of the nobility, to visit the
General. Most of them called, and were highly gratified. The word of
approval was indeed so passed around in high circles, that uninvited
parties drove to my door in crested carriages, and were not admitted.

This procedure, though in some measure a stroke of policy, was neither
singular nor hazardous, under the circumstances. I had not yet announced
a public exhibition, and as a private American gentleman, it became me
to maintain the dignity of my position. I therefore instructed my
liveried servant to deny admission to see my “ward,” excepting to
persons who brought cards of invitation. He did it in a proper manner,
and no offence could be taken, though I was always particular to send an
invitation immediately to such as had not been admitted.

During our first week in London, the Hon. Edward Everett, the American
Minister, to whom I had letters of introduction, called and was highly
pleased with his diminutive though renowned countryman. We dined with
him the next day, by invitation, and his family loaded the young
American with presents. Mr. Everett kindly promised to use influence at
the Palace in person, with a view to having Tom Thumb introduced to Her
Majesty Queen Victoria.

A few evenings afterwards the Baroness Rothschild sent her carriage for
us. Her mansion is a noble structure in Piccadilly, surrounded by a high
wall, through the gate of which our carriage was driven, and brought up
in front of the main entrance. Here we were received by half a dozen
servants, and were ushered up the broad flight of marble stairs to the
drawing-room, where we met the Baroness and a party of twenty or more
ladies and gentlemen. In this sumptuous mansion of the richest banker in
the world, we spent about two hours, and when we took our leave a
well-filled purse was quietly slipped into my hand. The golden shower
had begun to fall, and that it was no dream was manifest from the fact
that, very shortly afterwards, a visit to the mansion of Mr. Drummond,
another eminent banker, came to the same golden conclusion.

I now engaged the “Egyptian Hall,” in Piccadilly, and the announcement
of my unique exhibition was promptly answered by a rush of visitors, in
which the wealth and fashion of London were liberally represented. I
made these arrangements because I had little hope of being soon brought
to the Queen’s presence, (for the reason before mentioned,) but Mr.
Everett’s generous influence secured my object. I breakfasted at his
house one morning, by invitation, in company with Mr. Charles Murray, an
author of creditable repute, who held the office of Master of the
Queen’s Household. In the course of conversation, Mr. Murray inquired as
to my plans, and I informed him that I intended going to the Continent
shortly, though I should be glad to remain if the General could have an
interview with the Queen--adding that such an event would be of great
consequence to me.

Mr. Murray kindly offered his good offices in the case, and the next day
one of the Life Guards, a tall, noble-looking fellow, bedecked as became
his station, brought me a note, conveying the Queen’s invitation to
General Tom Thumb and his guardian, Mr. Barnum, to appear at Buckingham
Palace on an evening specified. Special instructions were the same day
orally given me by Mr. Murray, by Her Majesty’s command, to suffer the
General to appear before her, as he would appear anywhere else, without
any training in the use of the titles of royalty, as the Queen desired
to see him act naturally and without restraint.

Determined to make the most of the occasion, I put a placard on the door
of the Egyptian Hall: “Closed this evening, General Tom Thumb being at
Buckingham Palace by command of Her Majesty.”

On arriving at the Palace, the Lord in Waiting put me “under drill” as
to the manner and form in which I should conduct myself in the presence
of royalty. I was to answer all questions by Her Majesty through him,
and in no event to speak directly to the Queen. In leaving the royal
presence I was to “back out,” keeping my face always towards Her
Majesty, and the illustrious lord kindly gave me a specimen of that sort
of backward locomotion. How far I profited by his instructions and
example, will presently appear.

We were conducted through a long corridor to a broad flight of marble
steps, which led to the Queen’s magnificent picture gallery, where Her
Majesty and Prince Albert, the Duchess of Kent, and twenty or thirty of
the nobility were awaiting our arrival. They were standing at the
farther end of the room when the doors were thrown open, and the General
walked in, looking like a wax doll gifted with the power of locomotion.
Surprise and pleasure were depicted on the countenances of the royal
circle at beholding this remarkable specimen of humanity so much
smaller than they had evidently expected to find him.

The General advanced with a firm step, and as he came within hailing
distance made a very graceful bow, and exclaimed, “Good evening, Ladies
and Gentlemen!”

A burst of laughter followed this salutation. The Queen then took him by
the hand, led him about the gallery, and asked him many questions, the
answers to which kept the party in an uninterrupted strain of merriment.
The General familiarly informed the Queen that her picture gallery was
“first-rate,” and told her he should like to see the Prince of Wales.
The Queen replied that the Prince had retired to rest, but that he
should see him on some future occasion. The General then gave his songs,
dances, and imitations, and after a conversation with Prince Albert and
all present, which continued for more than an hour, we were permitted to

Before describing the process and incidents of “backing out,” I must
acknowledge how sadly I broke through the counsel of the Lord in
Waiting. While Prince Albert and others were engaged with the General,
the Queen was gathering information from me in regard to his history,
etc. Two or three questions were put and answered through the process
indicated in my drill. It was a round-about way of doing business not at
all to my liking, and I suppose the Lord in Waiting was seriously
shocked, if not outraged, when I entered directly into conversation with
Her Majesty. She, however, seemed not disposed to check my boldness, for
she immediately spoke directly to me in obtaining the information which
she sought. I felt entirely at ease in her presence, and could not
avoid contrasting her sensible and amiable manners with the stiffness
and formality of upstart gentility at home or abroad.

The Queen was modestly attired in plain black, and wore no ornaments.
Indeed, surrounded as she was by ladies arrayed in the highest style of
magnificence, their dresses sparkling with diamonds, she was the last
person whom a stranger would have pointed out in that circle as the
Queen of England.

The Lord in Waiting was perhaps mollified toward me when he saw me
following his illustrious example in retiring from the royal presence.
He was accustomed to the process, and therefore was able to keep
somewhat ahead (or rather aback) of me, but even I stepped rather fast
for the other member of the retiring party. We had a considerable
distance to travel in that long gallery before reaching the door, and
whenever the General found he was losing ground, he turned around and
ran a few steps, then resumed the position of “backing out,” then turned
around and ran, and so continued to alternate his methods of getting to
the door, until the gallery fairly rang with the merriment of the royal
spectators. It was really one of the richest scenes I ever saw; running,
under the circumstances, was an offence sufficiently heinous to excite
the indignation of the Queen’s favorite poodle-dog, and he vented his
displeasure by barking so sharply as to startle the General from his
propriety. He, however, recovered immediately, and with his little cane
commenced an attack on the poodle, and a funny fight ensued, which
renewed and increased the merriment of the royal party.

This was near the door of exit. We had scarcely passed into the
ante-room, when one of the Queen’s attendants came to us with the
expressed hope of Her Majesty that the General had sustained no
damage--to which the Lord in Waiting playfully added, that in case of
injury to so renowned a personage, he should fear a declaration of war
by the United States!

The courtesies of the Palace were not yet exhausted, for we were
escorted to an apartment in which refreshments had been provided for us.
We did ample justice to the viands, though my mind was rather looking
into the future than enjoying the present. I was anxious that the “Court
Journal” of the ensuing day should contain more than a mere line in
relation to the General’s interview with the Queen, and, on inquiry, I
learned that the gentleman who had charge of that feature in the daily
papers was then in the Palace. He was sent for by my solicitation, and
promptly acceded to my request for such a notice as would attract
attention. He even generously desired me to give him an outline of what
I sought, and I was pleased to see afterwards, that he had inserted my
notice _verbatim_.

This notice of my visit to the Queen wonderfully increased the
attraction of my exhibition and compelled me to obtain a more commodious
hall for my exhibition. I accordingly removed to the larger room in the
same building, for some time previously occupied by our countryman, Mr.
Catlin, for his great Gallery of Portraits of American Indians and
Indian Curiosities, all of which remained as an adornment.

On our second visit to the Queen, we were received in what is called the
“Yellow Drawing-Room,” a magnificent apartment, surpassing in splendor
and gorgeousness anything of the kind I had ever seen. It is on the
north side of the gallery, and is entered from that apartment. It was
hung with drapery of rich yellow satin damask, the couches, sofas and
chairs being covered with the same material. The vases, urns and
ornaments were all of modern patterns, and the most exquisite
workmanship. The room was panelled in gold, and the heavy cornices
beautifully carved and gilt. The tables, pianos, etc., were mounted with
gold, inlaid with pearl of various hues, and of the most elegant

We were ushered into this gorgeous drawing-room before the Queen and
royal circle had left the dining-room, and, as they approached, the
General bowed respectfully, and remarked to Her Majesty “that he had
seen her before,” adding, “I think this is a prettier room than the
picture gallery; that chandelier is very fine.”

The Queen smilingly took him by the hand, and said she hoped he was very

“Yes, ma’am,” he replied, “I am first rate.”

“General,” continued the Queen, “this is the Prince of Wales.”

“How are you, Prince?” said the General, shaking him by the hand; and
then standing beside the Prince, he remarked, “the Prince is taller than
I am, but I feel as big as anybody”--upon which he strutted up and down
the room as proud as a peacock, amid shouts of laughter from all

The Queen then introduced the Princess Royal, and the General
immediately led her to his elegant little sofa, which we took with us,
and with much politeness sat himself down beside her. Then, rising from
his seat, he went through his various performances, and the Queen handed
him an elegant and costly souvenir, which had been expressly made for
him by her order--for which, he told her, “he was very much obliged,
and would keep it as long as he lived.” The Queen of the Belgians,
(daughter of Louis Philippe) was present on this occasion. She asked the
General where he was going when he left London?

“To Paris,” he replied.

“Whom do you expect to see there?” she continued.

Of course all expected he would answer, “the King of the French,” but
the little fellow replied:

“I shall see Monsieur Guillaudeu in Paris.”

The two Queens looked inquiringly to me, and when I informed them that
M. Guillaudeu was my French naturalist, who had preceded me to Paris,
they laughed most heartily.

On our third visit to Buckingham Palace, Leopold, King of the Belgians,
was also present. He was highly pleased, and asked a multitude of
questions. Queen Victoria desired the General to sing a song, and asked
him what song he preferred to sing.

“Yankee Doodle,” was the prompt reply.

This answer was as unexpected to me as it was to the royal party. When
the merriment it occasioned somewhat subsided, the Queen good-humoredly
remarked, “That is a very pretty song, General. Sing it if you please.”
The General complied, and soon afterwards we retired. I ought to add,
that after each of our three visits to Buckingham Palace, a very
handsome sum was sent to me, of course by the Queen’s command. This,
however, was the smallest part of the advantage derived from these
interviews, as will be at once apparent to all who consider the force of
Court example in England.

The British public were now fairly excited. Not to have seen General
Tom Thumb was decidedly unfashionable, and from March 20th until July
20th, the levees of the little General at Egyptian Hall were continually
crowded, the receipts averaging during the whole period about five
hundred dollars per day, and sometimes going considerably beyond that
sum. At the fashionable hour, between fifty and sixty carriages of the
nobility have been counted at one time standing in front of our
exhibition rooms in Piccadilly.

Portraits of the little General were published in all the pictorial
papers of the time. Polkas and quadrilles were named after him, and
songs were sung in his praise. He was an almost constant theme for the
London _Punch_, which served up the General and myself so daintily that
it no doubt added vastly to our receipts.

Besides his three public performances per day, the little General
attended from three to four private parties per week, for which we were
paid eight to ten guineas each. Frequently we would visit two parties in
the same evening, and the demand in that line was much greater than the
supply. The Queen Dowager Adelaide requested the General’s attendance at
Marlborough House one afternoon. He went in his court dress, consisting
of a richly embroidered brown silk-velvet coat and short breeches, white
satin vest with fancy-colored embroidery, white silk stockings and
pumps, wig, bag-wig, cocked hat, and a dress sword.

“Why, General,” said the Queen Dowager, “I think you look very smart

“I guess I do,” said the General complacently.

A large party of the nobility were present. The old Duke of Cambridge
offered the little General a pinch of snuff, which, he declined. The
General sang his songs, performed his dances, and cracked his jokes, to
the great amusement and delight of the distinguished circle of visitors.

“Dear little General,” said the kind-hearted Queen, taking him upon her
lap, “I see you have got no watch. Will you permit me to present you
with a watch and chain?”

“I would like them very much,” replied the General, his eyes glistening
with joy as he spoke.

“I will have them made expressly for you,” responded the Queen Dowager;
and at the same moment she called a friend and desired him to see that
the proper order was executed. A few weeks thereafter we were called
again to Marlborough House. A number of the children of the nobility
were present, as well as some of their parents. After passing a few
compliments with the General, Queen Adelaide presented him with a
beautiful little gold watch, placing the chain around his neck with her
own hands. The little fellow was delighted, and scarcely knew how
sufficiently to express his thanks. The good Queen gave him some
excellent advice in regard to his morals, which he strictly promised to

After giving his performances, we withdrew from the royal presence, and
the elegant little watch presented by the hands of Her Majesty the Queen
Dowager was not only duly heralded, but was also placed upon a pedestal
in the hall of exhibition, together with the presents from Queen
Victoria, and covered with a glass vase. These presents, to which were
soon added an elegant gold snuff-box mounted with turquoise, presented
by his Grace the Duke of Devonshire, and many other costly gifts of the
nobility and gentry, added greatly to the attractions of the exhibition.
The Duke of Wellington called frequently to see the little General at
his public levees. The first time he called, the General was personating
Napoleon Bonaparte, marching up and down the platform, and apparently
taking snuff in deep meditation. He was dressed in the well-known
uniform of the Emperor. I introduced him to the “Iron Duke,” who
inquired the subject of his meditations. “I was thinking of the loss of
the battle of Waterloo,” was the little General’s immediate reply. This
display of wit was chronicled throughout the country, and was of itself
worth thousands of pounds to the exhibition.

While we were in London the Emperor Nicholas, of Russia, visited Queen
Victoria, and I saw him on several public occasions. I was present at
the grand review of troops in Windsor Park in honor of and before the
Emperor of Russia and the King of Saxony.

General Tom Thumb had visited the King of Saxony and also Ibrahim Pacha
who was then in London. At the different parties we attended, we met, in
the course of the season, nearly all of the nobility. I do not believe
that a single nobleman in England failed to see General Tom Thumb at his
own house, at the house of a friend, or at the public levees at Egyptian
Hall. The General was a decided pet with some of the first personages in
the land, among whom may be mentioned Sir Robert and Lady Peel, the Duke
and Duchess of Buckingham, Duke of Bedford, Duke of Devonshire, Count
d’Orsay, Lady Blessington, Daniel O’Connell, Lord Adolphus Fitzclarence,
Lord Chesterfield, Mr. and Mrs. Joshua Bates, of the firm of Baring
Brothers &


Co., and many other persons of distinction. We had the free entrée to
all the theatres, public gardens, and places of entertainment, and
frequently met the principal artists, editors, poets, and authors of the
country. Albert Smith was a particular friend of mine. He wrote a play
for the General entitled “Hop o’ my Thumb,” which was presented with
great success at the Lyceum Theatre, London, and in several of the
provincial theatres. Our visit in London and tour through the provinces
were enormously successful, and after a brilliant season in Great
Britain I made preparations to take the General to Paris.




Before taking the little General and party to Paris, I went over alone
to arrange the preliminaries for our campaign in that city. Paris was
not altogether a strange place to me. Months before, when I had
successfully established my exhibition in London, I ran over to Paris to
see what I could pick up in the way of curiosities for my Museum in New
York, for during my whole sojourn abroad, and amid all the excitements
of my new career, I never forgot the interests of my many and generous
patrons at home. The occasion which first called me to France was the
“quinquennial exposition” in Paris. At that time, there was an
assemblage, every five years, of inventors and manufacturers who
exhibited specimens of their skill, especially in articles of curious
and ingenious mechanism, and I went from London mainly to attend this

There I met and became well acquainted with Robert Houdin, the
celebrated conjurer. He was a watchmaker by trade, but very soon
displayed a wonderful ability and ingenuity which he devoted with so
much assiduity to the construction of a complicated machine, that he
lost all mental power for a considerable period. When he recovered, he
employed himself with great success in the manufacture of mechanical
toys and automata which attracted much attention, and afterwards he
visited Great Britain and other countries, giving a series of juggling
exhibitions which were famous throughout Europe.

At this quinquennial exposition which I attended, he received a gold
medal for his automata, and the best figure which he had on exhibition I
purchased at a good round price. It was an automaton writer and artist,
a most ingenious little figure, which sat at a table, and readily
answered with the pencil certain questions. For instance: if asked for
an emblem of fidelity, the figure instantly drew a correct picture of a
handsome dog; the emblem of love was shown in an exquisite drawing of a
little Cupid; the automaton would also answer many questions in writing.
I carried this curious figure to London and exhibited it for some time
in the Royal Adelaide Gallery, and then sent it across the Atlantic to
the American Museum.

During my very brief visit to Paris, Houdin was giving evening
performances in the Palais Royale, in legerdemain, and I was frequently
present by invitation. Houdin also took pains to introduce me to other
inventors of moving figures which I purchased freely, and made a
prominent feature in my Museum attractions. I managed, too, during my
short stay, to see something of the surface of the finest city in the

And now, going to Paris the second time, I was very fortunate in making
the acquaintance of Mr. Dion Boucicault, who was then temporarily
sojourning in that city, and who at once kindly volunteered to advise
and assist me in regard to numerous matters of importance relating to
the approaching visit of the General. He spent a day with me in the
search for suitable accommodations for my company, and by giving me the
benefit of his experience, he saved me much trouble and expense. I have
never forgotten the courtesy extended to me by this gentleman.

I stopped at the Hotel Bedford, and securing an interpreter, began to
make my arrangements. The first difficulty in the way was the government
tax for exhibiting natural curiosities, which was no less than
one-fourth of the gross receipts, while theatres paid only eleven per
cent. This tax was appropriated to the benefit of the city hospitals.
Now, I knew from my experience in London, that my receipts would be so
large as to make twenty-five per cent of them a far more serious tax
than I thought I ought to pay to the French government, even for the
benefit of the admirable hospitals of Paris. Accordingly, I went to the
license bureau and had an interview with the chief. I told him I was
anxious to bring a “dwarf” to Paris, but that the percentage to be paid
for a license was so large as to deter me from bringing him; but letting
the usual rule go, what should I give him in advance for a two months’

“My dear sir,” he answered, “you had better not come at all; these
things never draw, and you will do nothing, or so little that the
percentage need not trouble you.”

I expressed my willingness to try the experiment and offered one
thousand francs in advance for a license. The chief would not consent
and I then offered two thousand francs. This opened his eyes to a chance
for a speculation and he jumped at my offer; he would do it on his own
account, he said, and pay the amount of one-quarter of my receipts to
the hospitals; he was perfectly safe in making such a contract, he
thought, for he had 15,000 francs in bank.

But I declined to arrange this with him individually, so he called his
associates together and presented the matter in such a way that the
board took my offer on behalf of the government. I paid down the 2,000
francs and received a good, strong contract and license. The chief was
quite elated and handed me the license with the remark:

“Now we have made an agreement, and if you do not exhibit, or if your
dwarf dies during the two months you shall not get back your money.”

“All right,” thought I; “if you are satisfied I am sure I have every
reason to be so.” I then hired at a large rent, the Salle Musard, Rue
Vivienne, in a central and fashionable quarter close by the boulevards,
and engaged an interpreter, ticket-seller, and a small but excellent
orchestra. In fact, I made the most complete arrangements, even to
starting the preliminary paragraphs in the Paris papers; and after
calling on the Honorable William Rufus King, the United States Minister
at the Court of France--who assured me that after my success in London
there would be no difficulty whatever in my presentation to King Louis
Philippe and family--I returned to England.

I went back to Paris with General Tom Thumb and party some time before I
intended to begin my exhibitions, and on the very day after my arrival I
received a special command to appear at the Tuileries on the following
Sunday evening. It will be remembered that Louis Philippe’s daughter,
the wife of King Leopold, of Belgium, had seen the General at Buckingham
Palace--a fact that had been duly chronicled in the French as well as
English papers, and I have no doubt that she had privately expressed her
gratification at seeing him. With this advantage, and with the prestige
of our receptions by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, we went to the
Tuileries with full confidence that our visit and reception would be
entirely satisfactory.

At the appointed hour the General and I, arrayed in the conventional
court costume, were ushered into a grand saloon of the palace where we
were introduced to the King, the Queen, Princess Adelaide, the Duchess
d’Orleans and her son the Count de Paris, Prince de Joinville, Duke and
Duchess de Nemours, the Duchess d’Aumale, and a dozen or more
distinguished persons, among whom was the editor of the official
_Journal des Debats_. The court circle entered into conversation with us
without restraint, and were greatly delighted with the little General.
King Louis Philippe was minute in his inquiries about my country and
talked freely about his experiences when he wandered as an exile in
America. He playfully alluded to the time when he earned his living as a
tutor, and said he had roughed it generally and had even slept in Indian
wigwams. General Tom Thumb then went through with his various
performances to the manifest pleasure of all who were present, and at
the close the King presented to him a large emerald brooch set with
diamonds. The General expressed his gratitude, and the King, turning to
me, said: “you may put it on the General, if you please,” which I did,
to the evident gratification of the King as well as the General.

King Louis Philippe was so condescending and courteous that I felt quite
at home in the royal presence, and ventured upon a bit of diplomacy. The
Longchamps celebration was coming--a day once devoted to religious
ceremony, but now conspicuous for the display of court and fashionable
equipages in the Champs Élysées and the Bois de Boulogne, and as the
King was familiarly conversing with me, I ventured to say that I had
hurried over to Paris to take part in the Longchamps display and I asked
him if the General’s carriage could not be permitted to appear in the
avenue reserved for the court and the diplomatic corps, representing
that the General’s small but elegant establishment, with its ponies and
little coachman and footman, would be in danger of damage in the general
throng unless the special privilege I asked was accorded.

The King smilingly turned to one of the officers of his household and
after conversing with him for a few moments he said to me:

“Call on the Prefect of Police to-morrow afternoon and you will find a
permit ready for you.”

Our visit occupied two hours, and when we went away the General was
loaded with fine presents. The next morning all the newspapers noticed
the visit, and the _Journal des Debats_ gave a minute account of the
interview and of the General’s performances, taking occasion to say, in
speaking of the character parts, that “there was one costume which the
General wisely kept at the bottom of his box.” That costume,
however,--the uniform of Bonaparte--was once exhibited, by particular
request, as will be seen anon.

Longchamps day arrived, and among the many splendid equipages on the
grand avenue, none attracted more attention than the superb little
carriage with four ponies and liveried and powdered coachman and
footman, belonging to the General, and conspicuous in the line of
carriages containing the Ambassadors to the Court of France. Thousands
upon thousands rent the air with cheers for “General Tom Pouce.” There
never was such an advertisement; the journals next day made elaborate
notices of the “turnout,” and thereafter whenever the General’s carriage
appeared on the boulevards, as it did daily, the people flocked to the
doors of the cafés and shops to see it pass.

Thus, before I opened the exhibition all Paris knew that General Tom
Thumb was in the city. The French are exceedingly impressible; and what
in London is only excitement, in Paris becomes furor. Under this
pressure, with the prestige of my first visit to the Tuileries and the
numberless paragraphs in the papers, I opened my doors to an eager
throng. The élite of the city came to the exhibition; the first day’s
receipts were 5,500 francs, which would have been doubled if I could
have made room for more patrons. There were afternoon and evening
performances and from that day secured seats at an extra price were
engaged in advance for the entire two months. The season was more than a
success, it was a triumph.

It seemed, too, as if the whole city was advertising me. The papers were
profuse in their praises of the General and his performances. _Figaro_,
the _Punch_ of


Paris, gave a picture of an immense mastiff running away with the
General’s carriage and horses in his mouth. Statuettes of “Tom Pouce”
appeared in all the windows, in plaster, Parian, sugar and chocolate;
songs were written about him and his lithograph was seen everywhere. A
fine café on one of the boulevards took the name of “Tom Pouce” and
displayed over the door a life-size statue of the General. In Paris, as
in London, several eminent painters expressed their desire to paint his
portrait, but the General’s engagements were so pressing that he found
little time to sit to artists. All the leading actors and actresses came
to the General’s levees and petted him and made him many presents.
Meanwhile, the daily receipts continued to swell, and I was compelled to
take a cab to carry my bag of silver home at night.

The official, who had compromised with me for a two months’ license at
2,000 francs, was amazed as well as annoyed at the success of my
“dwarf.” He came, or sent a man, to the levees to take account of the
receipts and every additional thousand francs gave him an additional
twinge. He seriously appealed to me to give him more money; but when I
reminded him of the excellent bargain he supposed he was making,
especially when he added the conditional clause that I should forfeit
the 2,000 francs if I did not exhibit or if the General died, he smiled
faintly and said something about a “Yankee trick.” I asked him if he
would renew our agreement for two months more on the same terms; and he
shrugged his shoulders and said:

“No, Monsieur Barnum; you will pay me twenty-five per cent of your
receipts when the two months of our contract expires.”

But I did not; for I appealed to the authorities, claiming that I should
pay only the ordinary theatrical tax, since the General’s exhibition
consisted chiefly of character imitations in various costumes, and he
was more attractive as an actor than as a natural curiosity. My view of
the case was decided to be correct, and thereafter, in Paris and
throughout France, with few exceptions, I paid only the eleven per cent
theatrical tax.

Indeed, in Paris, the General made a great hit as an actor and was
elected a member of the French Dramatic Society. Besides holding his
levees, he appeared every night at the Vaudeville Theatre in a French
play, entitled “Petit Poucet,” and written expressly for him, and he
afterwards repeated the part with great success in other cities. The
demands upon our time were incessant. We were invited everywhere to
dinners and entertainments, and as many of these were understood to be
private performances of the General, we were most liberally remunerated
therefor. M. Galignani invited us to a soiree and introduced us to some
of the most prominent personages, including artists, actors and editors,
in Paris. The General was frequently engaged at a large price to show
himself for a quarter of an hour at some fancy or charitable fair, and
much money was made in this way. On Sundays, he was employed at one or
another of the great gardens in the outskirts, and thus was seen by
thousands of working people who could not attend his levees. All classes
became acquainted with “Tom Pouce.”

We were commanded to appear twice more at the Tuileries, and we were
also invited to the palace on the King’s birthday to witness the display
of fireworks in honor of the anniversary. Our fourth and last visit to
the royal family was by special invitation at St. Cloud. On each
occasion we met nearly the same persons, but the visit to St. Cloud was
by far the most interesting of our interviews. On this one occasion, and
by the special request of the King, the General personated Napoleon
Bonaparte in full costume. Louis Philippe had heard of the General in
this character, and particularly desired to see him; but the affair was
quite “on the sly,” and no mention was made of it in the papers,
particularly in the _Journal des Debats_, which thought, no doubt, that
costume was still “at the bottom of the General’s box.” We remained an
hour, and at parting, each of the royal company gave the General a
splendid present, almost smothered him with kisses, wished him a safe
journey through France, and a long and happy life. After bidding them
adieu, we retired to another portion of the palace to make a change of
the General’s costume, and to partake of some refreshments which were
prepared for us. Half an hour afterwards, as we were about leaving the
palace, we went through a hall leading to the front door, and in doing
so passed the sitting-room in which the royal family were spending the
evening. The door was open, and some of them happening to espy the
General, called out for him to come in and shake hands with them once
more. We entered the apartment, and there found the ladies sitting
around a square table, each provided with two candles, and every one of
them, including the Queen, was engaged in working at embroidery, while a
young lady was reading aloud for their edification. I am sorry to say, I
believe this is a sight seldom seen in families of the aristocracy on
either side of the water. At the church fairs in Paris, I had frequently
seen pieces of embroidery for sale, which were labelled as having been
presented and worked by the Duchess d’Orleans, Princess Adelaide,
Duchess de Nemours, and other titled ladies.

We also visited, by invitation, the Napoleon School for young ladies,
established by the First Napoleon, at St. Denis, five miles north of
Paris, and the General greatly delighted the old pensioners at the
Invalides by calling upon them, and shaking many of them by the hand. If
the General could have been permitted to present to these survivors of
Waterloo his representation of their chief and Emperor, he would have
aroused their enthusiasm as well as admiration.

On the Fourth of July, 1844, I was in Grenelle, outside the barriers of
Paris, when I remembered that I had the address of Monsieur Regnier, an
eminent mechanician, who lived in the vicinity. Wishing to purchase a
variety of instruments such as he manufactured, I called at his
residence. He received me very politely, and I soon was deeply
interested in this intelligent and learned man. He was a member of many
scientific institutions, was “Chevalier of the Legion of Honor,” etc.

While he was busy in making out my bill, I was taking a cursory view of
the various plates, drawings, etc., which adorned his walls, when my
eyes fell on a portrait which was familiar to me. I was certain that I
could not be mistaken, and on approaching nearer it proved to be, as I
expected, the engraved portrait of Benjamin Franklin. It was placed in a
glazed frame, and on the outside of the glass were arranged thirteen
stars made of metal, forming a half circle round his head.

“Ah!” I exclaimed, “I see you have here a portrait of my
fellow-countryman, Dr. Franklin.”

“Yes,” replied M. Regnier, “and he was a great and an excellent man.
When he was in Paris in ’98, he was honored and respected by all who
knew him, and by none more so than by the scientific portion of the
community. At that time, Dr. Franklin was invited by the President of
the Society of Emulation to decide upon the merits of various works of
art submitted for inspection, and he awarded my father, for a
complicated lock, the prize of a gold medal.

“While my father was with him at his hotel, a young Quaker called upon
the Doctor. He was a total stranger to Franklin, but at once proceeded
to inform him that he had come to Paris on business, had unfortunately
lost all his money, and wished to borrow six hundred francs to enable
him to return to his family in Philadelphia. Franklin inquired his
family name, and upon hearing it immediately counted out the money, gave
the young stranger some excellent advice, and bade him adieu. My father
was struck by the generosity of Dr. Franklin, and as soon as the young
man had departed, he told the Doctor that he was astonished to see him
so free with his money to a stranger; that people did not do business in
that way in Paris; and what he considered very careless was, that
Franklin took no receipt, not even a scratch of a pen from the young
man. Franklin replied that he always felt a duty and pleasure in
relieving his fellow-men, and especially in this case, as he knew the
family; and they were honest and worthy persons. My father, himself a
generous man,” continued M. Regnier, “was affected nearly to tears, and
begged the Doctor to present him with his portrait. He did so, and this
is it. My father has been dead some years. He bequeathed the portrait
to me, and there is not money enough in Paris to buy it.”

I need not say that I was delighted with this recital. I remarked to M.
Regnier that he should double the number of stars, as we now (in 1844)
had twenty-six States instead of thirteen, the original number.

“I am aware of that,” he replied; “but I do not like to touch the work
which was left by my father. I hold it sacred; and,” added he, “I
suppose you are not aware of the uses we make of these stars?” Assuring
him in the negative--“Those stars,” said he, “are made of steel, and on
the night of every anniversary of American Independence (which is this
night), it was always the practice of my father, and will always be
mine, to collect our family and children together, darken the room, and
by means of electricity, these stars, which are connected, are lighted
up, and the portrait illuminated by electricity, Franklin’s favorite
science--thus forming a halo of glory about his head, and doing honor to
the name of a man whose fame should be perpetuated to eternity.”

In continuing the conversation, I found that this good old gentleman was
perfectly acquainted with the history of America, and he spoke feelingly
of what he believed to be the high and proud destiny of our republic. He
insisted on my remaining to supper, and witnessing his electrical
illumination. Need I say that I accepted the invitation? Could an
American refuse?

We partook of a substantial supper, upon which the good old gentleman
invoked the blessing of our Father in Heaven, and at the conclusion he
returned hearty thanks. At nine o’clock the children and family of M.
Regnier and his son-in-law were called in, the room was darkened, the
electrical battery was charged, and the wire touched to one of the outer
stars. The whole thirteen became instantly bright as fire, and a
beautiful effect was produced. What more simple and yet beautiful and
appropriate manner could be chosen to honor the memory of Franklin? And
what an extraordinary coincidence it was that I, a total stranger in
Paris, should meet such a singular man as M. Regnier at all, and more
especially on that day of days, the anniversary of our Independence! At
ten o’clock I took my leave of this worthy family, but not till we had
all joined in the following toast proposed by M. Regnier:

“Washington, Franklin, and Lafayette--heroes, philosophers, patriots,
and honest men: May their names stand brightest on the list of earthly
glory, when, in after ages, this whole world shall be one universal
republic, and every individual under Heaven shall acknowledge the truth
that man is capable of self-government.”

It will not be considered surprising that I should feel at home with
Monsieur Regnier. Both the day and the man conspired to excite and
gratify my patriotism; and the presence of Franklin, my love of my
native land.

During my stay in Paris, a Russian Prince, who had been living in great
splendor in that city, suddenly died, and his household and personal
effects were sold at auction. I attended the sale for several days in
succession, buying many articles of vertu, and, among others, a
magnificent gold tea-set, and a silver dining-service, and many rare
specimens of Sevres china. These articles bore the initials of the
family name of the Prince, and his own, “P. T.,” thus damaging the
articles, so that the silver and gold were sold for their weight value
only. I bought them, and adding “B.” to the “P. T.,” had a very fine
table service, still in my possession, and bearing my own initials, “P.
T. B.”

While dining one day with my friend, Dr. Brewster, in Paris, all the
company present were in raptures over some very fine “Lafitte” wine on
the table, and the usual exclamations, “delicious!” and “fruity!” were
heard on all sides. When I went to the south of France, the Doctor gave
me a letter of introduction to Lafitte’s agent, Mr. Good, at Bordeaux,
and I was shown through the extensive cellar of the establishment. The
agent talked learnedly, almost affectionately, about the choice and
exclusive vineyards of the establishment, and how the stones in the
ground retailed the warmth derived from the sun during the day
throughout the night, thus mellowing and maturing the grapes, and
resulting in the production of a peculiar wine which was possible to no
other plot of ground in the entire grape country.

I afterwards learned, however, that this exclusive establishment bought
up the entire wine product of all the vineyards in the region round
about--it was like the celebrated “Cabana” cigars in Havana. One day a
friend was dining with me in Bordeaux and I called for a bottle of
“Lafitte,” which, purchased on the very ground of its manufacture, was
of course genuine and deliciously “fruity.” It was very old wine of some
famous year, and the bottle as brought up from the bin was covered with
cobwebs and dust. But while we were sipping the wine and exclaiming
“fruity” at proper intervals, I happened to take out my knife and quite
inadvertently cut off a bit of the label. The next day when my friend
was again dining with me I called for another bottle of the peculiar
Lafitte which had so delighted us yesterday. It came cobwebbed and
dust-covered and was duly discussed and pronounced deliciously “fruity.”
But horrors! all at once, something caught my attention and I exclaimed:

“Do you see that cut label? That is the very bottle which held the rare
old wine of yesterday; there is the ‘ear-mark’ which I left with my
knife on the bottle”--and I summoned the landlord and thus addressed

“What do you mean, you scoundrel, by putting your infernal _vin
ordinaire_ into old bottles, and passing it off upon us as genuine

He protested that such a thing was impossible; we were at the very
fountain head of the wine, and no one would dare to attempt such a
fraud, especially upon experienced wine-tasters like ourselves. But I
showed him my careless but remembered mark on the bottle, and proved by
my friend that we had the same bottle for our wine of the day before.
This was shown so conclusively and emphatically that the landlord
finally confessed his fraud, and said that though he had sold thousands
of bottles of so-called “Lafitte” to his guests, he never had two dozen
bottles of the genuine article in his possession in his life!

Every one who has been in the wine district knows that the wine is
trodden from the grapes by the bare feet of the peasants, and while I
was there, desiring a new experience, I myself trod out a half barrel or
so with my own naked feet, dancing vigorously the while to the sound of
a fiddle.

In spite of the extraordinary attention and unbounded petting the little
General received at the hands of all classes, he was in no sense a
“spoiled child,” but retained throughout that natural simplicity of
character and demeanor which added so much to the charm of his
exhibitions. He was literally the pet of Paris, and after a protracted
and most profitable season we started on a tour through France. The
little General’s small Shetland ponies and miniature carriage would be
sure to arouse the enthusiasm of the “Provincials,” so I determined to
take them along with us. We went first to Rouen, and from thence to
Toulon, visiting all the intermediate towns, including Orleans, Nantes,
Brest, Bordeaux,--where I witnessed a review by the Dukes de Nemours and
d’Aumale, of 20,000 soldiers who were encamped near the city. From
Bordeaux we went to Toulouse, Montpellier, Nismes, Marseilles, and many
other less important places, holding levees for a longer or shorter
time. While at Nantes, Bordeaux and Marseilles the General also appeared
in the theatres in his French part of “Petit Poucet.”

Very soon after leaving Paris for our tour through France, I found that
there were many places where it would be impossible to proceed otherwise
than by post. General Tom Thumb’s party numbered twelve persons, and
these, with all their luggage, four little ponies, and a small carriage,
must be transported in posting vehicles of some description. I therefore
resolved that as posting in France was as cheap, and more independent
than any other method of travel, a purchase of posting vehicles should
be made for the sole use of the renowned General Tom Thumb and suite.
One vehicle, however large, would have been insufficient for the whole
company and “effects,” and, moreover, would have been against the
regulations. These regulations required that each person should pay for
the use of one horse, whether using it or not, and I therefore made the
following arrangements: I purchased a post-chaise to carry six persons,
to be drawn by six horses; a vehicle on springs, with seats for four
persons, and room for the General’s four ponies and carriage, to be
drawn by four horses; and lastly, a third vehicle for conveying the
baggage of the company, including the elegant little house and furniture
set on the stage in the General’s performances of “Petit Poucet” at the
theatres, the whole drawn by two horses.

With such a retinue the General “cut quite a swell” in journeying
through the country, travelling, indeed, in grander style than a Field
Marshal would have thought of doing in posting through France. All this
folly and expense, the uninitiated would say, of employing twelve horses
and twelve persons, to say nothing of the General’s four ponies, in
exhibiting a person weighing only fifteen pounds! But when this retinue
passed along the roads, and especially when it came into a town, people
naturally and eagerly inquired what great personage was on his travels,
and when told that it was “the celebrated General Tom Thumb and suite,”
everybody desired to go and see him. It was thus the best advertising we
could have had, and was really, in many places, our cheapest and in some
places, our only mode of getting from point to point where our
exhibitions were to be given.

During most of the tour I was a week or two ahead of the company, making
arrangements for the forthcoming exhibitions, and doing my entire
business without the aid of an interpreter, for I soon “picked up”
French enough to get along very well indeed. I did not forget that
Franklin learned to speak French when he was seventy years of age, and I
did not consider myself too old to learn, what, indeed, I was obliged
to learn in the interests of my business. As for the little General, who
was accompanied by a preceptor and translator, he very soon began to
give his entire speaking performances in French, and his piece “Petit
Poucet” was spoken as if he were a native.

In fact, I soon became the General’s _avant courier_, though not doing
the duties of an _avant courier_ to an ordinary exhibition, since these
duties generally consist in largely puffing the “coming man” and
expected show, thus endeavoring to create a public appetite and to
excite curiosity. My duties were quite different; after engaging the
largest theatre or saloon to be found in the town, I put out a simple
placard, announcing that the General would appear on such a day.
Thereafter, my whole energies were directed, apparently, to keeping the
people quiet; I begged them not to get excited; I assured them through
the public journals, that every opportunity should be afforded to permit
every person to see “the distinguished little General, who had delighted
the principal monarchs of Europe, and more than a million of their
subjects,” and that if one exhibition in the largest audience room in
the town would not suffice, two or even three would be given.

This was done quietly, and yet, as an advertisement, effectively, for,
strange as it may seem, people who were told to keep quiet, would get
terribly excited, and when the General arrived and opened his
exhibitions, excitement would be at fever heat, the levees would be
thronged, and the treasury filled!

Numerous were the word battles I had with mayors, managers
of theatres, directors of hospitals, and others, relative to what I
considered--justly, I think--the outrageous imposition which the laws
permitted in the way of taxes upon “exhibitions.” Thus the laws
required, for the sake of charity, twenty-five per cent of my gross
receipts for the hospitals; while to encourage a local theatre, or
theatres, which might suffer from an outside show, twenty per cent more
must be given to the local managers.

Of course this law was nearly a dead letter; for, to have taken
forty-five per cent of my gross receipts at every exhibition would soon
have driven me from the provinces, so the hospitals were generally
content with ten per cent, and five or ten francs a day satisfied the
manager of a provincial theatre. But at Bordeaux the manager of the
theatre wished to engage the General to appear in his establishment, and
as I declined his offer, he threatened to debar me from exhibiting
anywhere in town, by demanding for himself the full twenty per cent the
law allowed, besides inducing the directors of the hospitals to compel
me to pay them twenty-five per cent more.

Here was a dilemma! I must yield and take half I thought myself entitled
to and permit the General to play for the manager, or submit to legal
extortion, or forego my exhibitions. I offered the manager six per cent
of my receipts and he laughed at me. I talked with the hospital
directors and they told me that as the manager favored them, they felt
bound to stand by him. I announced in the public journals that the
General could not appear in Bordeaux on account of the cupidity and
extortionate demands of the theatre manager and the hospital directors.
The people talked and the papers denounced; but manager and directors
remained as firm as rocks in their positions. Tom Thumb was to arrive
in two days and I was in a decided scrape. The mayor interceded for me,
but to no avail; the manager had determined to enforce an almost
obsolete law unless I would permit the General to play in his theatre
every night. My Yankee “dander” was up and I declared that I would
exhibit the General gratis rather than submit to the demand. Whereupon,
the manager only laughed at me the more to think how snugly he had got

Now it happened that, once upon a time, Bordeaux, like most cities, was
a little village, and the little village of Vincennes lay one mile east
of it. Bordeaux had grown and stretched itself and thickly settled far
beyond Vincennes, bringing the latter nearly in the centre of Bordeaux;
yet, strange to say, Vincennes maintained its own identity, and had its
own Mayor and municipal rights quite independent of Bordeaux. I could
scarcely believe my informant who told me this, but I speedily sought
out the Mayor of Vincennes, found such a personage, and cautiously
inquired if there was a theatre or a hospital within his limits? He
assured me there was not. I told him my story, and asked:

“If I open an exhibition within your limits will there be any
percentages to pay from my receipts?”

“Not a sou,” replied the Mayor.

“Will you give me a writing to that effect?”

“With the greatest pleasure,” replied the Mayor, and he did so at once.

I put this precious paper in my pocket, and in a few moments I hired the
largest dancing saloon in the place, a room capable of holding over
2,000 people. I then announced, especially to the delighted citizens of
Bordeaux, that the General would open his exhibitions in Vincennes,
which he soon did to an overflowing house. For thirteen days we
exhibited to houses averaging more than 3,000 francs per day, and for
ten days more at largely increased receipts, not one sou of which went
for taxes or percentages. The manager and directors, theatre and
hospital, got nothing, instead of the fair allowance I would willingly
have given them. Oh, yes! they got something,--that is, a lesson,--not
to attempt to offset French Shylockism against Yankee shrewdness.

We were in the South of France in the vintage season. Nothing can
surpass the richness of the country at that time of the year. We
travelled for many miles where the eye could see nothing but vineyards
loaded with luscious grapes and groves of olive trees in full bearing.
It is literally a country of wine and oil. Our remunerative and
gratifying round of mingled pleasure and profit, brought us at last to
Lille, capital of the department of Nord, and fifteen miles from the
Belgian frontier, and from there we proceeded to Brussels.




In crossing the border from France into Belgium, Professor Pinte, our
interpreter and General Tom Thumb’s preceptor, discovered that he had
left his passport behind him--at Lille, at Marseilles, or elsewhere in
France, he could not tell where, for it was a long time since he had
been called upon to present it. I was much annoyed and indignantly told
him that he “would never make a good showman, because a good showman
never forgot anything.” I could see that my allusion to him as a
“showman” was by no means pleasant, which leads me to recount the
circumstances under which I was first brought in contact with the

He was really a “Professor” and teacher of English in one of the best
educational establishments in Paris. Very soon after opening my
exhibitions in that city, I saw the necessity of having a translator who
was qualified to act as a medium between the General and the highly
cultivated audiences that daily favored us at our levees. I had begun
with a not over-cultivated interpreter, who, when the General personated
Cupid, for instance, would cry out “Coopeed,” to which some one would be
sure to respond “Stoopeed,” to the annoyance of myself and the amusement
of the audience. I accordingly determined to procure the best
interpreter I could find and I was directed to call upon Professor
Pinte. I saw him and briefly stated what I wanted, in what capacity I
proposed to employ him, and what salary I would pay him. He was highly
indignant and informed me that he was “no showman,” and had no desire to
learn or engage in the business.

“But, my dear sir,” said I, “it is not as a showman that I wish to
employ your valuable services, but as a preceptor to my young and
interesting ward, General Tom Thumb, whom I desire to have instructed in
the French language and in other accomplishments you are so competent to
impart. At the same time, I should expect that you would be willing to
accompany my ward and your pupil and attend his public exhibitions for
the purpose of translating, as may be necessary, to the cultivated
people of your own class who are the principal patrons of our

This seemed to put an entirely new face upon the matter, especially as I
had offered the Professor a salary five times larger, probably, than he
was then receiving. So he rapidly revolved the subject in his mind and

“Ah! while I could not possibly accept a situation as a showman, I
should be most happy to accept the terms and the position as preceptor
to your ward.”

He was engaged, and at once entered upon his duties, not only as
preceptor to the General, but as the efficient and always excellent
interpreter at our exhibitions, and wherever we needed his services on
the route. As he had lost his passport, when we came to Courtrai on the
Belgian frontier, I managed to procure a permit for him which enabled
him to proceed with the party. This was but the beginning of
difficulties, for I had all our property, including the General’s ponies
and equipage, to pass through the Custom-house, and among other things
there was a large box of medals, with a likeness of the General on one
side and of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert on the other side, which
were sold in large numbers as souvenirs at our exhibitions. They were
struck off at a considerable expense in England, and commanded a ready

The Custom-house officers were informed, however, that these medals were
mere advertising cards, as they really were, of our exhibitions, and I
begged their acceptance of as many as they pleased to put in their
pockets. They were beautiful medals, and a few dozen were speedily
distributed among the delighted officials, who forthwith passed our
show-bills, lithographs and other property with very little trouble.
They wanted, however, to charge a duty upon the General’s ponies and
carriage, but when I produced a document showing that the French
government had admitted them duty-free, they did the same. This superb
establishment led these officials to think he must be a very
distinguished man, and they asked what rank he held in his own country.

“He is Prince Charles Stratton, of the Dukedom of Bridgeport, in the
Kingdom of Connecticut,” said Sherman.

Whereupon they all reverently raised their hats when the General
entered the car. Some of the railway men who had seen the distribution
of medals among the Custom-house officers came to me and begged similar
“souvenirs” of their distinguished passenger, and I gave the medals very
freely, till the applications became so persistent as to threaten a
serious pecuniary loss. At last I handed out a final dozen in one
package, and said: “There, that is the last of them; the rest are in the
box, and beyond my reach.”

All this while Professor Pinte was brooding over my remark to him about
the loss of his passport; the word “showman” rankled, and he asked me:

“Mr. Barnum, do you consider me a showman?”

I laughingly replied, “Why, I consider you the eminent Professor Pinte,
preceptor to General Tom Thumb; but, after all, we are all showmen.”

Finding himself so classed with the rest of us, he ventured to inquire
“what were the qualifications of a good showman,” to which I replied:

“He must have a decided taste for catering for the public; prominent
perceptive faculties; tact; a thorough knowledge of human nature; great
suavity; and plenty of ‘soft soap.’”

“Soft sup!” exclaimed the interested Professor, “what is ‘soft sup.’”

I explained, as best I could, how the literal meaning of the words had
come to convey the idea of getting into the good graces of people and
pleasing those with whom we are brought in contact. Pinte laughed, and
as he thought of the generous medal distribution, an idea struck him:

“I think those railway officials must have very dirty hands--you are
compelled to use so much ‘soft sup.’”

Brussels is Paris in miniature and is one of the most charming cities I
ever visited. We found elegant quarters, and the day after our arrival
by command we visited King Leopold and the Queen at their palace. The
King and Queen had already seen the General in London, but they wished
to present him to their children and to the distinguished persons whom
we found assembled. After a most agreeable hour we came away--the
General, as usual, receiving many fine presents.

The following day, I opened the exhibition in a beautiful hall, which on
that day and on every afternoon and evening while we remained there, was
crowded by throngs of the first people in the city. On the second or
third day, in the midst of the exhibition, I suddenly missed the case
containing the valuable presents the General had received from kings,
queens, noblemen and gentlemen, and instantly gave the alarm; some thief
had intruded for the express purpose of stealing these jewels, and, in
the crowd, had been entirely successful in his object.

The police were notified, and I offered 2,000 francs reward for the
recovery of the property. A day or two afterwards a man went into a
jeweller’s shop and offered for sale, among other things, a gold
snuff-box, mounted with turquoises, and presented by the Duke of
Devonshire to the General. The jeweller, seeing the General’s initials
on the box, sharply questioned the man, who became alarmed and ran out
of the shop. An alarm was raised, and the man was caught. He made a
clean breast of it, and in the course of a few hours the entire property
was returned, to the great delight of the General and myself. Wherever
we exhibited afterwards, no matter how respectable the audience, the
case of presents was always carefully watched.

While I was in Brussels I could do no less than visit the battle-field
of Waterloo, and I proposed that our party should be composed of
Professor Pinte, Mr. Stratton, father of General Tom Thumb, Mr. H. G.
Sherman, and myself. Going sight-seeing was a new sensation to Stratton,
and as it was necessary to start by four o’clock in the morning, in
order to accomplish the distance (sixteen miles) and return in time for
our afternoon performance, he demurred.

“I don’t want to get up before daylight and go off on a journey for the
sake of seeing a darned old field of wheat,” said Stratton.

“Sherwood, do try to be like somebody, once in your life, and go,” said
his wife.

The appeal was irresistible, and he consented. We engaged a coach and
horses the night previous, and started punctually at the hour appointed.
We stopped at the neat little church in the village of Waterloo, for the
purpose of examining the tablets erected to the memory of some of the
English who fell in the contest. Thence we passed to the house in which
the leg of Lord Uxbridge (Marquis of Anglesey) was amputated. A neat
little monument in the garden designates the spot where the shattered
member had been interred. In the house is shown a part of the boot which
is said to have once covered the unlucky leg. The visitor feels it but
considerate to hand a franc or two to the female who exhibits the
monument and limb. I did so, and Stratton, though he felt that he had
not received the worth of his money, still did not like to be considered
penurious, so he handed over a piece of silver coin to the attendant. I
expressed a desire to have a small piece of the boot to exhibit in my
Museum; the lady cut off, without hesitation, a slip three inches long
by one in width. I handed her a couple more francs, and Stratton
desiring, as he said, to “show a piece of the boot in old Bridgeport,”
received a similar slip, and paid a similar amount. I could not help
thinking that if the lady was thus liberal in dispensing pieces of the
“identical boot” to all visitors, this must have been about the
ninety-nine thousandth boot that had been cut as the “Simon pure” since

With the consoling reflection that the female purchased all the cast-off
boots in Brussels and its vicinity, and rejoicing that somebody was
making a trifle out of that accident besides the inventor of the
celebrated “Anglesey leg,” we passed on towards the battle-field, lying
about a mile distant.

Arriving at Mont Saint Jean, a quarter of a mile from the ground, we
were beset by some eighteen or twenty persons, who offered their
services as guides, to indicate the most important localities. Each
applicant professed to know the exact spot where every man had been
placed who had taken part in the battle, and each, of course, claimed to
have been engaged in that sanguinary contest, although it had occurred
thirty years before, and some of these fellows were only, it seemed,
from twenty-five to twenty-eight years of age! We accepted an old man,
who, at first declared that he was killed in the battle, but perceiving
our looks of incredulity, consented to modify his statement so far as to
assert that he was horribly wounded, and lay upon the ground three days
before receiving assistance.

Once upon the ground, our guide, with much gravity, pointed out the
place where the Duke of Wellington took his station during a great part
of the action; the locality where the reserve of the British army was
stationed; the spot where Napoleon placed his favorite guard; the little
mound on which was erected a temporary observatory for his use during
the battle; the portion of the field at which Blucher entered with the
Prussian army; the precise location of the Scotch Greys; the spot where
fell Sir Alexander Gordon, Lieut. Col. Canning, and many others of
celebrity. I asked him if he could tell me where Captain Tippitiwichet,
of the Connecticut Fusileers, was killed. “Oui, Monsieur,” he replied,
with perfect confidence, for he felt bound to know, or to pretend to
know, every particular. He then proceeded to point out exactly the spot
where my unfortunate Connecticut friend had breathed his last. After
indicating the locations where some twenty more fictitious friends from
Coney Island, New Jersey, Cape Cod and Saratoga Springs, had given up
the ghost, we handed him his commission and declined to give him further
trouble. Stratton grumbled at the imposition as he handed out a couple
of francs for the information received.

Upon quitting the battle-field we were accosted by a dozen persons of
both sexes with baskets on their arms or bags in their hands, containing
relics of the battle for sale. These consisted of a great variety of
implements of war, pistols, bullets, etc., besides brass French eagles,
buttons, etc. I purchased a number of them for the Museum, and Stratton
was equally liberal in obtaining a supply for his friends in “Old
Bridgeport.” We also purchased maps of the battle-ground, pictures of
the triumphal mound surmounted by the colossal Belgic Lion in bronze,
etc., etc. These frequent and renewed taxations annoyed Stratton very
much, and as he handed out a five franc piece for a “complete
guide-book,” he remarked, that “he guessed the battle of Waterloo had
cost a darned sight more since it was fought than it did before!”

But his misfortunes did not terminate here. When we had proceeded four
or five miles upon our road home, crash went the carriage. We alighted,
and found that the axle-tree was broken. It was now a quarter past one
o’clock. The little General’s exhibition was advertised to commence in
Brussels at two o’clock, and could not take place without us. We were
unable to walk the distance in double the time at our disposal, and as
no carriage was to be got in that part of the country, I concluded to
take the matter easy, and forego all idea of exhibiting before evening.
Stratton, however, could not bear the thought of losing the chance of
taking in six or eight hundred francs, and he determined to take matters
in hand, in order, if possible, to get our party into Brussels in time
to save the afternoon exhibition. He hastened to a farm-house,
accompanied by the interpreter, Professor Pinte, Sherman and myself
leisurely bringing up the rear. Stratton asked the old farmer if he had
a carriage. He had not. “Have you no vehicle?” he inquired.

“Yes, I have that vehicle,” he replied, pointing to an old cart filled
with manure, and standing in his barnyard.

“Thunder! is that all the conveyance you have got?” asked Stratton.
Being assured that it was, Stratton concluded that it was better to ride
in a manure cart than not get to Brussels in time.

“What will you ask to drive us to Brussels in three-quarters of an
hour?” demanded Stratton.

[Illustration: _MANURE CART EXPRESS._]

“It is impossible,” replied the farmer; “I should want two hours for my
horse to do it in.”

“But ours is a very pressing case, and if we are not there in time we
lose more than five hundred francs,” said Stratton.

The old farmer pricked up his ears at this, and agreed to get us to
Brussels in an hour, for eighty francs. Stratton tried to beat him down,
but it was of no use.

“Oh, go it, Stratton,” said Sherman; “eighty francs you know is only
sixteen dollars, and you will probably save a hundred by it, for I
expect a full house at our afternoon exhibition to-day.”

“But I have already spent about ten dollars for nonsense,” said
Stratton, “and we shall have to pay for the broken carriage besides.”

“But what can you do better?” chimed in Professor Pinte.

“It is an outrageous extortion to charge sixteen dollars for an old
horse and cart to go ten miles. Why, in old Bridgeport I could get it
done for three dollars,” replied Stratton, in a tone of vexation.

“It is the custom of the country,” said Professor Pinte, “and we must
submit to it.”

By the way, this was a favorite expression of the Professor’s. Whenever
we were imposed upon, or felt that we were not used right, Pinte would
always endeavor to smooth it over by informing us it was “the custom of
the country.”

“Well, it’s a thundering mean custom, any how,” said Stratton, “and I
wont stand such an imposition.”

“But what shall we do?” earnestly inquired Mr. Pinte. “It may be a high
price, but it is better to pay that than to lose our afternoon
performance and five or six hundred francs.”

This appeal to the pocket touched Stratton’s feelings; so submitting to
the extortion, he replied to our interpreter, “Well, tell the old robber
to dump his dung-cart as soon as possible, or we shall lose half an hour
in starting.”

The cart was “dumped” and a large, lazy-looking Flemish horse was
attached to it with a rope harness. Some boards were laid across the
cart for seats, the party tumbled into the rustic vehicle, a red-haired
boy, son of the old farmer, mounted the horse, and Stratton gave orders
to “get along.” “Wait a moment,” said the farmer, “you have not paid me
yet,” “I’ll pay your boy when we get to Brussels, provided he gets there
within the hour,” replied Stratton.

“Oh, he is sure to get there in an hour,” said the farmer, “but I can’t
let him go unless you pay in advance.” The minutes were flying rapidly,
the anticipated loss of the day exhibition of General Tom Thumb flitted
before his eyes, and Stratton, in very desperation, thrust his hand into
his pocket and drew forth sixteen five-franc pieces, which he dropped,
one at a time, into the hand of the farmer, and then called out to the
boy, “There now, do try to see if you can go ahead.”

The boy did go ahead, but it was with such a snail’s pace that it would
have puzzled a man of tolerable eyesight to have determined whether the
horse was moving or standing still. To make it still more interesting,
it commenced raining furiously. As we had left Brussels in a coach, and
the morning had promised us a pleasant day, we had omitted our
umbrellas. We were soon soaked to the skin. We “grinned and bore it”
awhile without grumbling. At length Stratton, who was almost too angry
to speak, desired Mr. Pinte to ask the red-haired boy if he expected to
walk his horse all the way to Brussels.

“Certainly,” replied the boy; “he is too big and fat to do any thing but
walk. We never trot him.”

Stratton was terrified as he thought of the loss of the day exhibition;
and he cursed the boy, the cart, the rain, the luck, and even the battle
of Waterloo itself. But it was all of no use, the horse would not run,
but the rain did--down our backs.

At two o’clock, the time appointed for our exhibition, we were yet some
seven miles from Brussels. The horse walked slowly and philosophically
through the pitiless storm, the steam majestically rising from the old
manure-cart, to the no small disturbance of our unfortunate olfactories.
“It will take two hours to get to Brussels at this rate,” growled
Stratton. “Oh, no,” replied the boy, “it will only take about two hours
from the time we started.”

“But your father agreed to get us there in an hour,” answered Stratton.

“I know it,” responded the boy, “but he knew it would take more than

“I’ll sue him for damage, by thunder,” said Stratton.

“Oh, there would be no use in that,” chimed in Mr. Pinte, “for you could
get no satisfaction in this country.”

“But I shall lose more than a hundred dollars by being two hours instead
of one,” said Stratton.

“They care nothing about that; all they care for is your eighty francs,”
remarked Pinte.

“But they have lied and swindled me,” replied Stratton.

“Oh, you must not mind that, it is the custom of the country.”

Stratton gave “the country,” and its “customs,” another cursing.

All things will finally have an end, and our party did at length
actually arrive in Brussels, cart and all, in precisely two hours and a
half from the time we left the farmers house. Of course we were too late
to exhibit the little General. Hundreds of visitors had gone away

With feelings of utter desperation, Stratton started for a barber’s
shop. He had a fine, black, bushy head of hair, of which he was a little
proud, and every morning he submitted it to the curling-tongs of the
barber. His hair had not been cut for several weeks, and after being
shaved, he desired the barber to trim his flowing locks a little. The
barber clipped off the ends of the hair, and asked Stratton if that was
sufficient. “No,” he replied, “I want it trimmed a little shorter; cut
away, and I will tell you when to stop.”

Stratton had risen from bed at an unusual hour, and after having passed
through the troubles and excitements of the unlucky morning, he began to
feel a little drowsy. This feeling was augmented by the soothing
sensations of the tonsorial process, and while the barber quietly
pursued his avocation, Stratton as quietly fell asleep. The barber went
entirely over his head, cutting off a couple of inches of hair with
every clip of his scissors. He then rested for a moment; expecting his
customer would tell him that it was sufficient; but the unconscious
Stratton uttered not a word, and the barber, thinking he had not cut the
hair close enough, went over the head again. Again did he wait for an
answer, little thinking that his patron was asleep. Remembering that
Stratton had told him to “cut away, and he would tell him when to
stop,” the innocent barber went over the head the third time, cutting
the hair nearly as close as if he had shaved it with a razor! Having
finished, he again waited for orders from his customer, but he uttered
not a word. The barber was surprised, and that surprise was increased
when he heard a noise which seemed very like a snore coming from the
nasal organ of his unconscious victim.

The poor barber saw the error that he had committed, and in dismay, as
if by mistake, he hit Stratton on the side of the head with his
scissors, and woke him. He started to his feet, looked in the glass, and
to his utter horror saw that he was unfit to appear in public without a
wig! He swore like a trooper, but he could not swear the hair back on to
his head, and putting on his hat, which dropped loosely over his eyes,
he started for the hotel. His despair and indignation were so great that
it was some time before he could give utterance to words of explanation.
His feelings were not allayed by the deafening burst of laughter which
ensued. He said it was the first time that he ever went a sight-seeing,
and he guessed it would be the last!

Several months subsequent to our visit to Waterloo, I was in Birmingham,
and there made the acquaintance of a firm who manufactured to order, and
sent to Waterloo, barrels of “relics” every year. At Waterloo these
“relics” are planted, and in due time dug up, and sold at large prices
as precious remembrances of the great battle. Our Waterloo purchases
looked rather cheap after this discovery.

While we were in Brussels, Mrs. Stratton, the mother of the General,
tasted some sausages which she declared the best things she had eaten in
France or Belgium; in fact, she said “she had found little that was fit
to eat in this country, for every thing was so Frenchified and covered
in gravy, she dared not eat it; but there was something that tasted
natural about these sausages; she had never eaten any as good, even in
America.” She sent to the landlady to inquire the name of them, for she
meant to buy some to take along with her. The answer came that they were
called “saucisse de Lyon,” (Lyons sausages,) and straightway Mrs.
Stratton went out and purchased half a dozen pounds. Mr. Sherman soon
came in, and, on learning what she had in her package, he remarked:
“Mrs. Stratton, do you know what Lyons sausages are made of?”

“No,” she replied; “but I know that they are first-rate!”

“Well,” replied Sherman, “they may be good, but they are made from
donkeys!” which is said to be the fact. Mrs. Stratton said she was not
to be fooled so easily--that she knew better, and that she should stick
to the sausages.

Presently Professor Pinte entered the room. “Mr. Pinte,” said Sherman,
“you are a Frenchman, and know every thing about edibles; pray tell me
what Lyons sausages are made of.”

“Of asses,” replied the inoffensive professor.

Mrs. Stratton seized the package, the street window was open, and, in
less than a minute, a large brindle dog was bearing the “Lyons sausages”
triumphantly away.

There were many other amusing incidents during our brief stay at
Brussels, but I have no space to record them. After a very pleasant and
successful week, we returned to London.




In London the General again opened his levees in Egyptian Hall with
undiminished success. His unbounded popularity on the Continent and his
receptions by King Louis Philippe, of France, and King Leopold, of
Belgium, had added greatly to his prestige and fame. Those who had seen
him when he was in London months before came to see him again, and new
visitors crowded by thousands to the General’s levees.

Besides giving these daily entertainments, the General appeared
occasionally for an hour, during the intermissions, at some place in the
suburbs; and for a long time he appeared every day at the Surrey
Zoölogical Gardens, under the direction of the proprietor, my particular
friend Mr. W. Tyler. This place subsequently became celebrated for its
great music hall, in which Spurgeon, the sensational preacher, first
attained his notoriety. The place was always crowded, and when the
General had gone through with his performances on the little stage, in
order that all might see him he was put into a balloon which, secured by
ropes, was then passed around the ground just above the people’s heads.
Some forty men managed the ropes and prevented the balloon from rising;
but, one day, a sudden gust of wind took the balloon fairly out of the
hands of half the men who had hold of the ropes, while others were
lifted from the ground, and had not an alarm been instantly given which
called at least two hundred to the rescue the little General would have
been lost.

In addition to other engagements, the General frequently performed in
Douglass’s Standard Theatre, in the city, in the play “Hop o’ my Thumb,”
which was written for him by my friend, Albert Smith, whom I met soon
after my first arrival in London and with whom I became very intimate.
After my arrival in Paris, seeing the decided success of “Petit Poucet,”
it occurred to me that I should want such a play when I returned to
England and the United States. So I wrote to Mr. Albert Smith, inviting
him to make me a visit in Paris, intending to have him see this play and
either translate or adapt it, or write a new one in English. He came and
stayed with me a week, visiting the Vaudeville Theatre to see “Petit
Poucet” nearly every night, and we compared notes and settled upon a
plan for “Hop o’ my Thumb.” He went back to London and wrote the play
and it was very popular indeed.

During our stay of three months, at this time, in Egyptian Hall, we made
occasional excursions and gave exhibitions at Brighton, Bath,
Cheltenham, Leamington and other watering places and fashionable
resorts. It was at the height of the season in these places, and our
houses were very large and our profits in proportion.

In October, 1844, I made my first return visit to the United States,
leaving General Tom Thumb in England, in the hands of an accomplished
and faithful agent, who continued the exhibitions during my absence. One
of the principal reasons for my return at this time, was my anxiety to
renew the Museum building lease, although my first lease of five years
had still three years longer to run. I told Mr. Olmsted that if he would
not renew my lease on the same terms, for at least five years more, I
would immediately put up a new building, remove my Museum, close his
building during the last year of my lease, and cover it from top to
bottom with placards, stating where my new Museum was to be found.
Pending an arrangement, I went to Mr. A. T. Stewart, who had just
purchased the Washington Hall property, at the corner of Broadway and
Chambers Street, intending to erect a store on the site, and proposed to
join him in building, he to take the lower floor of the new store for
his business, and I to own and occupy the upper stories for my Museum.
He said he would give me an answer in the course of a week. Meanwhile,
Mr. Olmsted gave me the additional five years lease I asked, and I so
notified Mr. Stewart. Seeing the kind of building that Mr. Stewart
erected on his lots, I do not know if he seriously entertained my
proposition to join him in the enterprise; but he was by no means the
great merchant then he afterwards became, and neither of us then
thought, probably, of the gigantic enterprises we were subsequently to
undertake, and the great things we were to accomplish. Having completed
my business arrangements in New York, I returned to England with my wife
and daughters, and hired a house in London. My house was the scene of
constant hospitality which I extended to my numerous friends in return
for the many attentions shown to me. It seemed then as if I had more and
stronger friends in London than in New York. I had met and had been
introduced to “almost everybody who was anybody,” and among them all,
some of the best soon became to me much more than mere acquaintances.

Among the distinguished people whom I met, I was introduced to the
poet-banker, Samuel Rogers. I saw him at a dinner party at the residence
of the American Minister, the Honorable Edward Everett. The old banker
was very feeble, but careful nursing and all the appliances that
unbounded wealth could bring, still kept the life in him and he managed,
not only to continue to give his own celebrated breakfasts, but to go
out frequently to enjoy the hospitality of others. As we were going in
to dinner, I stepped aside, so that Mr. Rogers who was tottering along
leaning on the arm of a friend, could go in before me, when Mr. Rogers

“Pass in, Mr. Barnum, pass in; I always consider it an honor to follow
an American.”

When our three months’ engagement at Egyptian Hall had expired, I
arranged for a protracted provincial tour through Great Britain. I had
made a flying visit to Scotland before we went to Paris--mainly to
procure the beautiful Scotch costumes, daggers, etc., which were
carefully made for the General at Edinburgh, and to teach the General
the Scotch dances, with a bit of the Scotch dialect, which added so much
to the interest of his exhibitions in Paris and elsewhere. My second
visit to Scotland, for the purpose of giving exhibitions, extended as
far as Aberdeen.

In England we went to Manchester, Birmingham, and to almost every city,
town, and even village of importance. We travelled by post much of the
time--that is, I had a suitable carriage made for my party, and a van
which conveyed the General’s carriage, ponies, and such other “property”
as was needed for our levees,--and we never had the slightest difficulty
in finding good post horses at every station where we wanted them. This
mode of travelling was not only very comfortable and independent, but it
enabled us to visit many out of the way places, off from the great lines
of travel, and in such places we gave some of our most successful
exhibitions. We also used the railway lines freely, leaving our
carriages at any station, and taking them up again when we returned.

I remember once making an extraordinary effort to reach a branch-line
station, where I meant to leave my teams and take the rail for Rugby. I
had a time-table, and knew at what hour exactly I could hit the train;
but unfortunately the axle to my carriage broke, and as an hour was lost
in repairing it, I lost exactly an hour in reaching the station. The
train had long been gone, and I must be in Rugby, where we had
advertised a performance. I stormed around till I found the
superintendent, and told him “I must instantly have an extra train to

“Extra train!” said he, with surprise and a half sneer, “extra train!
why you can’t have an extra train to Rugby for less than sixty pounds.”

“Is that all?” I asked; “well, get up your train immediately and here
are your sixty pounds. What in the world are sixty pounds to me, when I
wish to go to Rugby, or elsewhere, in a hurry!”

The astonished superintendent took the money, bustled about, and the
train was soon ready. He was greatly puzzled to know what distinguished
person--he thought he must be dealing with some prince, or, at least, a
duke--was willing to give so much money to save a few hours of time, and
he hesitatingly asked whom he had the honor of serving.

“General Tom Thumb.”

We reached Rugby in time to give our performance, as announced, and our
receipts were £160, which quite covered the expense of our extra train
and left a handsome margin for profit.

When we were in Oxford, a dozen or more of the students came to the
conclusion that as the General was a little fellow, the admission fee to
his entertainments should be paid in the smallest kind of money. They
accordingly provided themselves with farthings, and as each man entered,
instead of handing in a shilling for his ticket, he laid down
forty-eight farthings. The counting of these small coins was a great
annoyance to Mr. Stratton, the General’s father, who was ticket seller,
and after counting two or three handsful, vexed at the delay which was
preventing a crowd of ladies and gentlemen from buying tickets, Mr.
Stratton lost his temper and cried out:

“Blast your quarter pennies! I am not going to count them! you chaps who
haven’t bigger money can chuck your copper into my hat and walk in.”

At Cambridge, some of the under-graduates pretended to take offence
because our check-taker would not permit them to smoke in the exhibition
hall, and one of them managed to involve him in a quarrel which ended
with a challenge from the student to the check-taker, who was sure he
must fight a duel at sunrise the next morning, and as he expected to be
shot, he suffered the greatest mental agony. About midnight, however,
after he had been sufficiently scared, I brought him the gratifying
intelligence that I had succeeded in settling the dispute. His gratitude
at the relief thus afforded, knew no bounds.

Mr. Stratton was a genuine Yankee, and thoroughly conversant with the
Yankee vernacular, which he used freely. In exhibiting the General, I
often said to visitors, that Tom Thumb’s parents and the rest of the
family were persons of the ordinary size, and that the gentleman who
presided in the ticket-office was the General’s father. This made poor
Stratton an object of no little curiosity, and he was pestered with all
sorts of questions; on one occasion an old dowager said to him:

“Are you really the father of General Tom Thumb?”

“Wa’al,” replied Stratton, “I have to support him!”

This evasive method of answering is common enough in New England, but
the literal dowager had her doubts, and promptly rejoined:

“I rather think he supports you!”

In my journeyings through England, I always tried to get back to London
Saturday night, so as to pass Sunday with my family, and to meet the
friends whom we invited to dine with us on the only day in the week when
I could be at home. The railway facilities are so excellent in England,
that, no matter how far I might be from London, I could generally reach
that city by Sunday morning, and yet do a full week’s work in the
provinces. This, however, necessitated travel Saturday night, and while
I travelled I must sleep. Sleeping cars were, and, I believe, still are
unknown in that country; but I travelled so much, and was, by this time,
so well known to the guards on the leading lines, that I could
generally secure one of the compartments in a first-class “coach” to
myself, and my method for obtaining a good night’s sleep, was to lay the
seat-cushions on the floor of the car, thus, with my blanket to cover
me, making a tolerable bed.

On one of these Saturday night excursions, I lay down on my extemporized
couch, with the expectation of arriving at London at five o’clock in the
morning. When I awoke the car was standing still, and the sun was well
up in the heavens. Thinking we were very much behind time, and wondering
why the train did not go on, at last I got up and looked out of the
window, and, to my utter amazement, I found my car locked up in a yard,
surrounded by a high fence. Espying a man who seemed to have charge of
the premises, I shouted to him to come and let me out of the car, which
was also locked. It instantly flashed across my mind that at this
station, the guard, seeing no person sitting on the seats in the car,
and concluding that it was empty, had detached it from the train, and
switched it off into the yard. The astonished man whom I summoned to my
assistance, informed me that I was sixty miles from London, and that
there would not be another train to the city till evening. It was ten
o’clock, and I was to have been home at five. I raised a great row, and
demanded as my right an extra train to carry me to London, to meet the
friends whom it was all-important I should see that day. I had to wait,
however, till evening, and I arrived home at seven or eight o’clock,
long after my friends had gone, though to the great gratification of my
family, who thought some serious accident must have happened to me.

It must not be supposed that during my protracted stay abroad I confined
myself wholly to business or limited my circle of observation with a
golden rim. To be sure, I ever had “an eye to business,” but I had also
two eyes for observation and these were busily employed in leisure
hours. I made the most of my opportunities and saw, hurriedly, it is
true, nearly everything worth seeing in the various places which I
visited. All Europe was a great curiosity shop to me and I willingly
paid my money for the show.

While in London, my friend Albert Smith, a jolly companion, as well as a
witty and sensible author, promised that when I reached Birmingham he
would come and spend a day with me in “sight-seeing,” including a visit
to the house in which Shakespeare was born.

Early one morning in the autumn of 1844, my friend Smith and myself took
the box-seat of an English mail-coach, and were soon whirling at the
rate of twelve miles an hour over the magnificent road leading from
Birmingham to Stratford. The distance is thirty miles. At a little
village four miles from Stratford, we found that the fame of the bard of
Avon had travelled thus far, for we noticed a sign over a miserable
barber’s shop, “Shakespeare hair-dressing--a good shave for a penny.” In
twenty minutes more we were set down at the door of the Red Horse Hotel,
in Stratford. The coachman and guard were each paid half a crown as
their perquisites.

While breakfast was preparing, we called for a guide-book to the town,
and the waiter brought in a book, saying that we should find in it the
best description extant of the birth and burial place of Shakespeare. I
was not a little proud to find this volume to be no other than the
“Sketch-Book” of our illustrious countryman, Washington Irving; and in
glancing over his humorous description of the place, I discovered that
he had stopped at the same hotel where we were then awaiting breakfast.

After examining the Shakespeare House, as well as the tomb and the
church in which all that is mortal of the great poet rests, we ordered a
post-chaise for Warwick Castle. While the horses were harnessing, a
stage-coach stopped at the hotel, and two gentlemen alighted. One was a
sedate, sensible-looking man; the other an addle-headed fop. The former
was mild and unassuming in his manners; the latter was all talk, without
sense or meaning--in fact, a regular Charles Chatterbox. He evidently
had a high opinion of himself, and was determined that all within
hearing should understand that he was--somebody. Presently the sedate
gentleman said:

“Edward, this is Stratford. Let us go and see the house where
Shakespeare was born.”

“Who the devil is Shakespeare?” asked the sensible young gentleman.

Our post-chaise was at the door; we leaped into it, and were off,
leaving the “nice young man” to enjoy a visit to the birth-place of an
individual of whom he had never before heard. The distance to Warwick is
fourteen miles. We went to the Castle, and approaching the door of the
Great Hall, were informed by a well-dressed porter that the Earl of
Warwick and family were absent, and that he was permitted to show the
apartments to visitors. He introduced us successively into the “Red
Drawing-Room,” “The Cedar Drawing-Room,” “The Gilt Room,” “The State
Bed-Room,” “Lady Warwick’s Boudoir,” “The Compass Room,” “The Chapel,”
and “The Great Dining-Room.” As we passed out of the Castle, the polite
porter touched his head (he of course had no hat on it) in a style which
spoke plainer than words, “Half a crown each, if you please, gentlemen.”
We responded to the call, and were then placed in charge of another
guide, who took us to the top of “Guy’s Tower,” at the bottom of which
he touched his hat a shilling’s worth; and placing ourselves in charge
of a third conductor, an old man of seventy, we proceeded to the
Greenhouse to see the Warwick Vase--each guide announcing at the end of
his short tour: “Gentlemen, I go no farther,” and indicating that the
bill for his services was to be paid. The old gentleman mounted a
rostrum at the side of the vase, and commenced a set speech, which we
began to fear was interminable; so tossing him the usual fee, we left
him in the middle of his oration.

Passing through the porter’s lodge on our way out, under the impression
that we had seen all that was interesting, the old porter informed us
that the most curious things connected with the Castle were to be seen
in his lodge. Feeling for our coin, we bade him produce his relics, and
he showed us a lot of trumpery, which, he gravely informed us, belonged
to that hero of antiquity, Guy, Earl of Warwick. Among these were his
sword, shield, helmet, breast-plate, walking-staff, and tilting-pole,
each of enormous size--the horse armor nearly large enough for an
elephant, a large pot which would hold seventy gallons, called “Guy’s
Porridge Pot,” his flesh-fork, the size of a farmer’s hay-fork, his
lady’s stirrups, the rib of a mastodon which the porter pretended
belonged to the great “Dun Cow,” which, according to tradition, haunted
a ditch near Coventry, and after doing injury to many persons, was slain
by the valiant Guy. The sword weighed nearly 200 pounds, and the armor
400 pounds.

I told the old porter he was entitled to great credit for having
concentrated more lies than I had ever before heard in so small a
compass. He smiled, and evidently felt gratified by the compliment.

“I suppose,” I continued, “that you have told these marvellous stories
so often, that you believe them yourself?”

“Almost!” replied the porter, with a grin of satisfaction that showed he
was “up to snuff,” and had really earned two shillings.

“Come now, old fellow,” said I, “what will you take for the entire lot
of those traps? I want them for my Museum in America.”

“No money would buy these valuable historical mementos of a by-gone
age,” replied the old porter with a leer.

“Never mind,” I exclaimed; “I’ll have them duplicated for my Museum, so
that Americans can see them and avoid the necessity of coming here, and
in that way I’ll burst up your show.”

Albert Smith laughed immoderately at the astonishment of the porter when
I made this threat, and I was greatly amused, some years afterwards,
when Albert Smith became a successful showman and was exhibiting his
“Mont Blanc” to delighted audiences in London, to discover that he had
introduced this very incident into his lecture, of course, changing the
names and locality. He often confessed that he derived his very first
idea of becoming a showman from my talk about the business and my
doings, on this charming day when we visited Warwick.

The “Warwick races” were coming off that day, within half a mile of the
village, and we therefore went down and spent an hour with the
multitude. There was very little excitement regarding the races, and we
concluded to take a tour through the “penny shows,” the vans of which
lined one side of the course for the distance of a quarter of a mile. On
applying to enter one van, which had a large pictorial sign of
giantesses, white negro, Albino girls, learned pig, big snakes, etc.,
the keeper exclaimed:

“Come, Mister, you is the man what hired Randall, the giant, for
‘Merika, and you shows Tom Thumb; now can you think of paying less than
sixpence for going in here?”

The appeal was irresistible; so, satisfying his demands, we entered.
Upon coming out, a whole bevy of showmen from that and neighboring vans
surrounded me, and began descanting on the merits and demerits of
General Tom Thumb.

“Oh,” says one, “I knows two dwarfs what is better ten times as Tom

“Yes,” says another, “there’s no use to talk about Tom Thumb while Melia
Patton is above the ground.”

“Now, I’ve seen Tom Thumb,” added a third, “and he is a fine little
squab, but the only ‘vantage he’s got is he can chaff so well. He chaffs
like a man; but I can learn Dick Swift in two months, so that he can
chaff Tom Thumb crazy.”

“Never mind,” added a fourth, “I’ve got a chap training what you none on
you knows, what’ll beat all the ‘thumbs’ on your grapplers.”

“No, he can’t,” exclaimed a fifth, “for Tom Thumb has got the name, and
you all know the name’s everything. Tom Thumb couldn’t never shine, even
in my van, ‘long side of a dozen dwarfs I knows, if this Yankee hadn’t
bamboozled our Queen,--God bless her--by getting him afore her half a
dozen times.”

“Yes, yes,--that’s the ticket,” exclaimed another; “our Queen patronizes
everything foreign, and yet she wouldn’t visit my beautiful wax-works to
save the crown of Hingland.”

“Your beautiful wax-works!” they all exclaimed, with a hearty laugh.

“Yes, and who says they haint beautiful?” retorted the other; “they was
made by the best Hitalian hartist in this country.”

“They was made by Jim Caul, and showed all over the country twenty years
ago,” rejoined another; “and arter that they laid five years in pawn in
old Moll Wiggin’s cellar, covered with mould and dust.”

“Well, that’s a good ’un, that is!” replied the proprietor of the
beautiful wax-works, with a look of disdain.

I made a move to depart, when one of the head showmen exclaimed, “Come,
Mister, don’t be shabby; can you think of going without standing treat
all round?”

“Why should I stand treat?” I asked.

“‘Cause ’tain’t every day you can meet such a bloody lot of jolly
brother-showmen,” replied Mr. Wax-works.

I handed out a crown, and left them to drink bad luck to the “foreign
wagabonds what would bamboozle their Queen with inferior dwarfs,
possessing no advantage over the ‘natyves’ but the power of chaffing.”

While in the showmen’s vans seeking for acquisitions to my Museum in
America, I was struck with the tall appearance of a couple of females
who exhibited as the “Canadian giantesses, each seven feet in height.”
Suspecting that a cheat was hidden under their unfashionably long
dresses, which reached to the floor and thus rendered their feet
invisible, I attempted to solve the mystery by raising a foot or two of
the superfluous covering. The strapping young lady, not relishing such
liberties from a stranger, laid me flat upon the floor with a blow from
her brawny hand. I was on my feet again in tolerably quick time, but not
until I had discovered that she stood upon a pedestal at least eighteen
inches high.

We returned to the hotel, took a post-chaise, and drove through
decidedly the most lovely country I ever beheld. Since taking that tour,
I have heard that two gentlemen once made a bet, each, that he could
name the most delightful drive in England. Many persons were present,
and the two gentlemen wrote on separate slips of paper the scene which
he most admired. One gentleman wrote, “The road from Warwick to
Coventry;” the other had written, “The road from Coventry to Warwick.”

In less than an hour we were set down at the outer walls of Kenilworth
Castle, which Scott has greatly aided to immortalize in his celebrated
novel of that name. This once noble and magnificent castle is now a
stupendous ruin, which has been so often described that I think it
unnecessary to say anything about it here. We spent half an hour in
examining the interesting ruins, and then proceeded by post-chaise to
Coventry, a distance of six or eight miles. Here we remained four hours,
during which time we visited St. Mary’s Hall, which has attracted the
notice of many antiquaries. We also took our own “peep” at the effigy
of the celebrated “Peeping Tom,” after which we visited an exhibition
called the “Happy Family,” consisting of about two hundred birds and
animals of opposite natures and propensities, all living in harmony
together in one cage. This exhibition was so remarkable that I bought it
and hired the proprietor to accompany it to New York, and it became an
attractive feature in my Museum.

We took the cars the same evening for Birmingham, where we arrived at
ten o’clock, Albert Smith remarking, that never before in his life had
he accomplished a day’s journey on the Yankee go-ahead principle. He
afterwards published a chapter in _Bentley’s Magazine_ entitled “A Day
with Barnum,” in which he said we accomplished business with such
rapidity, that when he attempted to write out the accounts of the day,
he found the whole thing so confused in his brain that he came near
locating “Peeping Tom” in the house of Shakespeare, while Guy of Warwick
_would_ stick his head above the ruins of Kenilworth, and the Warwick
Vase appeared in Coventry.




While I was at Aberdeen, in Scotland, I met Anderson, the “Wizard of the
North.” I had known him for a long time, and we were on familiar terms.
The General’s exhibitions were to close on Saturday night, and Anderson
was to open in the same hall on Monday evening. He came to our
exhibition, and at the close we went to the hotel together to get a
little supper. After supper we were having some fun and jokes together,
when it occurred to Anderson to introduce me to several persons who were
sitting in the room, as the “Wizard of the North,” at the same time
asking me about my tricks and my forthcoming exhibition. He kept this up
so persistently that some of our friends who were present, declared that
Anderson was “too much for me,” and, meanwhile, fresh introductions to
strangers who came in, had made me pretty generally known in that
circle as the “Wizard of the North,” who was to astonish the town in the
following week. I accepted the situation at last, and said:

“Well, gentlemen, as I perform here for the first time, on Monday
evening, I like to be liberal, and I should be very happy to give orders
of admission to those of you who will attend my exhibition.”

The applications for orders were quite general, and I had written thirty
or forty, when Anderson, who saw that I was in a fair way of filling his
house with “dead-heads,” cried out--

“Hold on! I am the ‘Wizard of the North.’ I’ll stand the orders already
given, but not another one.”

Our friends, including the “Wizard” himself, began to think that I had
rather the best of the joke.

During our three years’ stay abroad, I made a second hasty visit to
America, leaving the General in England in the hands of my agents. I
took passage from Liverpool on board a Cunard steamer, commanded by
Captain Judkins. One of my fellow passengers was the celebrated divine,
Robert Baird. I had known him as the author of an octavo volume,
“Religion in America”; and while that work had impressed me as
exhibiting great ability and an outspoken honesty of purpose, it had
also given me the notion that its author must be very rigid and
intolerant as a sectarian. Still I was happy to make his acquaintance on
board the steamship, and soon regarded with favor the venerable
Presbyterian divine.

Dr. Baird had been for some time a missionary in Sweden. He was now
paying a visit to his native land. I found him a shrewd, well-informed
Christian gentleman, and I took much pleasure in hearing him converse.
One night it was storming furiously. The waves, rolling high, afforded a
sight of awful grandeur, to witness which I was tempted to put on a
pea-jacket, go upon the deck, and lash myself to the side of the ship.
After I had been there nearly an hour, wrapt in meditation and wonder,
not unmixed with awe, Dr. Baird came up in the darkness, feeling his way
cautiously along the deck. As he came where I was, I hailed him; and he
asked what I was doing so long up there.

“Listening to the preaching, Doctor,” I replied; “and I think it beats
even yours, although I have never had the pleasure of hearing you.”

“Ah!” he replied, “none of us can preach like this. How humble and
insignificant we all feel in the presence of such a display of the
Almighty power; and how grateful we should be to remember that infinite
love guides this power.”

The Sunday following, divine service was held as usual in the large
after cabin. Of course it was the Episcopal form of worship. The captain
conducted the services, assisted by the clerk and the ship’s surgeon. A
dozen or two of the sailors, shaved, washed, and neatly dressed, were
marched into the cabin by the mate; most of the passengers were also

Those who have witnessed this service, as conducted by Captain Judkins,
need not be reminded that he does it much as he performs his duties on
deck. He speaks as one having authority; and a listener could hardly
help feeling that there would be some danger of a “row” if the petitions
(made as a sort of command) were not speedily answered.

After dinner I asked Dr. Baird if he would be willing to preach to the
passengers in the forward cabin. He said he would cheerfully do so if it
was desired. I mentioned it to the passengers, and there was a
generally-expressed wish among them that he should preach. I went into
the forward cabin, and requested the steward to arrange the chairs and
tables properly for religious service. He replied that I must first get
the captain’s consent. Of course, I thought this was a mere matter of
form; so I went to the captain’s office, and said:

“Captain, the passengers desire to have Dr. Baird conduct a religious
service in the forward cabin. I suppose there is no objection.”

“Decidedly there is,” replied the captain, gruffly; “and it will not be

“Why not?” I asked, in astonishment.

“It is against the rules of the ship.”

“What! to have religious services on board?”

“There have been religious services once to-day, and that is enough. If
the passengers do not think that is good enough, let them go without,”
was the captain’s hasty and austere reply.

“Captain,” I replied, “do you pretend to say you will not allow a
respectable and well-known clergyman to offer a prayer and hold
religious services on board your ship at the request of your

“That, sir, is exactly what I say. So, now, let me hear no more about

By this time a dozen passengers were crowding around his door, and
expressing their surprise at his conduct. I was indignant, and used
sharp language.

“Well,” said I, “this is the most contemptible thing I ever heard of on
the part of the owners of a public

[Illustration: _PUT ME IN IRONS._]

passenger ship. Their meanness ought to be published far and wide.”

“You had better ‘shut up,’” said Captain Judkins, with great sternness.

“I will not ‘shut up,’” I replied; “for this thing is perfectly
outrageous. In that out-of-the-way forward cabin, you allow, on week
days, gambling, swearing, smoking and singing, till late at night; and
yet on Sunday you have the impudence to deny the privilege of a
prayer-meeting, conducted by a gray-haired and respected minister of the
gospel. It is simply infamous!”

Captain Judkins turned red in the face; and, no doubt feeling that he
was “monarch of all he surveyed,” exclaimed, in a loud voice:

“If you repeat such language, I will put you in irons.”

“Do it, if you dare,” said I, feeling my indignation rising rapidly. “I
dare and defy you to put your finger on me. I would like to sail into
New York Harbor in handcuffs, on board a British ship, for the terrible
crime of asking that religious worship may be permitted on board. So you
may try it as soon as you please; and, when we get to New York, I’ll
show you a touch of Yankee ideas of religious intolerance.”

The captain made no reply; and, at the request of friends, I walked to
another part of the ship. I told the Doctor how the matter stood, and
then, laughingly, said to him:

“Doctor, it may be dangerous for you to tell of this incident when you
get on shore; for it would be a pretty strong draught upon the credulity
of many of my countrymen if they were told that my zeal to hear an
Orthodox minister preach was so great that it came near getting me into
solitary confinement. But I am not prejudiced, and I like fair play.”

The old Doctor replied: “Well, you have not lost much; and, if the rules
of this ship are so stringent, I suppose we must submit.”

The captain and myself had no further intercourse for five or six days;
not until a few hours before our arrival in New York. Being at dinner,
he sent his champagne bottle to me, and asked to “drink my health,” at
the same time stating that he hoped no ill-feeling would be carried
ashore. I was not then, as I am now, a teetotaler; so I accepted the
proffered truce, and I regret that I must add I “washed down” my wrath
in a bottle of Heidsick--a poor example, which I hope never to repeat.
We have frequently met since, and always with friendly greetings; but I
have ever felt that his manners were unnecessarily coarse and offensive
in carrying out an arbitrary and bigoted rule of the steamship company.

Though I have never lacked definite opinions, or hesitated to exhibit
decided preferences in regard to the different religious creeds, I have
never been so sectarian as to imagine that any one of the denominations
is without any truth, or exists for no good purpose. On the contrary, I
hold that every faith has somewhat of truth; and that each sect, in its
way, does a work which perhaps no one of the other sects can do as well.
I was strongly confirmed in this general belief by an impromptu
utterance of Dr. Baird, during one of our conversations, which, under
the circumstances, was not a little amusing, as it certainly evinced a
good deal of insight into human nature. It is well known that the old
Doctor was very rigid in his theological views, and in his career never
spared either the Methodists or the people of the so-called liberal
opinions. During our passage across the Atlantic, we very naturally had
considerable tilting in regard to opinions which divided us, though in a
thoroughly good-natured way. At last I recalled the case of a woman,
somewhat noted among her neighbors for coarseness of speech, including
profanity, making her altogether such a person as needed the refining
influence of religious teaching. Describing the very unpromising
condition of this woman, I said:

“Well, Doctor, if you can do anything with your creed to improve that
woman, I should be glad to see you undertake the job.”

I was at once struck with the business air in which he considered the
exigencies of what was undoubtedly a hard case. It was clear that he had
dropped the character of the sectarian, and was taking a common-sense
view of the problem. The problem was soon solved, and he replied:

“Mr. Barnum, it is of no use for you, with your opinions, to attempt to
do anything for that sort of a person; and it is equally useless for me,
with my views, to attempt it either. But, if you could contrive a way to
set some fiery, rousing Methodist to work upon her, why, he is just the
man to do it!”

There were a number of pretty wild young men among our passengers, and
on several occasions they tried their wits upon Dr. Baird. But he was a
man of sterling common sense, and with that, very quick at repartee; and
they never made anything out of him. On one occasion, at dinner, they
were in great glee, and, for a “lark,” they sent him their champagne
bottle to drink a glass of wine with them. They, of course, supposed he
was a teetotaler, as, indeed, I believe he was; but when the waiter
handed him the bottle, he quietly poured a spoonful or two into his
glass, and, gracefully bowing to the young gentlemen, placed it to his
lips, but not tasting it. Of course, they could say nothing.

Early one morning, several of these youths came upon deck, and, meeting
the Doctor there, one of them exclaimed:

“It is cold as hell this morning, ain’t it, Doctor?”

“I am unable to state the exact height of the thermometer in that
locality,” said he, gravely; “but I am afraid you will know all about it
some time, if you are not careful.”

The laugh was decidedly against the young man; but one of his
companions, who thought considerably of himself, seemed anxious to take
up the cudgel, and he remarked:

“Dr. Baird, your brother clergymen are making a great ado in New York
about the state of crime there; and they have got a smelling-committee,
who go about and smell out all filthy places there, and report them to
the public. Indeed, they do say that several of the clergy, and some
laymen of the Arthur Tappan stripe, have got a book in which they have
written down a list of all the bad houses in New York. I should like to
see that book. Ha! ha! I wonder if they have really got one?”

“I don’t know how that is,” replied Doctor Baird; “but,” casting his
eyes heavenward, “I can assure you there is a book in which all such
places are recorded, as well as the names of those who occupy or visit
them; and in due time it will be opened to public gaze.”

The young man looked cowed, and extending his hand to Doctor Baird,

“Sir, I confess I have made too light of a serious matter. I sincerely
beg your pardon, if I have offended you.”

“You have not offended me,” said the Doctor, with a benignant smile;
“but I am rejoiced to perceive that you have offended your own sense of
propriety and morality. I trust you will not forget it.”

This was the last attempt on board that ship to try a lance with Doctor

Several years later, when I was engaged in the Jenny Lind enterprise,
Doctor Baird called upon me. Having been so long a missionary in Sweden,
the native land of the great songstress, he had a special desire to make
her acquaintance and listen to her singing. I introduced him to her, and
gave him the _entrée_ to her concerts. He improved the opportunity, and
he also made frequent calls upon her. She became much interested in him.
Indeed, on several occasions she contributed liberally to the charitable
institutions he had recommended to her favorable notice.

During my residence in London I made the acquaintance of an American,
whom I will call Simpson, and his wife. They had originally been poor,
and accustomed to pretty low society. Their opportunities for education
had been limited, and they were what we should term vulgar, ignorant,
common people. But by a turn of Fortune’s wheel they became suddenly
rich, and like some other fools who know nothing of their own country,
they must rush to make the tour of Europe.

Mr. Simpson was an ignorant, good-natured fellow, fond of sporting large
amounts of jewelry; was very social with Englishmen; always bragging of
our “glorious country”; and was particularly given to boasting that he
was once poor and now he was rich. Whenever he met Americans he was
delighted, and insisted on the privilege of “standing treats” to all
around, familiarly slapping on the back, and treating as an old chum,
any American gentleman, however refined, whom he might come in contact

Mrs. Simpson was a coarse woman, yet always studying politeness, and
particularly the proper pronunciation of words. She was ever trying to
appear refined; and she prided herself upon understanding all the rules
of etiquette and fashion. She was continually purchasing new dresses and
fashionable articles of apparel. She loaded herself down with diamonds
and tawdry jewelry, and would frequently appear in the streets with six
or eight different dresses in a day. But, strange to say, with all her
pride and vanity with regard to being considered the perfection of
refinement, she had an awful habit of using profane language! She really
seemed to think this an evidence of good breeding. Perhaps she thought
it a luxury which rich people were entitled to enjoy. This peculiarity
occasionally led to most ludicrous scenes.

The Simpsons were from New England; and in their conversation they had
the nasal Yankee twang, and the peculiar pronunciation of the illiterate
class of the New England people.

Those who have heard John E. Owens in “Solon Shingle,” are aware that
preserved fruits are in New England called “sauce,” by the vulgar
pronounced “sass.” But when Mrs. Simpson heard the word in England
pronounced sauce, she was very anxious that John, her husband, should
adopt the new pronunciation. He tried hard to learn, but would
frequently forget himself and say “sass.” Mrs. Simpson would lose her
patience on such occasions, and reprove her husband sharply. Indeed, if
he escaped without receiving some profane epithet from the lips of his
would-be fashionable wife, it was a wonder.

On one occasion I happened to meet them at dinner with an English family
in London, to whom I had, in the way of business, introduced them a few
weeks previously. We had scarcely taken our seats at the table before
Simpson happened to discover a dish of sweetmeats at the further corner
of the table. Turning to the servant he said:

“Please pass me that sass.”

Mrs. Simpson’s eyes flashed indignantly, and she angrily exclaimed,
almost in a scream:

“Say sauce; don’t say ‘sass.’ I’d rather hear you say h--l a d--d

That our English hostess was amazed and shocked it is needless to say,
although she preserved her equanimity better than could be expected. As
for myself, I confess I could not refrain from laughing, which, of
course, served only to increase the wrath of Mrs. Simpson.

Fourteen years subsequent to this event, I called on this English lady
in company with an American friend. In the course of conversation, I
happened to ask her if she remembered about Mrs. Simpson’s “sass.” She
took from a drawer her memorandum book, and showed us the above
expression verbatim, which, she said, she wrote down the same day it was
uttered; and she added she had never been able to think of it since
without laughing.

I met Simpson and his wife at a hotel in Marseilles, France, in the
summer of 1845. Mrs. Simpson said she and Simpson had almost determined
not to go to France at all when they “heard it was necessary to hire an
interpreter to tell what folks said.” Said she, “I told Simpson I didn’t
want to go among a set of folks who were such cussed fools they couldn’t
speak English! But of course we must go to France just for the speech of
the people when we get home, so here we are. For my part,” she
continued, “I speak English to these Frenchmen anyhow, and if they can’t
understand me they can go without understanding. The other morning, I
told the waiter my tea was too sweet. I found afterwards that too sweet
(_toute de suite_) was French for ‘very quick.’”

“‘Oui, madame,’ he replied, ‘oui, oui, que voulez vous?’ (what will you

“‘Too sweet, too sweet,’ I repeated, ‘too sweet, too sweet.’ Then I
pointed to my tea, and said again, ‘Too sweet, d--n your stupid head,
can’t you understand too sweet?’ The fool jumped around like a hen with
her head cut off, and kept saying, ‘Oui, oui, madame, too sweet, qu’est
ceque c’est? (What is it?)’ Finally an English gentleman asked me what
was the matter, and when I told him, he explained by telling me that
_too sweet_ (toute de suite) in French meant quick, very quick, and that
was what made the stupid waiter jump around so.”

“But d--n the French waiters,” she continued, “I have got quit of them
finally, for I have found out a language we both understand.

“The same day my tea was too sweet, Simpson was out at dinner time; and
I went to the table alone. I called for soup, and the sap-heads brought
me some sort of preserves. I then called for fish, and the fools could
not understand me. Then I said, ‘Bring me some chicken,’ and d--n ’em,
they danced about in a quandary till I thought I should starve to death.
But finally I thought of roast duck. I am dreadfully fond of duck, and I
knew they always had stuffed ducks at dinner time. So I called to the
waiter once more, and pointed to my plate and said, ‘_quack_, _quack_,
_quack_, now do you understand?’ and the fool began to laugh, and said,
‘Oui, madame, oui, oui,’ and off he ran, and soon brought me the nicest
piece of duck you ever saw. So now every day at dinner, I say ‘_quack_,
_quack_,’ and I always get some first-rate duck.”

I congratulated her on having discovered a universal language.

The same day, I met a young Englishman in the hotel, who had been
travelling in Spain. During our conversation we were summoned to dinner.
At the table d’hote, Simpson happened to be seated exactly opposite us.
As we continued our conversation, Simpson heard it, and his attention
was particularly arrested--it being something of a novelty to meet a
stranger in these parts, who spoke our native tongue. The English
gentleman mentioned that he ascended the Pyrenees the week previous.

“I should like to have been with you,” I remarked, “but I am almost too
fat and lazy to climb high mountains. I suppose you found it pretty hard

“Yes, we had to rough it some; we encountered considerable snow,” he

“Snow!” exclaimed Simpson, in astonishment.

The Englishman looked with surprise at this interruption; for he did
not know Simpson, nor had he ever heard him speak before. However, he
quietly replied, “Yes, sir, snow.”

“Not by a d--d sight, you didn’t,” replied Simpson, emphatically. “That
wont go down. Snow in August wont do. I have seen snow myself in
Connecticut, the last of September, but it wont do in August, by a
thundering sight.”

The Englishman sprang to his feet, but I hit him a nudge, and said, “It
is all right. Excuse me; let me introduce my friend, Mr. Simpson, from
America. He has travelled some, and it is pretty hard to take him in
with big stories.”

He comprehended the matter instantly and sat down.

“Yes, sir,” remarked Simpson, “I have heard travellers before, but
August is a leetle too early for snow.”

“But suppose I should say it was not this year’s snow?” said the
Englishman, who was ready now to carry on the joke.

“Worse and worse,” exclaimed Simpson, with a triumphant laugh; “if it
would not melt in August, when in thunder would it melt! You might as
well say it would lay all the year round.”

“I give it up,” said the Englishman, “you are too sharp for me.”

Simpson was delighted, and took special pains for several days to inform
the interpreters in the neighboring hotels and billiard saloons, that he
had “took down” an impudent John Bull, who had tried to stuff him with
the idea that he had seen snow in August.

I met the Simpsons afterwards in Brussels, and the head of the family,
who had heard nothing but French spoken, outside of his own circle, for
a long time, called me in great glee to the door, to see and hear some
Dutchmen, who were conversing together in the street.

“There!” exclaimed Simpson, “those fellows are Dutchmen; I know by their

“Very well,” said I, “how far do you suppose those Dutchmen are from
their native place?”

“Why,” replied Simpson, “I suppose they came from Western Pennsylvania;
that’s where I have always seen ’em.”

With the exception of the brief time passed in making two short visits
to America, I had now passed three years with General Tom Thumb in Great
Britain and on the Continent. The entire period had been a season of
unbroken pleasure and profit. I had immensely enlarged my business
experiences and had made money and many friends. Among those to whom I
am indebted for special courtesies while I was abroad are Dr. C. S.
Brewster, whose prosperous professional career in Russia and France is
well known, and Henry Sumner, Esq., who occupied a high position in the
social and literary circles of Paris and who introduced me to George
Sand and to many other distinguished persons. To both these gentlemen,
as well as to Mr. John Nimmo, an English gentleman connected with
_Galignani’s Messenger_, Mr. Lorenzo Draper, the American Consul, and
Mr. Dion Boucicault, I was largely indebted for attention. In London,
two gentlemen especially merit my warm acknowledgments for many valuable
favors. I refer to the late Thomas Brettell, publisher, Haymarket; and
Mr. R. Fillingham, Jr., Fenchurch Street. I was also indebted to Mr. G.
P. Putnam, at that time a London publisher, for much useful

We had visited nearly every city and town in France and Belgium, all the
principal places in England and Scotland, besides going to Belfast and
Dublin, in Ireland. I had several times met Daniel O’Connell in private
life and in the Irish capital I heard him make an eloquent and powerful
public Repeal speech in Conciliation Hall. In Dublin, after exhibiting a
week in Rotunda Hall, our receipts on the last day were £261, or $1,305,
and the General also received £50, or $250, for playing the same evening
at the Theatre Royal. Thus closing a truly triumphant tour, we set sail
for New York, arriving in February 1847.




One of my main objects in returning home at this time, was to obtain a
longer lease of the premises occupied by the American Museum. My lease
had still three years to run, but Mr. Olmsted, the proprietor of the
building, was dead, and I was anxious to make provision in time for the
perpetuity of my establishment, for I meant to make the Museum a
permanent institution in the city, and if I could not renew my lease, I
intended to build an appropriate edifice on Broadway. I finally
succeeded, however, in getting the lease of the entire building,
covering fifty-six feet by one hundred, for twenty-five years, at an
annual rent of $10,000 and the ordinary taxes and assessments. I had
already hired in addition the upper stories of three adjoining
buildings. My Museum receipts were more in one day, than they formerly
were in an entire week, and the establishment had become so popular
that it was thronged at all hours from early morning to closing time at

On my return, I promptly made use of General Tom Thumb’s European
reputation. He immediately appeared in the American Museum, and for four
weeks drew such crowds of visitors as had never been seen there before.
He afterwards spent a month in Bridgeport, with his kindred. To prevent
being annoyed by the curious, who would be sure to throng the houses of
his relatives, he exhibited two days at Bridgeport. The receipts,
amounting to several hundred dollars, were presented to the Bridgeport
Charitable Society. The Bridgeporters were much delighted to see their
old friend, “little Charlie,” again. They little thought, when they saw
him playing about the streets a few years previously, that he was
destined to create such a sensation among the crowned heads of the old
world; and now, returning with his European reputation, he was, of
course, a great curiosity to his former acquaintances, as well as to the
public generally. His Bridgeport friends found that he had not increased
in size during the four and a half years of his absence, but they
discovered that he had become sharp and witty, “abounding in foreign
airs and native graces”; in fact, that he was quite unlike the little,
diffident country fellow whom they had formerly known.

“We never thought Charlie much of a phenomenon when he lived among us,”
said one of the first citizens of the place, “but now that he has become
‘Barnumized,’ he is a rare curiosity.”

But there was really no mystery about it; the whole change made by
training and travel, had appeared to me by degrees, and it came to the
citizens of Bridgeport suddenly. The terms upon which I first engaged
the lad showed that I had no over-sanguine expectations of his success
as a “speculation.” When I saw, however, that he was wonderfully
popular, I took the greatest pains to engraft upon his native talent all
the instruction he was capable of receiving. He was an apt pupil, and I
provided for him the best of teachers. Travel and attrition with so many
people in so many lands did the rest. The General left America three
years before, a diffident, uncultivated little boy; he came back an
educated, accomplished little man. He had seen much, and had profited
much. He went abroad poor, and he came home rich.

On January 1, 1845, my engagement with the General at a salary ceased,
and we made a new arrangement by which we were equal partners, the
General, or his father for him, taking one-half of the profits. A
reservation, however, was made of the first four weeks after our arrival
in New York, during which he was to exhibit at my Museum for two hundred
dollars. When we returned to America, the General’s father had acquired
a handsome fortune, and settling a large sum upon the little General
personally, he placed the balance at interest, secured by bond and
mortgage, excepting thirty thousand dollars, with which he purchased
land near the city limits of Bridgeport, and erected a large and
substantial mansion, where he resided till the day of his death, and in
which his only two daughters were married, one in 1850, the other in
1853. His only son, besides the General, was born in 1851. All the
family, except “little Charlie,” are of the usual size.

After spending a month in visiting his friends, it was determined that
the General and his parents should travel through the United States. I
agreed to accompany them, with occasional intervals of rest at home, for
one year, sharing the profits equally, as in England. We proceeded to
Washington city, where the General held his levees in April, 1847,
visiting President Polk and lady at the White House--thence to Richmond,
returning to Baltimore and Philadelphia. Our receipts in Philadelphia in
twelve days were $5,594.91. The tour for the entire year realized about
the same average. The expenses were from twenty-five dollars to thirty
dollars per day. From Philadelphia we went to Boston, Lowell, and
Providence. Our receipts on one day in the latter city were $976.97. We
then visited New Bedford, Fall River, Salem, Worcester, Springfield,
Albany, Troy, Niagara Falls, Buffalo, and intermediate places, and in
returning to New York we stopped at the principal towns on the Hudson
River. After this we visited New Haven, Hartford, Portland, Me., and
intermediate towns.

I was surprised to find that, during my long absence abroad, I had
become almost as much of a curiosity to my patrons as I was to the
spinster from Maine who once came to see me and to attend the “services”
in my Lecture Room. If I showed myself about the Museum or wherever else
I was known, I found eyes peering and fingers pointing at me, and could
frequently overhear the remark, “There’s Barnum.” On one occasion soon
after my return, I was sitting in the ticket-office reading a newspaper.
A man came and purchased a ticket of admission. “Is Mr. Barnum in the
Museum?” he asked. The ticket-seller, pointing to me, answered, “This is
Mr. Barnum.” Supposing the gentleman had business with me, I looked up
from the paper. “Is this Mr. Barnum?” he asked. “It is,” I replied. He
stared at me for a moment, and then, throwing down his ticket,
exclaimed, “It’s all right; I have got the worth of my money”; and away
he went, without going into the Museum at all!

In November, 1847, we started for Havana, taking the steamer from New
York to Charleston, where the General exhibited, as well as at Columbia,
Augusta, Savannah, Milledgeville, Macon, Columbus, Montgomery, Mobile
and New Orleans. At this latter city we remained three weeks, including
Christmas and New Year’s. We arrived in Havana by the schooner Adams
Gray, in January, 1848, and were introduced to the Captain-General and
the Spanish nobility. We remained a month in Havana and Matanzas, the
General proving an immense favorite. In Havana he was the especial pet
of Count Santovania. In Matanzas we were very much indebted to the
kindness of a princely American merchant, Mr. Brinckerhoff. Mr. J. S.
Thrasher, the American patriot and gentleman, was also of great
assistance to us, and placed me under deep obligations.

The hotels in Havana are not good. An American who is accustomed to
substantial living, finds it difficult to get enough to eat. We stopped
at the Washington House, which at that time was “first-rate bad.” It was
filthy, and kept by a woman who was drunk most of the time. Several
Americans boarded there who were regular gormandizers. One of them,
seeing a live turkey on a New Orleans vessel, purchased and presented it
to the landlady. It was a small one, and when it was carved, there was
not enough of it to “go round.” An American, (a large six-footer and a
tremendous eater,) who resided on a sugar plantation near Havana,
happened to sit near the carver, and seeing an American turkey so near
him, and feeling that it was a rare dish for that latitude, kept helping
himself, so that when the carving was finished, he had eaten about one
half of the turkey. Unfortunately the man who bought it was sitting at
the further end of the table, and did not get a taste of the coveted
bird. He was indignant, especially against the innocent gormandizer from
the sugar plantation, who, of course, was not acquainted with the
history of the turkey. When they arose from the table, the planter
smacked his lips, and patting his stomach, remarked, “That was a
glorious turkey. I have not tasted one before these two years. I am very
fond of them, and when I go back to my plantation I mean to commence
raising turkeys.”

“If you don’t raise one before you leave town, you’ll be a dead man,”
said the disappointed poultry purchaser.

From Havana we went to New Orleans, where we remained several days, and
from New Orleans we proceeded to St. Louis, stopping at the principal
towns on the Mississippi river, and returning _via_ Louisville,
Cincinnati, and Pittsburgh. We reached the latter city early in May,
1848. From this point it was agreed between Mr. Stratton and myself,
that I should go home and henceforth travel no more with the little
General. I had competent agents who could exhibit him without my
personal assistance, and I preferred to relinquish a portion of the
profits, rather than continue to be a travelling showman. I had now been
a straggler from home most of the time for thirteen years, and I cannot
describe the feelings of gratitude with which I reflected, that having
by the most arduous toil and deprivations succeeded in securing a
satisfactory competence, I should henceforth spend my days in the bosom
of my family. I was fully determined that no pecuniary temptation should
again induce me to forego the enjoyments to be secured only in the
circle of home. I reached my residence in Bridgeport, Connecticut, in
the latter part of May, rejoiced to find my family and friends in good
health, and delighted to find myself once more at home.

My new home, which was then nearly ready for occupancy, was the
well-known Iranistan. More than two years had been employed in building
this beautiful residence. In 1846, finding that fortune was continuing
to favor me, I began to look forward eagerly to the time when I could
withdraw from the whirlpool of business excitement and settle down
permanently with my family, to pass the remainder of my days in
comparative rest.

I wished to reside within a few hours of New York. I had never seen more
delightful locations than there are upon the borders of Long Island
Sound, between New Rochelle, New York, and New Haven, Connecticut; and
my attention was therefore turned in that direction. Bridgeport seemed
to be about the proper distance from the great metropolis. It is
pleasantly situated at the terminus of two railroads, which traverse the
fertile valleys of the Naugatuck and Housatonic rivers. The New York and
New Haven Railroad runs through the city, and there is also daily
steamboat communication with New York. The enterprise which
characterized the city, seemed to mark it as destined to become the
first in the State in size and opulence; and I was not long in
deciding, with the concurrence of my wife, to fix our future residence
in that vicinity.

I accordingly purchased seventeen acres of land, less than a mile west
of the city, and fronting with a good view upon the Sound. Although
nominally in Bridgeport, my property was really in Fairfield, a few rods
west of the Bridgeport line. In deciding upon the kind of house to be
erected, I determined, first and foremost, to consult convenience and
comfort. I cared little for style, and my wife cared still less; but as
we meant to have a good house, it might as well, at the same time, be
unique. In this, I confess, I had “an eye to business,” for I thought
that a pile of buildings of a novel order might indirectly serve as an
advertisement of my Museum.

In visiting Brighton, in England, I had been greatly pleased with the
Pavilion erected by George IV. It was the only specimen of Oriental
architecture in England, and the style had not been introduced into
America. I concluded to adopt it, and engaged a London architect to
furnish me a set of drawings after the general plan of the Pavilion,
differing sufficiently to be adapted to the spot of ground selected for
my homestead. On my second return visit to the United States, I brought
these drawings with me and engaged a competent architect and builder,
giving him instructions to proceed with the work, not “by the job” but
“by the day,” and to spare neither time nor expense in erecting a
comfortable, convenient, and tasteful residence. The work was thus begun
and continued while I was still abroad, and during the time when I was
making my tour with General Tom Thumb through the United States and
Cuba. New and magnificent avenues were

[Illustration: _IRANISTAN._]

opened in the vicinity of my property. The building progressed slowly,
but surely and substantially. Elegant and appropriate furniture was made
expressly for every room in the house. I erected expensive water works
to supply the premises. The stables, conservatories and out-buildings
were perfect in their kind. There was a profusion of trees set out on
the grounds. The whole was built and established literally “regardless
of expense,” for I had no desire even to ascertain the entire cost. All
I cared to know was that it suited me, and that would have been a small
consideration with me if it had not also suited my family.

The whole was finally completed to my satisfaction. My family removed
into the premises, and, on the fourteenth of November, 1848, nearly one
thousand invited guests, including the poor and the rich, helped us in
the old-fashioned custom of “house-warming.”

When the name “Iranistan” was announced, a waggish New York editor
syllabled it, I-ran-i-stan, and gave as the interpretation, that “I ran
a long time before I could stan’!” Literally, however, the name
signifies, “Eastern Country Place,” or, more poetically, “Oriental

The plot of ground upon which Iranistan was erected, was at the date of
my purchase, in March 1846, a bare field. But I transplanted many
hundreds of fruit and forest trees, some of the latter of very large
growth when they were moved, and thus in a few years my premises were
adorned with what, in the ordinary process of growth, would have
required a whole generation. I have never waited for my trees to grow,
if money would transplant them of nearly full growth at the start.

The years 1848 and 1849 were mainly spent with my family, though I went
every week to New York to look after the interests of the American
Museum. While I was in Europe, in 1845, my agent, Mr. Fordyce Hitchcock,
had bought out for me the Baltimore Museum, a fully-supplied
establishment, in full operation, and I placed it under the charge of my
uncle, Alanson Taylor. He died in 1846, and I then sold the Baltimore
Museum to the “Orphean Family,” by whom it was subsequently transferred
to Mr. John E. Owens, the celebrated comedian. After my return from
Europe, I opened, in 1849, a Museum in Dr. Swain’s fine building, at the
corner of Chestnut and Seventh streets, in Philadelphia.

This was in all respects a first-class establishment. It was elegantly
fitted up, and contained, among other things, a dozen fine large
paintings, such as “The Deluge,” “Cain and his Family,” and other
similar subjects which I had ordered copied, when I was in Paris, from
paintings in the gallery of the Louvre. There was also a complete and
valuable collection of curiosities and I sent from New York, from time
to time, my transient novelties in the way of giants, dwarfs, fat boys,
animals and other attractions. There was a lecture room and stage for
dramatic entertainments; but I was catering for a Quaker population, and
was careful to introduce or permit nothing which could possibly be
objectionable. While the Museum contained such wax-works as “The
Temperate Family,” “The Intemperate Family,” and Mrs. Pelby’s
representation of “The Last Supper,” the theatre presented “The
Drunkard” and other moral dramas. The most respectable people in the
city patronized the Museum and attended the theatre. “The Drunkard” was
exceedingly well played and it made a great impression. There was a
temperance pledge in the box-office, which was signed by thousands
during the run of the piece. Almost every hour during the day and
evening, women could be seen bringing their husbands to the Museum to
sign the pledge.

I stayed in Philadelphia long enough to identify myself with this Museum
and to successfully start the enterprise and then left it in the hands
of different managers who profitably conducted it till 1851, when,
finding that it occupied too much of my time and attention, I sold it to
Mr. Clapp Spooner for $40,000. At the end of that year, the building and
contents were destroyed by fire. The loss was a serious one to
Philadelphia, and the people were very desirous that Mr. Spooner should
rebuild the establishment; but a highly profitable business connection
with the Adams Express Company prevented him from doing so.

While my Philadelphia Museum was in full operation, Peale’s Museum ran
me a strong opposition at the Masonic Hall. That enterprise proved
disastrous, and I purchased the collection at sheriff’s sale, for five
or six thousand dollars, on joint account of my friend Moses Kimball and
myself. The curiosities were equally divided, one-half going to his
Boston Museum and the other half to my American Museum in New York.

In 1848 I was elected President of the Fairfield County Agricultural
Society in Connecticut. Although not practically a farmer, I had
purchased about one hundred acres of land in the vicinity of my
residence, and felt and still feel a deep interest in the cause of
agriculture. I had begun by importing some blood stock for Iranistan,
and, as I was at one time attacked by the “hen fever,” I erected
several splendid poultry-houses on my grounds. These were built for me
by a carpenter who wrote an application for a situation, sending me a
frightfully mis-spelled letter, in which he said that he was “youste” to
hard work. I thought if his work was as strong as his spelling, he was
the man I wanted, and I employed him. When the time came to prepare for
our agricultural fair in the fall, he made a series of gorgeous cages in
which to exhibit my shanghaes, bantams, and other fancy fowls. I went
out to see them before they were sent away, and was horrified to find
that he had marked the cages in his own peculiar style, describing my
“Jersey Blues,” for instance, in startling capitals as “Gersy Blews.” I
called for a jack-plane to remove every mark on the cages and told the
astonished carpenter that he might do anything in the world for me,
except to spell.

In 1849 it was determined by the Society that I should deliver the
annual address. I begged to be excused on the ground of incompetency,
but my excuses were of no avail, and as I could not instruct my auditors
in farming, I gave them the benefit of several mistakes which I had
committed. Among other things, I told them that in the fall of 1848 my
head gardener reported that I had fifty bushels of potatoes to spare. I
thereupon directed him to barrel them up and ship them to New York for
sale. He did so, and received two dollars per barrel, or about
sixty-seven cents per bushel. But, unfortunately, after the potatoes had
been shipped, I found that my gardener had selected all the largest for
market, and left my family nothing but “small potatoes” to live on
during the winter. But the worst is still to come. My potatoes were all
gone before March, and I was obliged to buy, during the spring, over
fifty bushels of potatoes, at $1.25 per bushel! I also related my first
experiment in the arboricultural line, when I cut from two thrifty rows
of young cherry-trees any quantity of what I supposed to be “suckers,”
or “sprouts,” and was thereafter informed by my gardener that I had cut
off all his grafts!

A friend of mine, Mr. James D. Johnson, lived in a fine house a quarter
of a mile west of Iranistan, and as I owned several acres of land at the
corner of two streets directly adjoining his homestead, I surrounded the
ground with high pickets, and introducing a number of Rocky Mountain
elk, reindeer, and American deer, I converted it into a deer park.
Strangers passing by would naturally suppose that it belonged to
Johnson’s estate, and to render the illusion more complete, his
son-in-law, Mr. S. H. Wales, of the Scientific American, placed a sign
in the park, fronting on the street, and reading:


I “acknowledged the corn,” and was much pleased with the joke. Johnson
was delighted, and bragged considerably of having got ahead of Barnum,
and the sign remained undisturbed for several days. It happened at
length that a party of friends came to visit him from New York, arriving
in the evening. Johnson told them he had got a capital joke on Barnum;
he would not explain, but said they should see it for themselves the
next morning. Bright and early he led them into the street, and after
conducting them a proper distance, wheeled them around in front of the
sign. To his dismay he discovered that I had added directly under his
name the words, “Game-keeper to P. T. Barnum.” His friends, as soon as
they understood the joke, enjoyed it mightily, but it was said that
neighbor Johnson laughed out of “the wrong side of his mouth.”

Thereafter, Mr. Johnson was known among his friends and acquaintances as
“Barnum’s game-keeper.” Sometime afterwards when I was President of the
Pequonnock Bank, it was my custom every year to give a grand dinner at
Iranistan to the directors, and in making preparations I used to send to
certain friends in the West for prairie chickens and other game. On one
occasion a large box, marked “P. T. Barnum, Bridgeport; Game,” was lying
in the express office, when Johnson seeing it, and espying the word
“game,” said:

“Look here! I am ‘Barnum’s game-keeper,’ and I’ll take charge of this

And “take charge” of it he did, carrying it home and notifying me that
it was in his possession, and that as he was my game-keeper he would
“keep” this, unless I sent him an order for a new hat. He knew very well
that I would give fifty dollars rather than be deprived of the box, and
as he also threatened to give a game dinner at his own house, I speedily
sent the order for the hat, acknowledged the good joke, and my own
guests enjoyed the double “game.”

During the year 1848, Mr. Frank Leslie, since so widely known as the
publisher of several illustrated journals, came to me with letters of
introduction from London, and I employed him to get up for me an
illustrated catalogue of my Museum. This he did in a splendid manner,
and hundreds of thousands of copies were sold and distributed far and
near, thus adding greatly to the renown of the establishment.

I count these two years--1848 and 1849--among the happiest of my life. I
had enough to do in the management of my business, and yet I seemed to
have plenty of leisure hours to pass with my family and friends in my
beautiful home of Iranistan.




Many of my most fortunate enterprises have fairly startled me by the
magnitude of their success. When my sanguine hopes predicted a steady
flow of fortune, I have been inundated; when I calculated upon making a
curious public pay me liberally for a meritorious article, I have often
found the same public eager to deluge me with compensation. Yet, I never
believed in mere luck and I always pitied the simpleton who relies on
luck for his success. Luck is in no sense the foundation of my fortune;
from the beginning of my career I planned and worked for my success. To
be sure, my schemes often amazed me with the affluence of their results,
and, arriving at the very best, I sometimes “builded better” than “I

For a long time I had been incubating a plan for an extraordinary
exhibition which I was sure would be a success and would excite
universal attention and commendation in America and abroad. This was
nothing less than a “Congress of Nations”--an assemblage of
representatives of all the nations that could be reached by land or sea.
I meant to secure a man and woman, as perfect as could be procured, from
every accessible people, civilized and barbarous, on the face of the
globe. I had actually contracted with an agent to go to Europe to make
arrangements to secure “specimens” for such a show. Even now, I can
conceive of no exhibition which would be more interesting and which
would appeal more generally to all classes of patrons. As it was, and
while positively preparing for such a congress, it occurred to me that
another great enterprise could be undertaken at less risk, with far less
real trouble, and with more remunerative results.

And now I come to speak of an undertaking which my worst enemy will
admit was bold in its conception, complete in its development, and
astounding in its success. It was an enterprise never before or since
equalled in managerial annals. As I recall it now, I almost tremble at
the seeming temerity of the attempt. That I am proud of it I freely
confess. It placed me before the world in a new light; it gained me many
warm friends in new circles; it was in itself a fortune to me--I risked
much but I made more.

It was in October 1849, that I conceived the idea of bringing Jenny Lind
to this country. I had never heard her sing, inasmuch as she arrived in
London a few weeks after I left that city with General Tom Thumb. Her
reputation, however, was sufficient for me. I usually jump at
conclusions, and almost invariably find that my first impressions are
correct. It struck me, when I first thought of this speculation, that if
properly managed it must prove immensely profitable, provided I could
engage the “Swedish Nightingale” on any terms within the range of
reason. As it was a great undertaking, I considered the matter seriously
for several days, and all my “cipherings” and calculations gave but one
result--immense success.

Reflecting that very much would depend upon the manner in which she
should be brought before the public, I saw that my task would be an
exceedingly arduous one. It was possible, I knew, that circumstances
might occur which would make the enterprise disastrous. “The public” is
a very strange animal, and although a good knowledge of human nature
will generally lead a caterer of amusements to hit the people, they are
fickle, and ofttimes perverse. A slight misstep in the management of a
public entertainment, frequently wrecks the most promising enterprise.
But I had marked the “divine Jenny” as a sure card, and to secure the
prize I began to cast about for a competent agent.

I found in Mr. John Hall Wilton, an Englishman who had visited this
country with the Sax-Horn Players, the best man whom I knew for that
purpose. A few minutes sufficed to make the arrangement with him, by
which I was to pay but little more than his expenses if he failed in his
mission, but by which also he was to be paid a large sum if he succeeded
in bringing Jenny Lind to our shores, on any terms within a liberal
schedule which I set forth to him in writing.

On the 6th of November, 1849, I furnished Wilton with the necessary
documents, including a letter of general instructions which he was at
liberty to exhibit to Jenny Lind and to any other musical notables whom
he thought proper, and a private letter, containing hints and
suggestions not embodied in the former. I also gave him letters of
introduction to my bankers, Messrs. Baring Brothers & Co., of London, as
well as to many friends in England and France.

The sum of all my instructions, public and private, to Wilton amounted
to this: He was to engage her on shares, if possible. I, however,
authorized him to engage her at any rate, not exceeding one thousand
dollars a night, for any number of nights up to one hundred and fifty,
with all her expenses, including servants, carriages, secretary, etc.,
besides also engaging such musical assistants, not exceeding three in
number, as she should select, let the terms be what they might. If
necessary, I should place the entire amount of money named in the
engagement in the hands of London bankers before she sailed. Wilton’s
compensation was arranged on a kind of sliding scale, to be governed by
the terms which he made for me--so that the farther he kept below my
utmost limits, the better he should be paid for making the engagements.
He proceeded to London, and opened a correspondence with Miss Lind, who
was then on the Continent. He learned from the tenor of her letters,
that if she could be induced to visit America at all, she must be
accompanied by Mr. Julius Benedict, the accomplished composer, pianist,
and musical director, and also she was impressed with the belief that
Signor Belletti, the fine baritone, would be of essential service.
Wilton therefore at once called upon Mr. Benedict and also Signor
Belletti, who were both then in London, and in numerous interviews was
enabled to learn the terms on which they would consent to engage to
visit this country with Miss Lind. Having obtained the information
desired, he proceeded to Lubeck, in Germany, to seek an interview with
Miss Lind herself. Upon arriving at her hotel, he sent his card,
requesting her to specify an hour for an interview. She named the
following morning, and he was punctual to the appointment.

In the course of the first conversation, she frankly told him that
during the time occupied by their correspondence, she had written to
friends in London, including my friend Mr. Joshua Bates, of the house of
Baring Brothers, and had informed herself respecting my character,
capacity, and responsibility, which she assured him were quite
satisfactory. She informed him, however, that at that time there were
four persons anxious to negotiate with her for an American tour. One of
these gentlemen was a well-known opera manager in London; another, a
theatrical manager in Manchester; a third, a musical composer and
conductor of the orchestra of Her Majesty’s Opera in London; and the
fourth, Chevalier Wyckoff, a person who had conducted a successful
speculation some years previously by visiting America in charge of the
celebrated danseuse, Fanny Ellsler. Several of these parties had called
upon her personally, and Wyckoff upon hearing my name, attempted to
deter her from making any engagement with me, by assuring her that I was
a mere showman, and that, for the sake of making money by the
speculation, I would not scruple to put her into a box and exhibit her
through the country at twenty-five cents a head.

This, she confessed, somewhat alarmed her, and she wrote to Mr. Bates on
the subject. He entirely disabused her mind, by assuring her that he
knew me personally, and that in treating with me she was not dealing
with an “adventurer” who might make her remuneration depend entirely
upon the success of the enterprise, but I was able to carry out all my
engagements, let them prove never so unprofitable, and she could place
the fullest reliance upon my honor and integrity.

“Now,” said she to Mr. Wilton, “I am perfectly satisfied on that point,
for I know the world pretty well, and am aware how far jealousy and envy
will sometimes carry persons; and as those who are trying to treat with
me are all anxious that I should participate in the profits or losses of
the enterprise, I much prefer treating with you, since your principal is
willing to assume all the responsibility, and take the entire management
and chances of the result upon himself.”

Several interviews ensued, during which she learned from Wilton that he
had settled with Messrs. Benedict and Belletti, in regard to the amount
of their salaries, provided the engagement was concluded, and in the
course of a week, Mr. Wilton and Miss Lind had arranged the terms and
conditions on which she was ready to conclude the negotiations. As these
terms were within the limits fixed in my private letter of instructions,
the following agreement was duly drawn in triplicate, and signed by
herself and Wilton, at Lubeck, January 9, 1850; and the signatures of
Messrs. Benedict and Belletti were affixed in London a few days

     MEMORANDUM of an agreement entered into this ninth day of January,
     in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and fifty,
     between John Hall Wilton, as agent for PHINEAS T. BARNUM, of New
     York, in the United States of North America, of the one part, and
     Mademoiselle JENNY LIND, Vocalist, of Stockholm in Sweden, of the
     other part, wherein the said Jenny Lind doth agree:

1st. To sing for the said Phineas T. Barnum in one hundred and fifty
concerts, including oratorios, within (if possible) one year, or
eighteen months from the date of her arrival in the City of New
York--the said concerts to be given in the United States of North
America and Havana. She, the said Jenny Lind, having full control as to
the number of nights or concerts in each week, and the number of pieces
in which she will sing in each concert, to be regulated conditionally
with her health and safety of voice, but the former never less than one
or two, nor the latter less than four; but in no case to appear in

2d. In consideration of said services, the said John Hall Wilton, as
agent for the said Phineas T. Barnum, of New York, agrees to furnish the
said Jenny Lind with a servant as waiting-maid, and a male servant to
and for the sole service of her and her party; to pay the travelling and
hotel expenses of a friend to accompany her as a companion; to pay also
a secretary to superintend her finances; to pay all her and her party’s
travelling expenses from Europe, and during the tour in the United
States of North America and Havana; to pay all hotel expenses for board
and lodging during the same period; to place at her disposal in each
city a carriage and horses with their necessary attendants, and to give
her in addition, the sum of two hundred pounds sterling, or one thousand
dollars, for each concert or oratorio in which the said Jenny Lind shall

3d. And the said John Hall Wilton, as agent for the said Phineas T.
Barnum, doth further agree to give the said Jenny Lind the most
satisfactory security and assurance for the full amount of her
engagement, which shall be placed in the hands of Messrs. Baring
Brothers, of London, previous to the departure and subject to the order
of the said Jenny Lind, with its interest due on its current reduction,
by her services in the concerts or oratorios.

4th. And the said John Hall Wilton, on the part of the said Phineas T.
Barnum, further agrees, that should the said Phineas T. Barnum, after
seventy-five concerts, have realized so much as shall, after paying all
current expenses, have returned to him all the sums disbursed, either as
deposits at interest, for securities of salaries, preliminary outlay, or
moneys in any way expended consequent on this engagement, and in
addition, have gained a clear profit of at least fifteen thousand pounds
sterling, then the said Phineas T. Barnum will give the said Jenny Lind,
in addition to the former sum of one thousand dollars current money of
the United States of North America, nightly, one fifth part of the
profits arising from the remaining seventy-five concerts or oratorios,
after deducting every expense current and appertaining thereto; or the
said Jenny Lind agrees to try with the said Phineas T. Barnum fifty
concerts or oratorios on the aforesaid and first-named terms, and if
then found to fall short of the expectations of the said Phineas T.
Barnum, then the said Jenny Lind agrees to reorganize this agreement, on
terms quoted in his first proposal, as set forth in the annexed copy of
his letter; but should such be found unnecessary, then the engagement
continues up to seventy-five concerts or oratorios, at the end of which,
should the aforesaid profit of fifteen thousand pounds sterling have not
been realized, then the engagement shall continue as at first--the sums
herein, after expenses for Julius Benedict and Giovanni Belletti, to
remain unaltered except for advancement.

5th. And the said John Hall Wilton, agent for the said Phineas T.
Barnum, at the request of the said Jenny Lind, agrees to pay to Julius
Benedict, of London, to accompany the said Jenny Lind as musical
director, pianist, and superintendent of the musical department, also to
assist the said Jenny Lind in one hundred and fifty concerts or
oratorios, to be given in the United States of North America and Havana,
the sum of five thousand pounds (£5,000) sterling, to be satisfactorily
secured to him with Messrs. Baring Brothers, of London, previous to his
departure from Europe; and the said John Hall Wilton agrees further, for
the said Phineas T. Barnum, to pay all his travelling expenses from
Europe, together with his hotel and travelling expenses during the time
occupied in giving the aforesaid one hundred and fifty concerts or
oratorios--he, the said Julius Benedict, to superintend the organization
of oratorios, if required.

6th. And the said John Hall Wilton, at the request, selection, and for
the aid of the said Jenny Lind, agrees to pay to Giovanni Belletti,
baritone vocalist, to accompany the said Jenny Lind during her tour and
in one hundred and fifty concerts or oratorios in the United States of
North America and Havana, and in conjunction with the aforesaid Julius
Benedict, the sum of two thousand five hundred pounds (£2,500) sterling,
to be satisfactorily secured to him previous to his departure from
Europe, in addition to all his hotel and travelling expenses.

7th. And it is further agreed that the said Jenny Lind shall be at full
liberty to sing at any time she may think fit for charitable
institutions or purposes independent of the engagement with the said
Phineas T. Barnum, she, the said Jenny Lind, consulting with the said
Phineas T. Barnum with a view to mutually agreeing as to the time and
its propriety, it being understood that in no case shall the first or
second concert in any city selected for the tour be for such purpose, or
whereever it shall appear against the interests of the said Phineas T.

8th. It is further agreed that should the said Jenny Lind by any act of
God be incapacitated to fulfil the entire engagement before mentioned,
that an equal proportion of the terms agreed upon shall be given to the
said Jenny Lind, Julius Benedict, and Giovanni Belletti, for services
rendered to that time.

9th. It is further agreed and understood, that the said Phineas T.
Barnum shall pay every expense appertaining to the concerts or oratorios
before mentioned, excepting those for charitable purposes, and that all
accounts shall be settled and rendered by all parties weekly.

10th. And the said Jenny Lind further agrees that she will not engage to
sing for any other person during the progress of this said engagement
with the said Phineas T. Barnum, of New York, for one hundred and fifty
concerts or oratorios, excepting for charitable purposes as before
mentioned; and all travelling to be first and best class.

In witness hereof to the within written memorandum of agreement we set
hereunto our hand and seal.

  BARNUM, of New York, U. S.




In the presence of C. ACHILLING, Consul of His Majesty the King of
Sweden and Norway.

_Extract from a Letter addressed to John Hall Wilton by_ PHINEAS T.
BARNUM, _and referred to in paragraph No. 4 of the annexed agreement._

NEW YORK, _November 6, 1849_.


     SIR:--In reply to your proposal to attempt a negotiation with Mlle.
     Jenny Lind to visit the United States professionally, I propose to
     enter into an arrangement with her to the following effect: I will
     engage to pay all her expenses from Europe, provide for and pay for
     one principal tenor and one pianist, their salaries not exceeding
     together one hundred and fifty dollars per night; to support for
     her a carriage, two servants, and a friend to accompany her and
     superintend her finances. I will furthermore pay all and every
     expense appertaining to her appearance before the public, and give
     her half of the gross receipts arising from concerts or operas. I
     will engage to travel with her personally and attend to the
     arrangements, provided she will undertake to give not less than
     eighty nor more than one hundred and fifty concerts, or nights’


     I certify the above to be a true extract from the letter.


I was at my Museum in Philadelphia when Wilton arrived in New York,
February 19, 1850. He immediately telegraphed to me, in the cipher we
had agreed upon, that he had signed an engagement with Jenny Lind, by
which she was to commence her concerts in America in the following
September. I was somewhat startled by this sudden announcement; and
feeling that the time to elapse before her arrival was so long that it
would be policy to keep the engagement private for a few months, I
immediately telegraphed him not to mention it to any person, and that I
would meet him the next day in New York.

When we reflect how thoroughly Jenny Lind, her musical powers, her
character, and wonderful successes, were subsequently known by all
classes in this country as well as throughout the civilized world, it is
difficult to realize that, at the time this engagement was made, she was
comparatively unknown on this side the water. We can hardly credit the
fact, that millions of persons in America had never heard of her, that
other millions had merely read her name, but had no distinct idea of who
or what she was. Only a small portion of the public were really aware of
her great musical triumphs in the Old World, and this portion was
confined almost entirely to musical people, travellers who had visited
the Old World, and the conductors of the press.

The next morning I started for New York. On arriving at Princeton we met
the New York cars, and purchasing the morning papers, I was surprised to
find in them a full account of my engagement with Jenny Lind. However,
this premature announcement could not be recalled, and I put the best
face on the matter. Anxious to learn how this communication would strike
the public mind, I informed the conductor, whom I well knew, that I had
made an engagement with Jenny Lind, and that she would surely visit this
country in the following August.

“Jenny Lind! Is she a dancer?” asked the conductor.

I informed him who and what she was, but his question had chilled me as
if his words were ice. Really, thought I, if this is all that a man in
the capacity of a railroad conductor between Philadelphia and New York
knows of the greatest songstress in the world, I am not sure that six
months will be too long a time for me to occupy in enlightening the
public in regard to her merits.

I had an interview with Wilton, and learned from him that, in accordance
with the agreement, it would be requisite for me to place the entire
amount stipulated, $187,500, in the hands of the London bankers. I at
once resolved to ratify the agreement, and immediately sent the
necessary documents to Miss Lind and Messrs. Benedict and Belletti.

I then began to prepare the public mind, through the newspapers, for the
reception of the great songstress. How effectually this was done, is
still within the remembrance of the American public. As a sample of the
manner in which I accomplished my purpose, I present the following
extract from my first letter, which appeared in the New York papers of
February 22, 1850:

“Perhaps I may not make any money by this enterprise; but I assure you
that if I knew I should not make a farthing profit, I would ratify the
engagement, so anxious am I that the United States should be visited by
a lady whose vocal powers have never been approached by any other human
being, and whose character is charity, simplicity, and goodness

“Miss Lind has great anxiety to visit America. She speaks of this
country and its institutions in the highest terms of praise. In her
engagement with me (which includes Havana), she expressly reserves the
right to give charitable concerts whenever she thinks proper.

“Since her _débût_ in England, she has given to the poor from her own
private purse more than the whole amount which I have engaged to pay
her, and the proceeds of concerts for charitable purposes in Great
Britain, where she has sung gratuitously, have realized more than ten
times that amount.”

The people soon began to talk about Jenny Lind, and I was particularly
anxious to obtain a good portrait of her. Fortunately, a fine
opportunity occurred. One day, while I was sitting in the office of the
Museum, a foreigner approached me with a small package under his arm. He
informed me in broken English that he was a Swede, and said he was an
artist, who had just arrived from Stockholm, where Jenny Lind had kindly
given him a number of sittings, and he now had with him the portrait of
her which he had painted upon copper. He unwrapped the package, and
showed me a beautiful picture of the Swedish Nightingale, inclosed in an
elegant gilt frame, about fourteen by twenty inches. It was just the
thing I wanted; the price was fifty dollars, and I purchased it at once.
Upon showing it to an artist friend the same day, he quietly assured me
that it was a cheap lithograph pasted on a tin back, neatly varnished,
and made to appear like a fine oil painting. The intrinsic value of the
picture did not exceed thirty-seven and one half cents!

After getting together all my available funds for the purpose of
transmitting them to London in the shape of United States bonds, I found
a considerable sum still lacking to make up the amount. I had some
second mortgages which were perfectly good, but I could not negotiate
them in Wall Street. Nothing would answer there short of first mortgages
on New York or Brooklyn city property.

I went to the president of the bank where I had done all my business for
eight years. I offered him, as security for a loan, my second mortgages,
and as an additional inducement, I proposed to make over to him my
contract with Jenny Lind, with a written guaranty that he should appoint
a receiver, who, at my expense, should take charge of all the receipts
over and above three thousand dollars per night, and appropriate them
towards the payment of my loan. He laughed in my face, and said: “Mr.
Barnum, it is generally believed in Wall Street, that your engagement
with Jenny Lind will ruin you. I do not think you will ever receive so
much as three thousand dollars at a single concert.” I was indignant at
his want of appreciation, and answered him that I would not at that
moment take $150,000 for my contract; nor would I. I found, upon further
inquiry, that it was useless in Wall Street to offer the “Nightingale”
in exchange for Goldfinches. I finally was introduced to Mr. John L.
Aspinwall, of the firm of Messrs. Howland & Aspinwall, and he gave me a
letter of credit from his firm on Baring Brothers, for a large sum on
collateral securities, which a spirit of genuine respect for my
enterprise induced him to accept.

After disposing of several pieces of property for cash, I footed up the
various amounts, and still discovered myself five thousand dollars
short. I felt that it was indeed “the last feather that breaks the
camel’s back.” Happening casually to state my desperate case to the
Rev. Abel C. Thomas, of Philadelphia, for many years a friend of mine,
he promptly placed the requisite amount at my disposal. I gladly
accepted his proffered friendship, and felt that he had removed a
mountain-weight from my shoulders.




After the engagement with Miss Lind was consummated, she declined
several liberal offers to sing in London, but, at my solicitation, gave
two concerts in Liverpool, on the eve of her departure for America. My
object in making this request was, to add the _éclat_ of that side to
the excitement on this side of the Atlantic, which was already nearly up
to fever heat.

The first of the two Liverpool concerts was given the night previous to
the departure of the Saturday steamer for America. My agent had procured
the services of a musical critic from London, who finished his account
of this concert at half past one o’clock the following morning, and at
two o’clock my agent was overseeing its insertion in a Liverpool morning
paper, numbers of which he forwarded to me by the steamer of the same
day. The republication of the criticism in the American papers,
including an account of the enthusiasm which attended and followed this
concert,--her trans-Atlantic,--had the desired effect.

On Wednesday morning, August 21, 1850, Jenny Lind and Messrs. Benedict
and Belletti, set sail from Liverpool in the steamship Atlantic, in
which I had long before engaged the necessary accommodations, and on
board of which I had shipped a piano for their use. They were
accompanied by my agent, Mr. Wilton, and also by Miss Ahmansen and Mr.
Max Hjortzberg, cousins of Miss Lind, the latter being her Secretary;
also by her two servants, and the valet of Messrs. Benedict and

It was expected that the steamer would arrive on Sunday, September 1,
but, determined to meet the songstress on her arrival whenever it might
be, I went to Staten Island on Saturday, and slept at the hospitable
residence of my friend, Dr. A. Sidney Doane, who was at that time the
Health Officer of the Port of New York. A few minutes before twelve
o’clock, on Sunday morning, the Atlantic hove in sight, and immediately
afterwards, through the kindness of my friend Doane, I was on board the
ship, and had taken Jenny Lind by the hand.

After a few moments’ conversation, she asked me when and where I had
heard her sing.

“I never had the pleasure of seeing you before in my life,” I replied.

“How is it possible that you dared risk so much money on a person whom
you never heard sing?” she asked in surprise.

“I risked it on your reputation, which in musical matters I would much
rather trust than my own judgment,” I replied.

I may as well state, that although I relied prominently upon Jenny
Lind’s reputation as a great musical _artiste_, I also took largely
into my estimate of her success with all classes of the American public,
her character for extraordinary benevolence and generosity. Without this
peculiarity in her disposition, I never would have dared make the
engagement which I did, as I felt sure that there were multitudes of
individuals in America who would be prompted to attend her concerts by
this feeling alone.

Thousands of persons covered the shipping and piers, and other thousands
had congregated on the wharf at Canal Street, to see her. The wildest
enthusiasm prevailed as the steamer approached the dock. So great was
the rush on a sloop near the steamer’s berth, that one man, in his zeal
to obtain a good view, accidentally tumbled overboard, amid the shouts
of those near him. Miss Lind witnessed this incident, and was much
alarmed. He was, however, soon rescued, after taking to himself a cold
duck instead of securing a view of the Nightingale. A bower of green
trees, decorated with beautiful flags, was discovered on the wharf,
together with two triumphal arches, on one of which was inscribed,
“Welcome, Jenny Lind!” The second was surmounted by the American eagle,
and bore the inscription, “Welcome to America!” These decorations were
not produced by magic, and I do not know that I can reasonably find
fault with those who suspected I had a hand in their erection. My
private carriage was in waiting, and Jenny Lind was escorted to it by
Captain West. The rest of the musical party entered the carriage, and
mounting the box at the driver’s side, I directed him to the Irving
House. I took that seat as a legitimate advertisement, and my presence
on the outside of the carriage aided those who filled the windows and

[Illustration: _JENNY LIND._]

sidewalks along the whole route, in coming to the conclusion that Jenny
Lind had arrived.

A reference to the journals of that day will show, that never before had
there been such enthusiasm in the City of New York, or indeed in
America. Within ten minutes after our arrival at the Irving House, not
less than twenty thousand persons had congregated around the entrance in
Broadway, nor was the number diminished before nine o’clock in the
evening. At her request, I dined with her that afternoon, and when,
according to European custom, she prepared to pledge me in a glass of
wine, she was somewhat surprised at my saying, “Miss Lind, I do not
think you can ask any other favor on earth which I would not gladly
grant; but I am a teetotaler, and must beg to be permitted to drink your
health and happiness in a glass of cold water.”

At twelve o’clock that night, she was serenaded by the New York Musical
Fund Society, numbering, on that occasion, two hundred musicians. They
were escorted to the Irving House by about three hundred firemen, in
their red shirts, bearing torches. There was a far greater throng in the
streets than there was even during the day. The calls for Jenny Lind
were so vehement that I led her through a window to the balcony. The
loud cheers from the crowds lasted for several minutes, before the
serenade was permitted to proceed again.

I have given the merest sketch of but a portion of the incidents of
Jenny Lind’s first day in America. For weeks afterwards the excitement
was unabated. Her rooms were thronged by visitors, including the
magnates of the land in both Church and State. The carriages of the
wealthiest citizens could be seen in front of her hotel at nearly all
hours of the day, and it was with some difficulty that I prevented the
“fashionables” from monopolizing her altogether, and thus, as I
believed, sadly marring my interests by cutting her off from the warm
sympathies she had awakened among the masses. Presents of all sorts were
showered upon her. Milliners, mantua-makers, and shopkeepers vied with
each other in calling her attention to their wares, of which they sent
her many valuable specimens, delighted if, in return, they could receive
her autograph acknowledgment. Songs, quadrilles and polkas were
dedicated to her, and poets sung in her praise. We had Jenny Lind
gloves, Jenny Lind bonnets, Jenny Lind riding hats, Jenny Lind shawls,
mantillas, robes, chairs, sofas, pianos--in fact, every thing was Jenny
Lind. Her movements were constantly watched, and the moment her carriage
appeared at the door, it was surrounded by multitudes, eager to catch a
glimpse of the Swedish Nightingale.

In looking over my “scrap-books” of extracts from the New York papers of
that day, in which all accessible details concerning her were duly
chronicled, it seems almost incredible that such a degree of enthusiasm
should have existed. An abstract of the “sayings and doings” in regard
to the Jenny Lind mania for the first ten days after her arrival,
appeared in the London _Times_ of Sept. 23, 1850, and although it was an
ironical “showing up” of the American enthusiasm, filling several
columns, it was nevertheless a faithful condensation of facts which at
this late day seem even to myself more like a dream than reality.

Before her arrival I had offered $200 for a prize ode, “Greeting to
America,” to be sung by Jenny Lind at her first concert. Several
hundred “poems” were sent in from all parts of the United States and the
Canadas. The duties of the Prize Committee, in reading these effusions
and making choice of the one most worthy the prize, were truly arduous.
The “offerings,” with perhaps a dozen exceptions, were the merest
doggerel trash. The prize was awarded to Bayard Taylor for the following



    I greet with a full heart the Land of the West,
      Whose Banner of Stars o’er a world is unrolled;
    Whose empire o’ershadows Atlantic’s wide breast,
      And opens to sunset its gateway of gold!
    The land of the mountain, the land of the lake,
      And rivers that roll in magnificent tide--
    Where the souls of the mighty from slumber awake,
      And hallow the soil for whose freedom they died!

    Thou Cradle of Empire! though wide be the foam
      That severs the land of my fathers and thee,
    I hear, from thy bosom, the welcome of home,
      For Song has a home in the hearts of the Free!
    And long as thy waters shall gleam in the sun,
      And long as thy heroes remember their scars,
    Be the hands of thy children united as one,
      And Peace shed her light on thy Banner of Stars!

This award, although it gave general satisfaction, yet was met with
disfavor by several disappointed poets, who, notwithstanding the
decision of the committee, persisted in believing and declaring their
own productions to be the best. This state of feeling was doubtless, in
part, the cause which led to the publication, about this time, of a
witty pamphlet entitled “Barnum’s Parnassus; being Confidential
Disclosures of the Prize Committee on the Jenny Lind song.”

It gave some capital hits in which the committee, the enthusiastic
public, the Nightingale, and myself, were roundly ridiculed. The
following is a fair specimen from the work in question:



    When to the common rest that crowns his days,
      Dusty and worn the tired pedestrian goes,
    What light is that whose wide o’erlooking blaze
      A sudden glory on his pathway throws?

    ’Tis not the setting sun, whose drooping lid
      Closed on the weary world at half-past six;
    ’Tis not the rising moon, whose rays are hid
      Behind the city’s sombre piles of bricks.

    It is the Drummond Light, that from the top
      Of Barnum’s massive pile, sky-mingling there,
    Darts its quick gleam o’er every shadowed shop,
      And gilds Broadway with unaccustomed glare.

    There o’er the sordid gloom, whose deep’ning tracks
      Furrow the city’s brow, the front of ages,
    Thy loftier light descends on cabs and hacks,
      And on two dozen different lines of stages!

    O twilight Sun, with thy far darting ray,
      Thou art a type of him whose tireless hands
    Hung thee on high to guide the stranger’s way,
      Where, in its pride, his vast Museum stands.

    Him, who in search of wonders new and strange,
      Grasps the wide skirts of Nature’s mystic robe
    Explores the circles of eternal change,
      And the dark chambers of the central globe.

    He, from the reedy shores of fabled Nile,
      Has brought, thick-ribbed and ancient as old iron,
    That venerable beast the crocodile,
      And many a skin of many a famous lion.

    Go lose thyself in those continuous halls,
      Where strays the fond papa with son and daughter
    And all that charms or startles or appals,
      Thou shalt behold, and for a single quarter!

    Far from the Barcan deserts now withdrawn,
      There huge constrictors coil their scaly backs;
    There, cased in glass, malignant and unshorn,
      Old murderers glare in sullenness and wax.

    There many a varied form the sight beguiles,
      In rusty broadcloth decked and shocking hat,
    And there the unwieldy Lambert sits and smiles,
      In the majestic plenitude of fat.

    Or for thy gayer hours, the orang-outang
      Or ape salutes thee with his strange grimace,
    And in their shapes, stuffed as on earth they sprang,
      Thine individual being thou canst trace!

    And joys the youth in life’s green spring, who goes
      With the sweet babe and the gray-headed nurse,
    To see those Cosmoramic orbs disclose
      The varied beauties of the universe.

    And last, not least, the marvellous Ethiope,
      Changing his skin by preternatural skill,
    Whom every setting sun’s diurnal slope
      Leaves whiter than the last, and whitening still.

    All that of monstrous, scaly, strange and queer,
      Has come from out the womb of earliest time,
    Thou hast, O Barnum, in thy keeping here,
      Nor is this all--for triumphs more sublime

    Await thee yet! I, Jenny Lind, who reigned
      Sublimely throned, the imperial queen of song,
    Wooed by thy golden harmonies, have deigned
      Captive to join the heterogeneous throng.

    Sustained by an unfaltering trust in coin,
      Dealt from thy hand, O thou illustrious man,
    Gladly I heard the summons come to join
      Myself the innumerable caravan.

Besides the foregoing, this pamphlet contained eleven poems, most of
which abounded in wit. I have room for but a single stanza. The poet
speaks of the various curiosities in the Museum, and representing me as
still searching for further novelties, makes me address the Swedish
Nightingale as follows:

    “So Jenny, come along! you’re just the card for me,
     And quit these kings and queens, for the country of the free;
     They’ll welcome you with speeches, and serenades, and rockets,
     And you will touch their hearts, and I will tap their pockets;
     And if between us both the public isn’t skinned,
     Why, my name isn’t Barnum, nor your name Jenny Lind!”

Various extracts from this brochure were copied in the papers daily, and
my agents scattered the work as widely as possible, thus efficiently
aiding and advertising my enterprise and serving to keep up the public

Among the many complimentary poems sent in, was the following, by Mrs.
L. H. SIGOURNEY, which that distinguished writer enclosed in a letter to
me, with the request that I should hand it to Miss Lind:



    Blest must their vocation be
    Who, with tones of melody,
    Charm the discord and the strife
    And the railroad rush of life,
    And with Orphean magic move
    Souls inert to life and love.
    But there’s one who doth inherit
    Angel gift and angel spirit,
    Bidding tides of gladness flow
    Through the realms of want and woe;
    ’Mid lone age and misery’s lot,
    Kindling pleasures long forgot,
    Seeking minds oppressed with night,
    And on darkness shedding light.
    She the seraph’s speech doth know,
    She hath done their deeds below:
    So, when o’er this misty strand
    She shall clasp their waiting hand,
    They will fold her to their breast,
    More a sister than a guest.

Jenny Lind’s first concert was fixed to come off at Castle Garden, on
Wednesday evening, September 11th, and most of the tickets were sold at
auction on the Saturday and Monday previous to the concert. John N.
Genin, the hatter, laid the foundation of his fortune by purchasing the
first ticket at $225. It has been extensively reported that Mr. Genin
and I are brothers-in-law, but our only relations are those of business
and friendship. The proprietors of the Garden saw fit to make the usual
charge of one shilling to all persons who entered the premises, yet
three thousand people were present at the auction. One thousand tickets
were sold on the first day for an aggregate sum of $10,141.

On the Tuesday after her arrival I informed Miss Lind that I wished to
make a slight alteration in our agreement. “What is it?” she asked in

“I am convinced,” I replied, “that our enterprise will be much more
successful than either of us anticipated. I wish, therefore, to
stipulate that you shall receive not only $1,000 for each concert,
besides all the expenses, as heretofore agreed on, but after taking
$5,500 per night for expenses and my services, the balance shall be
equally divided between us.”

Jenny looked at me with astonishment. She could not comprehend my
proposition. After I had repeated it, and she fully understood its
import, she cordially grasped me by the hand, and exclaimed, “Mr.
Barnum, you are a gentleman of honor: you are generous; it is just as
Mr. Bates told me; I will sing for you as long as you please; I will
sing for you in America--in Europe--anywhere!”

Upon drawing the new contract which was to include this entirely
voluntary and liberal advance on my part, beyond the terms of the
original agreement, Miss Lind’s lawyer, Mr. John Jay, who was present
solely to put in writing the new arrangement between Miss Lind and
myself, insisted upon intruding the suggestion that she should have the
right to terminate the engagement at the end of the sixtieth concert, if
she should choose to do so. This proposition was so persistently and
annoyingly pressed that Miss Lind was finally induced to entertain it,
at the same time offering, if she did so, to refund to me all moneys
paid her up to that time, excepting the $1,000 per concert according to
the original agreement. This was agreed to, and it was also arranged
that she might terminate the engagement at the one-hundredth concert, if
she desired, upon paying me $25,000 for the loss of the additional fifty

After this new arrangement was completed, I said: “Now, Miss Lind, as
you are directly interested, you must have an agent to assist in taking
and counting the tickets”; to which she replied, “Oh, no! Mr. Barnum; I
have every confidence in you and I must decline to act upon your
suggestion”; but I continued:

“I never allow myself, if it can be avoided, when I have associates in
the same interests, to be placed in a position where I must assume the
sole responsibility. I never even permitted an actor to take a benefit
at my Museum, unless he placed a ticket-taker of his own at the door.”

Thus urged, Miss Lind engaged Mr. Seton to act as her ticket-taker, and
after we had satisfactorily arranged the matter, Jay, knowing the whole
affair, had the impudence to come to me with a package of blank printed
affidavits, which he demanded that I should fill out, from day to day,
with the receipts of each concert, and swear to their correctness before
a magistrate!

I told him that I would see him on the subject at Miss Lind’s hotel that
afternoon, and going there a few moments before the appointed hour, I
narrated the circumstances to Mr. Benedict and showed him an affidavit
which I had made that morning to the effect that I would never directly
or indirectly take any advantage whatever of Miss Lind. This I had made
oath to, for I thought if there was any swearing of that kind to be done
I would do it “in a lump” rather than in detail. Mr. Benedict was very
much opposed to it, and arriving during the interview, Jay was made to
see the matter in such a light that he was thoroughly ashamed of his
proposition, and, requesting that the affair might not be mentioned to
Miss Lind, he begged me to destroy the affidavit. I heard no more about
swearing to our receipts.

On Tuesday, September 10th, I informed Miss Lind that, judging by
present appearances, her portion of the proceeds of the first concert
would amount to $10,000. She immediately resolved to devote every dollar
of it to charity; and, sending for Mayor Woodhull, she acted under his
and my advice in selecting the various institutions among which she
wished the amount to be distributed.

My arrangements of the concert room were very complete. The great
_parterre_ and gallery of Castle Garden were divided by imaginary lines
into four compartments, each of which was designated by a lamp of a
different color. The tickets were printed in colors corresponding with
the location which the holders were to occupy, and one hundred ushers,
with rosettes and bearing wands tipped with ribbons of the several hues,
enabled every individual to find his or her seat without the slightest
difficulty. Every seat was of course numbered in color to correspond
with the check, which each person retained after giving up an entrance
ticket at the door. Thus, tickets, checks, lamps, rosettes, wands, and
even the seat numbers were all in the appropriate colors to designate
the different departments. These arrangements were duly advertised, and
every particular was also printed upon each ticket. In order to prevent
confusion, the doors were opened at five o’clock, while the concert did
not commence until eight. The consequence was, that although about five
thousand persons were present at the first concert, their entrance was
marked with as much order and quiet as was ever witnessed in the
assembling of a congregation at church. These precautions were observed
at all the concerts given throughout the country under my
administration, and the good order which always prevailed was the
subject of numberless encomiums from the public and the press.

The reception of Jenny Lind on her first appearance, in point of
enthusiasm, was probably never before equalled in the world. As Mr.
Benedict led her towards the foot-lights, the entire audience rose to
their feet and welcomed her with three cheers, accompanied by the waving
of thousands of hats and handkerchiefs. This was by far the largest
audience to which Jenny Lind had ever sung. She was evidently much
agitated, but the orchestra commenced, and before she had sung a dozen
notes of “Casta Diva,” she began to recover her self-possession, and
long before the _scena_ was concluded, she was as calm as if she was in
her own drawing-room. Towards the last portion of the _cavatina_, the
audience were so completely carried away by their feelings, that the
remainder of the air was drowned in a perfect tempest of acclamation.
Enthusiasm had been wrought to its highest pitch, but the musical powers
of Jenny Lind exceeded all the brilliant anticipations which had been
formed, and her triumph was complete. At the conclusion of the concert
Jenny Lind was loudly called for, and was obliged to appear three times
before the audience could be satisfied. They then called vociferously
for “Barnum,” and I reluctantly responded to their demand.

On this first night, Mr. Julius Benedict firmly established with the
American people his European reputation, as a most accomplished
conductor and musical composer; while Signor Belletti inspired an
admiration which grew warmer and deeper in the minds of the American
people, to the end of his career in this country.

It would seem as if the Jenny Lind mania had reached its culminating
point before she appeared, and I confess that I feared the anticipations
of the public were too high to be realized, and hence that there would
be a reaction after the first concert; but I was happily disappointed.
The transcendent musical genius of the Swedish Nightingale was superior
to all that fancy could paint, and the furor did not attain its highest
point until she had been heard. The people were in ecstasies; the powers
of editorial acumen, types and ink, were inadequate to sound her
praises. The Rubicon was passed. The successful issue of the Jenny Lind
enterprise was established. I think there were a hundred men in New
York, the day after her first concert, who would have willingly paid me
$200,000 for my contract. I received repeated offers for an eighth, a
tenth, or a sixteenth, equivalent to that price. But mine had been the
risk, and I was determined mine should be the triumph. So elated was I
with my success, in spite of all obstacles and false prophets, that I do
not think half a million of dollars would have tempted me to relinquish
the enterprise.

Upon settling the receipts of the first concert, they were found to be
somewhat less than I anticipated. The sums bid at the auction sales,
together with the tickets purchased at private sale, amounted to more
than $20,000. It proved, however, that several of the tickets bid off at
from $12 to $25 each, were not called for. In some instances, probably
the zeal of the bidders cooled down when they came out from the scene of
excitement, and once more breathed the fresh sea-breeze which came
sweeping up from “the Narrows,” while perhaps, in other instances, bids
were made by parties who never intended to take the tickets. I can only
say, once for all, that I was never privy to a false bid, and was so
particular upon that point, that I would not permit one of my employees
to bid on, or purchase a ticket at auction, though requested to do so
for especial friends.

The amount of money received for tickets to the first concert was
$17,864.05. As this made Miss Lind’s portion too small to realize the
$10,000 which had been announced as devoted to charity, I proposed to
divide equally with her the proceeds of the first two concerts, and not
count them at all in our regular engagement. Accordingly, the second
concert was given September 13th, and the receipts, amounting to
$14,203.03, were, like those of the first concert, equally divided. Our
third concert, but which, as between ourselves, we called the “first
regular concert,” was given Tuesday September 17, 1850.




No one can imagine the amount of head-work and hand-work which I
performed during the first four weeks after Jenny Lind’s arrival.
Anticipating much of this, I had spent some time in August at the White
Mountains to recruit my energies. Of course I had not been idle during
the summer. I had put innumerable means and appliances into operation
for the furtherance of my object, and little did the public see of the
hand that indirectly pulled at their heart-strings, preparatory to a
relaxation of their purse-strings; and these means and appliances were
continued and enlarged throughout the whole of that triumphal musical

The first great assembly at Castle Garden was not gathered by Jenny
Lind’s musical genius and powers alone. She was effectually introduced
to the public before they had seen or heard her. She appeared in the
presence of a jury already excited to enthusiasm in her behalf. She
more than met their expectations, and all the means I had adopted to
prepare the way were thus abundantly justified.

As a manager, I worked by setting others to work. Biographies of the
Swedish Nightingale were largely circulated; “Foreign Correspondence”
glorified her talents and triumphs by narratives of her benevolence; and
“printer’s ink” was invoked in every possible form, to put and keep
Jenny Lind before the people. I am happy to say that the press generally
echoed the voice of her praise from first to last. I could fill many
volumes with printed extracts which are nearly all of a similar tenor to
the following unbought, unsolicited editorial article, which appeared in
the _New York Herald_ of Sept. 10, 1850 (the day before the first
concert given by Miss Lind in the United States):

     “JENNY LIND AND THE AMERICAN PEOPLE.--What ancient monarch was he,
     either in history or in fable, who offered half his kingdom (the
     price of box tickets and choice seats in those days) for the
     invention of an original sensation, or the discovery of a fresh
     pleasure? That sensation--that pleasure which royal power in the
     old world failed to discover--has been called into existence at a
     less price, by Mr. Barnum, a plain republican, and is now about to
     be enjoyed by the sovereigns of the new world.

     “Jenny Lind, the most remarkable phenomenon in musical art which
     has for the last century flashed across the horizon of the old
     world, is now among us, and will make her _début_ to-morrow night
     to a house of nearly ten thousand listeners, yielding in proceeds
     by auction, a sum of forty or fifty thousand dollars. For the last
     ten days our musical reporters have furnished our readers with
     every matter connected with her arrival in this metropolis, and the
     steps adopted by Mr. Barnum in preparation for her first
     appearance. The proceedings of yesterday, consisting of the sale of
     the remainder of the tickets, and the astonishing, the wonderful
     sensation produced at her first rehearsal on the few persons,
     critics in musical art, who were admitted on the occasion, will be
     found elsewhere in our columns.

     “We concur in everything that has been said by our musical
     reporter, describing her extraordinary genius--her unrivalled
     combination of power and art. Nothing has been exaggerated, not an
     iota. Three years ago, more or less, we heard Jenny Lind on many
     occasions when she made the first great sensation in Europe, by her
     _début_ at the London Opera House. Then she was great in power--in
     art--in genius; now she is greater in all. We speak from experience
     and conviction. Then she astonished, and pleased, and fascinated
     the thousands of the British aristocracy; now she will fascinate,
     and please, and delight, and almost make mad with musical
     excitement, the millions of the American democracy. To-morrow
     night, this new sensation--this fresh movement--this excitement
     excelling all former excitements--will be called into existence,
     when she pours out the notes of _Casta Diva_, and exhibits her
     astonishing powers--her wonderful peculiarities, that seem more of
     heaven than of earth--more of a voice from eternity, than from the
     lips of a human being.

     “We speak soberly--seriously--calmly. The public expectation has
     run very high for the last week--higher than at any former period
     of our past musical annals. But high as it has risen, the
     reality--the fact--the concert--the voice and power of Jenny
     Lind--will far surpass all past expectation. Jenny Lind is a
     wonder, and a prodigy in song--and no mistake.”

As usual, however, the _Herald_ very soon “took it all back” and roundly
abused Miss Lind and persistently attacked her manager. As usual, too,
the public paid no attention to the _Herald_ and doubled their patronage
of the Jenny Lind concerts.

After the first month the business became thoroughly systematized, and
by the help of such agents as my faithful treasurer, L. C. Stewart, and
the indefatigable Le Grand Smith, my personal labors were materially
relieved; but from the first concert on the 11th of September, 1850,
until the ninety-third concert on the 9th of June, 1851, a space of nine
months, I did not know a waking moment that was entirely free from

I could not hope to be exempted from trouble and perplexity in managing
an enterprise which depended altogether on popular favor, and which
involved great consequences to myself; but I did not expect the numerous
petty annoyances which beset me, especially in the early period of the
concerts. Miss Lind did not dream, nor did any one else, of the
unparalleled enthusiasm that would greet her; and the first immense
assembly at Castle Garden somewhat prepared her, I suspect, to listen to
evil advisers. It would seem that the terms of our revised contract were
sufficiently liberal to her and sufficiently hazardous to myself, to
justify the expectation of perfectly honorable treatment; but certain
envious intermeddlers appeared to think differently. “Do you not see,
Miss Lind, that Mr. Barnum is coining money out of your genius?” said
they; of course she saw it, but the high-minded Swede despised and
spurned the advisers who recommended her to repudiate her contract with
me at all hazards, and take the enterprise into her own hands--possibly
to put it into theirs. I, however, suffered much from the unreasonable
interference of her lawyer, Mr. John Jay. Benedict and Belletti behaved
like men, and Jenny afterwards expressed to me her regret that she had
for a moment listened to the vexatious exactions of her legal

To show the difficulties with which I had to contend thus early in my
enterprise, I copy a letter which I wrote, a little more than one month
after Miss Lind commenced her engagement with me, to my friend Mr.
Joshua Bates, of Messrs. Baring, Brothers & Co., London:

NEW YORK, Oct. 23, 1850.


     DEAR SIR,--I take the liberty to write you a few lines, merely to
     say that we are getting along as well as could reasonably be
     expected. In this country you are aware that the rapid accumulation
     of wealth always creates much envy, and envy soon augments to
     malice. Such are the elements at work to a limited degree against
     myself, and although Miss Lind, Benedict and myself have never, as
     yet, had the slightest feelings between us, to my knowledge, except
     those of friendship, yet I cannot well see how this can long
     continue in face of the fact that, nearly every day, they allow
     persons (some moving in the first classes of society) to approach
     them, and spend hours in traducing me; even her attorney, Mr. John
     Jay, has been so blind to her interests, as to aid in poisoning her
     mind against me, by pouring into her ears the most silly twaddle,
     all of which amounts to nothing and less than nothing--such as the
     regret that I was a ‘showman,’ exhibitor of Tom Thumb, etc., etc.

     Without the elements which I possess for business, as well as my
     knowledge of human nature, acquired in catering for the public, the
     result of her concerts here would not have been pecuniarily one
     half as much as at present--and such men as the Hon. Edward
     Everett, G. G. Howland, and others will tell you that there is no
     charlatanism or lack of dignity in my management of these concerts.
     I know as well as any person that the merits of Jenny Lind are the
     best capital to depend upon to secure public favor, and I have
     thus far acted on this knowledge. Everything which money and
     attention can procure for their comfort, they have, and I am glad
     to know that they are satisfied on this score. All I fear is, that
     these continual backbitings, if listened to by her, will, by and
     by, produce a feeling of distrust or regret, which will lead to
     unpleasant results.

     The fact is, her mind ought to be as free as air, and she herself
     as free as a bird, and, being satisfied of my probity and ability,
     she should turn a deaf ear to all envious and malevolent attacks on
     me. I have hoped that by thus briefly stating to you the facts in
     the case, you might be induced for her interests as well as mine to
     drop a line of advice to Mr. Benedict and another to Mr. Jay on
     this subject. If I am asking or expecting too much, I pray you to
     not give it a thought, for I feel myself fully able to carry
     through my rights alone, although I should deplore nothing so much
     as to be obliged to do so in a feeling of unfriendliness. I have
     risked much money on the issue of this speculation--it has proved
     successful. I am full of perplexity and anxiety, and labor
     continually for success, and I cannot allow ignorance or envy to
     rob me of the fruits of my enterprise.

Sincerely and gratefully, yours,

It is not my purpose to enter into full details of all of the Lind
concerts, though I have given elsewhere a transcript from the account
books of my treasurer, presenting a table of the place and exact
receipts of each concert. This will gratify curiosity, and at the same
time indicate our route of travel. Meanwhile, I devote a few pages to
interesting incidents connected with Miss Lind’s visit to America.

Jenny Lind’s character for benevolence became so generally known, that
her door was beset by persons asking charity, and she was in the
receipt, while in the principal cities, of numerous letters, all on the
same subject. Her secretary examined and responded favorably to some of
them. He undertook at first to answer them all, but finally abandoned
that course in despair. I knew of many instances in which she gave sums
of money to applicants, varying in amount from $20, $50, $500, to
$1,000, and in one instance she gave $5,000 to a Swedish friend.

One night, while giving a concert in Boston, a girl approached the
ticket-office, and laying down $3 for a ticket, remarked, “There goes
half a month’s earnings, but I am determined to hear Jenny Lind.” Miss
Lind’s secretary heard the remark, and a few minutes afterwards coming
into her room, he laughingly related the circumstance. “Would you know
the girl again?” asked Jenny, with an earnest look. Upon receiving an
affirmative reply, she instantly placed a $20 gold-piece in his hand,
and said, “Poor girl! give her that with my best compliments.” He at
once found the girl, who cried with joy when she received the
gold-piece, and heard the kind words with which the gift was

The night after Jenny’s arrival in Boston, a display of fireworks was
given in her honor, in front of the Revere House, after which followed a
beautiful torchlight procession by the Germans of that city.

On her return from Boston to New York, Jenny, her companion, and Messrs.
Benedict and Belletti, stopped at Iranistan, my residence in Bridgeport,
where they remained until the following day. The morning after her
arrival, she took my arm and proposed a promenade through the grounds.
She seemed much pleased, and said, “I am astonished that you should have
left such a beautiful place for the sake of travelling through the
country with me.”

The same day she told me in a playful mood, that she had heard a most
extraordinary report. “I have heard that you and I are about to be
married,” said she; “now how could such an absurd report ever have

“Probably from the fact that we are ‘engaged,’” I replied. She enjoyed a
joke, and laughed heartily.

“Do you know, Mr. Barnum,” said she, “that if you had not built
Iranistan, I should never have come to America for you?”

I expressed my surprise, and asked her to explain.

“I had received several applications to visit the United States,” she
continued, “but I did not much like the appearance of the applicants,
nor did I relish the idea of crossing 3,000 miles of ocean; so I
declined them all. But the first letter which Mr. Wilton, your agent,
addressed me, was written upon a sheet headed with a beautiful engraving
of Iranistan. It attracted my attention. I said to myself, a gentleman
who has been so successful in his business as to be able to build and
reside in such a palace cannot be a mere ‘adventurer.’ So I wrote to
your agent, and consented to an interview, which I should have declined,
if I had not seen the picture of Iranistan!”

“That, then, fully pays me for building it,” I replied; “for I intend
and expect to make more by this musical enterprise than Iranistan cost

“I really hope so,” she replied; “but you must not be too sanguine, you
know, ‘man proposes but God disposes.’”

Jenny Lind always desired to reach a place in which she was to sing,
without having the time of her arrival known, thus avoiding the
excitement of promiscuous crowds. As a manager, however, I knew that the
interests of the enterprise depended in a great degree upon these
excitements. Although it frequently seemed inconceivable to her how so
many thousands should have discovered her secret and consequently
gathered together to receive her, I was not so much astonished, inasmuch
as my agent always had early telegraphic intelligence of the time of
her anticipated arrival, and was not slow in communicating the
information to the public.

On reaching Philadelphia, a large concourse of persons awaited the
approach of the steamer which conveyed her. With difficulty we pressed
through the crowd, and were followed by many thousands to Jones’s Hotel.
The street in front of the building was densely packed by the populace,
and poor Jenny, who was suffering from a severe headache, retired to her
apartments. I tried to induce the crowd to disperse, but they declared
they would not do so until Jenny Lind should appear on the balcony. I
would not disturb her, and knowing that the tumult might prove an
annoyance to her, I placed her bonnet and shawl upon her companion, Miss
Ahmansen, and led her out on the balcony. She bowed gracefully to the
multitude, who gave her three hearty cheers and quietly dispersed. Miss
Lind was so utterly averse to any thing like deception, that we never
ventured to tell her the part which her bonnet and shawl had played in
the absence of their owner.

Jenny was in the habit of attending church whenever she could do so
without attracting notice. She always preserved her nationality, also,
by inquiring out and attending Swedish churches wherever they could be
found. She gave $1,000 to a Swedish church in Chicago.

While in Boston, a poor Swedish girl, a domestic in a family at Roxbury,
called on Jenny. She detained her visitor several hours, talking about
home, and other matters, and in the evening took her in her carriage to
the concert, gave her a seat, and sent her back to Roxbury in a
carriage, at the close of the performances. I have no doubt the poor
girl carried with her substantial evidences of her countrywoman’s

My eldest daughter, Caroline, and her friend, Mrs. Lyman, of Bridgeport,
accompanied me on the tour from New York to Havana, and thence home,
_via_ New Orleans and the Mississippi.

We were at Baltimore on the Sabbath, and my daughter, accompanying a
friend, who resided in the city, to church, took a seat with her in the
choir, and joined in the singing. A number of the congregation, who had
seen Caroline with me the day previous, and supposed her to be Jenny
Lind, were yet laboring under the same mistake, and it was soon
whispered through the church that Jenny Lind was in the choir! The
excitement was worked to its highest pitch when my daughter rose as one
of the musical group. Every ear was on the alert to catch the first
notes of her voice, and when she sang, glances of satisfaction passed
through the assembly. Caroline, quite unconscious of the attention she
attracted, continued to sing to the end of the hymn. Not a note was lost
upon the ears of the attentive congregation. “What an exquisite singer!”
“Heavenly sounds!” “I never heard the like!” and similar expressions
were whispered through the church.

At the conclusion of the services, my daughter and her friend found the
passage way to their carriage blocked by a crowd who were anxious to
obtain a nearer view of the “Swedish Nightingale,” and many persons that
afternoon boasted, in good faith, that they had listened to the
extraordinary singing of the great songstress. The pith of the joke is
that we have never discovered that my daughter has any extraordinary
claims as a vocalist.

Our orchestra in New York consisted of sixty. When we started on our
southern tour, we took with us permanently as the orchestra, twelve of
the best musicians we could select, and in New Orleans augmented the
force to sixteen. We increased the number to thirty-five, forty or
fifty, as the case might be, by choice of musicians residing where the
concerts were given. On our return to New York from Havana, we enlarged
the orchestra to one hundred performers.

The morning after our arrival in Washington, President Fillmore called,
and left his card, Jenny being out. When she returned and found the
token of his attention, she was in something of a flurry. “Come,” said
she, “we must call on the President immediately.”

“Why so?” I inquired.

“Because he has called on me, and of course that is equivalent to a
command for me to go to his house.”

I assured her that she might make her mind at ease, for whatever might
be the custom with crowned heads, our Presidents were not wont to
“command” the movements of strangers, and that she would be quite in
time if she returned his call the next day. She did so, and was charmed
with the unaffected bearing of the President, and the warm kindnesses
expressed by his amiable wife and daughter, and consented to spend the
evening with them in conformity with their request. She was accompanied
to the “White House” by Messrs Benedict, Belletti and myself, and
several happy hours were spent in the private circle of the President’s

Mr. Benedict, who engaged in a long quiet conversation with Mr.
Fillmore, was highly pleased with the interview. A foreigner, accustomed
to court etiquette, is generally surprised at the simplicity which
characterizes the Chief Magistrate of this Union. In 1852 I called on
the President with my friend the late Mr. Brettell, of London, who
resided in St. James Palace, and was quite a worshipper of the Queen,
and an ardent admirer of all the dignities and ceremonies of royalty. He
expected something of the kind in visiting the President of the United
States, and was highly pleased with his disappointment.

Both concerts in Washington were attended by the President and his
family, and every member of the Cabinet. I noticed, also, among the
audience, Henry Clay, Benton, Foote, Cass and General Scott, and nearly
every member of Congress. On the following morning, Miss Lind was called
upon by Mr. Webster, Mr. Clay, General Cass, and Colonel Benton, and all
parties were evidently gratified. I had introduced Mr. Webster to her in
Boston. Upon hearing one of her wild mountain songs in New York, and
also in Washington, Mr. Webster signified his approval by rising,
drawing himself up to his full height, and making a profound bow. Jenny
was delighted by this expression of praise from the great statesman.
When I first introduced Miss Lind to Mr. Webster, at the Revere House,
in Boston, she was greatly impressed with his manners and conversation,
and after his departure, walked up and down the room in great
excitement, exclaiming: “Ah! Mr. Barnum, that is a man; I have never
before seen such a man!”

We visited the Capitol while both Houses were in session. Miss Lind took
the arm of Hon. C. F. Cleveland, representative from Connecticut, and
was by him escorted into various parts of the Capitol and the grounds,
with all of which she was much pleased.

While I was in Washington an odd reminiscence of my old show-days in the
South came back to me in a curious way. Some years before, in 1836, my
travelling show company had stopped at a hotel in Jackson, Mississippi,
and, as the house was crowded, soon after I went to bed five or six men
came into the room with cards and a candle and asked permission, as
there was no other place, to sit down and play a quiet game of “brag.” I
consented on condition that I might get up and participate, which was
permitted and in a very little while, as I knew nothing whatever of the
game, I lost fifty dollars. Good “hands” and good fortune soon enabled
me to win back my money, at which point one of the players who had been
introduced to me as “Lawyer Foote” said:

“Now the best thing you can do is to go back to bed; you don’t know
anything about the game, and these fellows do, and they’ll skin you.”

I acted upon his advice. And now, years afterwards, when Senator Foote
called upon Miss Lind the story came back to me, and while I was talking
with him I remarked:

“Fifteen years ago, when I was in the South, I became acquainted with a
lawyer named Foote, at Jackson, Mississippi.”

“It must have been me,” said the Senator, “I am the only ‘lawyer Foote,
of Jackson, Mississippi.’”

“Oh! no, it could not have been you,” and I told him the story.

“It was me,” he whispered in my ear, and added, “I used to gamble like
h--l in those days.”

During the week I was invited with Miss Lind and her immediate friends,
to visit Mount Vernon, with Colonel Washington, the then proprietor,
and Mr. Seaton, ex-Mayor of Washington, and Editor of the
_Intelligencer_. Colonel Washington chartered a steamboat for the
purpose. We were landed a short distance from the tomb, which we first
visited. Proceeding to the house, we were introduced to Mrs. Washington,
and several other ladies. Much interest was manifested by Miss Lind in
examining the mementoes of the great man whose home it had been. A
beautiful collation was spread out and arranged in fine taste. Before
leaving, Mrs. Washington presented Jenny with a book from the library,
with the name of Washington written by his own hand. She was much
overcome at receiving this present, called me aside, and expressed her
desire to give something in return. “I have nothing with me,” she said,
“excepting this watch and chain, and I will give that if you think it
will be acceptable.” I knew the watch was very valuable, and told her
that so costly a present would not be expected, nor would it be proper.
“The expense is nothing, compared to the value of that book,” she
replied, with deep emotion; “but as the watch was a present from a dear
friend, perhaps I should not give it away.” Jenny Lind, I am sure, never
forgot the pleasurable emotions of that day.

At Richmond, half an hour previous to her departure, hundreds of young
ladies and gentlemen had crowded into the halls of the house to secure a
glimpse of her at parting. I informed her that she would find difficulty
in passing out. “How long is it before we must start?” she asked. “Half
an hour,” I replied. “Oh, I will clear the passages before that time,”
said she, with a smile; whereupon she went into the upper hall, and
informed the people that she wished to take the hands of every one of
them, upon one condition, viz: they should pass by her in rotation, and
as fast as they had shaken hands, proceed down stairs, and not block up
the passages. They joyfully consented to the arrangement, and in fifteen
minutes the course was clear. Poor Jenny had shaken hands with every
person in the crowd, and I presume she had a feeling remembrance of the
incident for an hour or two at least. She was waited on by many members
of the Legislature while in Richmond, that body being in session while
we were there.

The voyage from Wilmington to Charleston was an exceedingly rough and
perilous one. We were about thirty-six hours in making the passage, the
usual time being seventeen. There was really great danger of our steamer
being swamped, and we were all apprehensive that we should never reach
the Port of Charleston alive. Some of the passengers were in great
terror. Jenny Lind exhibited more calmness upon this occasion than any
other person, the crew excepted. We arrived safely at last, and I was
grieved to learn that for twelve hours the loss of the steamer had been
considered certain, and had even been announced by telegraph in the
Northern cities.

We remained at Charleston about ten days, to take the steamer “Isabella”
on her regular trip to Havana. Jenny had been through so much excitement
at the North, that she determined to have quiet here, and therefore
declined receiving any calls. This disappointed many ladies and
gentlemen. One young lady, the daughter of a wealthy planter near
Augusta, was so determined upon seeing her in private, that she paid one
of the servants to allow her to put on a cap and white apron, and carry
in the tray for Jenny’s tea. I afterwards told Miss Lind of the joke,
and suggested that after such an evidence of admiration, she should
receive a call from the young lady.

“It is not admiration--it is only curiosity,” replied Jenny, “and I will
not encourage such folly.”

Christmas was at hand, and Jenny Lind determined to honor it in the way
she had often done in Sweden. She had a beautiful Christmas tree
privately prepared, and from its boughs depended a variety of presents
for members of the company. These gifts were encased in paper, with the
names of the recipients written on each.

After spending a pleasant evening in her drawing-room, she invited us
into the parlor, where the “surprise” awaited us. Each person commenced
opening the packages bearing his or her address, and although every
individual had one or more pretty presents, she had prepared a joke for
each. Mr. Benedict, for instance, took off wrapper after wrapper from
one of his packages, which at first was as large as his head, but after
having removed some forty coverings of paper, it was reduced to a size
smaller than his hand, and the removal of the last envelope exposed to
view a piece of cavendish tobacco. One of my presents, choicely wrapped
in a dozen coverings, was a jolly young Bacchus in Parian marble,
intended as a pleasant hit at my temperance principles!

The night before New Year’s day was spent in her apartment with great
hilarity. Enlivened by music, singing, dancing and story-telling, the
hours glided swiftly away. Miss Lind asked me if I would dance with her.
I told her my education had been neglected in that line, and that I had
never danced in my life, “That is all the better,” said she; “now dance
with me in a cotillion. I am sure you can do it.” She was a beautiful
dancer, and I never saw her laugh more heartily than she did at my
awkwardness. She said she would give me the credit of being the poorest
dancer she ever saw!

About a quarter before twelve, Jenny suddenly checked Mr.
Burke,--formerly celebrated as the musical prodigy, “Master Burke,”--who
was playing on the piano, by saying, “Pray let us have quiet; do you
see, in fifteen minutes more, this year will be gone forever!”

She immediately took a seat, and rested her head upon her hand in
silence. We all sat down, and for a quarter of an hour the most profound
quiet reigned in the apartment. The remainder of the scene I transcribe
from a description written the next day by Mrs. Lyman, who was present
on the occasion:

“The clock of a neighboring church struck the knell of the dying year.
All were silent--each heart was left to its own communings, and the
bowed head and tearful eye told that memory was busy with the Past. It
was a brief moment, but thoughts and feelings were crowded into it,
which render it one never to be forgotten. A moment more--the last
stroke of the clock had fallen upon the ear--the last faint vibration
ceased; another period of time had passed forever away--a new one had
dawned, in which each felt that they were to live and act. This thought
recalled them to a full consciousness of the present, and all arose and
quietly, but cordially, presented to each other the kind wishes of the
season. As the lovely hostess pressed the hands of her guests, it was
evident that she, too, had wept,--she, the gifted, the admired, the
almost idolized one. Had she, too, cause for tears? Whence were
they?--from the overflowings of a grateful heart, from tender
associations, or from sad remembrances? None knew, none could ask,
though they awakened deep and peculiar sympathy. And from one heart, at
least, arose the prayer, that when the dial of time should mark the last
hour of her earthly existence, she should greet its approach with joy
and not with grief--that to her soul spirit-voices might whisper, ‘Come,
sweet sister! come to the realms of unfading light and love--come, join
your seraphic tones with ours, in singing the praises of Him who loved
us, and gave himself for us’--while she, with meekly-folded hands and
faith-uplifted eye, should answer, ‘Yes, gladly and without fear I come,
for I know that my Redeemer liveth.’”

I had arranged with a man in New York to transport furniture to Havana,
provide a house, and board Jenny Lind and our immediate party during our
stay. When we arrived, we found the building converted into a
semi-hotel, and the apartments were any thing but comfortable. Jenny was
vexed. Soon after dinner, she took a volante and an interpreter, and
drove into the suburbs. She was absent four hours. Whither or why she
had gone, none of us knew. At length she returned and informed us that
she had hired a commodious furnished house in a delightful location
outside the walls of the city, and invited us all to go and live with
her during our stay in Havana, and we accepted the invitation. She was
now freed from all annoyances; her time was her own, she received no
calls, went and came when she pleased, had no meddlesome advisers about
her, legal or otherwise, and was as merry as a cricket. We had a large
court-yard in the rear of the house, and here she would come and romp
and run, sing and laugh, like a young school-girl. “Now, Mr. Barnum, for
another game of ball,” she would say half a dozen times a day;
whereupon, she would take an india-rubber ball, (of which she had two or
three,) and commence a game of throwing and catching, which would be
kept up until, being completely tired out, I would say, “I give it up.”
Then her rich, musical laugh would be heard ringing through the house,
as she exclaimed, “Oh, Mr. Barnum, you are too fat and too lazy; you
cannot stand it to play ball with me!”

Her celebrated countrywoman, Miss Frederika Bremer, spent a few days
with us very pleasantly, and it is difficult to conceive of a more
delightful month than was passed by the entire party at Jenny Lind’s
house in the outskirts of Havana.




Soon after arriving in Havana, I discovered that a strong prejudice
existed against our musical enterprise. I might rather say that the
Habaneros, not accustomed to the high figure which tickets had commanded
in the States, were determined on forcing me to adopt their opera
prices, whereas I paid one thousand dollars per night for the Tacon
Opera House, and other expenses being in proportion, I was determined to
receive remunerating prices, or give no concerts. This determination on
my part annoyed the Habaneros, who did not wish to be thought penurious,
though they really were so. Their principal spite, therefore, was
against me; and one of their papers politely termed me a “Yankee
pirate,” who cared for nothing except their doubloons. They attended the
concert, but were determined to show the great songstress no favor. I
perfectly understood this feeling in advance, but studiously kept all
knowledge of it from Miss Lind. I went to the first concert, therefore,
with some misgivings in regard to her reception. The following, which I
copy from the Havana correspondence of the _New York Tribune_, gives a
correct account of it:

       *       *       *       *       *

     “Jenny Lind soon appeared, led on by Signor Belletti. Some three or
     four hundred persons clapped their hands at her appearance, but
     this token of approbation was instantly silenced by at least two
     thousand five hundred decided hisses. Thus, having settled the
     matter that there should be no forestalling of public opinion, and
     that if applause was given to Jenny Lind in that house it should
     first be incontestably earned, the most solemn silence prevailed. I
     have heard the Swedish Nightingale often in Europe as well as in
     America and have ever noticed a distinct tremulousness attending
     her first appearance in any city. Indeed this feeling was plainly
     manifested in her countenance as she neared the foot-lights; but
     when she witnessed the kind of reception in store for her--so
     different from anything she had reason to expect--her countenance
     changed in an instant to a haughty self-possession, her eye flashed
     defiance, and, becoming immovable as a statue, she stood there,
     perfectly calm and beautiful. She was satisfied that she now had an
     ordeal to pass and a victory to gain worthy of her powers. In a
     moment her eye scanned the immense audience, the music began and
     then followed--how can I describe it?--such heavenly strains as I
     verily believe mortal never breathed except Jenny Lind, and mortal
     never heard except from her lips. Some of the oldest Castilians
     kept a frown upon their brow and a curling sneer upon their lip;
     their ladies, however, and most of the audience began to look
     surprised. The gushing melody flowed on increasing in beauty and
     glory. The _caballeros_, the _senoras_ and _senoritas_ began to
     look at each other; nearly all, however, kept their teeth clenched
     and their lips closed, evidently determined to resist to the last.
     The torrent flowed deeper and faster, the lark flew higher and
     higher, the melody grew richer and grander; still every lip was
     compressed. By and by, as the rich notes came dashing in rivers
     upon our enraptured ears, one poor critic involuntarily whispered a
     ‘brava.’ This outbursting of the soul was instantly hissed down.
     The stream of harmony rolled on till, at the close, it made a clean
     sweep of every obstacle, and carried all before it. Not a vestige
     of opposition remained, but such a tremendous shout of applause as
     went up I never before heard.

     “The triumph was most complete. And how was Jenny Lind affected?
     She who stood a few moments previous like adamant, now trembled
     like a reed in the wind before the storm of enthusiasm which her
     own simple notes had produced. Tremblingly, slowly, and almost
     bowing her face to the ground, she withdrew. The roar and applause
     of victory increased. ‘_Encore! encore! encore!_’ came from every
     lip. She again appeared, and, courtesying low, again withdrew, but
     again, again, and again did they call her out and at every
     appearance the thunders of applause rang louder and louder. Thus
     five times was Jenny Lind called out to receive their unanimous and
     deafening plaudits.”

I cannot express what my feelings were as I watched this scene from the
dress circle. Poor Jenny! I deeply sympathized with her when I heard
that first hiss. I indeed observed the resolute bearing which she
assumed, but was apprehensive of the result. When I witnessed her
triumph, I could not restrain the tears of joy that rolled down my
cheeks; and rushing through a private box, I reached the stage just as
she was withdrawing after the fifth encore. “God bless you, Jenny, you
have settled them!” I exclaimed.

“Are you satisfied?” said she, throwing her arms around my neck. She,
too, was crying with joy, and never before did she look so beautiful in
my eyes as on that evening.

One of the Havana papers, notwithstanding the great triumph, continued
to cry out for low prices. This induced many to absent themselves,
expecting soon to see a reduction. It had been understood that we would
give twelve concerts in Havana; but when they saw, after the fourth
concert, which was devoted to charity, that no more were announced, they
became uneasy. Committees waited upon us requesting more concerts, but
we peremptorily declined. Some of the leading Dons, among whom was Count
Penalver, then offered to guarantee us $25,000 for three concerts. My
reply was, that there was not money enough on the island of Cuba to
induce me to consent to it. That settled the matter, and gave us a
pleasant opportunity for recreation.

We visited, by invitation, Mr. Brinckerhoff, the eminent American
merchant at Matanzas, whom I had met at the same place three years
previously, and who subsequently had visited my family in Connecticut.
The gentlemanly host did everything in his power to render our stay
agreeable; and Miss Lind was so delighted with his attentions and the
interesting details of sugar and coffee plantations which we visited
through his kindness, that as soon as she returned to Havana, she sent
on the same tour of pleasure Mr. Benedict, who had been prevented by
illness from accompanying us.

I found my little Italian plate-dancer, Vivalla, in Havana. He called on
me frequently. He was in great distress, having lost the use of his
limbs on the left side of his body by paralysis. He was thus unable to
earn a livelihood, although he still kept a performing dog, which turned
a spinning-wheel and performed some curious tricks. One day, as I was
passing him out of the front gate, Miss Lind inquired who he was. I
briefly recounted to her his history. She expressed deep interest in his
case, and said something should be set apart for him in the benefit
which she was about to give for charity. Accordingly, when the benefit
came off, Miss Lind appropriated $500 to him, and I made the necessary
arrangements for his return to his friends in Italy. At the same benefit
$4,000 were distributed between two hospitals and a convent.

A few mornings after the benefit our bell was rung, and the servant
announced that I was wanted. I went to the door and found a large
procession of children, neatly dressed and bearing banners, attended by
ten or twelve priests, arrayed in their rich and flowing robes. I
inquired their business, and was informed that they had come to see Miss
Lind, to thank her in person for her benevolence. I took their message,
and informed Miss Lind that the leading priests of the convent had come
in great state to see and thank her. “I will not see them,” she replied;
“they have nothing to thank me for. If I have done good, it is no more
than my duty, and it is my pleasure. I do not deserve their thanks, and
I will not see them.” I returned her answer, and the leaders of the
grand procession went away in disappointment.

The same day Vivalla called, and brought her a basket of the most
luscious fruit that he could procure. The little fellow was very happy
and extremely grateful. Miss Lind had gone out for a ride.

“God bless her! I am so happy; she is such a good lady. I shall see my
brothers and sisters again. Oh, she is a very good lady,” said poor
Vivalla, overcome by his feelings. He begged me to thank her for him,
and give her the fruit. As he was passing out of the door, he hesitated
a moment, and then said, “Mr. Barnum, I should like so much to have the
good lady see my dog turn a wheel; it is very nice; he can spin very
good. Shall I bring the dog and wheel for her? She is such a good lady,
I wish to please her very much.” I smiled, and told him she would not
care for the dog; that he was quite welcome to the money, and that she
refused to see the priests from the convent that morning, because she
never received thanks for favors.

When Jenny came in I gave her the fruit, and laughingly told her that
Vivalla wished to show her how his performing dog could turn a

“Poor man, poor man, do let him come; it is all the good creature can do
for me,” exclaimed Jenny, and the tears flowed thick and fast down her
cheeks. “I like that, I like that,” she continued; “do let the poor
creature come and bring his dog. It will make him so happy.”

I confess it made me happy, and I exclaimed, for my heart was full, “God
bless you, it will make him cry for joy; he shall come to-morrow.”

I saw Vivalla the same evening, and delighted him with the intelligence
that Jenny would see his dog perform the next day, at four o’clock

“I will be punctual,” said Vivalla, in a voice trembling with emotion;
“but I was _sure_ she would like to see my dog perform.”

For full half an hour before the time appointed did Jenny Lind sit in
her window on the second floor and watch for Vivalla and his dog. A few
minutes before the appointed hour, she saw him coming. “Ah, here he
comes! here he comes!” she exclaimed in delight, as she ran down stairs
and opened the door to admit him. A negro boy was bringing the small
spinning-wheel, while Vivalla led the dog. Handing the boy a silver
coin, she motioned him away, and taking the wheel in her arms, she said,
“This is very kind of you to come with your dog. Follow me. I will carry
the wheel up stairs.” Her servant offered to take the wheel, but no, she
would let no one carry it but herself. She called us all up to her
parlor, and for one full hour did she devote herself to the happy
Italian. She went down on her knees to pet the dog and to ask Vivalla
all sorts of questions about his performances, his former course of
life, his friends in Italy, and his present hopes and determinations.
Then she sang and played for him, gave him some refreshments, finally
insisted on carrying his wheel to the door, and her servant accompanied
Vivalla to his boarding-house.

Poor Vivalla! He was probably never so happy before, but his enjoyment
did not exceed that of Miss Lind. That scene alone would have paid me
for all my labors during the entire musical campaign. A few months
later, however, the Havana correspondent of the _New York Herald_
announced the death of Vivalla and stated that the poor Italian’s last
words were about Jenny Lind and Mr. Barnum.

When Captain Rawlings, of the Steamer “Isabella” made his next return
trip from Charleston, he brought a fine lot of game and invited Messrs.
Benedict, Belletti and myself to a breakfast on board, where we met Mr.
John Howard, of the Irving House, New York, Mr. J. B. Monnot, of the New
York Hotel, Mr. Mixer, of the Charleston Hotel, and Mr. Monroe of one of
the Havana hotels. The breakfast was a very nice one, and was
accompanied by some “very fine old Madeira,” which received the highest
encomiums of the company.

“Now,” said Captain Rawlings, “you must break your rule once, Mr.
Barnum, and wash down your game with a glass or two of this choice
Madeira. It is very old and fine, as smooth as oil, and the game is
hardly game without it. Do take some.”

I positively declined, saying I did not doubt that he had the genuine
article for once, but that most of what was offered and sold as wine did
not contain a single drop of the juice of the grape. This led to a
general talk about the impositions practised, even in the best hotels,
in serving customers with “fine old wines and liquors” at the bar and at
the table, and some very curious and amusing stories were told and
confessions made. But there could be no mistake about this Madeira; it
was rich, rare, old, oily, and genuine in flavor and quality; all the
connoisseurs at the table were unanimous in their verdict.

But when the breakfast was over and we were going ashore, as I was
sitting next the captain in his own boat, he said to me:

“Barnum, that fine old Madeira is the real ‘game’ of my game breakfast;
I wanted to test those experienced tasters, and I gave them some wine
which I bought for a dollar and a half a gallon at a corner grocery in

In the party which accompanied me to Havana, was Mr. Henry Bennett, who
formerly kept Peale’s Museum in New York, afterwards managing the same
establishment for me when I purchased it, and he was now with me in the
capacity of a ticket-taker. He was as honest a man as ever lived, and a
good deal of a wag. I remember his going through the market once and
running across a decayed actor who was reduced to tending a market
stand; Bennett hailed him with “Hallo! what are you doing here; what are
you keeping that old turkey for?”

“O! for a profit,” replied the actor.

“Prophet, prophet!” exclaimed Bennett, “patriarch, you mean!”

With all his waggery he was subject at times to moods of the deepest
despondency, bordering on insanity. Madness ran in his family. His
brother, in a fit of frenzy, had blown his brains out. Henry himself had
twice attempted his own life while in my employ in New York. Some time
after our present journey to Havana, I sent him to London. He conducted
my business precisely as I directed, writing up his account with me
correctly to a penny. Then handing it to a mutual friend with directions
to give it to me when I arrived in London the following week, he went to
his lodgings and committed suicide.

While we were in Havana, Bennett was so despondent at times that we were
obliged to watch him

[Illustration: _J. G. BENNETT AND HIS MONKEY._]

carefully, lest he should do some damage to himself or others. When we
left Havana for New Orleans, on board the steamer “Falcon,” Mr. James
Gordon Bennett, editor of the _New York Herald_, and his wife were also
passengers. After permitting one favorable notice in his paper, Bennett
had turned around, as usual, and had abused Jenny Lind and bitterly
attacked me. There was an estrangement, no new thing, between the editor
and myself. The _Herald_, in its desire to excite attention, has a habit
of attacking public men and I had not escaped. I was always glad to get
such notices, for they served as inexpensive advertisements to my
Museum, and brought custom to me free of charge.

Ticket-taker Bennett, however, took much to heart the attacks of Editor
Bennett upon Jenny Lind, and while in New York he threatened to cowhide
his namesake, as so many men have actually done in days gone by, but I
restrained him. When Editor Bennett came on board the “Falcon,” he had
in his arms a small pet monkey belonging to his wife, and the animal was
placed in a safe place on the forward deck. When Henry Bennett saw the
editor he said to a bystander:

“I would willingly be drowned if I could see that old scoundrel go to
the bottom of the sea.”

Several of our party overheard the remark and I turned laughingly to
Bennett and said: “Nonsense; he can’t harm any one and there is an old
proverb about the impossibility of drowning those who are born to
another fate.”

That very night, however, as I stood near the cabin door, conversing
with my treasurer and other members of my company, Henry Bennett came up
to me with a wild air, and hoarsely whispered:

“Old Bennett has gone forward alone in the dark to feed his monkey, and
d--n him, I am going to throw him overboard.”

We were all startled, for we knew the man and he seemed terribly in
earnest. Knowing how most effectively to address him at such times, I

“Ridiculous! you would not do such a thing.”

“I swear I will,” was his savage reply. I expostulated with him, and
several of our party joined me.

“Nobody will know it,” muttered the maniac, “and I shall be doing the
world a favor.”

I endeavored to awaken him to a sense of the crime he contemplated,
assuring him that it could not possibly benefit any one, and that from
the fact of the relations existing between the editor and myself, I
should be the first to be accused of his murder. I implored him to go to
his stateroom, and he finally did so, accompanied by some of the
gentlemen of our party. I took pains to see that he was carefully
watched that night, and, indeed, for several days, till he became calm
again. He was a large, athletic man, quite able to pick up his namesake
and drop him overboard. The matter was too serious for a joke, and we
made little mention of it; but more than one of my party said then, and
has said since, what I really believe to be true, that “James Gordon
Bennett would have been drowned that night had it not been for P. T.

This incident has long been known to several of my intimate friends, and
when Mr. Bennett learns the fact from this volume, he may possibly be
somewhat mollified over his payment to me, fifteen years later, of
$200,000 for the unexpired lease of my Museum, concerning which some
particulars will be given anon.

In New Orleans the wharf was crowded by a great concourse of persons, as
the steamer “Falcon” approached. Jenny Lind had enjoyed a month of
quiet, and dreaded the excitement which she must now again encounter.

“Mr. Barnum, I am sure I can never get through that crowd,” said she, in

“Leave that to me. Remain quiet for ten minutes, and there shall be no
crowd here,” I replied.

Taking my daughter on my arm, she threw her veil over her face, and we
descended the gangway to the dock. The crowd pressed around. I had
beckoned for a carriage before leaving the ship.

“That’s Barnum, I know him,” called out several persons at the top of
their voices.

“Open the way, if you please, for Mr. Barnum and Miss Lind!” cried Le
Grand Smith over the railing of the ship, the deck of which he had just
reached from the wharf.

“Don’t crowd her, if you please, gentlemen,” I exclaimed, and by dint of
pushing, squeezing and coaxing, we reached the carriage, and drove for
the Montalba buildings, where Miss Lind’s apartments had been prepared,
and the whole crowd came following at our heels. In a few minutes
afterwards, Jenny and her companion came quietly in a carriage, and were
in the house before the ruse was discovered. In answer to incessant
calls, she appeared a moment upon the balcony, waved her handkerchief,
received three hearty cheers, and the crowd dispersed.

A poor blind boy, residing in the interior of Mississippi, a
flute-player, and an ardent lover of music, visited New Orleans
expressly to hear Jenny Lind. A subscription had been taken up among
his neighbors to defray the expenses. This fact coming to the ears of
Jenny, she sent for him, played and sang for him, gave him many words of
joy and comfort, took him to her concerts, and sent him away
considerably richer than he had ever been before.

A funny incident occurred at New Orleans. Our concerts were given in the
St. Charles Theatre, then managed by my good friend, the late Sol.
Smith. In the open lots near the theatre were exhibitions of mammoth
hogs, five-footed horses, grizzly bears, and other animals.

A gentleman had a son about twelve years old, who had a wonderful ear
for music. He could whistle or sing any tune after hearing it once. His
father did not know nor care for a single note, but so anxious was he to
please his son, that he paid thirty dollars for two tickets to the

“I liked the music better than I expected,” said he to me the next day,
“but my son was in raptures. He was so perfectly enchanted that he
scarcely spoke the whole evening and I would on no account disturb his
delightful reveries. When the concert was finished we came out of the
theatre. Not a word was spoken. I knew that my musical prodigy was happy
among the clouds, and I said nothing. I could not help envying him his
love of music, and considered my thirty dollars as nothing, compared to
the bliss which it secured to him. Indeed, I was seriously thinking of
taking him to the next concert, when he spoke. We were just passing the
numerous shows upon the vacant lots. One of the signs attracted him, and
he said, ‘Father, let us go in and see the big hog!’ The little scamp! I
could have horse-whipped him!” said the father, who, loving a joke,
could not help laughing at the ludicrous incident.

Some months afterwards, I was relating this story at my own table to
several guests, among whom was a very matter-of-fact man who had not the
faintest conception of humor. After the whole party had laughed heartily
at the anecdote, my matter-of-fact friend gravely asked:

“And was it a very large hog, Mr. Barnum?”

I made arrangements with the captain of the splendid steamer “Magnolia,”
of Louisville, to take our party as far as Cairo, the junction of the
Mississippi and Ohio rivers, stipulating for sufficient delay in
Natchez, Mississippi, and in Memphis, Tennessee, to give a concert in
each place. It was no unusual thing for me to charter a steamboat or a
special train of cars for our party. With such an enterprise as that,
time and comfort were paramount to money.

The time on board the steamer was whiled away in reading, viewing the
scenery of the Mississippi, and other diversions. One day we had a
pleasant musical festival in the ladies’ saloon for the gratification of
the passengers, at which Jenny volunteered to sing without ceremony. It
seemed to us she never sang so sweetly before. I also did my best to
amuse my fellow passengers with anecdotes and the exhibition of sundry
legerdemain tricks which I had been obliged to learn and use in the
South years before and under far different circumstances than those
which attended the performance now. Among other tricks, I caused a
quarter of a dollar to disappear so mysteriously from beneath a card,
that the mulatto barber on board came to the conclusion that I was in
league with the devil.

The next morning I seated myself for the operation of shaving, and the
colored gentleman ventured to dip into the mystery. “Beg pardon, Mr.
Barnum, but I have heard a great deal about you, and I saw more than I
wanted to see last night. Is it true that you have sold yourself to the
devil, so that you can do what you’ve a mind to?”

“Oh, yes,” was my reply, “that is the bargain between us.”

“How long did you agree for?” was the question next in order.

“Only nine years,” said I. “I have had three of them already. Before the
other six are out, I shall find a way to nonplus the old gentleman, and
I have told him so to his face.”

At this avowal, a larger space of white than usual was seen in the
darkey’s eyes, and he inquired, “Is it by this bargain that you get so
much money?”

“Certainly. No matter who has money, nor where he keeps it, in his box
or till, or anywhere about him, I have only to speak the words, and it

The shaving was completed in silence, but thought had been busy in the
barber’s mind, and he embraced the speediest opportunity to transfer his
bag of coin to the iron safe in charge of the clerk.

The movement did not escape me, and immediately a joke was afoot. I had
barely time to make two or three details of arrangement with the clerk,
and resume my seat in the cabin, ere the barber sought a second
interview, bent on testing the alleged powers of Beelzebub’s colleague.

“Beg pardon, Mr. Barnum, but where is my money? Can you get it?”

“I do not want your money,” was the quiet answer. “It is safe.”

“Yes, I know it is safe--ha! ha!--it is in the iron safe in the clerk’s
office--safe enough from you!”

“It is not in the iron safe!” said I. This was said so quietly, yet
positively, that the colored gentleman ran to the office, and inquired
if all was safe. “All right,” said the clerk. “Open, and let me see,”
replied the barber. The safe was unlocked and lo! the money was gone!

In mystified terror the loser applied to me for relief. “You will find
the bag in your drawer,” said I, and there it was found!

Of course, I had a confederate, but the mystification of that mulatto
was immense.




According to agreement, the “Magnolia” waited for us at Natchez and
Memphis, and we gave profitable concerts at both places. The concert at
Memphis was the sixtieth in the list since Miss Lind’s arrival in
America, and the first concert in St. Louis would be the sixty-first.
When we reached that city, on the morning of the day when our first
concert was to be given, Miss Lind’s secretary came to me, commissioned,
he said, by her, and announced that as sixty concerts had already taken
place, she proposed to avail herself of one of the conditions of our
contract, and cancel the engagement next morning. As this was the first
intimation of the kind I had received, I was somewhat startled, though I
assumed an entirely placid demeanor, and asked:

“Does Miss Lind authorize you to give me this notice?”

“I so understand it,” was the reply.

I immediately reflected that if our contract was thus suddenly
cancelled, Miss Lind was bound to repay to me all I had paid her over
the stipulated $1,000 for each concert, and a little calculation showed
that the sum thus to be paid back was $77,000, since she had already
received from me $137,000 for sixty concerts. In this view, I could not
but think that this was a ruse of some of her advisers, and, possibly,
that she might know nothing of the matter. So I told her secretary that
I would see him again in an hour, and meanwhile I went to my old friend
Mr. Sol. Smith for his legal and friendly advice.

I showed him my contract and told him how much I had been annoyed by the
selfish and greedy hangers-on and advisers, legal and otherwise, of
Jenny Lind. I talked to him about the “wheels within wheels” which moved
this great musical enterprise, and asked and gladly accepted his advice,
which mainly coincided with my own views of the situation. I then went
back to the secretary and quietly told him that I was ready to settle
with Miss Lind and to close the engagement.

“But,” said he, manifestly “taken aback,” “you have already advertised
concerts in Louisville and Cincinnati, I believe.”

“Yes,” I replied; “but you may take my contracts for halls and printing
off my hands at cost.” I further said that he was welcome to the
assistance of my agent who had made these arrangements, and, moreover,
that I would cheerfully give my own services to help them through with
these concerts, thus giving them a good start “on their own hook.”

My liberality, which he acknowledged, emboldened him to make an
extraordinary proposition:

“Now suppose,” he asked, “Miss Lind should wish to give some fifty
concerts in this country, what would you charge as manager, per

“A million dollars each, not one cent less,” I replied. I was now
thoroughly aroused; the whole thing was as clear as daylight, and I

“Now we might as well understand each other; I don’t believe Miss Lind
has authorized you to propose to me to cancel our contract; but if she
has, just bring me a line to that effect over her signature and her
check for the amount due me by the terms of that contract, some $77,000,
and we will close our business connections at once.”

“But why not make a new arrangement,” persisted the Secretary, “for
fifty concerts more, by which Miss Lind shall pay you liberally, say
$1,000 per concert?”

“Simply because I hired Miss Lind, and not she me,” I replied, “and
because I never ought to take a farthing less for my risk and trouble
than the contract gives me. I have voluntarily paid Miss Lind more than
twice as much as I originally contracted to pay her, or as she expected
to receive when she first engaged with me. Now, if she is not satisfied,
I wish to settle instantly and finally. If you do not bring me her
decision to-day, I shall go to her for it to-morrow morning.”

I met the secretary soon after breakfast next morning and asked him if
he had a written communication for me from Miss Lind? He said he had not
and that the whole thing was a “joke.” He merely wanted, he added, to
see what I would say to the proposition. I asked him if Miss Lind was
in the “joke,” as he called it? He hoped I would not inquire, but would
let the matter drop. I went on, as usual, and gave four more concerts in
St. Louis, and followed out my programme as arranged in other cities for
many weeks following; nor at that time, nor at any time afterwards, did
Miss Lind give me the slightest intimation that she had any knowledge of
the proposition of her secretary to cancel our agreement or to employ me
as her manager.

During our stay at St. Louis, I delivered a temperance lecture in the
theatre, and at the close, among other signers, of the pledge, was my
friend and adviser, Sol. Smith. “Uncle Sol,” as every one called him,
was a famous character in his time. He was an excellent comedian, an
author, a manager and a lawyer. For a considerable period of his life,
he was largely concerned in theatricals in St. Louis, New Orleans and
other cities, and acquired a handsome property. He died at a ripe old
age, in 1869, respected and lamented by all who knew him. I esteem it an
honor to have been one of his intimate friends.

A year or two before he died, he published a very interesting volume,
giving a full account of the leading incidents in his long and varied
career as an actor and manager. He had previously, in 1854, published an
autobiographical work, comprising an account of the “second seven years
of his professional life,” together with sketches of adventure in after
years, and entitled “The Theatrical Journey-Work and Anecdotical
Recollections of Sol. Smith, Comedian, Attorney at Law,” etc. This
unique work was preceded by a dedication which I venture to copy. It was
as follows:


“_Great Impressario_: Whilst you were engaged in your grand Jenny Lind
speculation, the following conundrum went the rounds of the American

“‘Why is it that Jenny Lind and Barnum will never fall out?’ Answer:
‘Because he is always for-getting, and she is always for-giving.’

“I have never asked you the question directly, whether you, Mr. Barnum,
started that conundrum, or not; but I strongly suspect that you did. At
all events, I noticed that your whole policy was concentrated into one
idea--to make an angel of Jenny, and depreciate yourself in contrast.

“You may remember that in this city (St. Louis), I acted in one instance
as your ‘legal adviser,’ and as such, necessarily became acquainted with
all the particulars of your contract with the so-called Swedish
Nightingale, as well as the various modifications claimed by that
charitable lady, and submitted to by you after her arrival in this
country; which modifications (I suppose it need no longer be a secret)
secured to her--besides the original stipulation of one thousand dollars
for every concert, attendants, carriages, assistant artists, and a
pompous and extravagant retinue, fit (only) for a European princess--one
half of the profits of each performance. You may also remember the legal
advice I gave you on the occasion referred to, and the salutary effect
of your following it. You must remember the extravagant joy you felt
afterwards, in Philadelphia, when the ‘Angel’ made up her mind to avail
herself of one of the stipulations in her contract, to break off at the
end of a hundred nights, and even bought out seven of that
hundred--supposing that she could go on without your aid as well as with
it. And you cannot but remember, how, like a rocket-stick she dropped,
when your business connection with her ended, and how she ‘fizzed out’
the remainder of her concert nights in this part of the world, and soon
afterwards retired to her domestic blissitude in Sweden.

“You know, Mr. Barnum, if you would only tell, which of the two it was
that was ‘for-getting,’ and which ‘for-giving’; and you also know who
actually gave the larger portion of those sums which you heralded to the
world as the sole gifts of the ‘divine Jenny.’

“Of all your speculations--from the negro centenarina, who didn’t nurse
General Washington, down to the Bearded Woman of Genoa--there was not
one which required the exercise of so much humbuggery as the Jenny Lind
concerts; and I verily believe there is no man living, other than
yourself, who could, or would, have risked the enormous expenditure of
money necessary to carry them through successfully--travelling, with
sixty artists, four thousand miles, and giving ninety-three concerts, at
an actual cost of forty-five hundred dollars each, is what no other man
would have undertaken--you accomplished this, and pocketed by the
operation but little less than two hundred thousand dollars! Mr. Barnum,
you are yourself, alone!

“I honor you, oh! Great Impressario, as the most successful manager in
America or any other country. Democrat, as you are, you can give a
practical lesson to the aristocrats of Europe how to live. At your
beautiful and tasteful residence, ‘Iranistan’ (I don’t like the name,
though,) you can and do entertain your friends with a warmth of
hospitality, only equalled by that of the great landed proprietors of
the old country, or of our own ‘sunny South.’ Whilst riches are pouring
into your coffers from your various ‘ventures’ in all parts of the
world, you do not hoard your immense means, but continually ‘cast them
forth upon the waters,’ rewarding labor, encouraging the arts, and
lending a helping hand to industry in all its branches. Not content with
doing all this, you deal telling blows, whenever opportunity offers,
upon the monster Intemperance. Your labors in this great cause alone,
should entitle you to the thanks of all good men, women and children in
the land. Mr. Barnum, you deserve all your good fortune, and I hope you
may long live to enjoy your wealth and honor.

“As a small instalment towards the debt, I, as one of the community, owe
you, and with the hope of affording you an hour’s amusement (if you can
spare that amount of time from your numerous avocations to read it), I
present you with this little volume, containing a very brief account of
some of my ‘journey-work’ in the south and west; and remain, very

“Your friend, and affectionate uncle,


“Nov. 1, 1854.”

“Uncle” Sol. Smith must be held solely responsible for his extravagant
estimate of P. T. Barnum, and for his somewhat deprecatory view of the
attributes of the “divine Jenny.” It is true that he derived many of his
impressions of Miss Lind from the annoying circumstances that compelled
me to seek his professional advice and assistance in St. Louis, when
Jenny Lind’s secretary came to me with an assumed authorization from her
to abruptly close our engagement. But when Sol. Smith’s dedication was
first published, there were plenty of people and papers throughout the
land that were eager to catch up and indorse this new view of Miss
Lind’s character. The Athenians were sometimes sick, no doubt, of
hearing Aristides always called “the Just.” Yet, some of the sharp
things which Sol. Smith means to say about Miss Lind, apply rather to
the selfish persons who, unfortunately, were more in her confidence than
I ever aspired to be, and who assumed to advise her and thus easily
perverted her better judgment.

With all her excellent and even extraordinarily good qualities, however,
Jenny Lind was human, though the reputation she bore in Europe for her
many charitable acts led me to believe, till I knew her, that she was
nearly perfect. I think now that her natural impulses were more simple,
childlike, pure and generous than those of almost any other person I
ever met. But she had been petted, almost worshipped, so long, that it
would have been strange indeed if her unbounded popularity had not in
some degree affected her to her hurt, and it must not be thought
extraordinary if she now and then exhibited some phase of human

Like most persons of uncommon talent, she had a strong will which, at
times, she found ungovernable; but if she was ever betrayed into a
display of ill-temper she was sure to apologize and express her regret
afterwards. Le Grand Smith, who was quite intimate with her, and who was
my right-hand man during the entire Lind engagement, used sometimes to
say to me:

“Well, Mr. Barnum, you have managed wonderfully in always keeping
Jenny’s ‘angel’ side outside with the public.”

More than one Englishman--I may instance Mr. Dolby, Mr. Dickens’s agent
during his last visit to America--expressed surprise at the confirmed
impression of “perfection” entertained by the general American public in
regard to the Swedish Nightingale. These things are written with none
but the kindest feelings towards the sweet songstress, and only to
modify the too current ideas of superhuman excellence which cannot be
characteristic of any mortal being.

As I have before intimated in giving details of my management of the
enterprise, believing, as I did when I engaged her, in her “angelic”
reputation, I am frank enough to confess that I considered her private
character a valuable adjunct, even in a business point of view, to her
renown as a singer. I admit that I took her charities into account as
part of my “stock in trade.” Whenever she sang for a public or private
charity, she gave her voice, which was worth a thousand dollars to her
every evening. At such times, I always insisted upon paying for the
hall, orchestra, printing, and other expenses, because I felt able and
willing to contribute my full share towards the worthy objects which
prompted these benefits.

This narration would be incomplete if I did not add the following:

We were in Havana when I showed to Miss Lind a paper containing the
conundrum on “for-getting” and “for-giving,” at which she laughed
heartily, but immediately checked herself and said:

“O! Mr. Barnum, this is not fair; you know that you really give more
than I do from the proceeds of every one of these charity concerts.”

And it is but just to her to say that she frequently remonstrated with
me and declared that the actual expenses should be deducted and the thus
lessened sum devoted to the charity for which the concert might be
given; but I always laughingly told her that I must do my part, give my
share, and that if it was purely a business operation, “bread cast upon
the waters,” it would return, perhaps, buttered; for the larger her
reputation for liberality, the more liberal the public would surely be
to us and to our enterprise.

I have no wish to conceal these facts; and I certainly have no desire to
receive a larger meed of praise than my qualified generosity merits.
Justice to myself and to my management, as well as to Miss Lind, seems
to permit, if not to demand, this explanation.




After five concerts in St. Louis, we went to Nashville, Tennessee, where
we gave our sixty-sixth and sixty-seventh concerts in this country. At
the first ticket auction in that city, the excitement was considerable
and the bidding spirited, as was generally the case. After the auction
was over, one of my men, happening in at a dry-goods store in the town,
heard the proprietor say, “I’ll give five dollars to any man who will
take me out and give me a good horse-whipping! I deserve it, and am
willing to pay for having it done. To think that I should have been such
a fool as to have paid forty-eight dollars for four tickets for my wife,
two daughters, and myself, to listen to music for only two hours, makes
me mad with myself, and I want to pay somebody for giving me a
thundering good horse-whipping!” I am not sure that others have not
experienced a somewhat similar feeling, when they became cool and
rational, and the excitement of novelty and competition had passed

While at Nashville, Jenny Lind, accompanied by my daughter, Mrs. Lyman,
and myself, visited “the Hermitage,” the late residence of General
Jackson. On that occasion, for the first time that season, we heard the
wild mocking-birds singing in the trees. This gave Jenny Lind great
delight, as she had never before heard them sing except in their
wire-bound cages.

The first of April occurred while we were in Nashville. I was
considerably annoyed during the forenoon by the calls of members of the
company who came to me under the belief that I had sent for them. After
dinner I concluded to give them all a touch of “April fool.” The
following article, which appeared the next morning in the Nashville
_Daily American_, my amanuensis having imparted the secret to the
editor, will show how it was done:

     “A series of laughable jokes came off yesterday at the Veranda in
     honor of All Fools’ Day. Mr. Barnum was at the bottom of the
     mischief. He managed in some mysterious manner to obtain a lot of
     blank telegraphic despatches and envelopes from one of the offices
     in this city, and then went to work and manufactured ‘astounding
     intelligence’ for most of the parties composing the Jenny Lind
     suite. Almost every person in the company received a telegraphic
     despatch written under the direction of Barnum. Mr. Barnum’s
     daughter was informed that her mother, her cousin, and several
     other relatives were waiting for her in Louisville, and various
     other important and extraordinary items of domestic intelligence
     were communicated to her. Mr. Le Grand Smith was told by a despatch
     from his father that his native village in Connecticut was in
     ashes, including his own homestead, etc. Several of Barnum’s
     employees had most liberal offers of engagements from banks and
     other institutions at the North. Burke, and others of the musical
     professors, were offered princely salaries by opera managers, and
     many of them received most tempting inducements to proceed
     immediately to the World’s Fair in London.

     “One married gentleman in Mr. Barnum’s suite received the
     gratifying intelligence that he had for two days been the father of
     a pair of bouncing boys (mother and children doing well), an event
     which he had been anxiously looking for during the week, though on
     a somewhat more limited scale. In fact, nearly every person in the
     party engaged by Barnum received some extraordinary telegraphic
     intelligence, and as the great impressario managed to have the
     despatches delivered simultaneously, each recipient was for some
     time busily occupied with his own personal news.

     “By and by each began to tell his neighbor his good or bad tidings;
     and each was, of course, rejoiced or grieved according to
     circumstances. Several gave Mr. Barnum notice of their intention
     to leave him, in consequence of better offers; and a number of them
     sent off telegraphic despatches and letters by mail, in answer to
     those received.

     “The man who had so suddenly become the father of twins,
     telegraphed to his wife to ‘be of good cheer,’ and that he would
     ‘start for home to-morrow.’ At a late hour last night the secret
     had not got out, and we presume that many of the victims will first
     learn from our columns that they have been taken in by BARNUM and
     All Fools’ Day!”

From Nashville, Jenny Lind and a few friends went by way of the Mammoth
Cave to Louisville, while the rest of the party proceeded by steamboat.

While in Havana, I engaged Signor Salvi for a few months, to begin about
the 10th of April. He joined us at Louisville, and sang in the three
concerts there, with great satisfaction to the public. Mr. George D.
Prentice, of the Louisville _Journal_, and his beautiful and
accomplished lady, who had contributed much to the pleasure of Miss Lind
and our party, accompanied us to Cincinnati.

A citizen of Madison had applied to me on our first arrival in
Louisville, for a concert in that place. I replied that the town was too
small to afford it, whereupon he offered to take the management of it
into his own hands, and pay me $5,000 for the receipts. The last concert
at Louisville, and the concerts at Natchez and Wheeling were given under
a similar agreement, though with better pecuniary results than at
Madison. As the steamer from Louisville to Cincinnati would arrive at
Madison about sundown, and would wait long enough for us to give a
concert, I agreed to his proposition.

We were not a little surprised to learn upon arriving, that the concert
must be given in a “pork house”--a capacious shed which had been fitted
up and decorated for the occasion. We concluded, however, that if the
inhabitants were satisfied with the accommodations, we ought not to
object. The person who had contracted for the concert came $1,300 short
of his agreement, which I consequently lost, and at ten o’clock we were
again on board the fine steamer “Ben Franklin” bound for Cincinnati.

The next morning the crowd upon the wharf was immense. I was fearful
that an attempt to repeat the New Orleans ruse with my daughter would be
of no avail, as the joke had been published in the Cincinnati papers; so
I gave my arm to Miss Lind, and begged her to have no fears, for I had
hit upon an expedient which would save her from annoyance. We then
descended the plank to the shore, and as soon as we had touched it, Le
Grand Smith called out from the boat, as if he had been one of the
passengers, “That’s no go, Mr. Barnum; you can’t pass your daughter off
for Jenny Lind this time.”

The remark elicited a peal of merriment from the crowd, several persons
calling out, “That won’t do, Barnum! you may fool the New Orleans folks,
but you can’t come it over the ‘Buckeyes.’ We intend to stay here until
you bring out Jenny Lind!” They readily allowed me to pass with the lady
whom they supposed to be my daughter, and in five minutes afterwards the
Nightingale was complimenting Mr. Coleman upon the beautiful and
commodious apartments which were devoted to her in the Burnett House.
The crowd remained an hour on the wharf before they would be convinced
that the person whom they took for my daughter was in fact the veritable
Swede. When this was discovered, a general laugh followed the
exclamation from one of the victims, “Well, Barnum has humbugged us
after all!”

In passing up the river to Pittsburg, the boat waited four hours to
enable us to give a concert in Wheeling. It was managed by a couple of
gentlemen in that city, who purchased it for five thousand dollars in
advance, by which they made a handsome profit for their trouble. The
concert was given in a church.

At Pittsburg, the open space surrounding the concert room became crowded
with thousands of persons, who, foolishly refusing to accommodate each
other by listening to the music, disturbed the concert and determined us
to leave the next morning for Baltimore, instead of giving a second
concert that had been advertised.

Le Grand Smith here paid me off for my “April fool” joke. He induced a
female of his acquaintance to call on me and reveal an arrangement which
she pretended accidentally to have overheard between some scoundrels,
who were resolved to stop our stage coach on the Alleghany mountains and
commit highway robbery. The story seemed incredible, and yet the woman
related it with so much apparent sincerity, that I swallowed the bait,
and remitting to New York all the money I had, except barely enough to
defray our expenses to Baltimore, I purchased several revolvers for such
members of the company as were not already provided, and we left
Pittsburg armed to the teeth! Fortunately, Jenny Lind and several of the
company had left before I made this grand discovery, and hence she was
saved any apprehensions on the subject. It is needless to say we found
no use for our firearms.

We reached New York early in May, 1851, and gave fourteen concerts in
Castle Garden and Metropolitan Hall. The last of these made the
ninety-second regular concert under our engagement. Jenny Lind had now
again reached the atmosphere of her legal and other “advisers,” and I
soon discovered the effects of their influence. I, however, cared little
what course they advised her to pursue. I indeed wished they would
prevail upon her to close with her hundredth concert, for I had become
weary with constant excitement and unremitting exertions. I was
confident that if she undertook to give concerts on her own account, she
would be imposed upon and harassed in a thousand ways; yet I felt it
would be well for her to have a trial at it, if she saw fit to credit
her advisers’ assurance that I had not managed the enterprise as
successfully as it might have been done.

At about the eighty-fifth concert, therefore, I was most happy to learn
from her lips that she had concluded to pay the forfeiture of
twenty-five thousand dollars, and terminate the concerts with the one

We went to Philadelphia, where I had advertised the ninety-second,
ninety-third, and ninety-fourth concerts, and had engaged the large
National Theatre on Chestnut Street. It had been used for equestrian and
theatrical entertainments, but was now thoroughly cleansed and fitted up
by Max Maretzek for Italian opera. It was a convenient place for our
purpose. One of her “advisers,” a subordinate in her employ, who was
already itching for the position of manager, made the selection of this
building a pretext for creating dissatisfaction in the mind of Miss
Lind. I saw the influences which were at work, and not caring enough for
the profits of the remaining seven concerts, to continue the engagement
at the risk of disturbing the friendly feelings which had hitherto
uninterruptedly existed between that lady and myself, I wrote her a
letter offering to relinquish the engagement, if she desired it, at the
termination of the concert which was to take place that evening, upon
her simply allowing me a thousand dollars per concert for the seven
which would yet remain to make up the hundred, besides paying me the sum
stipulated as a forfeiture for closing the engagement at the
one-hundredth concert. Towards evening I received the following reply:


     “MY DEAR SIR:--I accept your proposition to close our contract
     to-night, at the end of the ninety-third concert, on condition of
     my paying you seven thousand dollars, in addition to the sum I
     forfeit under the condition of finishing the engagement at the end
     of one hundred concerts.

“I am, dear Sir, yours truly,


     “PHILADELPHIA, 9th of June, 1851.”

I met her at the concert in the evening, and she was polite and friendly
as ever. Between the first and second parts of the concert, I introduced
General Welch, the lessee of the National Theatre, who informed her that
he was quite willing to release me from my engagement of the building,
if she did not desire it longer. She replied, that upon trial, she found
it much better than she expected, and she would therefore retain it for
the remainder of the concerts.

In the mean time, her advisers had been circulating the story that I had
compelled her to sing in an improper place, and when they heard she had
concluded to remain there, they beset her with arguments against it,
until at last she consented to remove her concerts to a smaller hall.

I had thoroughly advertised the three concerts, in the newspapers within
a radius of one hundred miles from Philadelphia, and had sent admission
tickets to the editors. On the day of the second concert, one of the
new agents, who had indirectly aided in bringing about the dissolution
of our engagement, refused to recognize these tickets. I urged upon him
the injustice of such a course, but received no satisfaction. I then
stated the fact to Miss Lind, and she gave immediate orders that these
tickets should be received. Country editors’ tickets, which were offered
after I left Philadelphia, were however refused by her agents (contrary
to Miss Lind’s wish and knowledge), and the editors, having come from a
distance with their wives, purchased tickets, and I subsequently
remitted the money to numerous gentlemen, whose complimentary tickets
were thus repudiated.

Jenny Lind gave several concerts with varied success, and then retired
to Niagara Falls, and afterwards to Northampton, Massachusetts. While
sojourning at the latter place, she visited Boston and was married to
Mr. Otto Goldschmidt, a German composer and pianist, to whom she was
much attached, and who had studied music with her in Germany. He played
several times in our concerts. He was a very quiet, inoffensive
gentleman, and an accomplished musician.

I met her several times after our engagement terminated. She was always
affable. On one occasion, while passing through Bridgeport, she told me
that she had been sadly harassed in giving her concerts. “People cheat
me and swindle me very much,” said she, “and I find it very annoying to
give concerts on my own account.”

I was always supplied with complimentary tickets when she gave concerts
in New York, and on the occasion of her last appearance in America, I
visited her in her room back of the stage, and bade her and her husband
adieu, with my best wishes. She expressed the same feeling to me in
return. She told me she should never sing much, if any more, in public;
but I reminded her that a good Providence had endowed her with a voice
which enabled her to contribute in an eminent degree to the enjoyment of
her fellow beings, and if she no longer needed the large sums of money
which they were willing to pay for this elevating and delightful
entertainment, she knew by experience what a genuine pleasure she would
receive by devoting the money to the alleviation of the wants and
sorrows of those who needed it.

“Ah! Mr. Barnum,” she replied, “that is very true, and it would be
ungrateful in me to not continue to use for the benefit of the poor and
lowly, that gift which our kind Heavenly Father has so graciously
bestowed upon me. Yes, I will continue to sing so long as my voice
lasts, but it will be mostly for charitable objects, for I am thankful
to say I have all the money which I shall ever need.” Pursuant to this
resolution, the larger portion of the concerts which this noble lady has
given since her return to Europe, have been for objects of benevolence.

If she consents to sing for a charitable object in London, for instance,
the fact is not advertised at all, but the tickets are readily disposed
of in a private quiet way, at a guinea and half a guinea each.

After so many months of anxiety, labor and excitement, in the Jenny Lind
enterprise, it will readily be believed that I desired tranquility. I
spent a week at Cape May, and then came home to Iranistan, where I
remained during the entire summer.



  ----   New York,       $17,864 05    No. 46. Havana,          $2,931 95
  ----      “             14,203 03        47. New Orleans,     12,599 85
                         ----------        48.     “            10,210 42
  No. 1.  “               12,519 59        49.     “             8,131 15
      2.  “               14,266 09        50.     “             6,019 85
      3.  “               12,174 74        51.     “             6,644 00
      4.  “               16,028 39        52.     “             9,720 80
      5. Boston,          16,479 50        53.     “             7,545 50
      6.   “              11,848 62        54.     “             6,053 50
      7.   “               8,639 92        55.     “             4,850 25
      8.   “              10,169 25        56.     “             4,495 35
      9. Providence,       6,525 54        57.     “             6,630 35
     10. Boston,          10,524 87        58.     “             4,745 10
     11.   “               5,240 00        59. Natchez,          5,000 00
     12.   “               7,586 00        60. Memphis,          4,539 56
     13. Philadelphia,     9,291 25        61. St. Louis,        7,811 85
     14.    “              7,547 00        62.     “             7,961 92
     15.    “              8,458 65        63.     “             7,708 70
     16. New York,         6,415 90        64.     “             4,086 50
     17.    “              4,009 70        65.     “             3,044 70
     18.    “              5,982 00        66. Nashville,        7,786 30
     19.    “              8,007 10        67.     “             4,248 00
     20.    “              6,334 20        68. Louisville,       7,833 90
     21.    “              9,429 15        69.     “             6,595 60
     22.    “              9,912 17        70.     “             5,000 00
     23.    “              5,773 40        71. Madison,          3,693 25
     24.    “              4,993 50        72. Cincinnati,       9,339 75
     25.    “              6,670 15        73.     “            11,001 50
     26.    “              9,840 33        74.     “             8,446 30
     27.    “              7,097 15        75.     “             8,954 18
     28.    “              8,263 30        76.     “             6,500 40
     29.    “             10,570 25        77. Wheeling,         5,000 00
     30.    “             10,646 45        78. Pittsburg,        7,210 58
     31. Philadelphia,     5,480 75        79. New York,         6,858 42
     32.    “              5,728 65        80.     “             5,453 00
     33.    “              3,709 88        81.     “             5,463 70
     34.    “              4,815 48        82.     “             7,378 35
     35. Baltimore,        7,117 00        83.     “             7,179 27
     36.    “              8,357 05        84.     “             6,641 00
     37.    “              8,406 50        85.     “             6,917 13
     38.    “              8,121 33        86.     “             6,642 04
     39. Washington City,  6,878 55        87.     “             3,738 75
     40.      “            8,507 05        88.     “             4,335 28
     41. Richmond,        12,385 21        89.     “             5,339 23
     42. Charleston,       6,775 00        90.     “             4,087 03
     43.    “              3,653 75        91.     “             5,717 00
     44. Havana,           4,666 17        92.     “             9,525 80
     45.    “              2,837 92        93. Philadelphia,     3,852 75

     CHARITY CONCERTS.--Of Miss Lind’s half receipts of the first two
     Concerts, she devoted $10,000 to charity in New York. She
     afterwards gave Charity Concerts in Boston, Baltimore, Charleston,
     Havana, New Orleans, New York, and Philadelphia, and donated large
     sums for the like purposes in Richmond, Cincinnati, and elsewhere.
     There were also several Benefit Concerts, for the Orchestra, Le
     Grand Smith, and other persons and objects.


  NEW YORK     35 Concerts. Receipts, $286,216 64 Average, $8,177 50
  PHILADELPHIA  8    “         “        48,884 41    “      6,110 55
  BOSTON        7    “         “        70,388 16    “     10,055 45
  PROVIDENCE    1    “         “         6,525 54    “      6,525 54
  BALTIMORE     4    “         “        32,101 88    “      8,000 47
  WASHINGTON    2    “         “        15,385 60    “      7,692 80
  RICHMOND      1    “         “        12,385 21    “     12,385 21
  CHARLESTON    2    “         “        10,428 75    “      5,214 37
  HAVANA        3    “         “        10,436 04    “      3,478 68
  NEW ORLEANS  12    “         “        87,646 12    “      7,303 84
  NATCHEZ       1    “         “         5,000 00    “      5,000 00
  MEMPHIS       1    “         “         4,539 56    “      4,539 56
  ST. LOUIS     5    “         “        30,613 67    “      6,122 73
  NASHVILLE     2    “         “        12,034 30    “      6,017 15
  LOUISVILLE    3    “         “        19,429 50    “      6,476 50
  MADISON       1    “         “         3,693 25    “      3,693 25
  CINCINNATI    5    “         “        44,242 13    “      8,848 43
  WHEELING      1    “         “         5,000 00    “      5,000 00
  PITTSBURG     1    “         “         7,210 58    “      7,210 58
                        --                     -----------          ---------
       TOTAL   95 CONCERTS. RECEIPTS, $712,161 34 AVERAGE, $7,496 43


  From the Total Receipts of Ninety-five Concerts     $712,161 34
  Deduct the receipts of the first two, which, as between
  P. T. Barnum and Jenny Lind, were aside from the
  contract, and are not numbered in the Table           32,067 08
  Total Receipts of Concerts from No. 1 to No. 93     $680,094 26
  Deduct the receipts of the 28 Concerts,
  each of which fell short of $5,500     $123,311 15
  Also deduct $5,500 for each of the
  remaining 65 Concerts                   357,500 00   480,811 15
                                          -----------   ----------
  Leaving the total excess, as above                  $199,283 11
  Being equally divided, Miss Lind’s portion was                   $99,641 55
  I paid her $1,000 for each of the 93 Concerts                     93,000 00
  Also one half the receipts of the first two Concerts              16,033 54
  Amount paid to Jenny Lind                                       $208,675 09
  She refunded to me as forfeiture, per contract, in
  case she withdrew after the 100th Concert               $25,000
  She also paid me $1,000 each for the seven Concerts
  relinquished                                              7,000   32,000 00
                                                          ------- -----------
  JENNY LIND’S net avails of 95 Concerts                          $176,675 09
  P. T. BARNUM’S gross receipts, after paying Miss Lind            535,486 25
  TOTAL RECEIPTS of 95 Concerts                                   $712,161 34

PRICE OF TICKETS.--The highest prices paid for tickets were at auction
as follows:--John N. Genin, in New York, $225; Ossian E. Dodge, in
Boston, $625; Col. William C. Ross, in Providence, $650; M. A. Root, in
Philadelphia, $625; Mr. D’Arcy, in New Orleans, $240; a keeper of a
refreshment saloon in St. Louis, $150; a Daguerrotypist, in Baltimore,
$100. I cannot now recall the names of the last two. After the sale of
the first ticket, the premium usually fell to $20, and so downward in
the scale of figures. The fixed price of tickets ranged from $7 to $3.
Promenade tickets were from $2 to $1 each.




While I was managing the Lind concerts, in addition to the American
Museum I had other business matters in operation which were more than
enough to engross my entire attention and which, of course, I was
compelled to commit to the hands of associates and agents.

In 1849 I had projected a great travelling museum and menagerie, and, as
I had neither time nor inclination to manage such a concern, I induced
Mr. Seth B. Howes, justly celebrated as a “showman,” to join me, and
take the sole charge. Mr. Sherwood E. Stratton, father of General Tom
Thumb, was also admitted to partnership, the interest being in thirds.

In carrying out a portion of the plan, we chartered the ship “Regatta,”
Captain Pratt, and despatched her, together with our agents, Messrs.
June and Nutter, to Ceylon. The ship left New York in May, 1850, and was
absent one year. Their mission was to procure, either by capture or
purchase, twelve or more living elephants, besides such other wild
animals as they could secure. In order to provide sufficient drink and
provender for a cargo of these huge animals, we purchased a large
quantity of hay in New York. Five hundred tons were left at the Island
of St. Helena, to be taken on the return trip of the ship, and staves
and hoops of water-casks were also left at the same place.

As our agents were unable to purchase the required number of elephants,
either in Columbo or Kandy, the principal towns of the island, (Ceylon,)
they took one hundred and sixty native assistants, and plunged into the
jungles, where, after many most exciting adventures, they succeeded in
securing thirteen elephants of a suitable size for their purpose, with a
female and her calf, or “baby” elephant, only six months old. In the
course of the expedition, Messrs. Nutter and June killed large numbers
of the huge beasts, and had numerous encounters of the most terrific
description with the formidable animals, one of the most fearful of
which took place near Anarajah Poora, while they were endeavoring, by
the aid of the natives and trained elephants, to drive the wild herd of
beasts into an Indian kraal.

They arrived in New York in 1851 with ten of the elephants, and these,
harnessed in pairs to a chariot, paraded up Broadway past the Irving
House, while Jenny Lind was staying at that hotel, on the occasion of
her second visit to New York. Messrs. Nutter and June also brought with
the elephants a native who was competent to manage and control them. We
added a caravan of wild animals and many museum curiosities, the entire
outfit, including horses, vans, carriages, tent, etc., costing $109,000,
and commenced operations, with the presence and under the “patronage” of
General Tom Thumb, who travelled nearly four years as one of the
attractions of “Barnum’s Great Asiatic Caravan, Museum and Menagerie,”
returning us immense profits.

At the end of that time, after exhibiting in all sections of the
country, we sold out the entire establishment--animals, cages, chariots
and paraphernalia, excepting one elephant, which I retained in my own
possession two months for agricultural purposes. It occurred to me that
if I could put an elephant to plowing for a while on my farm at
Bridgeport, it would be a capital advertisement for the American Museum,
which was then, and always during my proprietorship of that
establishment, foremost in my thoughts.

So I sent him to Connecticut in charge of his keeper, whom I dressed in
Oriental costume, and keeper and elephant were stationed on a six-acre
lot which lay close beside the track of the New York and New Haven
Railroad. The keeper was furnished with a time-table of the road, with
special instructions to be busily engaged in his work whenever passenger
trains from either way were passing through. Of course, the matter soon
appeared in the papers and went the entire rounds of the press in this
country and even in Europe, and it was everywhere announced that P. T.
Barnum, “Proprietor of the celebrated American Museum in New York”--and
here is where the advertisement came in--had introduced elephants upon
his farm, to do his plowing and heavy draft work. Hundreds of people
came many miles to witness the novel spectacle. Letters poured in upon
me from the secretaries of hundreds of State and County agricultural
societies throughout the Union, stating that the presidents and
directors of such societies had requested them to propound to me a
series of questions in regard to the new power I had put in operation on
my farm. These questions were greatly diversified, but the “general run”
of them were something like the following:

1. “Is the elephant a profitable agricultural animal?”

2. “How much can an elephant plow in a day?”

3. “How much can he draw?”

4. “How much does he eat?”--this question was invariably asked, and was
a very important one.

5. “Will elephants make themselves generally useful on a farm?” I
suppose some of my inquirers thought the elephant would pick up chips,
or even pins as they have been taught to do, and would rock the baby and
do all the chores, including the occasional carrying of a trunk, other
than his own, to the depot.

6. “What is the price of an elephant?”

7. “Where can elephants be purchased?”

Then would follow a score of other inquiries, such as, whether elephants
were easily managed; if they would quarrel with cattle; if it was
possible to breed them; how old calf elephants must be before they would
earn their own living; and so on indefinitely. I began to be alarmed
lest some one should buy an elephant, and so share the fate of the man
who drew one in a lottery, and did not know what to do with him. I
accordingly had a general letter printed, which I mailed to all my
anxious inquirers. It was headed “strictly confidential,” and I then
stated, begging my correspondents “not to mention it,” that to me the
elephant was a valuable agricultural animal, because he was an


advertisement to my Museum; but that to other farmers he would prove
very unprofitable for many reasons. In the first place, such an animal
would cost from $3,000 to $10,000; in cold weather he could not work at
all; in any weather he could not earn even half his living; he would eat
up the value of his own head, trunk, and body every year; and I begged
my correspondents not to do so foolish a thing as to undertake elephant

Newspaper reporters came from far and near, and wrote glowing accounts
of the elephantine performances. One of them, taking a political view of
the matter, stated that the elephant’s sagacity showed that he knew more
than did any laborer on the farm, and yet, shameful to say, he was not
allowed to vote. Another said that Barnum’s elephant built all the stone
wall on the farm; made all the rail fences; planted corn with his trunk,
and covered it with his foot; washed my windows and sprinkled the walks
and lawns, by taking water from the fountain-basin with his trunk;
carried all the children to school, and put them to bed at night,
tucking them up with his trunk; fed the pigs; picked fruit from branches
that could not otherwise be reached; turned the fanning mill and
corn-sheller; drew the mowing machine, and turned and cocked the hay
with his trunk; carried and brought my letters to and from the
post-office (it was a male elephant); and did all the chores about the
house, including milking the cows, and bringing in eggs. Pictures of
Barnum’s plowing elephant appeared in illustrated papers at home and
abroad, and as the cars passed the scene of the performance, passengers’
heads were out of every window, and among many and varied exclamations,
I heard of one man’s saying:

“Well, I declare! That is certainly a real elephant and any man who has
so many elephants that he can afford to work them on his farm, must have
lots of wild animals and curious ‘critters’ in his Museum, and I am
bound to go there the first thing after my arrival in New York.”

The six acres were plowed over at least sixty times before I thought the
advertisement sufficiently circulated, and I then sold the elephant to
Van Amburgh’s Menagerie.

A substantial farmer friend of mine, Mr. Gideon Thompson, called at
Iranistan during the elephant excitement and asked me to accompany him
to the field to let him see “how the big animal worked.” I knew him to
be a shrewd, sharp man and a good farmer, and I tried to excuse myself,
as I did not wish to be too closely questioned. Indeed, for the same
reason, I made it a point at all times to avoid being present when the
plowing was going on. But the old farmer was a particular friend and he
refused to take “no” for an answer; so I went with him “to see the

Arriving at the field, Mr. Thompson said nothing, but stood with folded
arms and sedately watched the elephant for at least fifteen minutes.
Then he walked out on to the plowed ground, and found it so mellow that
he sank nearly up to his knees; for it had already been plowed over and
over many times. As usual, several spectators were present. Mr. Thompson
walked up to where I was standing, and, looking me squarely in the eyes,
he asked with much earnestness:

“What is your object, sir, in bringing that great Asiatic animal on to a
New England farm?”

“To plow,” I replied very demurely.

“To plow!” said Thompson; “don’t talk to me about plowing! I have been
out where he has plowed, and the ground is so soft I thought I should go
through and come out in China. No, sir! You can’t humbug me. You have
got some other object in bringing that elephant up here; now what is

“Don’t you see for yourself that I am plowing with him?” I asked.

“Nonsense,” said Thompson “that would never pay; I have no doubt he eats
more than he earns every day; you have some other purpose in view, I am
sure you have.”

“Perhaps he does not eat so much as you think,” I replied; “and you see
he draws nobly--in fact, I expect he will be just the animal by and by,
to draw saw logs to mill, and do other heavy work.”

But Uncle Gid., was not to be put aside so easily so he asked very

“How much does he eat in a day?”

“Oh,” I replied carelessly, “not more than a quarter of a ton of hay and
three or four bushels of oats.”

“Exactly,” said Thompson, his eyes glistening with delight; “that is
just about what I expected. He can’t draw so much as two pair of my oxen
can, and he costs more than a dozen pair.”

“You are mistaken, friend Thompson,” I replied with much gravity; “that
elephant is a powerful animal; he can draw more than forty yoke of oxen,
and he pays me well for bringing him here.”

“Forty yoke of oxen!” contemptuously replied the old farmer; “I don’t
want to tell you I doubt your word, but I would just like to know what
he can draw.”

“He can draw the attention of twenty millions of American citizens to
Barnum’s Museum,” I replied.

“Oh, you can make him pay in that way, of course,” responded the old

“None but a greenhorn could ever have expected he would pay in any other
way,” I replied.

The old man gave a hearty laugh, and said, “Well, I give it up. I have
been a farmer thirty-five years, and I have only just discovered that an
elephant is a very useful and profitable animal on a farm--provided the
farmer also owns a museum.”

In 1851 I became a part owner of the steamship “North America.” Our
intention in buying it was to run it to Ireland as a passenger and
freight ship. The project was, however, abandoned, and Commodore
Cornelius Vanderbilt bought one half of the steamer, while the other
half was owned by three persons, of whom I was one. The steamer was sent
around Cape Horn to San Francisco, and was put into the Vanderbilt line.

After she had made several trips I called upon Mr. Vanderbilt, at his
office, and introduced myself, as this was the first time we had met.

“Is it possible you are Barnum?” exclaimed the Commodore, in surprise,
“why, I expected to see a monster, part lion, part elephant, and a
mixture of rhinoceros and tiger! Is it possible,” he continued, “that
you are the showman who has made so much noise in the world?”

I laughingly replied that I was, and added that if I too had been
governed in my anticipation of his personal appearance by the fame he
had achieved in his line, I should have expected to have been saluted by
a steam whistle, and to have seen him dressed in a pea jacket, blowing
off steam, and crying out “all aboard that’s going.”

“Instead of which,” replied Mr. Vanderbilt, “I suppose you have come to
ask me, ‘to walk up to the Captain’s office and settle.’”

After this interchange of civilities, we talked about the success of the
“North America” in having got safely around the Horn, and of the
acceptable manner in which she was doing her duty on the Pacific side.

“We have received no statement of her earnings yet,” said the Commodore,
“but if you want money, give your receipt to our treasurer, and take

A few months subsequent to this, I sold out my share in the steamship to
Mr. Daniel Drew. The day after closing with Mr. Drew, I discovered an
error of several hundred dollars (a matter of interest on some portion
of the purchase money, which had been overlooked). I called on Mr. Drew,
and asked him to correct it, but could get no satisfaction. I then wrote
him a threatening letter, but received no response. I was on the eve of
suing him for the amount due me, when the news came that the steamship
“North America” was lying at the bottom of the Pacific. It turned out
that she was sunk several days before I sold out, and as the owners were
mulcted in the sum of many thousands of dollars damages by their
passengers, besides suffering a great loss in their steamship, I said no
more to the millionnaire Drew about the few hundreds which he had
withheld from the showman.

Some reference to the various enterprises and “side shows” connected
with and disconnected from my Museum, is necessary to show how
industriously I have catered for the public’s amusement, not only in
America but abroad. When I was in Paris in 1844, in addition to the
purchase of Robert Houdin’s ingenious automaton writer, and many other
costly curiosities for the Museum, I ordered, at an expense of $3,000, a
panoramic diorama of the obsequies of Napoleon. Every event of that
grand pageant, from the embarkation of the body at St. Helena, to its
entombment at the Hotel des Invalides, amid the most gorgeous parade
ever witnessed in France, was wonderfully depicted. This exhibition,
after having had its day at the American Museum, was sold, and
extensively and profitably exhibited elsewhere. While I was in London,
during the same year, I engaged a company of “Campanalogians, or
Lancashire Bell Ringers,” then performing in Ireland, to make an
American tour. They were really admirable performers, and by means of
their numerous bells, of various sizes, they produced the most
delightful music. They attracted much attention in various parts of the
United States, in Canada, and in Cuba.

As a compensation to England for the loss of the Bell Ringers, I
despatched an agent to America for a party of Indians, including squaws.
He proceeded to Iowa, and returned to London with a company of sixteen.
They were exhibited by Mr. Catlin on our joint account, and were finally
left in his sole charge.

On my first return visit to America from Europe, I engaged Mr. Faber, an
elderly and ingenious German, who had constructed an automaton speaker.
It was of life-size, and when worked with keys similar to those of a
piano, it really articulated words and sentences with surprising
distinctness. My agent exhibited it for several months in Egyptian Hall,
London, and also in the provinces. This was a marvellous piece of
mechanism, though for some unaccountable reason it did not prove a
success. The Duke of Wellington visited it several times, and at first
he thought that the “voice” proceeded from the exhibitor, whom he
assumed to be a skillful ventriloquist. He was asked to touch the keys
with his own fingers, and after some instruction in the method of
operating, he was able to make the machine speak, not only in English
but also in German, with which language the Duke seemed familiar.
Thereafter, he entered his name on the exhibitor’s autograph book, and
certified that the “Automaton Speaker” was an extraordinary production
of mechanical genius.

During my first visit to England I obtained, verbally, through a friend,
the refusal of the house in which Shakespeare was born, designing to
remove it in sections to my Museum in New York; but the project leaked
out, British pride was touched, and several English gentlemen interfered
and purchased the premises for a Shakespearian Association. Had they
slept a few days longer, I should have made a rare speculation, for I
was subsequently assured that the British people, rather than suffer
that house to be removed to America, would have bought me off with
twenty thousand pounds. I did not hesitate to engage, or attempt to
secure anything, at any expense, to please my patrons in the United
States, and I made an effort to transfer Madame Tussaud’s world-wide
celebrated wax-work collection entire to New York. The papers were
actually drawn up for this engagement, but the enterprise finally fell

The models of machinery exhibited in the Royal Polytechnic Institution
in London, pleased me so well that I procured a duplicate; also
duplicates of the “Dissolving Views,” the Chromatrope and Physioscope,
including many American scenes painted expressly to my order, at an
aggregate cost of $7,000. After they had been exhibited in my Museum,
they were sold to itinerant showmen, and some of them were afterwards on
exhibition in various parts of the United States.

In June 1850, I added the celebrated Chinese Collection to the
attractions of the American Museum. I also engaged the Chinese Family,
consisting of two men, two “small-footed” women and two children. My
agent exhibited them in London during the World’s Fair. It may be stated
here, that I subsequently sent to London the celebrated artist De Lamano
to paint a panorama of the Crystal Palace, in which the World’s Fair was
held, and Colonel John S. Dusolle, an able and accomplished editor, whom
I sent with De Lamano, wrote an accompanying descriptive lecture. Like
most panoramas, however, the exhibition proved a failure.

The giants whom I sent to America were not the greatest of my
curiosities, though the dwarfs might have been the least. The “Scotch
Boys” were interesting, not so much on account of their weight, as for
the mysterious method by which one of them, though blindfolded, answered
questions put by the other respecting objects presented by persons who
attended the surprising exhibition. The mystery, which was merely the
result of patient practice, consisted wholly in the manner in which the
question was propounded; in fact, the question invariably carried its
own answer; for instance:

“What is this?” meant gold; “Now what is this?” silver; “Say what is
this?” copper; “Tell me what this is,” iron; “What is the shape?” long;
“Now what shape?” round; “Say what shape,” square; “Please say what this
is,” a watch; “Can you tell what is in this lady’s hand?” a purse; “Now
please say what this is?” a key; “Come now, what is this?” money; “How
much?” a penny; “Now how much?” sixpence; “Say how much,” a quarter of a
dollar; “What color is this?” black; “Now what color is this?” red; “Say
what color,” green; and so on, ad infinitum. To such perfection was this
brought that it was almost impossible to present any object that could
not be quite closely described by the blindfolded boy. This is the key
to all exhibitions of what is called “second sight.”

In 1850, the celebrated Bateman children acted for several weeks at the
American Museum and in June of that year I sent them to London with
their father and Mr. Le Grand Smith, where they played in the St. James
Theatre, and afterwards in the principal provincial theatres. The elder
of these children, Miss Kate Bateman, subsequently attained the highest
histrionic distinction in America and abroad, and reached the very head
of her profession.

In October, 1852, having stipulated with Mr. George A. Wells and Mr.
Bushnell that they should share in the enterprise and take the entire
charge, I engaged Miss Catherine Hayes and Herr Begnis to give a series
of sixty concerts in California, and the engagement was fulfilled to our
entire satisfaction. Mr. Bushnell afterwards went to Australia with Miss
Hayes and they were subsequently married. Both of them are dead.

Before setting out for California, Miss Catherine Hayes, her mother and
sister spent several days at Iranistan and were present at the marriage
of my eldest daughter, Caroline, to Mr. David W. Thompson. The wedding
was to take place in the evening, and in the afternoon I was getting
shaved in a barber-shop in Bridgeport, when Mr. Thompson drove up to
the door in great haste and exclaimed:

“Mr. Barnum, Iranistan is in flames!”

I ran out half-shaved, with the lather on my face, jumped into his wagon
and bade him drive home with all speed. I was greatly alarmed, for the
house was full of visitors who had come from a distance to attend the
wedding, and all the costly presents, dresses, refreshments, and
everything prepared for a marriage celebration to which nearly a
thousand guests had been invited, were already in my house. Mr. Thompson
told me that he had seen the flames bursting from the roof and it seemed
to me that there was little hope of saving the building.

My mind was distressed, not so much at the great pecuniary loss which
the destruction of Iranistan would involve as at the possibility that
some of my family or visitors would be killed or seriously injured in
attempting to save something from the fire. Then I thought of the sore
disappointment this calamity would cause to the young couple, as well as
to those who were invited to the wedding. I saw that Mr. Thompson looked
pale and anxious.

“Never mind!” said I; “we can’t help these things; the house will
probably be burned; but if no one is killed or injured, you shall be
married to-night, if we are obliged to perform the ceremony in the

On our way, we overtook a fire-company and I implored them to “hurry up
their machine.” Arriving in sight of Iranistan we saw huge volumes of
smoke rolling out from the roof and many men on the top of the house
were passing buckets of water to pour


upon the fire. Fortunately, several men had been engaged during the day
in repairing the roof, and their ladders were against the house. By
these means and with the assistance of the men employed upon my grounds,
water was passed very rapidly and the flames were soon subdued without
serious damage. The inmates of Iranistan were thoroughly frightened;
Catherine Hayes and other visitors packed their trunks and had them
carried out on the lawn; and the house came as near destruction as it
well could, and escape.

While Miss Hayes was in Bridgeport I induced her to give a concert for
the benefit of the “Mountain Grove Cemetery,” and the large proceeds
were devoted to the erection of the beautiful stone tower and gateway at
the entrance of that charming ground. The land for this cemetery, about
eighty acres, had been bought by me, years before, from several farmers.
I had often shot over the ground while hunting a year or two before, and
had then seen its admirable capabilities for the purpose to which it was
eventually devoted. After deeds for the property were secured, it was
offered for a cemetery, and at a meeting of citizens several lots were
subscribed for, enough, indeed, to cover the amount of the purchase
money. Thus was begun the “Mountain Grove Cemetery,” which is now
beautifully laid out and adorned with many tasteful and costly
monuments. Among these are my own substantial granite monument, the
family monuments of Harral, Bishop, Hubbell, Lyon, Wood, Loomis, Wordin,
Hyde, and others, and General Tom Thumb has erected a tall marble shaft
which is surmounted by a life-size statue of himself. There is no more
charming burial ground in the whole country; yet when the project was
suggested, many persons preferred an intermural cemetery to this rural
resting-place for their departed friends; though now, all concur in
considering it fortunate that this adjunct was secured to Bridgeport
before the land could be permanently devoted to other purposes.

Some time afterwards, when Mr. Dion Boucicault visited me at Bridgeport,
at my solicitation he gave a lecture for the benefit of this cemetery. I
may add that on several occasions I have secured the services of General
Tom Thumb and others for this and equally worthy objects in Bridgeport.
When the General first returned with me from England, he gave
exhibitions for the benefit of the Bridgeport Charitable Society.
September 28, 1867, I induced him and his wife, with Commodore Nutt and
Minnie Warren to give their entertainment for the benefit of the
Bridgeport Library, thus adding $475 to the funds of that institution;
and on one occasion I lectured to a full house in the Methodist Church,
and the entire receipts were given to the library, of which I was
already a life member, on account of previous subscriptions and




In the summer, I think, of 1853, I saw it announced in the newspapers
that Mr. Alfred Bunn, the great ex-manager of Drury Lane Theatre, in
London, had arrived in Boston. Of course, I knew Mr. Bunn by reputation,
not only from his managerial career, but from the fact that he made the
first engagement with Jenny Lind to appear in London. This engagement,
however, Mr. Lumley, of Her Majesty’s Theatre, induced her to break, he
standing a lawsuit with Mr. Bunn, and paying heavy damages. I had never
met Mr. Bunn, but he took it for granted that I had seen him, for one
day after his arrival in this country, a burly Englishman abruptly
stepped into my private office in the Museum, and assuming a theatrical
attitude, addressed me:

“Barnum, do you remember me?”

I was confident I had never seen the man before, but it struck me at
once that no Englishman I ever heard of would be likely to exhibit more
presumption or assumption than the ex-manager of Drury Lane, and I
jumped at the conclusion:

“Is not this Mr. Bunn?”

“Ah! Ah! my boy!” he exclaimed, slapping me familiarly on the back, “I
thought you would remember me. Well, Barnum, how have you been since I
last saw you?”

I replied in a manner that would humor his impression that we were old
acquaintances, and during his two hours’ visit we had much gossip about
men and things in London. He called upon me several times, and it
probably never entered into his mind that I could possibly have been in
London two or three years without having made the personal acquaintance
of so great a lion as Alfred Bunn.

I met Mr. Bunn again in 1858, in London, at a dinner party of a mutual
friend, Mr. Levy, proprietor of the London Daily Telegraph. Of course,
Bunn and I were great chums and very old and intimate acquaintances. At
the same dinner, I met several literary and dramatic gentlemen.

In 1851, 1852, and 1853, I spent much of my time at my beautiful home in
Bridgeport, going very frequently to New York, to attend to matters in
the Museum, but remaining in the city only a day or two at a time. I
resigned the office of President of the Fairfield County Agricultural
Society in 1853, but the members accepted my resignation, only on
condition that it should not go into effect until after the fair of
1854. During my administration, the society held six fairs and
cattle-shows,--four in Bridgeport and two in Stamford,--and the interest
in these gatherings increased from year to year.

Pickpockets are always present at these country fairs, and every year
there were loud complaints of the depredations of these operators. In
1853 a man was caught in the act of taking a pocket-book from a country
farmer, nor was this farmer the only one who had suffered in the same
way. The scamp was arrested, and proved to be a celebrated English
pickpocket. As the Fair would close the next day, and as most persons
had already visited it, we expected our receipts would be light.

Early in the morning the detected party was legally examined, plead
guilty, and was bound over for trial. I obtained consent from the
sheriff that the culprit should be put in the Fair room for the purpose
of giving those who had been robbed an opportunity to identify him. For
this purpose he was handcuffed, and placed in a conspicuous position,
where of course he was “the observed of all observers.” I then issued
handbills, stating that as it was the last day of the Fair, the managers
were happy to announce that they had secured extra attractions for the
occasion, and would accordingly exhibit, safely handcuffed, and without
extra charge, a live pickpocket, who had been caught in the act of
robbing an honest farmer the day previous. Crowds of people rushed in
“to see the show.” Some good mothers brought their children ten miles
for that purpose, and our treasury was materially benefited by the

At the close of my presidency in 1854, I was requested to deliver the
opening speech at our County Fair, which was held at Stamford. As I was
not able to give agricultural advice, I delivered a portion of my
lecture on the “Philosophy of Humbug.” The next morning, as I was being
shaved in the village barber’s shop, which was at the time crowded with
customers, the ticket-seller to the Fair came in.

“What kind of a house did you have last night?” asked one of the
gentlemen in waiting.

“Oh, first-rate, of course. Barnum always draws a crowd,” was the reply
of the ticket-seller, to whom I was not known.

Most of the gentlemen present, however, knew me, and they found much
difficulty in restraining their laughter.

“Did Barnum make a good speech?” I asked.

“I did not hear it. I was out in the ticket-office. I guess it was
pretty good, for I never heard so much laughing as there was all through
his speech. But it makes no difference whether it was good or not,”
continued the ticket-seller, “the people will go to see Barnum.”

“Barnum must be a curious chap,” I remarked.

“Well, I guess he is up to all the dodges.”

“Do you know him?” I asked.

“Not personally,” he replied; “but I always get into the Museum for
nothing. I know the doorkeeper, and he slips me in free.”

“Barnum would not like that, probably, if he knew it,” I remarked.

“But it happens he don’t know it,” replied the ticket-seller, in great

“Barnum was on the cars the other day, on his way to Bridgeport,” said
I, “and I heard one of the passengers blowing him up terribly as a
humbug. He was addressing Barnum at the time, but did not know him.
Barnum joined in lustily, and indorsed everything the man said. When the
passenger learned whom he had been addressing, I should think he must
have felt rather flat.”

“I should think so, too,” said the ticket-seller.

This was too much, and we all indulged in a burst of laughter; still the
ticket-seller suspected nothing. After I had left the shop, the barber
told him who I was. I called into the ticket-office on business several
times during the day, but the poor ticket-seller kept his face turned
from me, and appeared so chap-fallen that I did not pretend to recognize
him as the hero of the joke in the barber’s shop.

This incident reminds me of numerous similar ones which have occurred at
various times. On one occasion--it was in 1847--I was on board the
steamboat from New York to Bridgeport. As we approached the harbor of
the latter city, a stranger desired me to point out “Barnum’s house”
from the upper deck. I did so, whereupon a bystander remarked, “I know
all about that house, for I was engaged in painting there for several
months while Barnum was in Europe.” He then proceeded to say that it was
the meanest and most ill-contrived house he ever saw. “It will cost old
Barnum a mint of money, and not be worth two cents after it is
finished,” he added.

“I suppose old Barnum don’t pay very punctually,” I remarked.

“Oh, yes, he pays punctually every Saturday night--there’s no trouble
about that; he has made half a million by exhibiting a little boy whom
he took from Bridgeport, and whom we never considered any great shakes
till Barnum took him and trained him.”

Soon afterwards one of the passengers told him who I was, whereupon he
secreted himself, and was not seen again while I remained on the boat.

On another occasion, I went to Boston by the Fall River route. Arriving
before sunrise, I found but one carriage at the depot. I immediately
engaged it, and giving the driver the check for my baggage, told him to
take me directly to the Revere House, as I was in great haste, and
enjoined him to take in no other passengers, and I would pay his
demands. He promised compliance with my wishes, but soon afterwards
appeared with a gentleman, two ladies, and several children, whom he
crowded into the carriage with me, and placing their trunks on the
baggage rack, started off. I thought there was no use in grumbling, and
consoled myself with the reflection that the Revere House was not far
away. He drove up one street and down another, for what seemed to me a
very long time, but I was wedged in so closely that I could not see what
route he was taking.

After half an hour’s drive he halted, and I found we were at the Lowell
Railway depot. Here my fellow-passengers alighted, and after a long
delay the driver delivered their baggage, received his fare, and was
about closing the carriage door preparatory to starting again. I was so
thoroughly vexed at the shameful manner in which he had treated me, that
I remarked;

“Perhaps you had better wait till the Lowell train arrives; you may
possibly get another load of passengers. Of course my convenience is of
no consequence. I suppose if you land me at the Revere House any time
this week, it will be as much as I have a right to expect.”

“I beg your pardon,” he replied, “but that was Barnum and his family. He
was very anxious to get here in time for the first train, so I stuck him
for $2, and now I’ll carry you to the Revere House free.”

“What Barnum is it?” I asked.

“The Museum and Jenny Lind man,” he replied.

The compliment and the shave both having been intended for me, I was of
course mollified, and replied, “You are mistaken, my friend, _I_ am

“Coachee” was thunderstruck, and offered all sorts of apologies.

“A friend at the other depot told me that I had Mr. Barnum on board,”
said he, “and I really supposed he meant the other man. When I come to
notice you, I perceive my mistake, but I hope you will forgive me. I
have carried you frequently before, and hope you will give me your
custom while you are in Boston. I never will make such a mistake again.”
I had to be satisfied.

Late in August, 1851, I was visited at Bridgeport by a gentleman who was
interested in an English invention patented in this country, and known
as Phillips’ Fire Annihilator. He showed me a number of certificates
from men of eminence and trustworthiness in England, setting forth the
merits of the invention in the highest terms. The principal value of the
machine seemed to consist in its power to extinguish flame, and thus
prevent the spread of fire when it once broke out. Besides, the steam or
vapor generated in the Annihilator was not prejudicial to human life.
Now, as water has no effect whatever upon flame, it was obvious that the
Annihilator would at the least prove a great _assistant_ in
extinguishing conflagrations, and that, especially in the incipient
stage of a fire, it would extinguish it altogether, without damage to
goods or other property, as is usually the case with water.

Hon. Elisha Whittlesey, First Comptroller of the United States Treasury
at Washington, was interested in the American patent, and the gentleman
that called upon me desired that I should also take an interest in it. I
had no disposition to engage in any speculation; but, believing this
might prove a beneficent invention, and be the means of saving a vast
amount of human life as well as property, I visited Washington City for
the purpose of conferring with Mr. Whittlesey, Hon. J. W. Allen and
other parties interested.

I was there shown numerous certificates of fires having been
extinguished by the machine in Great Britain, and property to the amount
of many thousands of pounds saved. I also saw that Lord Brougham had
proposed in Parliament that every Government vessel should be compelled
to have the Fire Annihilator on board. Mr. Whittlesey expressed his
belief in writing, that “if there is any reliance to be placed on human
testimony, it is one of the greatest discoveries of this most
extraordinary age.” I fully agreed with him, and have never yet seen
occasion to change that opinion.

I agreed to join in the enterprise. Mr. Whittlesey was elected
President, and I was appointed Secretary and General Agent of the
Company. I opened the office of the Company in New York, and sold and
engaged machines and territory in a few months to the amount of
$180,000. I refused to receive more than a small portion of the purchase
money until a public experiment had tested the powers of the machine,
and I voluntarily delivered to every purchaser an agreement, signed by
myself, in the following words:

“If the public test and demonstration are not perfectly successful, I
will at any time when demanded, within ten days after the public trial,
refund and pay back every shilling that has been paid into this office
for machines or territory for the sale of the patent.”

The public trial came off in Hamilton Square on the 18th December, 1851.
It was an exceedingly cold and inclement day. Mr. Phillips, who
conducted the experiment, was interfered with and knocked down by some
rowdies who were opposed to the invention, and the building was ignited
and consumed after he had extinguished the previous fire. Subsequently
to this unexpected and unjust opposition, I refunded every cent which I
had received, sometimes against the wishes of those who had purchased,
for they were willing to wait the result of further experiments; but I
was utterly disgusted with the course of a large portion of the public
upon a subject in which they were much more deeply interested than I

The arrangements of the Annihilator Company with Mr. Phillips, the
inventor, predicated all payments which he was to receive on _bona fide_
sales which we should actually make; therefore he really received
nothing, and the entire losses of the American Company, which were
merely for advertising and the expense of trying the experiments, hire
of an office, etc., amounted to nearly $30,000, of which my portion was
less than $10,000.

In the spring of 1851 the Connecticut Legislature chartered the
Pequonnock Bank of Bridgeport, with a capital of two hundred thousand
dollars. I had no interest whatever in the charter, and did not even
know that an application was to be made for it. More banking capital was
needed in Bridgeport in consequence of the great increase of trade and
manufactures in that growing and prosperous city, and this fact
appearing in evidence, the charter was granted as a public benefit. The
stock-books were opened under the direction of State Commissioners,
according to the laws of the Commonwealth, and nearly double the amount
of capital was subscribed on the first day. The stock was distributed by
the Commissioners among several hundred applicants. Circumstances
unexpectedly occurred which induced me to accept the presidency of the
bank, in compliance with the unanimous vote of its directors. Feeling
that I could not, from my many avocations, devote the requisite personal
attention to the duties of the office, C. B. Hubbell, Esq., then Mayor
of Bridgeport, was at my request appointed Vice-President of the

In the fall of 1852 a proposition was made by certain parties to
commence the publication of an illustrated weekly newspaper in the City
of New York. The field seemed to be open for such an enterprise, and I
invested twenty thousand dollars in the concern, as special partner, in
connection with two other gentlemen, who each contributed twenty
thousand dollars, as general partners. Within a month after the
publication of the first number of the _Illustrated News_, which was
issued on the first day of January, 1853, our weekly circulation had
reached seventy thousand. Numerous and almost insurmountable
difficulties, for novices in the business, continued however to arise,
and my partners becoming weary and disheartened with constant
over-exertion, were anxious to wind up the enterprise at the end of the
first year. The good-will and the engravings were sold to _Gleasons
Pictorial_, in Boston, and the concern was closed without loss.

In 1851, when the idea of opening a World’s Fair in New York was first
broached, I was waited upon by Mr. Riddell and the other originators of
the scheme, and invited to join in getting it up. I declined, giving as
a reason that such a project was, in my opinion, premature. I felt that
it was following quite too closely upon its London prototype, and
assured the projectors that I could see in it nothing but certain loss.
The plan, however, was carried out, and a charter obtained from the New
York Legislature. The building was erected on a plot of ground upon
Reservoir Square, leased to the association, by the City of New York,
for one dollar per annum. The location, being four miles distant from
the City Hall, was enough of itself to kill the enterprise. The stock
was readily taken up, however, and the Crystal Palace opened to the
public in July, 1853. Many thousands of strangers were brought to New
York, and however disastrous the enterprise may have proved to the
stockholders, it is evident that the general prosperity of the city has
been promoted far beyond the entire cost of the whole speculation.

In February, 1854, numerous stockholders applied to me to accept the
Presidency of the Crystal Palace, or, as it was termed, “The Association
for the Exhibition of the Industry of all Nations.” I utterly declined
listening to such a project, as I felt confident that the novelty had
passed away, and that it would be difficult to revive public interest in
the affair.

Shortly afterwards, however, I was waited upon by numerous influential
gentlemen, and strongly urged to allow my name to be used. I repeatedly
objected to this, and at last consented, much against my own judgment.
Having been elected one of the directors, I was by that body chosen
President. I accepted the office conditionally, reserving the right to
decline if I thought, upon investigation, that there was no vitality
left in the institution. Upon examining the accounts said to exist
against the Association, many were pronounced indefensible by those who
I supposed knew the facts in the case, while various debts existing
against the concern were not exhibited when called for, and I knew
nothing of their existence until after I accepted the office of
President. I finally accepted it, only because no suitable person could
be found who was willing to devote his entire time and services to the
enterprise, and because I was frequently urged by directors and
stockholders to take hold of it for the benefit of the city at large,
inasmuch as it was well settled that the Palace would be permanently
closed early in April, 1854, if I did not take the helm.

These considerations moved me, and I entered upon my duties with all the
vigor which I could command. To save it from bankruptcy, I advanced
large sums of money for the payment of debts, and tried by every
legitimate means to create an excitement and bring it into life. By
extraneous efforts, such as the Re-inauguration, the Monster Concerts of
Jullien, the Celebration of Independence, etc., it was temporarily
galvanized, and gave several life-like kicks, generally without material
results, except prostrating those who handled it too familiarly; but it
was a corpse long before I touched it, and I found, after a thorough
trial, that my first impression was correct, and that so far as my
ability was concerned, “the dead could not be raised.” I therefore
resigned the presidency and the concern soon went into liquidation.

In 1854, my esteemed friend, Reverend Moses Ballou, wrote, and Redfield,
of New York, published a volume entitled “The Divine Character
Vindicated” in which he reviewed some of the principal features of a
work by the Rev. E. Beecher, brother of Henry Ward Beecher, “The
Conflict of Ages; or, the Great Debate on the Moral Relations of God and
Man.” The dedication in Rev. Mr. Ballou s volume was as follows:


     _My Dear B._:--I am more deeply indebted to you for personal favors
     than to any other living man, and I feel that it is but a poor
     acknowledgment to beg your acceptance of this volume. Still, I know
     that you will value it somewhat, not only for the sake of our
     personal friendship, but because it is an advocate of that
     interpretation of Christianity of which you have ever been a most
     generous and devoted patron. With renewed assurances of my best

I am, yours, always,

M. B.

     BRIDGEPORT, January 22, 1854.

The following trifling incident which occurred at Iranistan in the
winter of 1852, has been called to my mind by a lady friend from
Philadelphia, who was visiting us at the time. The poem was sent to me
soon after the occurrence, but was lost and the subject forgotten until
my Philadelphia friend recently sent it to me with the wish that I
should insert it in the present volume:



    THE poor man’s garden lifeless lay
      Beneath a fall of snow;
    But Art in costly greenhouses,
      Keeps Summer in full glow.
    And Taste paid gold for bright bouquets,
      The parlor vase that drest,
    That scented Fashion’s gay boudoir,
      Or bloomed on Beauty’s breast.

    A rich man sat beside the fire,
      Within his sculptured halls;
    Brave heart, clear head, and busy hand,
      Had reared those stately walls.
    He to his gardener spake, and said
      In tone of quiet glee--
    “I want a hundred fine bouquets--
      Canst make them, John, for me?”

    John’s eyes became exceeding round,
      This question when he heard;
    He gazed upon his master,
      And he answered not a word.
    “Well, John,” the rich man laughing said,
      “If these too many be,
    What sayest to half the number, man?
      Canst fifty make for me?”

    Now John prized every flower, as ’twere
      A daughter or a son;
    And thought, like Regan--“what the need
      Of fifty, or of one?”
    But keeping back the thought, he said,
      “I think, sir, that I might;
    But it would leave my lady’s flowers
      In very ragged plight.”

    “Well, John, thy vegetable pets
      Must needs respected be;
    We’ll halve the number once again--
      Make twenty-five for me.
    And hark ye, John, when they are made
      Come up and let me know;
    And I’ll give thee a list of those
      To whom the flowers must go.”

    The twenty-five bouquets were made,
      And round the village sent;
    And to whom thinkest thou, my friend,
      These floral jewels went?
    Not to the beautiful and proud--
      Not to the rich and gay--
    Who, Dives-like, at Luxury’s feast
      Are seated every day.

    An aged Pastor, on his desk
      Saw those fair preachers stand;
    A Widow wept upon the gift,
      And blessed the giver’s hand.
    Where Poverty bent o’er her task,
      They cheered the lonely room;
    And round the bed where Sickness lay,
      They breathed Health’s fresh perfume.

    Oh! kindly heart and open hand--
      Those flowers in dust are trod,
    But they bloom to weave a wreath for thee,
      In the Paradise of God.
    Sweet is the Minstrel’s task, whose song
      Of deeds like these may tell;
    And long may he have power to give,
      Who wields that power so well!






I now come to a series of events which, all things considered,
constitute one of the most remarkable experiences of my life--an
experience which brought me much pain and many trials; which humbled my
pride and threatened me with hopeless financial ruin; and yet,
nevertheless, put new blood in my veins, fresh vigor in my action,
warding off all temptation to rust in the repose which affluence
induces, and developed, I trust, new and better elements of manliness in
my character. This trial carried me through a severe and costly
discipline, and now that I have passed through it and have triumphed
over it, I can thank God for sending it upon me, though I feel no
special obligations to the human instruments employed in the severe

When the blow fell upon me, I thought that I could never recover; the
event has shown, however, that I have gained both in character and
fortune, and what threatened, for years, to be my ruin, has proved one
of the most fortunate happenings of my career. The “Bull Run” of my
life’s battle was a crushing defeat, which, unknown to me at the time,
only presaged the victories which were to follow.

In my general plan of presenting the facts and incidents of my life in
chronological order, I shall necessarily introduce in the history of the
next seven years, an account of my entanglement in the “Jerome Clock
Company,”--how I was drawn into it, how I got out of it, and what it did
to me and for me. The great notoriety given to my connection with this
concern--the fact that the journals throughout the country made it the
subject of news, gossip, sympathy, abuse, and advice to and about me, my
friends, my persecutors, and the public generally--seems to demand that
the story should be briefly but plainly told. The event itself has
passed away and with it the passions and excitements that were born of
it; and I certainly have no desire now to deal in personalities or to go
into the question of the motives which influenced those who were
interested, any farther than may be strictly essential to a fair and
candid statement of the case.

It is vital to the narrative that I should give some account of the new
city, East Bridgeport, and my interests therein, which led directly to
my subsequent complications with the Jerome Clock Company.

In 1851, I purchased from Mr. William H. Noble, of Bridgeport, the
undivided half of his late father’s homestead, consisting of fifty acres
of land; lying on the east side of the river, opposite the City of
Bridgeport. We intended this as the nucleus of a new city, which we
concluded could soon be built up, in consequence of many natural
advantages that it possesses.

Before giving publicity to our plans, however, we purchased one hundred
and seventy-four acres contiguous to that which we already owned, and
laid out the entire property in regular streets, and lined them with
trees, reserving a beautiful grove of six or eight acres, which we
inclosed, and converted into a public park. We then commenced selling
alternate lots, at the same price which the land cost us by the acre.
Our sales were always made on the condition that a suitable
dwelling-house, store, or manufactory should be erected upon the land,
within one year from the date of purchase; that every building should be
placed at a certain distance from the street, in a style of architecture
approved by us; that the grounds should be enclosed with acceptable
fences, and kept clean and neat, with other conditions which would
render the locality a desirable one for respectable residents, and
operate for the mutual benefit of all persons who should become settlers
in the new city.

This entire property consists of a beautiful plateau of ground, lying
within less than half a mile of the centre of Bridgeport city.
Considering the superiority of the situation, it is a wonder that the
City of Bridgeport was not originally founded upon that side of the
river. The late Dr. Timothy Dwight, for a long time President of Yale
College, in his “Travels in New England in 1815,” says of the locality:

“There is not in the State a prettier village than the borough of
Bridgeport. In the year 1783, there were scarcely half a dozen houses
in this place. It now contains probably more than one hundred, built on
both sides of Pughquonnuck (Pequonnock) river, a beautiful mill-stream,
forming at its mouth the harbor of Bridgeport. The situation of this
village is very handsome, particularly on the eastern side of the river.
A more cheerful and elegant piece of ground can scarcely be imagined
than the point which stretches between the Pughquonnuck and the old
mill-brook; and the prospects presented by the harbors at the mouths of
these streams, the Sound, and the surrounding country, are, in a fine
season, gay and brilliant, perhaps without a parallel.”

This “cheerful and elegant piece of ground,” as Dr. Dwight so truly
describes it, had only been kept from market by the want of means of
access. A new foot-bridge was built, connecting this place with the City
of Bridgeport, and a public toll-bridge which belonged to us was thrown
open to the public free. We also obtained from the State Legislature a
charter for erecting a toll-bridge between the two bridges already
existing, and under that charter we put up a fine covered draw-bridge at
a cost of $16,000 which also we made free to the public for several
years. We built and leased to a union company of young coach makers a
large and elegant coach manufactory, which was one of the first
buildings erected there, and which went into operation on the first of
January, 1852, and was the beginning of the extensive manufactories
which were subsequently built in East Bridgeport.

Besides the inducement which we held out to purchasers to obtain their
lots at a merely nominal price, we advanced one half, two-thirds, and
frequently all the funds necessary to erect their buildings, permitting
them to repay us in sums as small as five dollars, at their own
convenience. This arrangement enabled many persons to secure and
ultimately pay for homes which they could not otherwise have obtained.
We looked for our profits solely to the rise in the value of the
reserved lots, which we were confident must ensue. Of course, these
extraordinary inducements led many persons to build in the new city, and
it began to develop and increase with a rapidity rarely witnessed in
this section of the country. Indeed, our speculation, which might be
termed a profitable philanthropy, soon promised to be so remunerative,
that I offered Mr. Noble for his interest in the estate, $60,000 more
than the prime cost, which offer he declined.

It will thus be seen that, in 1851, my pet scheme was to build up a city
in East Bridgeport. I had made a large fortune and was anxious to be
released from the harassing cares of active business. But I could not be
idle, and if I could be instrumental in giving value to land
comparatively worthless; if I could by the judicious investment of a
portion of my capital open the way for new industries and new homes, I
should be of service to my fellow men and find grateful employment for
my energies and time. I saw that in case of success there was profit in
my project, and I was enough like mankind in general to look upon the
enlargement of my means as a consummation devoutly and legitimately to
be wished.

Yet, I can truly say that mere money-making was a secondary
consideration in my scheme. I wanted to build a city on the beautiful
plateau across the river; in the expressive phrase of the day, I “had
East Bridgeport on the brain.” Whoever approached me with a project
which looked to the advancement of my new city, touched my weak side and
found me an eager listener. The serpent that beguiled me was any
plausible proposition that promised prosperity to East Bridgeport, and
it was in this way that the coming city connected me with that source of
so many annoyances and woes, the Jerome Clock Company.

There was a small clock manufactory in the town of Litchfield,
Connecticut, in which I became a stockholder to the amount of six or
seven thousand dollars, and my duties as a director in the company
called me occasionally to Litchfield and made me somewhat acquainted
with the clock business. Thinking of plans to forward my pet East
Bridgeport enterprise, it occurred to me that if the Litchfield clock
concern could be transferred to my prospective new city, it would
necessarily bring many families, thus increasing the growth of the place
and the value of the property. Negotiations were at once commenced and
the desired transfer of the business was the result. A new stock company
was formed under the name of the “Terry & Barnum Manufacturing Company,”
and in 1852 a factory was built in East Bridgeport.

In 1855, I received a suggestion from a citizen of New Haven, that the
Jerome Clock Company, then reputed to be a wealthy concern, should be
removed to East Bridgeport, and shortly afterwards I was visited at
Iranistan by Mr. Chauncey Jerome, the President of that company. The
result of this visit was a proposition from the agent of the company,
who also held power of attorney for the president, that I should lend my
name as security for $110,000 in aid of the Jerome Clock Company, and
the proffered compensation was the transfer of this great manufacturing
concern, with its seven hundred to one thousand operatives, to my
beloved East Bridgeport. It was just the bait for the fish; I was all
attention; yet I must do my judgment the justice to say that I called
for proofs, strong and ample, that the great company deserved its
reputation as a substantial enterprise that might safely be trusted.

Accordingly, I was shown an official report of the directors of the
company, exhibiting a capital of $400,000, and a surplus of $187,000, in
all, $587,000. The need for $110,000 more, was on account of a dull
season, and the market glutted with the goods, and immediate money
demands which must be met. I was also impressed with the pathetic tale
that the company was exceedingly loth to dismiss any of the operatives,
who would suffer greatly if their only dependence for their daily food
was taken away.

The official statement seemed satisfactory, and I cordially sympathized
with the philanthropic purpose of keeping the workmen employed, even in
the dull season. The company was reputed to be rich; the President, Mr.
Chauncey Jerome, had built a church in New Haven, at a cost of $40,000,
and proposed to present it to a congregation; he had given a clock to a
church in Bridgeport, and these things showed that he, at least, thought
he was wealthy. The Jerome clocks were for sale all over the world, even
in China, where the Celestials were said to take out the “movements,”
and use the cases for little temples for their idols, thus proving that
faith was possible without “works.” So wealthy and so widely-known a
company would surely be a grand acquisition to my city.

Further testimony came in the form of a letter from the cashier of one
of the New Haven banks, expressing the highest confidence in the
financial strength of the concern, and much satisfaction that I
contemplated giving temporary aid which would keep so many workmen and
their families from suffering, and perhaps starvation. I had not, at the
time, the slightest suspicion that my voluntary correspondent had any
interest in the transfer of the Jerome Company from New Haven to East
Bridgeport, though I was subsequently informed that the bank, of which
my correspondent was the cashier, was almost the largest, if not the
largest, creditor of the clock company.

Under all the circumstances, and influenced by the rose-colored
representations made to me, not less than by my mania to push the growth
of my new city, I finally accepted the proposition and consented to an
agreement that I would lend the clock company my notes for a sum not to
exceed $50,000, and accept drafts to an amount not to exceed $60,000. It
was thoroughly understood that I was in no case to be responsible for
one cent in excess of $110,000. I also received the written guaranty of
Chauncey Jerome that in no event should I lose by the loan, as he would
become personally responsible for the repayment. I was willing that my
notes, when taken up, should be renewed, I cared not how often, provided
the stipulated maximum of $110,000 should never be exceeded. I was weak
enough, however, under the representation that it was impossible to say
exactly when it would be necessary to use the notes, to put my name to
several notes for $3,000, $5,000, and $10,000, leaving the date of
payment blank; but it was agreed that the blanks should be filled to
make the notes payable in five, ten, or even sixty days from date,
according to the exigencies of the case, and I was careful to keep a
memorandum of the several amounts of the notes.

On the other side it was agreed that the Jerome Company should exchange
its stock with the Terry & Barnum stockholders and thus absorb that
company and unite the entire business in East Bridgeport. It was
scarcely a month before the secretary wrote me that the company would
soon be in condition to “snap its fingers at the banks.”

Nevertheless, three months after the consolidation of the companies, a
reference to my memoranda showed that I had already become responsible
for the stipulated sum of $110,000. I was then called upon in New York
by the agent who wanted five notes of $5,000 each and I declined to
furnish them, unless I should receive in return an equal amount in my
own cancelled notes, since he assured me they were cancelling these
“every week.” The cancelled notes were brought to me next day and I
renewed them. This I did frequently, always receiving cancelled notes,
till finally my confidence in the company became so established that I
did not ask to see the notes that had been taken up, but furnished new
accommodation paper as it was called for.

By and by I heard that the banks began to hesitate about discounting my
paper, and knowing that I was good for $110,000 several times over, I
wondered what was the matter, till the discovery came at last that my
notes had not been taken up as was represented, and that some of the
blank date notes had been made payable in twelve, eighteen, and
twenty-four months. Further investigation revealed the frightful fact
that I had endorsed for the clock company to the extent of more than
half a million dollars, and most of the notes had been exchanged for old
Jerome Company notes due to the banks and other creditors. My agent who
made these startling discoveries came back to me with the refreshing
intelligence that I was a ruined man!

Not quite; I had the mountain of Jerome debts on my back, but I found
means to pay every claim against me at my bank, all my store and shop
debts, notes to the amount of $40,000, which banks in my neighborhood,
relying upon my personal integrity, had discounted for the Clock
Company, and then I--failed!

What a dupe had I been! Here was a great company pretending to be worth
$587,000, asking temporary assistance to the amount of $110,000, coming
down with a crash, so soon as my helping hand was removed, and sweeping
me down with it. It failed; and even after absorbing my fortune, it paid
but from twelve to fifteen per cent of its obligations, while, to cap
the climax, it never removed to East Bridgeport at all, notwithstanding
this was the only condition which ever prompted me to advance one dollar
to the rotten concern!

If at any time my vanity had been chilled by the fear that after my
retirement from the Jenny Lind enterprise the world would forget me,
this affair speedily reassured me; I had notice enough to satisfy the
most inordinate craving for notoriety. All over the country, and even
across the ocean, “Barnum and the Jerome Clock Bubble” was the great
newspaper theme. I was taken to pieces, analyzed, put together again,
kicked, “pitched into,” tumbled about, preached to, preached about, and
made to serve every purpose to which a sensation-loving world could put
me. Well! I was now in training, in a new school, and was learning new
and strange lessons.

Yet, these new lessons conveyed the old, old story. There were those who
had fawned upon me in my prosperity, who now jeered at my adversity;
people whom I had specially favored, made special efforts to show their
ingratitude; papers which, when I had the means to make it an object for
them to be on good terms with me, overloaded me with adulation, now
attempted to overwhelm me with abuse; and then the immense amount of
moralizing over the “instability of human fortunes,” and especially the
retributive justice that is sure to follow “ill-gotten gains,” which my
censors assumed to be the sum and substance of my honorably acquired and
industriously worked for property. I have no doubt that much of this
kind of twaddle was believed by the twaddlers to be sincere; and thus my
case was actual capital to certain preachers and religious editors who
were in want of fresh illustrations wherewith to point their morals.

As for myself, I was in the depths, but I did not despond. I was
confident that with energetic purpose and divine assistance I should, if
my health and life were spared, get on my feet again; and events have
since fully justified and verified the expectation and the effort.




Happily, there is always more wheat than there is chaff. While my
enemies and a few envious persons and misguided moralists were abusing
and traducing me, my very misfortunes revealed to me hosts of hitherto
unknown friends who tendered to me something more than mere sympathy.
Funds were offered to me in unbounded quantity for the support of my
family and to re-establish me in business. I declined these tenders
because, on principle, I never accepted a money favor, unless I except
the single receipt of a small sum which came to me by mail at this time
and anonymously so that I could not return it. Even this small sum I at
once devoted to charity towards one who needed the money far more than I

The generosity of my friends urged me to accept “benefits” by the score,
the returns of which would have made me quite independent. There was a
proposition among leading citizens in New York to give a series of
benefits which I felt obliged to decline though the movement in my favor
deeply touched me. To show the class of men who sympathized with me in
my misfortunes and also the ground which I took in the matter I venture
to copy the following correspondence which appeared in the New York
papers of the day:

NEW YORK, June 2, 1856.


     _Dear Sir_,--The financial ruin of a man of acknowledged energy and
     enterprise is a public calamity. The sudden blow, therefore, that
     has swept away, from a man like yourself, the accumulated wealth of
     years, justifies we think, the public sympathy. The better to
     manifest our sincere respect for your liberal example in
     prosperity, as well as exhibit our honest admiration of your
     fortitude under overwhelming reverses, we propose to give that
     sympathy a tangible expression by soliciting your acceptance of a
     series of benefits for your family, the result of which may
     possibly secure for your wife and children a future home, or at
     least rescue them from the more immediate consequences of your

     Freeman Hunt, E. K. Collins, Isaac Y. Fowler, James Phalen,
     Cornelius Vanderbilt, F. B. Cuting, James W. Gerard, Simeon Draper,
     Thomas McElrath, Park Godwin, R. F. Carman, Gen. C. W. Sanford,
     Philo Hurd, President H. R. R.; Wm. Ellsworth, President Brooklyn
     Ins. Co.; George S. Doughty, President Excelsior Ins. Co.; Chas. T.
     Cromwell, Robert Stuyvesant, E. L. Livingston, R. Busteed, Wm. P.
     Fettridge, E. N. Haughwout, Geo. F. Nesbitt, Osborne, Boardman &
     Townsend, Charles H. Delavan, I. & C. Berrien, Fisher & Bird,
     Solomon & Hart, B. Young, M. D., Treadwell, Acker & Co., St.
     Nicholas Hotel, John Wheeler, Union Square Hotel, S. Leland & Co.,
     Metropolitan Hotel, Albert Clark, Brevoort House, H. D. Clapp,
     Everett House, John Taylor, International Hotel, Sydney Hopman,
     Smithsonian Hotel, Messrs. Delmonico, Delmonico’s, Geo. W. Sherman,
     Florence’s Hotel, Kingsley & Ainslee, Howard Hotel, Libby &
     Whitney, Lovejoy’s Hotel, Howard & Brown, Tammany Hall, Jonas
     Bartlett, Washington Hotel, Patten & Lynde, Pacific Hotel, J.
     Johnson, Johnson’s Hotel, and over 1,000 others.

To this gratifying communication I replied as follows:

LONG ISLAND, Tuesday, June 3, 1856.

     GENTLEMEN,--I can hardly find words to express my gratitude for
     your very kind proposition. The popular sympathy is to me far more
     precious than gold, and that sympathy seems in my case to extend
     from my immediate neighbors, in Bridgeport, to all parts of our

     Proffers of pecuniary assistance have reached me from every
     quarter, not only from friends, but from entire strangers. Mr. Wm.
     E. Burton, Miss Laura Keene and Mr. Wm. Niblo have in the kindest
     manner tendered me the receipts of their theatres for one evening.
     Mr. Gough volunteered the proceeds of one of his attractive
     lectures; Mr. James Phalon generously offered me the free use of
     the Academy of Music; many professional ladies and gentlemen have
     urged me to accept their gratuitous services. I have, on principle,
     respectfully declined them all, as I beg, with the most grateful
     acknowledgments (at least for the present), to decline yours--not
     because a benefit, in itself, is an objectionable thing, but
     because I have ever made it a point to ask nothing of the public on
     personal grounds, and should prefer, while I can possibly avoid
     that contingency, to accept nothing from it without the honest
     conviction that I had individually given it in return a full

     While favored with health, I feel competent to earn an honest
     livelihood for myself and family. More than this I shall certainly
     never attempt with such a load of debt suspended in terrorem over
     me. While I earnestly, thank you, therefore, for your generous
     consideration, gentlemen, I trust you will appreciate my desire to
     live unhumiliated by a sense of dependence; and believe me,
     sincerely yours, P. T. BARNUM.

     To Messrs. FREEMAN HUNT, E. K. COLLINS, and others.

And with other offers of assistance from far and near, came the
following from a little gentleman who did not forget his old friend and
benefactor in the time of trial:


     MY DEAR MR. BARNUM,--I understand your friends, and that means “all
     creation,” intend to get up some benefits for your family. Now, my
     dear sir, just be good enough to remember that I belong to that
     mighty crowd, and I must have a finger (or at least a “thumb”) in
     that pie. I am bound to appear on all such occasions in some shape,
     from “Jack the Giant Killer,” up stairs, to the doorkeeper down,
     whichever may serve you best; and there are some feats that I can
     perform as well as any other man of my inches. I have just started
     out on my western tour, and have my carriage, ponies and assistants
     all here, but I am ready to go on to New York, bag and baggage, and
     remain at Mrs. Barnum’s service as long as I, in my small way, can
     be useful. Put me into any “heavy” work, if you like. Perhaps I
     cannot lift as much as some other folks, but just take your pencil
     in hand and you will see I can draw a tremendous load. I drew two
     hundred tons at a single pull to-day, embracing two thousand
     persons, whom I hauled up safely and satisfactorily to all parties,
     at one exhibition. Hoping that you will be able to fix up a lot of
     magnets that will attract all New York, and volunteering to sit on
     any part of the loadstone, I am, as ever, your little but
     sympathizing friend,


Even this generous offer from my little friend I felt compelled to
refuse. But kind words were written and spoken which I could not
prevent, nor did I desire to do so, and which were worth more to me than
money. I should fail to find space, if I wished it, to copy one-tenth
part of the cordial and kind articles and paragraphs that appeared about
me in newspapers throughout the country. The following sentence from an
editorial article in a prominent New York journal was the key-note to
many similar kind notices in all parts of the Union: “It is a fact
beyond dispute that Mr. Barnum’s financial difficulties have accumulated
from the goodness of his nature; kind-hearted and generous to a fault,
it has ever been his custom to lend a helping hand to the struggling;
and honest industry and enterprise have found his friendship prompt and
faithful.” The _Boston Journal_ dwelt especially upon the use I had made
of my money in my days of prosperity in assisting deserving laboring men
and in giving an impulse to business in the town where I resided. It
seems only just that I should make this very brief allusion to these
things, if only as an offset to the unbounded abuse of those who
believed in kicking me merely because I was down; nor can I refrain from
copying the following from the _Boston Saturday Evening Gazette_, of May
3, 1856:



    BARNUM, your hand! Though you are “down,”
      And see full many a frigid shoulder,
    Be brave, my brick, and though they frown,
      Prove that misfortune makes you bolder.
    There’s many a man that sneers, my hero,
      And former praise converts to scorning,
    Would worship--when he fears--a Nero,
      And bend “where thrift may follow fawning.”

    You humbugged us--that we have seen,
      _We got our money’s worth_, old fellow,
    And though you thought our _minds_ were _green_,
      We never thought your _heart_ was _yellow_.
    We knew you liberal, generous, warm,
      Quick to assist a falling brother,
    And, with such virtues, what’s the harm
      All memories of your faults to smother?

    We had not heard the peerless Lind,
      But for your spirit enterprising,
    You were the man to raise the wind,
      And make a _coup_ confessed surprising.
    You’re reckoned in your native town
      A friend in need, a friend in danger,
    You ever keep the latchstring down,
      And greet with open hand the stranger.

    Stiffen your upper lip. You know
      Who are your friends and who your foes now;
    We pay for knowledge as we go;
      And though you get some sturdy blows now,
    You’ve a fair field,--no favors crave,--
      The storm once passed will find you braver,--
    In virtue’s cause long may you wave,
      And on the right side, never waver.

Desirous of knowing who was the author of this kindly effusion, I wrote,
while preparing this autobiography, to Mr. B. P. Shillaber, one of the
editors of the journal, and well known to the public as “Mrs.
Partington.” In reply, I received the following letter in which it will
be seen that he makes sympathetic allusion to the burning of my last
Museum, only a few weeks before the date of his letter:

CHELSEA, April 25, 1868.

     MY DEAR MR. BARNUM:--The poem in question was written by A. Wallace
     Thaxter, associate editor with Mr. Clapp and myself, on the
     _Gazette_--since deceased, a glorious fellow--who wrote the poem
     from a sincere feeling of admiration for yourself. Mr. Clapp, (Hon.
     W. W. Clapp,) published it with his full approbation. I heard of
     your new trouble, in my sick chamber, where I have been all winter,
     with regret, and wish you as ready a release from attending
     difficulty as your genius has hitherto achieved under like

Yours, very truly,


But the manifestations of sympathy which came to me from Bridgeport,
where my home had been for more than ten years, were the most gratifying
of all, because they showed unmistakably that my best friends, those who
were most constant in their friendship and most emphatic in their
esteem, were my neighbors and associates who, of all people, knew me
best. With such support I could easily endure the attacks of traducers
elsewhere. The _New York Times_, April 25, 1856, under the head of
“Sympathy for Barnum,” published a full report of the meeting of my
fellow-citizens of Bridgeport, the previous evening, to take my case
into consideration.

In response to a call headed by the mayor of the city, and signed by
several hundred citizens, this meeting was held in Washington Hall “for
the purpose of sympathizing with P. T. Barnum, Esq., in his recent
pecuniary embarrassments, and of giving some public expression to their
views in reference to his financial misfortunes.” It was the largest
public meeting which, up to that time, had ever been held in Bridgeport.
Several prominent citizens made addresses, and resolutions were adopted
declaring “that respect and sympathy were due to P. T. Barnum in return
for his many acts of liberality, philanthropy and public spirit,”
expressing unshaken confidence in his integrity, admiration for the
“fortitude and composure with which he has met reverses into which he
has been dragged through no fault of his own except a too generous
confidence in pretended friends,” and hoping that he would “yet return
to that wealth which he has so nobly employed, and to the community he
has so signally benefited.” During the evening the following letter was

NEW YORK, Thursday, April 24, 1856.

WM. H. NOBLE, Esq.,

     _Dear Sir_:--I have just received a slip containing a call for a
     public meeting of the citizens of Bridgeport to sympathize with me
     in my troubles. It is headed by His Honor the Mayor, and is signed
     by most of your prominent citizens, as well as by many men who by
     hard labor earn their daily bread, and who appreciate a calamity
     which at a single blow strips a man of his fortune, his dear home,
     and all the worldly comforts which years of diligent labor had
     acquired. It is due to truth to say that I knew nothing of this
     movement until your letter informed me of it.

     In misfortune the true sympathy of neighbors is more consoling and
     precious than anything which money can purchase. This voluntary
     offering of my fellow-citizens, though it thrills me with painful
     emotions and causes tears of gratitude, yet imparts to me renewed
     strength and fills my heart with thankfulness to Providence for
     raising up to my sight, above all this wreck, kind hearts which
     soar above the sordid atmosphere of “dirty dollars.” I can never
     forget this unexpected kindness from my old friends and neighbors.

     I trust I am not blind to my many faults and shortcomings. I,
     however, do feel great consolation in believing that I never used
     money or position to oppress the poor or wrong my fellow-men, and
     that I never turned empty away those whom I had the power to

     My poor sick wife, who needs the bracing air which our own dear
     home (made beautiful by her willing hands) would now have afforded
     her, is driven by the orders of her physician to a secluded spot on
     Long Island where the sea-wind lends its healthful influence, and
     where I have also retired for the double purpose of consoling her
     and of recruiting my own constitution, which, through the
     excitements of the last few months, has most seriously failed me.

     In our quiet and humble retreat, that which I most sincerely pray
     for is tranquillity and contentment. I am sure that the remembrance
     of the kindness of my Bridgeport neighbors will aid me in securing
     these cherished blessings. No man who has not passed through
     similar scenes can fully comprehend the misery which has been
     crowded into the last few months of my life; but I have endeavored
     to preserve my integrity, and I humbly hope and believe that I am
     being taught humility and reliance upon Providence, which will yet
     afford a thousand times more peace and true happiness than can be
     acquired in the din, strife and turmoil, excitements and struggles
     of this money-worshipping age. The man who coins his brain and
     blood into gold, who wastes all of his time and thought upon the
     almighty dollar, who looks no higher than blocks of houses, and
     tracts of land, and whose iron chest is crammed with stocks and
     mortgages tied up with his own heart-strings, may console himself
     with the idea of safe investments, but he misses a pleasure which I
     firmly believe this lesson was intended to secure to me, and which
     it will secure if I can fully bring my mind to realize its wisdom.
     I think I hear you say--

    “When the devil was sick,
     The devil a saint would be.
     But when the devil got well,
     The devil a saint was he.”

     Granted, but, after all, the man who looks upon the loss of money
     as anything compared to the loss of honor, or health, or
     self-respect, or friends,--a man who can find no source of
     happiness except in riches,--is to be pitied for his blindness. I
     certainly feel that the loss of money, of home and my home
     comforts, is dreadful,--that to be driven again to find a
     resting-place away from those I love, and from where I had fondly
     supposed I was to end my days, and where I had lavished time,
     money, everything, to make my descent to the grave placid and
     pleasant,--is, indeed, a severe lesson; but, after all, I firmly
     believe it is for the best, and though my heart may break, I will
     not repine.

     I regret, beyond expression, that any man should be a loser for
     having trusted to my name; it would not have been so, if I had not
     myself been deceived. As it is, I am gratified in knowing that all
     my individual obligations will be met. It would have been much
     better if clock creditors had accepted the best offer that it was
     in my power to make them; but it was not so to be. It is now too
     late, and as I willingly give up all I possess, I can do no more.

     Wherever my future lot may be cast, I shall ever fondly cherish the
     kindness which I have always received from the citizens of

I am, my dear Sir, truly yours,


Shortly after this sympathetic meeting, a number of gentlemen in
Bridgeport offered me a loan of $50,000 if that sum would be
instrumental in extricating me from my entanglement. I could not say
that this amount would meet the exigency; I could only say, “wait, wait,
and hope.”

Meanwhile, my eyes were fully opened to the entire magnitude of the
deception that had been practised upon my too confiding nature. I not
only discovered that my notes had been used to five times the amount I
stipulated or expected, but that they had been applied, not to relieving
the company from temporary embarrassment after my connection with it,
but almost wholly to the redemption of old and rotten claims of years
and months gone by. To show the extent to which the fresh victim was
deliberately bled, it may be stated that I was induced to become surety
to one of the New Haven banks in the sum of $30,000 to indemnify the
bank against future losses it might incur from the Jerome company after
my connection with it, and by some legerdemain this bond was made to
cover past obligations which were older even than my knowledge of the
existence of the company. In every way it seemed as if I had been
cruelly swindled and deliberately defrauded.

As the clock company had gone to pieces and was paying but from twelve
to fifteen per cent for its paper, I sent two of my friends to New Haven
to ask for a meeting of the creditors and I instructed them to say in
substance for me as follows:

“Gentlemen: This is a capital practical joke! Before I negotiated with
your clock company at all, I was assured by several of you, and
particularly by a representative of the bank which was the largest
creditor of the concern, that the Jerome company was eminently
responsible and that the head of the same was uncommonly pious. On the
strength of such representations solely, I was induced to agree to
indorse and accept paper for that company to the extent of $110,000--no
more. That sum I am now willing to pay for my own verdancy, with an
additional sum of $40,000 for your ‘cuteness, making a total of
$150,000, which you can have if you cry ‘quits’ with the fleeced showman
and let him off.”

Many of the old creditors favored this proposition; but it was found
that the indebtedness was so scattered it would be impracticable to
attempt a settlement by an unanimous compromise of the creditors. It was
necessary to liquidation that my property should go into the hands of
assignees; I therefore at once turned over my Bridgeport property to
Connecticut assignees and I removed my family to New York, where I also
made an assignment of all my real and personal estate, excepting what
had already been transferred in Connecticut.

About this time I received a letter from Philadelphia proferring $500 in
case my circumstances were such that I really stood in need of help. The
very wording of the letter awakened the suspicion in my mind that it was
a trick to ascertain whether I really had any property, for I knew that
banks and brokers in that city held some of my Jerome paper which they
refused to compound or compromise. So I at once wrote that I did need
$500, and, as I expected, the money did not come, nor was my letter
answered; but, as a natural consequence, the Philadelphia bankers who
were holding the Jerome paper for a higher percentage at once acceded to
the terms which I had announced myself able and willing to pay.

Every dollar which I honestly owed on my own account I had already paid
in full or had satisfactorily arranged. For the liabilities incurred by
the deliberate deception which had involved me I offered such a
percentage as I thought my estate, when sold, would eventually pay; and
my wife, from her own property, advanced from time to time money to take
up such notes as could be secured upon these terms. It was, however, a
slow process. More than one creditor would hold on to his note, which
possibly he had “shaved” at the rate of two or three per cent a month,
and say:

“Oh! you can’t keep Barnum down; he will dig out after a while; I shall
never sell my claim for less than par and interest.”

Of course, I knew very well that if all the creditors took this view I
should never get out of the entanglement in which I had been involved by
the old creditors of the Jerome Company, who had so ingeniously managed
to make me take their place. All I could do was to take a thorough
survey of the situation, and consider, now that I was down, how I could
get up again.

“Every cloud,” says the proverb, “has a silver lining,” and so I did not
despair. “This blow,” I thought “may be beneficial to my children, if
not to me.” They had been brought up in luxury; accustomed to call on
servants to attend to every want; and almost unlimited in the
expenditure of money. My daughter Helen, especially, was naturally
extravagant. She was a warm-hearted, generous girl, who knew literally
nothing of the value of money and the difficulty of acquiring it. At
this time she was fifteen years old, and was attending a French boarding
school in the City of Washington. A few days after the news of my
failure was published in the papers, my friend, the Rev. Dr. E. H.
Chapin, of New York, was at my house. He had long been intimate with my
family, and was well acquainted with the extravagant ideas and ways of
my daughter Helen. One morning, I received a letter from her, filled
with sympathy and sorrow for my misfortunes. She told me how much
shocked she was at hearing of my financial disasters, and added: “Do
send for me immediately, for I cannot think of remaining here at an
expense which my parents cannot afford. I have learned to play the piano
well enough to be able to take some little girls as pupils, and in this
way I can be of some assistance in supporting the family.”

On reading this I was deeply affected; and, handing the letter to Dr.
Chapin, I said: “There, sir, is a letter which is worth ten thousand

“Twenty thousand, at the least!” was the exclamation of the Doctor when
he had read it.

We were now living in a very frugal manner in a hired furnished house in
Eighth Street, near Sixth Avenue, in New York, and our landlady and her
family boarded with us. At the age of forty-six, after the acquisition
and the loss of a handsome fortune, I was once more nearly at the bottom
of the ladder, and was about to begin the world again. The situation was
disheartening, but I had energy, experience, health and hope.




In the summer of 1855, previous to my financial troubles, feeling that I
was independent and could retire from active business, I sold the
American Museum collection and good will to Messrs. John Greenwood,
Junior, and Henry D. Butler. They paid me double the amount the
collection had originally cost, giving me notes for nearly the entire
amount secured by a chattel mortgage, and hired the premises from my
wife, who owned the Museum property lease, and on which, by the
agreement of Messrs. Greenwood and Butler, she realized a profit of
$19,000 a year. The chattel mortgage of Messrs. Greenwood and Butler,
was, of course, turned over to the New York assignee with the other

And now there came to me a new sensation which was at times terribly
depressing and annoying. My wides-pread reputation for shrewdness as a
showman had induced the general belief that my means were still ample,
and certain outside creditors who had bought my clock notes at a
tremendous discount and entirely on speculation, made up their minds
that they must be paid at once without waiting for the slow process of
the sale of my property by the assignees.

They therefore took what are termed “supplementary proceedings,” which
enabled them to haul me any day before a judge for the purpose, as they
phrased it, of “putting Barnum through a course of sprouts,” and which
meant an examination of the debtor under oath, compelling him to
disclose everything with regard to his property, his present means of
living, and so on.

I repeatedly answered all questions on these points; and reports of the
daily examinations were published. Still another and another, and yet
another creditor would haul me up; and his attorney would ask me the
same questions which had already been answered and published half a
dozen times. This persistent and unnecessary annoyance created
considerable sympathy for me, which was not only expressed by letters I
received daily from various parts of the country, but the public press,
with now and then an exception, took my part, and even the Judges,
before whom I appeared, said to me on more than one occasion, that as
men they sincerely pitied me, but as judges of course they must
administer the law. After a while, however, the judges ruled that I need
not answer any question propounded to me by an attorney, if I had
already answered the same question to some other attorney in a previous
examination in behalf of other creditors. In fact, one of the judges, on
one occasion, said pretty sharply to an examining attorney:

“This, sir, has become simply a case of persecution. Mr. Barnum has many
times answered every question that can properly be put to him to elicit
the desired information; and I think it is time to stop these
examinations. I advise him to not answer one interrogatory which he has
replied to under any previous inquiries.”

These things gave me some heart, so that at last, I went up to the
“sprouts” with less reluctance, and began to try to pay off my
persecutors in their own coin.

On one occasion, a dwarfish little lawyer, who reminded me of “Quilp,”
commenced his examination in behalf of a note-shaver who held a thousand
dollar note, which it seemed he had bought for seven hundred dollars.
After the oath had been administered the little “limb of the law”
arranged his pen, ink and paper, and in a loud voice, and with a most
peremptory and supercilious air, asked:

“What is your name, sir?”

I answered him, and his next question, given in a louder and more
peremptory tone, was:

“What is your business?”

“Attending bar,” I meekly replied.

“Attending bar!” he echoed, with an appearance of much surprise;
“Attending bar! Why, don’t you profess to be a temperance man--a

“I do,” I replied.

“And yet, sir, do you have the audacity to assert that you peddle rum
all day, and drink none yourself?”

“I doubt whether that is a relevant question,” I said in a low tone of

“I will appeal to his honor the judge, if you don’t answer it
instantly,” said Quilp in great glee.

“I attend bar, and yet never drink intoxicating liquors,” I replied.

“Where do you attend bar, and for whom?” was the next question.

“I attend the bar of this court, nearly every day, for the benefit of
two-penny, would-be lawyers and their greedy clients,” I answered.

A loud tittering in the vicinity only added to the vexation which was
already visible on the countenance of my interrogator, and he soon
brought his examination to a close.

On another occasion, a young lawyer was pushing his inquiries to a great
length, when, in a half laughing, apologetic tone, he said:

“You see, Mr. Barnum, I am searching after the small things; I am
willing to take even the crumbs which fall from the rich man’s table!”

“Which are you, Lazarus, or one of the dogs?” I asked.

“I guess a blood-hound would not smell out much on this trail,” he said
good-naturedly, adding that he had no more questions to ask.

I still continued to receive many offers of pecuniary assistance, which,
whenever proposed in the form of a gift, I invariably refused. In a
number of instances, personal friends tendered me their checks for $500,
$1,000, and other sums, but I always responded in substance: “Oh, no, I
thank you; I do not need it; my wife has considerable property, besides
a large income from her Museum lease. I want for nothing; I do not owe a
dollar for personal obligations that is not already secured, and when
the clock creditors have fully investigated and thought over the matter,
I think they will be content to divide my property among themselves and
let me up.”

Just after my failure, and on account of the ill-health of my wife, I
spent a portion of the summer with my family in the farmhouse of Mr.
Charles Howell, at Westhampton, on Long Island. The place is a mile west
of Quogue, and was then called “Ketchebonneck.” The thrifty and
intelligent farmers of the neighborhood were in the habit of taking
summer boarders, and the place had become a favorite resort. Mr.
Howell’s farm lay close upon the ocean and I found the residence a cool
and delightful one. Surf bathing, fishing, shooting and fine roads for
driving made the season pass pleasantly and the respite from active life
and immediate annoyance from my financial troubles was a very great
benefit to me.

Our landlord was an eccentric character, who took great pleasure in
showing me to his friends and neighbors as “the Museum man,” and
consequently, as a great curiosity; for in his estimation, the American
Museum was chief among the institutions of New York. He was in a habit
of gathering shells and such rarities as came within his reach, which he
took to the city and disposed of at the Museum. He often spoke of
certain phenomena in his neighborhood, which he thought would take well
with the public, if they were properly brought out. One day he said:

“Mr. Barnum, I am going to Moriches this morning, and I want you to go
along with me and see a great curiosity there is there.”

“What is it?” I asked.

“It is a man who has got a natural ‘honk’” replied Howell, “and it is
worth fifty dollars a year to him.”

“A what?” I inquired.

“A honk! a honk! a perfectly natural honk! he makes fifty dollars a year
out of it,” Howell reiterated.

I could not comprehend what a “honk” was, but concluded that if it was
worth fifty dollars a year among the Long Island fishermen and farmers
who could hardly be expected to pay much for mere sight-seeing, it would
be much more valuable to exhibit in the Museum. So I remarked that as I
was authorized by Messrs. Greenwood and Butler to purchase curiosities
for them, I would go with him and buy the honk from its possessor if I
could get it at a reasonable price.

“Buy it!” exclaimed Howell; “I guess you can’t buy it! You don’t seem to
understand me; the man has got a natural honk, I tell you; that is, he
honks exactly like a wild goose; when flocks are flying over he goes out
and honks and the geese, supposing that some goose has settled and is
honking for the rest of the flock to come down and feed, all fly towards
the ground and he ‘lets into ’em’ with his gun, thus killing a great
many, and in this way his honk is worth fifty dollars a year to him, and
perhaps more.”

I decided not to attempt to buy the “honk,” but my eagerness to do so
and my entire ignorance of the character of the curiosity furnished food
for laughter to Howell and his neighbors for a long time.

One morning we discovered that the waves had thrown upon the beach a
young black whale some twelve feet long. It was dead, but the fish was
hard and fresh and I bought it for a few dollars from the men who had
taken possession of it. I sent it at once to the Museum, where it was
exhibited in a huge refrigerator for a few days, creating considerable
excitement, the general public considering it “a big thing on ice,” and
the managers gave me a share of the profits, which amounted to a
sufficient sum to pay the entire board bill of my family for the season.

This incident both amused and amazed my Long Island landlord. “Well, I
declare,” said he, “that beats all; you are the luckiest man I ever
heard of. Here you come and board for four months with your family, and
when your time is nearly up, and you are getting ready to leave, out
rolls a black whale on our beach, a thing never heard of before in this
vicinity, and you take that whale and pay your whole bill with it! I
wonder if that ain’t ‘providential’? Why, that beats the ‘natural honk’
all to pieces!” This was followed by such a laugh as only Charles Howell
could give, and like one of his peculiar sneezes, it resounded, echoed,
and re-echoed through the whole neighborhood.

Soon after my return to New York, something occurred which I foresaw, I
thought, at the time, was likely indirectly to lead me out of the
wilderness into a clear field again, and, indeed, it eventually did so.
Strange to say, my new city which had been my ruin was to be my
redemption, and dear East Bridgeport which plunged me into the slough
was to bring me out again. “Dear” as the place had literally proved to
me, it was to be yet dearer, in another and better sense, hereafter.

The now gigantic Wheeler & Wilson Sewing Machine Company was then doing
a comparatively small, yet rapidly growing business at Watertown,
Connecticut. The Terry & Barnum clock factory was standing idle, almost
worthless, in East Bridgeport, and Wheeler & Wilson saw in the empty
building, the situation, the ease of communication with New York, and
other advantages, precisely what they wanted, provided they could
procure the premises at a rate which would compensate them for the
expense and trouble of removing their establishment from Watertown. It
is enough to say here, that the clock factory was sold for a trifle and
the Wheeler & Wilson Company moved into it and speedily enlarged it. I
felt then that this was providential; the fact that the empty building
could be cheaply purchased was the main motive for the removal of this
Watertown enterprise to East Bridgeport, and was one of the first
indications that my failure might prove a “blessing in disguise.” It was
a fresh impulse towards the building up of the new city and the
consequent increase of the value of the land belonging to my estate.
Many persons did not see these things in the same light in which they
were presented to me, but I had so long pondered upon the various means
which were to make the new city prosperous, that I was quick to catch
any indication which promised benefit to East Bridgeport.

This important movement of the Wheeler and Wilson Company gave me the
greatest hope, and moreover, Mr. Wheeler kindly offered me a loan of
$5,000, without security, and as I was anxious to have it used in
purchasing the East Bridgeport property, when sold at public auction by
my assignees, and also in taking up such clock notes as could be bought
at a reasonable percentage, I accepted the offer and borrowed the
$5,000. This sum, with many thousand dollars more belonging to my wife,
was devoted to these purposes.

It seemed as if I had now got hold of the thread which would eventually
lead me out of the labyrinth of financial difficulty in which the Jerome
entanglement had involved me. Though the new plan promised relief, and
actually did succeed, even beyond my most sanguine expectations,
eventually putting more money into my pocket than the Jerome
complication had taken out--yet I also foresaw that the process would
necessarily be very slow. In fact, two years afterwards I had made very
little progress. But I concluded to let the new venture work out itself
and it would go on as well without my personal presence and attention,
perhaps even better. Growing trees, money at interest, and rapidly
rising real estate, work for their owners all night as well as all day,
Sundays included, and when the proprietors are asleep or away, and with
the design of coöperating in the new accumulation and of saving
something to add to the amount, I made up my mind to go to Europe again.
I was anxious for a change of scene and for active employment, and
equally desirous of getting away from the immediate pressure of troubles
which no effort on my part could then remove. While my affairs were
working out themselves in their own way and in the speediest manner
possible, I might be doing something for myself and for my family.

Accordingly, leaving all my business affairs at home in the hands of my
friends, early in 1857 I set sail once more for England, taking with me
General Tom Thumb, and also little Cordelia Howard and her parents. This
young girl had attained an extended reputation for her artistic
personation of “Little Eva,” in the play of “Uncle Tom,” and she
displayed a precocious talent in her rendering of other juvenile
characters. With these attractions, and with what else I might be able
to do myself, I determined to make as much money as I could, intending
to remit the same to my wife’s friends, for the purpose of repurchasing
a portion of my estate, when it was offered at auction, and of redeeming
such of the clock notes as could be obtained at reasonable rates.




On arriving at Liverpool, I found that my old friends, Mr. and Mrs.
Lynn, of the Waterloo Hotel, had changed very little during my ten
years’ absence from England. Even the servants in the hotel were mainly
those whom I left there when I last went away from Liverpool--which
illustrates, in a small way, how much less changeable, and more
“conservative” the English people are than we are. The old head-waiter,
Thomas, was still head-waiter, as he had been for full twenty years. His
hair was more silvered, his gait was slower, his shoulders had rounded,
but he was as ready to receive, as I was to repeat, the first order I
ever gave him, to wit: “Fried soles and shrimp sauce.”

And among my many friends in Liverpool and London, but one death had
occurred, and with only two exceptions they all lived in the same
buildings, and pursued the same vocations as when I left them in 1847.
When I reached London, I found one of these exceptions to be Mr. Albert
Smith, who, when I first knew him, was a dentist, a literary hack, a
contributor to _Punch_, and a writer for the magazines,--and who was now
transformed to a first-class showman in the full tide of success, in my
own old exhibition quarters in Egyptian Hall, Piccadilly.

A year or two before, he had succeeded in reaching the top of Mont
Blanc, and after publishing a most interesting account, which was
re-published and translated into several languages, the whole world
over, he concluded to make further use of his expedition by adapting it
to a popular entertainment. He therefore illustrated his ascent by means
of a finely painted and accurate panorama, and he accompanied the
exhibition with a descriptive lecture full of amusing and interesting
incidents, illustrative of his remarkable experiences in accomplishing
the difficult ascent. He also gave a highly-colored and exciting
narrative of his entire journey from London to Switzerland, and back
again, including his trip up and down the Rhine, and introducing the
many peculiar characters of both sexes, he claimed to have met at
different points during his tour. These he imitated and presented in so
life-like a manner, as to fairly captivate and convulse his audiences.

It was one of the most pleasing and popular entertainments ever
presented in London, and was immensely remunerative to the
projector,--resulting, indeed, in a very handsome fortune. The
entertainments were patronized by the most cultivated classes, for
information was blended with amusement, and in no exhibition then in
London was there so much genuine fun. Two or three times Albert Smith
was commanded to appear before the Queen at Buckingham Palace, and at
Windsor, and as he gave his entertainment with great success on these
occasions, spite of the fact that he could not take his panorama with
him, it can readily be imagined that the frame was quite as good as the
picture, and that the lecture as compared with the panorama, admirable
as both were, was by no means the least part of the “show.”

Calling upon Albert Smith, I found him the same kind, cordial friend as
ever, and he at once put me on the free list at his entertainment, and
insisted upon my dining frequently with him at his favorite club, the

The first time I witnessed his exhibition he gave me a sly wink from the
stage at the moment of his describing a scene in the golden chamber of
St. Ursula’s church in Cologne, where the old sexton was narrating the
story of the ashes and bones of the eleven thousand innocent virgins
who, according to tradition, were sacrificed on a certain occasion. One
of the characters whom he pretended to have met several times on his
trip to Mont Blanc, was a Yankee, whom he named “Phineas Cutecraft.” The
wink came at the time he introduced Phineas in the Cologne Church, and
made him say at the end of the sexton’s story about the Virgins’ bones:

“Old fellow, what will you take for that hull lot of bones? I want them
for my Museum in America!”

When the question had been interpreted to the old German, he exclaimed
in horror, according to Albert Smith:

“Mine Gott! it is impossible! We will never sell the Virgins’ bones!”

“Never mind,” replied Phineas Cutecraft, “I’ll send another lot of bones
to my Museum, swear mine are the real bones of the Virgins of Cologne,
and burst up your show!”

This always excited the heartiest laughter; but Mr. Smith knew very well
that I would at once recognize it as a paraphrase of the scene wherein
he had figured with me in 1844 at the porter’s lodge of Warwick Castle.
In the course of the entertainment, I found he had woven in numerous
anecdotes I had told him at that time, and many incidents of our
excursion were also travestied and made to contribute to the interest of
his description of the ascent of Mont Blanc.

When we went to the Garrick club that day, Albert Smith introduced me to
several of his acquaintances as his “teacher in the show business.” As
we were quietly dining together, he remarked that I must have recognized
several old acquaintances in the anecdotes at his entertainment. Upon my
answering that I did, “indeed,” he remarked, “you are too old a showman
not to know that in order to be popular, we must snap up and localize
all the good things which we come across.” By thus engrafting his
various experiences upon this Mont Blanc entertainment, Albert Smith
succeeded in serving up a salmagundi feast, which was relished alike by
royal and less distinguished palates.

At one of the Egyptian Hall matinees, Albert Smith, espying me in the
audience, sent an usher to me with a note of invitation to dine with him
and a number of friends immediately after the close of the
entertainment. To this invitation he added the request that as soon as
he concluded his lecture I should at once come to him through the small
door under the stage at the end of the orchestra, and by thus getting
ahead of the large crowd of ladies and gentlemen composing the audience
we should save time and reach the club at an hour for an early dinner.

As soon as he uttered the last word of his lecture, I pushed for the
little door, the highly distinguished audience, which on this occasion
was mainly made up of ladies, meanwhile slowly progressing towards the
exits, while the orchestra was “playing them out” with selections of
popular music. Closing the stage door behind me, I instantly found
myself enveloped in that Egyptian darkness which was peculiar, I
suppose, if not appropriate, to that part of Egyptian Hall. I could hear
Smith and his assistants walking on the stage over my head, but I dare
not call out lest some nervous Duchess or Countess should faint under
the apprehension that the hall was on fire, or that some other severe
disaster threatened.

Groping my way blindly and hitting my head several times against sundry
beams, at last, to my joy, I reached the knob of the door which led me
into this hole, but to my dismay it had been locked from the outside! In
feeling about, however, I discovered a couple of bell pulls, both of
which I desperately jerked and heard a faint tinkling in two opposite
directions. Next, I heard the heavy canvas drop-curtain roll down
rapidly till it struck the stage with a thud. Then the music in the
orchestra suddenly ceased, and I could readily understand by the shrieks
of the women and the loud protestations of masculine voices that the gas
had been turned off and the whole house left in darkness. This was
followed by hurried and heavy footsteps on the stage, the imprecations
of stage carpenters and gasmen, jargon of foreign musicians in the
orchestra, and the earnest voice of my friend Smith excitedly
exclaiming: “Who rung those bells? why are we all left in the dark?
Light up here at once; bless my soul! what does all this mean?”

I was amazed, yet amused and half alarmed. What to do, I did not know,
so I sat still on a box which I had stumbled over, as well as upon,
afraid to move or put out my hand lest I might touch some machinery
which would give the signal for thunder and lightning, or an earthquake,
or more likely, a Mont Blanc avalanche. Restored tranquillity overhead
assured me that the gas had been relighted. I knew Smith must be
anxiously awaiting me, for he was not a man to be behind time when so
important a matter as dinner was the motive of the appointment.
Something desperate must be done; so I carefully groped my way to the
stage door again and with a strong effort managed to wrench it open.
Covered with dust and perspiration I followed behind the rear of the
out-going audience and found Smith, to whom I narrated my under-ground

Brushes, water and towels soon put me once more in presentable condition
and we went to the Garrick Club where we dined with several gentlemen of
note. Smith could not refrain from relating my mishaps and their
consequences in my search for him under difficulties, and worse yet,
under his stage, and great was the merriment over the idea that an old
manager like myself should so lose his reckoning in a place with which
he might well be supposed to be perfectly familiar.

When the late William M. Thackeray made his first visit to the United
States, I think in 1852, he called on me at the Museum with a letter of
introduction from our mutual friend Albert Smith. He spent an hour with
me, mainly for the purpose of asking my advice in regard to the
management of the course of lectures on “The English Humorists of the
Eighteenth Century,” which he proposed to deliver, as he did afterwards,
with very great success, in the principal cities of the Union. I gave
him the best advice I could as to management, and the cities he ought to
visit, for which he was very grateful and he called on me whenever he
was in New York. I also saw him repeatedly when he came to America the
second time with his admirable lectures on “The Four Georges,” which, it
will be remembered he delivered in the United States in the season of
1855-56, before he read these lectures to audiences in Great Britain. My
relations with this great novelist, I am proud to say, were cordial and
intimate; and now, when I called upon him, in 1857, at his own house he
grasped me heartily by the hand and said:

“Mr. Barnum, I admire you more than ever. I have read the accounts in
the papers of the examinations you underwent in the New York courts, and
the positive pluck you exhibit under your pecuniary embarrassments is
worthy of all praise. You would never have received credit for the
philosophy you manifest, if these financial misfortunes had not
overtaken you.”

I thanked him for his compliment, and he continued:

“But tell me, Barnum, are you really in need of present assistance? for
if you are you must be helped.”

“Not in the least,” I replied, laughing; “I need more money in order to
get out of bankruptcy and I intend to earn it; but so far as daily bread
is concerned, I am quite at ease, for my wife is worth £30,000 or

“Is it possible?” he exclaimed, with evident delight; “well, now, you
have lost all my sympathy; why, that is more than I ever expect to be
worth; I shall be sorry for you no more.”

During my stay in London, I met Thackeray several times, and on one
occasion I dined with him. He was a most genial, noble-hearted
gentleman. In our conversations he spoke with the warmest appreciation
of America, and of his numerous friends in this country, and he
repeatedly expressed his obligations to me for the advice and assistance
I had given him on the occasion of his first lecturing visit to the
United States.

The late Charles Kean, then manager of the Princess’s Theatre, in
London, was also exceedingly polite and friendly to me. He placed a box
at my disposal at all times, and took me through his theatre to show me
the stage, dressing rooms, and particularly the valuable “properties” he
had collected. Among other things, he had twenty or more complete suits
of real armor and other costumes and appointments essential to the
production of historical plays, in the most complete and authentic
manner. In the mere matter of stage-setting, Charles Kean has never been

Otto Goldschmidt, the husband of Jenny Lind, also called on me in
London. He and his wife were then living in Dresden, and he said the
first thing his wife desired him to ask me was, whether I was in want. I
assured him that I was not, although I was managing to live in an
economical way and my family would soon come over to reside in London.
He then advised me to take them to Dresden, saying that living was very
cheap there; and, he added, “my wife will gladly look up a proper house
for you to live in.” I thankfully declined his proffered kindness, as
Dresden was too far away from my business. A year subsequent to this, a
letter was generally published in the American papers, purporting to
have been written to me by Jenny Lind, and proffering me a large sum of
money. I immediately pronounced the letter a forgery, and I soon
afterwards received a communication from a young reporter in
Philadelphia acknowledging himself as the author, and saying that he
wrote it from a good motive, hoping it would benefit me. On the contrary
it annoyed me exceedingly.

My old friends Julius Benedict and Giovanni Belletti, called on me and
we had some very pleasant dinners together, when we talked over
incidents of their travels in America. Among the gentlemen whom I met in
London, some of them quite frequently at dinners, were Mr. George
Augustus Sala, Mr. Edmund Yates, Mr. Horace Mayhew, Mr. Alfred Bunn, Mr.
Lumley, of Her Majesty’s Theatre, Mr. Buckstone, of the Haymarket, Mr.
Charles Kean, our princely countrymen Mr. George Peabody, Mr. J. M.
Morris, the manager, Mr. Bates, of Baring, Brothers & Co., Mr. Oxenford,
dramatic critic of the London _Times_, Dr. Ballard, the American
dentist, and many other eminent persons.

I had numerous offers from professional friends on both sides of the
Atlantic who supposed me to be in need of employment. Mr. Barney
Williams, who had not then acted in England, proposed in the kindest
manner to make me his agent for a tour through Great Britain, and to
give me one-third of the profits which he and Mrs. Williams might make
by their acting. Mr. S. M. Pettengill, of New York, the newspaper
advertising agent, offered me the fine salary of $10,000 a year to
transact business for him in Great Britain. He wrote to me: “when you
failed in consequence of the Jerome clock notes, I felt that your
creditors were dealing hard with you; that they should have let you up
and give you a chance, and they would have fared better and I wish I was
a creditor so as to show what I would do.” These offers, both from Mr.
Williams and Mr. Pettengill, I was obliged to decline.

Mr. Lumley, manager of Pier Majesty’s Theatre, used to send me an order
for a private box for every opera night, and I frequently availed myself
of his courtesy. I had an idea that much money might be made by
transferring his entire opera company, which then included Piccolomini
and Titjiens to New York for a short season. The plan included the
charter of a special steamer for the company and the conveyance of the
entire troup, including the orchestra, with their instruments, and the
chorus, costumes, scores, and properties of the company. It was a
gigantic scheme, which would no doubt have been pecuniarily successful,
and Mr. Lumley and I went so far as to draw up the preliminaries of an
arrangement, in which I was to share a due proportion of the profits for
my assistance in the management; but after a while, and to the evident
regret of Mr. Lumley, the scheme was given up.

Meanwhile, I was by no means idle. Cordelia Howard as “Little Eva,” with
her mother as the inimitable “Topsy,” were highly successful in London
and other large cities, while General Tom Thumb, returning after so long
an absence, drew crowded houses wherever he went. These were strong
spokes in the wheel that was moving slowly but surely in the effort to
get me out of debt, and, if possible, to save some portion of my real
estate. Of course, it was not generally known that I had any interest
whatever in either of these exhibitions; if it had been, possibly some
of the clock creditors would have annoyed me; but I busied myself in
these and in other ways, working industriously and making much money,
which I constantly remitted to my trusty agent at home.




After a pleasant and successful season of several weeks in London and in
the provinces, I took the little General into Germany, going from London
to Paris and from thence to Strasbourg and Baden-Baden. I had not been
in Paris since the times of King Louis Philippe, and while I noticed
great improvements in the city, in the opening of the new boulevards and
the erection of noble buildings, I could see also with sorrow that there
was less personal liberty under the Emperor Napoleon III., than there
was under the “Citizen King.” The custom-house officials were
overbearing and unnecessarily rigid in their exactions; the police were
over-watchful and intolerant; the screws were turned on everywhere. I
had a lot of large pictorial placards of General Tom Thumb, which were
merely _in transitu_, as I wished only to forward them to Germany to be
used as advertisements of the forthcoming exhibitions. These the French
custom-house officers determined to examine in detail, and when they
discovered that one of the pictures represented the General in the
costume of the First Napoleon, the whole of the bills were seized and
sent to the Prefecture of Police. I was compelled to stay three days in
Paris before I could convince the Prefect of Police that there was no
treason in the Tom Thumb pictures. I was very glad to get out of Paris
with my baggage and taking a seat in the express train on the Paris and
Strasbourg railway I soon forgot my custom-house annoyances.

One would suppose that by this time I had had enough to do with clocks
to last me my lifetime, but passing one night and a portion of a day at
Strasbourg, I did not forget or fail to witness the great church clock
which is nearly as famous as the cathedral itself. At noon precisely a
mechanical cock crows; the bell strikes; figures of the twelve apostles
appear and walk in procession; and other extraordinary evidences of
wonderful mechanical art are daily exhibited by this curious old clock.

From Strasbourg we went to Baden-Baden. I had been abroad so much that I
could understand and manage to speak French, but I had never been in
Germany and I did not know six words of the language of that country. As
a consequence, I dreaded to pass the custom-house at Kehl, nearly
opposite Strasbourg, and the first town on the German border at that
point. When the diligence stopped at this place I fairly trembled. I
knew that I had no baggage which was rightfully subject to duty, as I
had nothing but my necessary clothing and the package of placards and
lithographs illustrating the General’s exhibitions. This was the
package which had given me so much trouble in Paris, and as the official
was examining my trunks, I assured him in French that I had nothing
subject to duty; but he made no reply and deliberately handled every
article in my luggage. He then cut the strings to the large packages of
show bills. I asked him, in French, whether he understood that language.
He gave a grunt, which was the only audible sound I could get out of
him, and then laid my show bills and lithographs on his scales as if to
weigh them. I was almost distracted, when an English gentleman who spoke
German, kindly offered to act as my interpreter.

“Please to tell him,” said I, “that those bills and lithographs are not
articles of commerce; that they are simply advertisements.”

My English friend did as I requested; but it was of no use; the
custom-house officer kept piling them upon his scales. I grew more

“Please tell him I give them away,” I said. The translation of my
assertion into German did not help me; a double grunt from the
functionary was the only response. Tom Thumb, meanwhile, jumped about
like a little monkey for he was fairly delighted at my worry and
perplexity. Finally, I said to my new found English friend: “Be good
enough to tell the officer to keep the bills if he wants them, and that
I will not pay duty on them any how.”

He was duly informed of my determination, but he was immovable. He
lighted his huge Dutch pipe, got the exact weight, and marking it down,
handed it to a clerk, who copied it on his book, and solemnly passed it
over to another clerk, who copied it on still another book; a third
clerk then took it, and copied it on to a printed bill, the size of a
half letter sheet, which was duly stamped in red ink with several
official devices. By this time I was in a profuse perspiration; and as
the document passed from clerk to clerk, I told them they need not
trouble themselves to make out a bill for I would not pay it; they would
get no duty and they might keep the property.

To be sure, I could not spare the placards for any length of time, for
they were exceedingly valuable to me as advertisements and I could not
easily have duplicated them in Germany; but I was determined that I
would not pay duties on articles which were not merchandise. Every
transfer, therefore, of the bill to a new clerk, gave me a fresh twinge,
for I imagined that every clerk added more charges, and every charge was
a tighter turn to the vise which held my fingers. Finally, the last
clerk defiantly thrust in my face the terrible official document, on
which were scrawled certain cabalistic characters, signifying the amount
of money I should be forced to pay to the German government before I
could have my property. I would not touch it; but resolved I would
really leave my packages until I could communicate with one of our
consuls in Germany, and I said as much to the English gentleman who had
kindly interpreted for me.

He took the bill, and examining it, burst into a loud laugh. “Why, it is
but fifteen kreutzers!” he said.

“How much is that?” I asked, feeling for the golden sovereigns in my

“Sixpence!” was the reply.

I was astonished and delighted, and as I handed out the money, I begged
him to tell the officials that

[Illustration: _THE “CUSTOMS” OF THE COUNTRY._]

the custom house charge would not pay the cost of the paper on which it
was written. But this was a very fair illustration of sundry red-tape
dealings in other countries as well as in Germany.

I found Baden a delightful little town, cleaner and neater than any city
I had ever visited. I learned afterwards that Mr. Benazet, the lessee of
the kurasal and gambling house, was compelled annually to expend large
sums for keeping the streets and public places clean. Indeed, he could
well afford to do so, as one would readily perceive upon witnessing the
vast amounts of money which were daily lost by the men and women of
nearly all nations, upon his tables of roulette and _rouge et noir_.

The town has all the characteristics and accompaniments of a first-class
watering-place,--a theatre, public library, and several very fine
hotels. The springs are presumed to be the inducements which draw
hundreds of invalids to Baden-Baden every summer, but the gaming tables
are the real attractions to thousands of far weaker persons who spend
the entire season in gambling. It is no unusual thing to see ladies
sitting around these gaming tables, betting their silver and gold
pieces, until they lose five hundred or a thousand dollars, while men
frequently “invest” many times these amounts. If they happen to be
winners, they are very sure to be tempted to try again; and thus in the
long run succumb to the “advantage” which is given in the game to the
bankers over the “betters.”

The games open at eleven o’clock every morning, Sundays included, and
close at eleven o’clock at night. Players have been known to sit at the
table, without once rising, even to eat or to drink, through the entire
day and night session. Very early in the day, however, many a player
finds himself penniless, and, in such case, if he does not step to some
quiet place and blow his brains out, the proprietor of the “hell” will
present to him money enough to carry him at least fifty miles from

A few days before my arrival, a young lady hung herself. Indeed, several
suicides occur in all the German spas every year from the one
cause--ruin by gambling; but so callous do the players, as well as the
card-dealers become, that I can easily credit a story told me at
Homburg, the greatest gambling place in Europe: A Frenchman, sitting at
the table where scores of others were betting their money, lost his last
sou, and immediately drew a razor from his pocket and cut his throat.
The circumstance was scarcely sufficient to induce the players to raise
their eyes from the cards;--it was a mere incident, an episode in
matters more important. A sheet was thrown over the body, and as the
servants quietly removed the corpse, some one slipped into the vacated
chair, the dealer crying out in French, “make your bets, gentlemen,” and
the play went on as usual.

In due time, when our preliminary arrangements were completed, the
General’s attendants, carriage, ponies and liveried coachman and footmen
arrived at Baden-Baden and were soon seen in the streets. The excitement
was intense and increased from day to day. Several crowned heads,
princes, lords and ladies who were spending the season at Baden-Baden,
with a vast number of wealthy pleasure seekers and travellers, crowded
the saloon in which the General exhibited during the entire time we
remained in the place. The charges for admission were much higher than
had been demanded in any other city.

Some time before I left America I received several letters from a young
man residing in the Black Forest in regard to a wonderful orchestrion
which he was building and which he wished to sell or send to me for
exhibition. When he saw the accounts of my arrival with Tom Thumb at
Baden-Baden, he announced his willingness to bring his orchestrion and
set it up in that place so that I could see and hear it. His letter was
forwarded to me at Frankfort and I replied that my engagements were made
many days in advance, that my time was invaluable, but that if he would
have his orchestrion set up and in perfect order at such a time on such
a day I would be there promptly to see it. Arriving at the appointed
time, I found that he had not completed his work. The beautiful case was
up, but the interior was unfinished. I was much disappointed, but not
nearly so much so as was the orchestrion builder.

“Oh! Mr. Barnum,” said he, “I have worked with my men all last night and
all to-day and I will work all night again and have it in readiness
to-morrow morning. If you will only stay, I will go down on my knees to
you; yes, Mr. Barnum, I will cut off one of my fingers for you, if you
will only wait.”

But I could not wait, even under this strong and certainly extraordinary
inducement, and was obliged to return to my engagements without hearing
the orchestrion, which, I afterwards learned, was sold and set up in St.

From Baden-Baden we went to other celebrated German Spas, including Ems,
Homburg and Weisbaden. These are all fashionable gambling as well as
watering places, and during our visits they were crowded with visitors
from all parts of Europe. Our exhibitions were attended by thousands who
paid the same high prices that were charged for admission at
Baden-Baden, and at Wiesbaden, among many distinguished persons, the
King of Holland came to see the little General. These exhibitions were
among the most profitable that had ever been given, and I was able to
remit thousands of dollars to my agents in the United States to aid in
re-purchasing my real estate and to assist in taking up such clock notes
as were offered for sale. A short but very remunerative season at
Frankfort-on-the-Maine, the home and starting-place of the great house
of the Rothschilds, assisted me largely in carrying out these purposes.

There was the greatest difficulty, however, in getting permission to
hold our exhibitions in Frankfort. When I applied for a permit at the
office of the Commissary of Police, I was told that office hours were
ended for the day, and that the chief official, who alone could give me
the permit, had gone home to dinner. As I was in a great hurry to begin,
I went to the residence of the Commissary, where I was met at the door
by a gorgeously arrayed flunkey, to whom I stated my business, and who
informed me that I could on no account see the distinguished official
till dinner was over.

I waited one hour and a half by my watch for that mighty man to dine,
and then he condescended to admit me to his presence. When I had stated
my business, he demanded to know why I had not applied to him at his
office in the proper hours, declaring that he would do no business with
me at his house, and that I must come to him to-morrow. I went, and
after a great deal of questioning and delay, I received the sought-for
license to exhibit; but I have never seen more red-tape wound up on a
single reel. All my men, all Tom Thumb’s attendants, the General and
myself, in addition to showing our passports, were obliged to register
our names, ages, occupations, and what not, in a huge book, and to
answer all sorts of questions. At last we were permitted to go, and we
opened our doors to the throng that came to see the General.

But a day or two after our exhibitions began, came a messenger with a
command that I should appear before the Commissary of Police. I was very
much frightened, I confess; I was sure that some of my men had been
doing or saying something which had offended the authorities, and
although I was conscious that my own conduct had been circumspect, I
started for the police office in fear and trembling. On the way, I met
Mr. Henry J. Raymond, editor of the _New York Times_, who was in company
with a gentleman from Ohio, to whom he introduced me, and thereupon I
stated my trouble, and my opinion that I was about to be fined,
imprisoned, possibly beheaded,--I knew not what.

“Don’t be alarmed,” said Mr. Raymond, “we will keep an eye on the
proceedings, and if you get into trouble we will try to get you out.”

Arriving at head-quarters, I was solemnly shown into the private office
of the Commissary who asked me to be seated, and then rose and locked
the door. This movement was by no means calculated to calm my agitation,
and I at once exclaimed, in the best French I could summon:

“Sir, I demand an interpreter.”

“We do not need one,” he replied; “I can understand your French, and you
can understand mine; I wish to consult you confidentially on a very
private matter, and one that concerns me deeply.”

Somewhat reassured at this remarkable announcement, I begged him to
proceed, which he did as follows:

“Do not be uneasy, sir, as this matter wholly affects me; I must state
to you in entire secrecy that the half of my whole fortune is invested
in the bonds of one of your American railways (giving me the name of the
road), and as I have received no interest for a long time I am naturally
alarmed for the safety of my property. I wish to know if the road is
good for anything, and if so, why the interest on the bonds is not

I was happy to tell him that I had met that very morning a gentleman
from Ohio who was well acquainted with the condition of this road, which
was in his vicinity at home, and that I would speedily derive from him
the desired information. The Commissary overwhelmed me with profuse
thanks, adding: “Remember, the half of my entire fortune is at stake.”

Impressed with the magnitude of the loss he might be called upon to
suffer, I ventured, as I was going out, to ask him the amount of his

“Four thousand dollars,” was the reply.

When I thought of his liveried lackeys, his house, his style, his
dignity, and his enormous consequence, I could not but smile to think
that all these things were supported on his small salary and an “entire”
fortune of $8,000, one-half of which was invested in the bonds of a
doubtful American railway company.

We exhibited at Mayence and several other places in the vicinity,
reaping golden harvests everywhere, and then went down the Rhine to
Cologne. The journey down the river was very pleasant and we duly “did”
the scenery and lions on the way. The boats were very ill-provided with
sleeping accommodations, and one night, as I saw our party must sit up,
I suggested that we should play a social game of euchre if we could get
the cards. The clerk of the boat was prompt in affording the gratifying
intelligence that he had cards to sell and I bought a pack, paying him a
good round price. Immediately thereafter, the clerk, pocketing the
money, stated that “it was nine o’clock and according to the regulations
he must turn out all the lights”--which he did, leaving us to play
cards, if we wished to, in the dark.

The slowness of the boat was a great annoyance and on one occasion I
said to the captain:

“Look here! confound your slow old boat. I have a great mind to put on
an opposition American line and burst up your business.”

He knew me, and knew something of Yankee enterprise, and he was
evidently alarmed, but a thought came to his relief:

“You cannot do it,” he triumphantly exclaimed; “the government will not
permit you to run more than nine miles an hour.”

We remained at Cologne only long enough to visit the famous cathedral
and to see other curiosities and works of art, and then pushed on to
Rotterdam and Amsterdam.




Holland gave me more genuine satisfaction than any other foreign country
I have ever visited, if I except Great Britain. Redeemed as a large
portion of the whole surface of the land has been from the bottom of the
sea by the wonderful dykes, which are monuments of the industry of whole
generations of human beavers, Holland seems to me the most curious as
well as interesting country in the world. The people, too, with their
quaint costumes, their extraordinary cleanliness, their thrift, industry
and frugality, pleased me very much. It is the universal testimony of
all travellers that the Hollanders are the neatest and most economical
people among all nations. So far as cleanliness is concerned, in Holland
it is evidently not next to, but far ahead of godliness. It is rare,
indeed, to meet a ragged, dirty, or drunken person. The people are very
temperate and economical in their habits; and even the very rich,--and
there is a vast amount of wealth in the country--live with great
frugality, though all of the people live well.

As for the scenery I cannot say much for it, since it is only
diversified by thousands of windmills, which are made to do all kinds of
work, from grinding grain to pumping water from the inside of the dykes
back to the sea again. As I exhibited the General only in Rotterdam and
Amsterdam, and to no great profit in either city, we spent most of our
time in rambling about to see what was to be seen. In the country
villages it seemed as if every house was scrubbed twice and white-washed
once every day in the week, excepting Sunday. Some places were almost
painfully pure, and I was in one village where horses and cattle were
not allowed to go through the streets, and no one was permitted to wear
their boots or shoes in the houses. There is a general and constant
exercise of brooms, pails, floor brushes and mops all over Holland, and
in some places even, this kind of thing is carried so far, I am told,
that the only trees set out are scrub-oaks.

The reason, I think, why our exhibitions were not more successful in
Rotterdam and Amsterdam, is that the people are too frugal to spend much
money for amusement, but they and their habits and ways afforded us so
much amusement, that we were quite willing they should give our
entertainment the “go by,” as they generally did. We were in Amsterdam
at the season of “Kremis,” or the annual Fair which is held in all the
principal towns, and where shows of all descriptions are open, at prices
for admission ranging from one to five pennies, and are attended by
nearly the whole population. For the people generally, this one great
holiday seems all-sufficient for the whole year. I went through scores
of booths, where curiosities and monstrosities of all kinds were
exhibited, and was able to make some purchases and engagements for the
American Museum. Among these, was the Albino family, consisting of a
man, his wife, and son, who were by far the most interesting and
attractive specimens of their class I had ever seen.

We visited the Hague, the capital and the finest city in Holland. It is
handsomely and regularly laid out, and contains a beautiful theatre, a
public picture-gallery, which contains some of the best works of
Vandyke, Paul Potter, and other Dutch masters, while the museum is
especially rich in rarities from China and Japan. When we arrived at the
Hague, Mr. August Belmont, who had been the United States Minister at
that court, had just gone home; but I heard many encomiums passed upon
him and his family, and I was told some pretty good stories of his
familiarity with the king, and of the “jolly times” these two personages
frequently enjoyed together. I did not miss visiting the great
government museum, as I wished particularly to see the rich collection
of Japan ware and arms, made during the many years when the Dutch
carried on almost exclusively the entire foreign trade with the
Japanese. I spent several days in minutely examining these curious
manufactures of a people, who were then almost as little known to
nations generally as are the inhabitants of the planet Jupiter.

On the first day of my visit to this museum, I stood for an hour before
a large case containing a most unique and extraordinary collection of
fabulous animals, made from paper and other materials, and looking as
natural and genuine as the stuffed skins of any animals in the American
Museum. There were serpents two yards long, with a head and pair of feet
at each end; frogs as large as a man, with human hands and feet; turtles
with three heads; monkeys with two heads and six legs; scores of equally
curious monstrosities; and at least two dozen mermaids, of all sorts and
sizes. Looking at these “sirens” I easily divined from whence the Fejee
mermaid originated.

While I was standing near this remarkable cabinet the superintendent of
the Museum came, and, introducing himself to me, asked me from what
country I came and how I liked the Museum. I told him that I was an
American and that the collection was interesting and remarkable, adding:

“You seem to have a great variety of mermaids here.”

“Yes,” he replied; “the Japanese exercise great ingenuity in
manufacturing fabulous animals, especially mermaids; and by the way,” he
added, “your great showman, Barnum, is said to have succeeded in
humbugging the Americans to a very considerable extent, by means of what
he claimed to be a veritable mermaid.”

I said that such was the story, though I believed that Barnum only used
the mermaid as an advertisement for his Museum.

“Perhaps so,” responded the superintendent, “but he is a shrewd and
industrious manager. We have had frequent applications from his European
agents for duplicates from our collection and have occasionally sold
some to them to be sent to America.”

The superintendent then politely asked me to go into his office, as he
had something to offer me, which, as an American gentleman, he was sure
I would prize highly; but the business was of a strictly confidential
character. He asked me to be seated, and cautiously locking the door and
drawing his chair near to mine, he informed me in a tone scarcely above
a whisper that he was the executor of the estate of a wealthy gentleman,
recently deceased, with power to dispose of the property, which included
a large number of exceedingly valuable ancient and modern paintings.

“You must be well aware,” he continued, “that my countrymen would be
extremely unwilling to permit these precious specimens of art to leave
Holland, but,” and here he gave my hand a slight but most friendly
squeeze, “I have such a high respect, I might almost say reverence for
your great republic that I am only too happy in the opportunity now
afforded me of allowing you to take a very few of these fine paintings
to America at an unprecedentedly low price.”

I thought he was a little too generous, and I gave him what the Irishman
called an “evasive answer;” but this only seemed to stimulate him to
further efforts to effect a sale,--so he turned to his memorandum book
and pointed out the names of gentlemen from Boston, Philadelphia,
Baltimore, and New Orleans, who had ordered one or more cases from this
large gallery of paintings. This exhibition was conclusive, and I at
once said that I would not decide to purchase till I returned from
Amsterdam. I quite understood the whole thing; but not to leave my
anxious friend too long in suspense I quietly handed my card to him,
remarking, “Perhaps you have heard of that name before.”

His cheeks were fairly crimson; “surely,” said he, “you are not Mr.
Barnum, of the New York Museum?”

“Nobody else,” I replied with a laugh.

He stammered out an apology for his mermaid remarks, but I patted him on
the shoulder in a friendly way, telling him it was “all right,” and that
I considered it a capital joke. This re-assured him and we then had a
very pleasant half-hour’s conversation, in which he gave me several
valuable hints of curiosities to be procured at the Hague and elsewhere
in Holland, and we parted good friends.

A week afterwards, a young gentleman from Boston introduced himself to
me at Amsterdam and remarked that he knew I was there for he had been so
informed by the museum superintendent at the Hague. “And, by the by,” he
added, “as soon as this superintendent discovered I was from America, he
told me if I would go into his office he would show me the greatest
curiosity in the Museum. I went, and he pointed to the card of ‘P. T.
Barnum’ which he had conspicuously nailed up over his desk; he then told
me about your visit to the museum last week.”

“Did he sell you any paintings?” I asked.

“No,” was the reply; “but he informed me that as executor of an estate,
including a fine gallery, he could sell me a few cases at a very low
price, mainly on account of his high regard for the great republic to
which I belonged.”

I have no doubt that this estate is still unsettled, and that a few of
the valuable paintings, if cheap Dutch artists keep up the supply, are
still for sale to the public generally, and to representatives of the
revered republic especially. Undoubtedly this kind of business will
continue so long as Waterloo relics are manufactured at Birmingham, and
are sent to be plowed in and dug up again on the memorable field where
Wellington met Napoleon. And how many very worthy persons there are,
like the superintendent of the Hague Museum, who have been terribly
shocked at the story of the Fejee Mermaid and the Woolly Horse!

After a truly delightful visit in Holland, we went back to England; and,
proceeding to Manchester, opened our exhibition. For several days the
hall was crowded to overflowing at each of the three, and sometimes
four, entertainments we gave every day. By this time, my wife and two
youngest daughters had come over to London, and I hired furnished
lodgings in the suburbs where they could live within the strictest
limits of economy. It was necessary now for me to return for a few weeks
to America, to assist personally in forwarding a settlement of the clock
difficulties. So leaving the little General in the hands of trusty and
competent agents to carry on the exhibitions in my absence, I set my
face once more towards home and the west, and took steamer at Liverpool
for New York.

The trip, like most of the passages which I have made across the
Atlantic, was an exceedingly pleasant one. These frequent voyages were
to me the rests, the reliefs from almost unremitting industry, anxiety,
and care, and I always managed to have more or less fun on board ship
every time I crossed the ocean. During the present trip, for amusement
and to pass away the time, the passengers got up a number of mock trials
which afforded a vast deal of fun. A judge was selected, jurymen drawn,
prisoners arraigned, counsel employed, and all the formalities of a
court established. I have the vanity to think that if my good fortune
had directed me to that profession I should have made a very fair
lawyer, for I have always had a great fondness for debate and especially
for the cross-examination of witnesses, unless that witness was P. T.
Barnum in examination under supplementary proceedings at the instance of
some note-shaver who had bought a clock note at a discount of thirty-six
per cent. In this mock court, I was unanimously chosen as prosecuting
attorney, and as the court was established expressly to convict, I had
no difficulty in carrying the jury and securing the punishment of the
prisoner. A small fine was generally imposed, and the fund thus
collected was given to a poor sailor boy who had fallen from the mast
and broken his leg.

After several of these trials had been held, a dozen or more of the
passengers secretly put their heads together and resolved to place the
“showman” on trial for his life. An indictment covering twenty pages was
drawn up by several legal gentlemen among the passengers, charging him
with being the Prince of Humbugs, and enumerating a dozen special
counts, containing charges of the most absurd and ridiculous
description. Witnesses were then brought together, and privately
instructed what to say and do. Two or three days were devoted to
arranging this mighty prosecution. When everything was ready, I was
arrested, and the formidable indictment read to me. I saw at a glance
that time and talent had been brought into requisition, and that my
trial was to be more elaborate than any that had preceded it. I asked
for half an hour to prepare for my defence, which was granted.
Meanwhile, seats were arranged to accommodate the court and spectators,
and extra settees were placed for the ladies on the upper deck, where
they could look down, see and hear all that transpired. Curiosity was on
tip-toe, for it was evident that this was to be a long, exciting and
laughable trial. At the end of half an hour the judge was on the bench,
the jury had taken their places; the witnesses were ready; the counsel
for the prosecution, four in number, with pens, ink, and paper in
profusion, were seated and everything seemed ready. I was brought in by
a special constable, the indictment read, and I was asked to plead
guilty, or not guilty. I rose, and in a most solemn manner stated that I
could not conscientiously plead guilty or not guilty; that I had in fact
committed many of the acts charged in the indictment, but these acts I
was ready to show were not criminal, but on the contrary, worthy of
praise. My plea was received and the first witness called.

He testified to having visited the prisoner’s Museum, and of being
humbugged by the Fejee Mermaid; the nurse of Washington; and by other
curiosities, natural and unnatural. The questions and answers having
been all arranged in advance, everything worked smoothly. Acting as my
own counsel, I cross-examined the witness by simply asking whether he
saw anything else in the Museum besides what he had mentioned.

“Oh! yes, I saw thousands of other things.”

“Were they curious?”

“Certainly; many of them very astonishing.”

“Did you witness a dramatic representation in the Museum?”

“Yes, sir, a very good one.”

“What did you pay for all this?”

“Twenty-five cents.”

“That will do, sir; you can step down.”

A second, third and fourth witness were called, and the examination was
similar to the foregoing. Another witness then appeared to testify in
regard to another count in the indictment. He stated that for several
weeks he was the guest of the prisoner at his country residence,
Iranistan, and he gave a most amusing description of the various schemes
and contrivances which were there originated for the purpose of being
carried out at some future day in the Museum.

“How did you live there?” asked one of the counsel for the prosecution.

“Very well, indeed, in the daytime,” was the reply; “plenty of the best
to eat and drink, except liquors. In bed, however, it was impossible to
sleep. I rose the first night, struck a light, and on examination found
myself covered with myriads of little bugs, so small as to be almost
imperceptible. By using my microscope I discovered them to be infantile
bedbugs. After the first night I was obliged to sleep in the coach-house
in order to escape this annoyance.”

Of course this elicited much mirth. The first question put on the
cross-examination was this:

“Are you a naturalist, sir?”

The witness hesitated. In all the drilling that had taken place before
the trial, neither the counsel nor witnesses had thought of what
questions might come up in the cross-examination, and now, not seeing
the drift of question, the witness seemed a little bewildered, and the
counsel for the prosecution looked puzzled.

The question was repeated with some emphasis.

“No, sir!” replied the witness, hesitatingly, “I am not a naturalist.”

“Then, sir, not being a naturalist, dare you affirm that those
microscopic insects were not humbugs instead of bedbugs”--(here the
prisoner was interrupted by a universal shout of laughter, in which the
solemn judge himself joined)--“and if they were humbugs, I suppose that
even the learned counsel opposed to me, will not claim that they were
out of place?”

“They may have been humbugs,” replied the witness.

“That will do, sir--you may go,” said I; and at the same time turning to
the array of counsel, I remarked, with a smile, “You had better have a
naturalist for your next witness, gentlemen.”

“Don’t be alarmed, sir, we have got one, and we will now introduce him,”
replied the counsel.

The next witness testified that he was a planter from Georgia, that some
years since the prisoner visited his plantation with a show, and that
while there he discovered an old worthless donkey belonging to the
planter, and bought him for five dollars--the next year the witness
visited Iranistan, the country seat of the prisoner, and, while walking
about the grounds, his old donkey, recognizing his former master,
brayed; “whereupon,” continued the witness, “I walked up to the animal
and found that two men were engaged in sticking wool upon him, and this
animal was afterwards exhibited by the prisoner as the woolly horse.”

The whole court--spectators, and even the “prisoner” himself were
convulsed with laughter at the gravity with which the planter gave his
very ludicrous testimony.

“What evidence have you,” I inquired, “that this was the same donkey
which you sold to me?”

“The fact that the animal recognized me, as was evident from his braying
as soon as he saw me.”

“Are you a naturalist, sir?”

“Yes, I am,” replied the planter, with firm emphasis, as much as to say,
you can’t catch me as you did the other witness.

“Oh! you are a naturalist, are you? Then, sir, I ask you, as a
naturalist, do you not know it to be a fact in natural history that one
jackass always brays as soon as he sees another?”

This question was received with shouts of laughter, in the midst of
which the nonplussed witness backed out of court, and all the efforts of
special constables, and even the high sheriff himself, were unavailing
in getting him again on the witness stand.

This trial lasted two days, to the great delight of all on board. After
my success with the “naturalist” not one half of the witnesses would
appear against me. In my final argument I sifted the testimony, analyzed
its bearings, ruffled the learned counsel, disconcerted the witnesses,
flattered the judge and jury, and when the judge had delivered his
charge, the jury acquitted me without leaving their seats. The judge
received the verdict, and then announced that he should fine the
naturalist for the mistake he made, as to the cause of the donkey’s
braying, and he should also fine the several witnesses, who, through
fear of the cross-fire, had refused to testify.

The trial afforded a pleasant topic of conversation for the rest of the
voyage; and the morning before arriving in port, a vote of thanks was
passed to me, in consideration of the amusement I had intentionally and
unintentionally furnished to the passengers during the voyage.

After my arrival in New York, oftentimes in passing up and down
Broadway I saw old and prosperous friends coming, but before I came
anywhere near them, if they espied me they would dodge into a store, or
across the street, or opportunely meet some one with whom they had
pressing business, or they would be very much interested in something
that was going on over the way or on top of the City Hall. I was
delighted at this, for it gave me at once a new sensation and a new
experience. “Ah, ha!” I said to myself; “my butterfly friends, I know
you now; and what is more to the point, if ever I get out of this
bewilderment of broken clock-wheels, I shall not forget you”; and I
heartily thanked the old clock concern for giving me the opportunity to
learn this sad but most needful lesson. I had a very few of the same
sort of experiences in Bridgeport, and they proved valuable to me.

Mr. James D. Johnson, of Bridgeport, one of my assignees, who had
written to me that my personal presence might facilitate a settlement of
my affairs, told me soon after my arrival that there was no probability
of disposing of Iranistan at present, and that I might as well move my
family into the house. I had arrived in August and my family followed me
from London in September, and October 20, 1857, my second daughter,
Helen, was married in the house of her elder sister, Mrs. D. W.
Thompson, in Bridgeport, to Mr. Samuel H. Hurd.

Meanwhile, Iranistan which had been closed and unoccupied for more than
two years, was once more opened to the carpenters and painters whom Mr.
Johnson sent there to put the house in order. He agreed with me that it
was best to keep the property as long as possible, and in the interval,
till a purchaser for the estate appeared, or till it was forced to
auction, to take up the clock notes whenever they were offered. The
workmen who were employed in the house were specially instructed not to
smoke there, but nevertheless it was subsequently discovered that some
of the men were in the habit occasionally of going into the main dome to
eat their dinners which they brought with them, and that they stayed
there awhile after dinner to smoke their pipes. In all probability, one
of these lighted pipes was left on the cushion which covered the
circular seat in the dome and ignited the tow with which the cushion was
stuffed. It may have been days and even weeks before this smouldering
tow fire burst into flame.

I was staying at the Astor House, in New York, when, on the morning of
December 18, 1857, I received a telegram from my brother Philo F.
Barnum, dated at Bridgeport and informing me that Iranistan was burned
to the ground that morning. The alarm was given at eleven o’clock on the
night of the 17th, and the fire burned till one o’clock on the morning
of the 18th. My beautiful Iranistan was gone! This was not only a
serious loss to my estate, for it had probably cost at least $150,000,
but it was generally regarded as a public calamity. It was the only
building in its peculiar style of architecture, of any pretension, in
America, and many persons visited Bridgeport every year expressly to see
Iranistan. The insurance on the mansion had usually been about $62,000,
but I had let some of the policies expire without renewing them, so that
at the time of the fire there was only $28,000 insurance on the
property. Most of the furniture and pictures were saved, generally in a
damaged state.

Subsequently, my assignees sold the grounds and out-houses of Iranistan
to the late Elias Howe, Jr., the celebrated inventor of the needle for
sewing-machines. The property brought $50,000, which, with the $28,000
insurance, went into my assets to satisfy clock creditors. It was Mr.
Howe’s intention to erect a splendid mansion on the estate, but his
untimely and lamented death prevented the fulfilment of the plan. The
estate (in 1869) was to be divided among Mr. Howe’s three children and
in all probability three houses will be built upon the beautiful




Seeing the necessity of making more money to assist in extricating me
from my financial difficulties, and leaving my affairs in the hands of
Mr. James D. Johnson--my wife and youngest daughter, Pauline, boarding
with my eldest daughter, Mrs. Thompson, in Bridgeport--early in 1858, I
went back to England, and took Tom Thumb to all the principal places in
Scotland and Wales, giving many exhibitions and making much money which
was remitted, as heretofore, to my agents and assignees in America.

Finding, after a while, that my personal attention was not needed in the
Tom Thumb exhibitions and confiding him almost wholly to agents who
continued the tour through Great Britain, under my general advice and
instruction, I turned my individual attention to a new field. At the
suggestion of several American gentlemen, resident in London, I prepared
a lecture on “The Art of Money-Getting.” I told my friends that,
considering my clock complications, I thought I was more competent to
speak on “The Art of Money Losing”; but they encouraged me by reminding
me that I could not have lost money, if I had not previously possessed
the faculty of making it. They further assured me that my name having
been intimately associated with the Jenny Lind concerts and other great
money-making enterprises, the lecture would be sure to prove attractive
and profitable.

The old clocks ticked in my ear the reminder that I should improve every
opportunity to “turn an honest penny,” and my lecture was duly announced
for delivery in the great St. James’ Hall, Regent Street, Piccadilly. It
was thoroughly advertised--a feature I never neglected--and, at the
appointed time, the hall, which would hold three thousand people, was
completely filled, at prices of three and two shillings, (seventy-five
and fifty cents,) per seat, according to location. It was the evening of
December 29, 1858. Since my arrival in Great Britain the previous
spring, I had spent months in travelling with General Tom Thumb, and now
I was to present myself in a new capacity to the English public as a
lecturer. I could see in my audience all my American friends who had
suggested this effort; all my theatrical and literary friends; and as I
saw several gentlemen whom I knew to be connected with the leading
London papers, I felt sure that my success or failure would be duly
chronicled next morning. There was, moreover, a general audience that
seemed eager to see the “showman” of whom they had heard so much, and to
catch from his lips the “art” which, in times past, had contributed so
largely to his success in life. Stimulated by these things, I tried to
do my best, and I think I did it. The following is the lecture
substantially as it was delivered, though it was interspersed with many
anecdotes and illustrations which are necessarily omitted; and I should
add, that the subjoined copy being adapted to the meridian in which it
has been repeatedly delivered, contains numerous local allusions to men
and matters in the United States, which, of course, did not appear in
the original draft prepared for my English audiences:


In the United States, where we have more land than people, it is not at
all difficult for persons in good health to make money. In this
comparatively new field there are so many avenues of success open, so
many vocations which are not crowded, that any person of either sex who
is willing, at least for the time being, to engage in any respectable
occupation that offers, may find lucrative employment.

Those who really desire to attain an independence, have only to set
their minds upon it, and adopt the proper means, as they do in regard to
any other object which they wish to accomplish, and the thing is easily
done. But however easy it may be found to make money, I have no doubt
many of my hearers will agree it is the most difficult thing in the
world to keep it. The road to wealth is, as Dr. Franklin truly says, “as
plain as the road to mill.” It consists simply in expending less than we
earn; that seems to be a very simple problem. Mr. Micawber, one of those
happy creations of the genial Dickens, puts the case in a strong light
when he says that to have an income of twenty pounds, per annum, and
spend twenty pounds and sixpence, is to be the most miserable of men;
whereas, to have an income of only twenty pounds, and spend but
nineteen pounds and sixpence, is to be the happiest of mortals. Many of
my hearers may say, “we understand this; this is economy, and we know
economy is wealth; we know we can’t eat our cake and keep it also.” Yet
I beg to say that perhaps more cases of failure arise from mistakes on
this point than almost any other. The fact is, many people think they
understand economy when they really do not.

True economy is misapprehended, and people go through life without
properly comprehending what that principle is. Some say, “I have an
income of so much, and here is my neighbor who has the same; yet every
year he gets something ahead and I fall short; why is it? I know all
about economy.” He thinks he does, but he does not. There are many who
think that economy consists in saving cheese-parings and candle ends, in
cutting off two pence from the laundress’ bill and doing all sorts of
little, mean, dirty things. Economy is not meanness. The misfortune is
also that this class of persons let their economy apply in only one
direction. They fancy they are so wonderfully economical in saving a
half-penny where they ought to spend two pence, that they think they can
afford to squander in other directions. A few years ago, before kerosene
oil was discovered or thought of, one might stop over night at almost
any farmer’s house in the agricultural districts and get a very good
supper, but after supper he might attempt to read in the sitting room,
and would find it impossible with the inefficient light of one candle.
The hostess, seeing his dilemma, would say: “It is rather difficult to
read here evenings; the proverb says ‘you must have a ship at sea in
order to be able to burn two candles at once;’ we never have an extra
candle except on extra occasions.” These extra occasions occur, perhaps,
twice a year. In this way the good woman saves five, six, or ten dollars
in that time; but the information which might be derived from having the
extra light would, of course, far outweigh a ton of candles.

But the trouble does not end here. Feeling that she is so economical in
tallow candles, she thinks she can afford to go frequently to the
village and spend twenty or thirty dollars for ribbons and furbelows,
many of which are not necessary. This false economy may frequently be
seen in men of business, and in those instances it often runs to writing
paper. You find good business men who save all the old envelopes, and
scraps, and would not tear a new sheet of paper, if they could avoid it,
for the world. This is all very well; they may in this way save five or
ten dollars a year, but being so economical (only in note paper), they
think they can afford to waste time; to have expensive parties, and to
drive their carriages. This is an illustration of Dr. Franklin’s “saving
at the spigot and wasting at the bung-hole”; “penny wise and pound
foolish.” _Punch_ in speaking of this “one-idea” class of people says
“they are like the man who bought a penny herring for his family’s
dinner and then hired a coach and four to take it home.” I never knew a
man to succeed by practising this kind of economy.

True economy consists in always making the income exceed the out-go.
Wear the old clothes a little longer if necessary; dispense with the new
pair of gloves; mend the old dress; live on plainer food if need be; so
that under all circumstances, unless some unforeseen accident occurs,
there will be a margin in favor of the income. A penny here, and a
dollar there, placed at interest, goes on accumulating, and in this way
the desired result is attained. It requires some training, perhaps, to
accomplish this economy, but when once used to it, you will find there
is more satisfaction in rational saving, than in irrational spending.
Here is a recipe which I recommend; I have found it to work an excellent
cure for extravagance and especially for mistaken economy: When you find
that you have no surplus at the end of the year, and yet have a good
income, I advise you to take a few sheets of paper and form them into a
book and mark down every item of expenditure. Post it every day or week
in two columns, one headed “necessaries” or even “comforts,” and the
other headed “luxuries,” and you will find that the latter column will
be double, treble, and frequently ten times greater than the former. The
real comforts of life cost but a small portion of what most of us can
earn. Dr. Franklin says “it is the eyes of others and not our own eyes
which ruin us. If all the world were blind except myself I should not
care for fine clothes or furniture.” It is the fear of what Mrs. Grundy
may say that keeps the noses of many worthy families to the grindstone.
In America many persons like to repeat “we are all free and equal,” but
it is a great mistake in more senses than one.

That we are born “free and equal” is a glorious truth in one sense, yet
we are not all born equally rich, and we never shall be. One may say,
“there is a man who has an income of fifty thousand dollars per annum,
while I have but one thousand dollars; I knew that fellow when he was
poor like myself; now he is rich and thinks he is better than I am; I
will show him that I am as good as he is; I will go and buy a horse and
buggy;--no, I cannot do that but I will go and hire one and ride this
afternoon on the same road that he does, and thus prove to him that I am
as good as he is.”

My friend, you need not take that trouble, you can easily prove that you
are “as good as he is”; you have only to behave as well as he does, but
you cannot make anybody believe that you are as rich as he is. Besides,
if you put on these “airs,” and waste your time and spend your money,
your poor wife will be obliged to scrub her fingers off at home, and buy
her tea two ounces at a time, and everything else in proportion, in
order that you may keep up “appearances,” and after all, deceive nobody.
On the other hand, Mrs. Smith may say that her next-door neighbor
married Johnson for his money, and “everybody says so.” She has a nice
one thousand dollar camel’s hair shawl, and she will make Smith get her
an imitation one and she will sit in a pew right next to her neighbor in
church, in order to prove that she is her equal.

My good woman you will not get ahead in the world, if your vanity and
envy thus take the lead. In this country, where we believe the majority
ought to rule, we ignore that principle in regard to fashion, and let a
handful of people, calling themselves the aristocracy, run up a false
standard of perfection, and in endeavoring to rise to that standard, we
constantly keep ourselves poor; all the time digging away for the sake
of outside appearances. How much wiser to be a “law unto ourselves” and
say, “we will regulate our out-go by our income, and lay up something
for a rainy day.” People ought to be as sensible on the subject of
money-getting as on any other subject. Like causes produce like effects.
You cannot accumulate a fortune by taking the road that leads to
poverty. It needs no prophet to tell us that those who live fully up to
their means, without any thought of a reverse in this life, can never
attain a pecuniary independence.

Men and women accustomed to gratify every whim and caprice, will find it
hard, at first, to cut down their various unnecessary expenses, and will
feel it a great self denial to live in a smaller house than they have
been accustomed to, with less expensive furniture, less company, less
costly clothing, fewer servants, a less number of balls, parties,
theatre goings, carriage ridings, pleasure excursions, cigar smokings,
liquor drinkings, and other extravagances; but, after all, if they will
try the plan of laying by a “nest-egg,” or in other words, a small sum
of money, at interest or judiciously invested in land, they will be
surprised at the pleasure to be derived from constantly adding to their
little “pile,” as well as from all the economical habits which are
engendered by this course.

The old suit of clothes, and the old bonnet and dress, will answer for
another season; the Croton or spring water will taste better than
champagne; a cold bath and a brisk walk will prove more exhilarating
than a ride in the finest coach; a social chat, an evening’s reading in
the family circle, or an hour’s play of “hunt the slipper” and “blind
man’s buff,” will be far more pleasant than a fifty or a five hundred
dollar party, when the reflection on the difference in cost is indulged
in by those who begin to know the pleasures of saving. Thousands of men
are kept poor, and tens of thousands are made so after they have
acquired quite sufficient to support them well through life, in
consequence of laying their plans of living on too broad a platform.
Some families expend twenty thousand dollars per annum, and some much
more, and would scarcely know how to live on less, while others secure
more solid enjoyment frequently on a twentieth part of that amount.
Prosperity is a more severe ordeal than adversity, especially sudden
prosperity. “Easy come, easy go,” is an old and true proverb. A spirit
of pride and vanity, when permitted to have full sway, is the undying
canker worm which gnaws the very vitals of a man’s worldly possessions,
let them be small or great, hundreds or millions. Many persons, as they
begin to prosper, immediately expand their ideas and commence expending
for luxuries, until in a short time their expenses swallow up their
income, and they become ruined in their ridiculous attempts to keep up
appearances, and make a “sensation.”

I know a gentleman of fortune who says, that when he first began to
prosper, his wife would have a new and elegant sofa. “That sofa,” he
says, “cost me thirty thousand dollars!” When the sofa reached the
house, it was found necessary to get chairs to match; then side-boards,
carpets and tables “to correspond” with them, and so on through the
entire stock of furniture; when at last it was found that the house
itself was quite too small and old-fashioned for the furniture, and a
new one was built to correspond with the new purchases; “thus,” added my
friend, “summing up an outlay of thirty thousand dollars caused by that
single sofa, and saddling on me, in the shape of servants, equipage, and
the necessary expenses attendant upon keeping up a fine
‘establishment,’ a yearly outlay of eleven thousand dollars, and a tight
pinch at that; whereas, ten years ago, we lived with much more real
comfort, because with much less care, on as many hundreds. The truth
is,” he continued, “that sofa would have brought me to inevitable
bankruptcy, had not a most unexampled tide of prosperity kept me above
it, and had I not checked the natural desire to ‘cut a dash.’”

The foundation of success in life is good health; that is the substratum
of fortune; it is also the basis of happiness. A person cannot
accumulate a fortune very well when he is sick. He has no ambition; no
incentive; no force. Of course, there are those who have bad health and
cannot help it; you cannot expect that such persons can accumulate
wealth; but there are a great many in poor health who need not be so.

If, then, sound health is the foundation of success and happiness in
life, how important it is that we should study the laws of health, which
is but another expression for the laws of nature! The closer we keep to
the laws of nature, the nearer we are to good health, and yet how many
persons there are who pay no attention to natural laws, but absolutely
transgress them, even against their own natural inclination. We ought to
know that the “sin of ignorance” is never winked at in regard to the
violation of nature’s laws; their infraction always brings the penalty.
A child may thrust its finger into the flame without knowing it will
burn, and so suffers; repentance even will not stop the smart. Many of
our ancestors knew very little about the principle of ventilation. They
did not know much about oxygen, whatever other “gin” they might have
been acquainted with; and consequently, they built their houses with
little seven-by-nine feet bedrooms, and these good old pious Puritans
would lock themselves up in one of these cells, say their prayers, and
go to bed. In the morning they would devoutly return thanks for the
“preservation of their lives,” during the night, and nobody had better
reason to be thankful. Probably some big crack in the window, or in the
door, let in a little fresh air, and thus saved them.

Many persons knowingly violate the laws of nature against their better
impulses, for the sake of fashion. For instance, there is one thing that
nothing living except a vile worm ever naturally loved, and that is
tobacco; yet how many persons there are who deliberately train an
unnatural appetite, and overcome this implanted aversion for tobacco, to
such a degree that they get to love it. They have got hold of a
poisonous, filthy weed, or rather that takes a firm hold of them. Here
are married men who run about spitting tobacco juice on the carpet and
floors, and sometimes even upon their wives besides. They do not kick
their wives out of doors like drunken men, but their wives, I have no
doubt, often wish they were outside of the house. Another perilous
feature is that this artificial appetite, like jealousy, “grows by what
it feeds on”; when you love that which is unnatural, a stronger appetite
is created for the hurtful thing than the natural desire for what is
harmless. There is an old proverb which says that “habit is second
nature,” but an artificial habit is stronger than nature. Take for
instance an old tobacco-chewer; his love for the “quid” is stronger than
his love for any particular kind of food. He can give up roast beef
easier than give up the weed.

Young lads regret that they are not men; they would like to go to bed
boys and wake up men; and to accomplish this they copy the bad habits of
their seniors. Little Tommy and Johnny see their fathers or uncles smoke
a pipe and they say, “If I could only do that I would be a man too;
uncle John has gone out and left his pipe of tobacco, let us try it.”
They take a match and light it, and then puff away. “We will learn to
smoke; do you like it Johnny?” That lad dolefully replies: “Not very
much; it tastes bitter”; by and by he grows pale, but he persists, and
he soon offers up a sacrifice on the altar of fashion; but the boys
stick to it and persevere until at last they conquer their natural
appetites and become the victims of acquired tastes.

I speak “by the book,” for I have noticed its effects on myself, having
gone so far as to smoke ten or fifteen cigars a day, although I have not
used the weed during the last fourteen years, and never shall again. The
more a man smokes, the more he craves smoking; the last cigar smoked,
simply excites the desire for another, and so on incessantly.

Take the tobacco-chewer. In the morning when he gets up, he puts a quid
in his mouth and keeps it there all day, never taking it out except to
exchange it for a fresh one, or when he is going to eat; oh! yes, at
intervals during the day and evening, many a chewer takes out the quid
and holds it in his hand long enough to take a drink, and then pop it
goes back again. This simply proves that the appetite for rum is even
stronger than that for tobacco. When the tobacco chewer goes to your
country seat and you show him your grapery and fruit house and the
beauties of your garden, when you offer him some fresh, ripe fruit, and
say, “My friend, I have got here the most delicious apples and pears
and peaches and apricots; I have imported them from Spain, France and
Italy,--just see those luscious grapes; there is nothing more delicious
nor more healthy than ripe fruit, so help yourself; I want to see you
delight yourself with these things,” he will roll the dear quid under
his tongue and answer, “No, I thank you, I have got tobacco in my
mouth.” His palate has become narcotized by the noxious weed, and he has
lost, in a great measure, the delicate and enviable taste for fruits.
This shows what expensive, useless and injurious habits men will get
into. I speak from experience. I have smoked until I trembled like an
aspen leaf, the blood rushed to my head, and I had a palpitation of the
heart which I thought was heart disease, till I was almost killed with
fright. When I consulted my physician, he said “break off tobacco
using.” I was not only injuring my health and spending a great deal of
money, but I was setting a bad example. I obeyed his counsel. No young
man in the world ever looked so beautiful, as he thought he did, behind
a fifteen cent cigar or a meerschaum!

These remarks apply with ten-fold force to the use of intoxicating
drinks. To make money, requires a clear brain. A man has got to see that
two and two make four; he must lay all his plans with reflection and
forethought, and closely examine all the details and the ins and outs of
business. As no man can succeed in business unless he has a brain to
enable him to lay his plans, and reason to guide him in their execution,
so, no matter how bountifully a man may be blessed with intelligence, if
the brain is muddled, and his judgment warped by intoxicating drinks, it
is impossible for him to carry on business successfully. How many good
opportunities have passed, never to return, while a man was sipping a
“social glass,” with his friend! How many foolish bargains have been
made under the influence of the “nervine,” which temporarily makes its
victim think he is rich. How many important chances have been put off
until to-morrow, and then forever, because the wine cup has thrown the
system into a state of lassitude, neutralizing the energies so essential
to success in business. Verily “wine is a mocker.” The use of
intoxicating drinks as a beverage, is as much an infatuation, as is the
smoking of opium by the Chinese, and the former is quite as destructive
to the success of the business man as the latter. It is an unmitigated
evil, utterly indefensible in the light of philosophy, religion, or good
sense. It is the parent of nearly every other evil in our country.

DON’T MISTAKE YOUR VOCATION.--The safest plan, and the one most sure of
success for the young man starting in life, is to select the vocation
which is most congenial to his tastes. Parents and guardians are often
quite too negligent in regard to this. It is very common for a father to
say, for example: “I have five boys. I will make Billy a clergyman; John
a lawyer; Tom a doctor, and Dick a farmer.” He then goes into town and
looks about to see what he will do with Sammy. He returns home and says
“Sammy, I see watch-making is a nice, genteel business; I think I will
make you a goldsmith.” He does this regardless of Sam’s natural
inclinations, or genius.

We are all, no doubt, born for a wise purpose. There is as much
diversity in our brains as in our countenances. Some are born natural
mechanics, while some have great aversion to machinery. Let a dozen
boys of ten years get together and you will soon observe two or three
are “whittling” out some ingenious device; working with locks or
complicated machinery. When they were but five years old, their father
could find no toy to please them like a puzzle. They are natural
mechanics; but the other eight or nine boys have different aptitudes. I
belong to the latter class; I never had the slightest love for
mechanism; on the contrary, I have a sort of abhorrence for complicated
machinery. I never had ingenuity enough to whittle a cider tap so it
would not leak. I never could make a pen that I could write with, or
understand the principle of a steam engine. If a man was to take such a
boy as I was and attempt to make a watchmaker of him, the boy might,
after an apprenticeship of five or seven years, be able to take apart
and put together a watch; but all through life he would be working up
hill and seizing every excuse for leaving his work and idling away his
time. Watch making is repulsive to him.

Unless a man enters upon the vocation intended for him by nature, and
best suited to his peculiar genius, he cannot succeed. I am glad to
believe that the majority of persons do find the right vocation. Yet we
see many who have mistaken their calling, from the blacksmith up (or
down) to the clergyman. You will see for instance, that extraordinary
linguist the “learned blacksmith,” who ought to have been a teacher of
languages; and you may have seen lawyers, doctors and clergymen who were
better fitted by nature for the anvil or the lapstone.

SELECT THE RIGHT LOCATION.--After securing the right vocation, you must
be careful to select the proper location. You may have been cut out for
a hotel keeper, and they say it requires a genius to “know how to keep a
hotel.” You might conduct a hotel like clockwork, and provide
satisfactorily for five hundred guests every day; yet, if you should
locate your house in a small village where there is no railroad
communication or public travel, the location would be your ruin. It is
equally important that you do not commence business where there are
already enough to meet all demands in the same occupation. I remember a
case which illustrates this subject. When I was in London in 1858, I was
passing down Holborn with an English friend and came to the “penny
shows.” They had immense cartoons outside, portraying the wonderful
curiosities to be seen “all for a penny.” Being a little in the “show
line” myself, I said “let us go in here.” We soon found ourselves in the
presence of the illustrious showman, and he proved to be the sharpest
man in that line I had ever met. He told us some extraordinary stories
in reference to his bearded ladies, his Albinos, and his Armadillos,
which we could hardly believe, but thought it “better to believe it than
look after the proof.” He finally begged to call our attention to some
wax statuary, and showed us a lot of the dirtiest and filthiest wax
figures imaginable. They looked as if they had not seen water since the

“What is there so wonderful about your statuary?” I asked.

“I beg you not to speak so satirically,” he replied, “Sir, these are not
Madam Tussaud’s wax figures, all covered with gilt and tinsel and
imitation diamonds, and copied from engravings and photographs. Mine,
sir, were taken from life. Whenever you look upon one of those figures,
you may consider that you are looking upon the living individual.”

Glancing casually at them, I saw one labelled “Henry VIII.,” and feeling
a little curious upon seeing that it looked like Calvin Edson, the
living skeleton, I said:

“Do you call that ‘Henry the Eighth’?”

He replied, “Certainly, sir; it was taken from life at Hampton Court by
special order of his majesty, on such a day.”

He would have given the hour of the day if I had insisted; I said
“everybody knows that ‘Henry VIII,’ was a great stout old king, and that
figure is lean and lank; what do you say to that?”

“Why,” he replied, “you would be lean and lank yourself, if you sat
there as long as he has.”

There was no resisting such arguments. I said to my English friend, “Let
us go out; do not tell him who I am; I show the white feather; he beats

He followed us to the door, and seeing the rabble in the street he
called out, “ladies and gentlemen, I beg to draw your attention to the
respectable character of my visitors,” pointing to us as we walked away.
I called upon him a couple of days afterwards; told him who I was, and

“My friend, you are an excellent showman, but you have selected a bad

He replied, “This is true, sir; I feel that all my talents are thrown
away; but what can I do?”

“You can go to America,” I replied. “You can give full play to your
faculties over there; you will find plenty of elbow room in America; I
will engage you for two years; after that you will be able to go on your
own account.”

He accepted my offer and remained two years in my New York Museum. He
then went to New Orleans and carried on a travelling show business
during the summer. To-day he is worth sixty thousand dollars, simply
because he selected the right vocation and also secured the proper
location. The old proverb says, “Three removes are as bad as a fire,”
but when a man is in the fire, it matters but little how soon or how
often he removes.

AVOID DEBT.--Young men starting in life should avoid running into debt.
There is scarcely anything that drags a person down like debt. It is a
slavish position to get in, yet we find many a young man hardly out of
his “teens” running in debt. He meets a chum and says, “Look at this; I
have got trusted for a new suit of clothes.” He seems to look upon the
clothes as so much given to him; well, it frequently is so, but, if he
succeeds in paying and then gets trusted again, he is adopting a habit
which will keep him in poverty through life. Debt robs a man of his self
respect, and makes him almost despise himself. Grunting and groaning and
working for what he has eaten up or worn out, and now when he is called
upon to pay up, he has nothing to show for his money; this is properly
termed “working for a dead horse.” I do not speak of merchants buying
and selling on credit, or of those who buy on credit in order to turn
the purchase to a profit. The old Quaker said to his farmer son, “John,
never get trusted; but if thee gets trusted for anything, let it be for
‘manure,’ because that will help thee pay it back again.”

Mr. Beecher advised young men to get in debt if they could to a small
amount in the purchase of land in the country districts. “If a young
man,” he says, “will only get in debt for some land and then get
married, these two things will keep him straight, or nothing will.” This
may be safe to a limited extent, but getting in debt for what you eat
and drink and wear is to be avoided. Some families have a foolish habit
of getting credit at “the stores,” and thus frequently purchase many
things which might have been dispensed with.

It is all very well to say, “I have got trusted for sixty days, and if I
don’t have the money, the creditor will think nothing about it.” There
is no class of people in the world who have such good memories as
creditors. When the sixty days run out, you will have to pay. If you do
not pay, you will break your promise and probably resort to a falsehood.
You may make some excuse or get in debt elsewhere to pay it, but that
only involves you the deeper.

A good looking, lazy young fellow, was the apprentice boy Horatio. His
employer said, “Horatio, did you ever see a snail?” “I--think--I--have,”
he drawled out. “You must have met him then, for I am sure you never
overtook one,” said the “boss.” Your creditor will meet you or overtake
you and say, “Now, my young friend, you agreed to pay me; you have not
done it, you must give me your note.” You give the note on interest and
it commences working against you; “it is a dead horse.” The creditor
goes to bed at night and wakes up in the morning better off than when he
retired to bed because his interest has increased during the night, but
you grow poorer while you are sleeping, for the interest is accumulating
against you.

Money is in some respects like fire--it is a very excellent servant but
a terrible master. When you have it mastering you, when interest is
constantly piling up against you, it will keep you down in the worst
kind of slavery. But let money work for you, and you have the most
devoted servant in the world. It is no “eye-servant.” There is nothing
animate or inanimate that will work so faithfully as money when placed
at interest, well secured. It works night and day, and in wet or dry

I was born in the blue law State of Connecticut, where the old Puritans
had laws so rigid that it was said, “they fined a man for kissing his
wife on Sunday.” Yet these rich old Puritans would have thousands of
dollars at interest, and on Saturday night would be worth a certain
amount; on Sunday they would go to church and perform all the duties of
a Christian. On waking up on Monday morning, they would find themselves
considerably richer than the Saturday night previous, simply because
their money placed at interest had worked faithfully for them all day
Sunday, according to law!

Do not let it work against you; If you do, there is no chance for
success in life so far as money is concerned. John Randolph, the
eccentric Virginian, once exclaimed in Congress, “Mr. Speaker, I have
discovered the philosopher’s stone: pay as you go.” This is indeed
nearer to the philosopher’s stone than any alchemist has ever yet

PERSEVERE.--When a man is in the right path, he must persevere. I speak
of this because there are some persons who are “born tired”; naturally
lazy and possessing no self reliance and no perseverance. But, they can
cultivate these qualities, as Davy Crockett said:

    “This thing remember, when I am dead,
     Be sure you are right, then go ahead.”

It is this go-aheaditiveness, this determination not to let the
“horrors” or the “blues” take possession of you, so as to make you relax
your energies in the struggle for independence, which you must

How many have almost reached the goal of their ambition, but losing
faith in themselves have relaxed their energies, and the golden prize
has been lost forever.

It is, no doubt, often true, as Shakespeare says:

    “There is a tide in the affairs of men,
     Which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune.”

If you hesitate, some bolder hand will stretch out before you and get
the prize. Remember the proverb of Solomon: “He becometh poor that
dealeth with a slack hand; but the hand of the diligent maketh rich.”

Perseverance is sometimes but another word for self-reliance. Many
persons naturally look on the dark side of life, and borrow trouble.
They are born so. Then they ask for advice, and they will be governed by
one wind and blown by another, and cannot rely upon themselves. Until
you get so that you can rely upon yourself, you need not expect to
succeed. I have known men personally who have met with pecuniary
reverses, and absolutely committed suicide, because they thought they
could never overcome their misfortune. But I have known others who have
met more serious financial difficulties, and have bridged them over by
simple perseverance, aided by a firm belief that they were doing justly,
and that Providence would “overcome evil with good.” You will see this
illustrated in any sphere of life.

Take two Generals; both understand military tactics, both educated at
West Point, if you please, both equally gifted; yet one, having this
principle of perseverance, and the other lacking it, the former will
succeed in his profession, while the latter will fail. One may hear the
cry, “the enemy are coming, and they have got cannon.”

“Got cannon?” says the hesitating General.


“Then halt every man.”

He wants time to reflect; his hesitation is his ruin. The enemy passes
unmolested, or overwhelms him. The General of pluck, perseverance and
self reliance goes into battle with a will, and amid the clash of arms,
the booming of cannon, and the shrieks of the wounded and dying, you
will see this man persevering, going on, cutting and slashing his way
through with unwavering determination, and if you are near enough, you
will hear him shout, “I will fight it out on this line if it takes all

WHATEVER YOU DO, DO WITH ALL YOUR MIGHT.--Work at it, if necessary,
early and late, in season and out of season, not leaving a stone
unturned, and never deferring for a single hour that which can be done
just as well _now_. The old proverb is full of truth and meaning,
“Whatever is worth doing at all, is worth doing well.” Many a man
acquires a fortune by doing his business thoroughly, while his neighbor
remains poor for life because he only half does it. Ambition, energy,
industry, perseverance, are indispensable requisites for success in

Fortune always favors the brave, and never helps a man who does not help
himself. It won’t do to spend your time like Mr. Micawber, in waiting
for something to “turn up.” To such men one of two things usually “turns
up”: the poor-house or the jail; for idleness breeds bad habits, and
clothes a man in rags. The poor spendthrift vagabond said to a rich man:

“I have discovered there is money enough in the world for all of us, if
it was equally divided; this must be done, and we shall all be happy

“But,” was the response, “if everybody was like you, it would be spent
in two months, and what would you do then?”

“Oh! divide again; keep dividing, of course!”

I was recently reading in a London paper an account of a like
philosophic pauper who was kicked out of a cheap boarding-house because
he could not pay his bill, but he had a roll of papers sticking out of
his coat pocket, which, upon examination, proved to be his plan for
paying off the national debt of England without the aid of a penny.
People have got to do as Cromwell said: “not only trust in Providence,
but keep the powder dry.” Do your part of the work, or you cannot
succeed. Mahomet, one night, while encamping in the desert, overheard
one of his fatigued followers remark: “I will loose my camel, and trust
it to God.” “No, no, not so,” said the prophet, “tie thy camel, and
trust it to God!” Do all you can for yourselves, and then trust to
Providence, or luck, or whatever you please to call it, for the rest.

often worth more than the hands of a dozen employees. In the nature of
things, an agent cannot be so faithful to his employer as to himself.
Many who are employers will call to mind instances where the best
employees have overlooked important points which could not have escaped
their own observation as a proprietor. No man has a right to expect to
succeed in life unless he understands his business, and nobody can
understand his business thoroughly unless he learns it by personal
application and experience. A man may be a manufacturer; he has got to
learn the many details of his business personally; he will learn
something every day, and he will find he will make mistakes nearly every
day. And these very mistakes are helps to him in the way of experiences
if he but heeds them. He will be like the Yankee tin-peddler, who,
having been cheated as to quality in the purchase of his merchandise,
said: “All right, there’s a little information to be gained every day; I
will never be cheated in that way again.” Thus a man buys his
experience, and it is the best kind if not purchased at too dear a rate.

I hold that every man should, like Cuvier, the French naturalist,
thoroughly know his business. So proficient was he in the study of
natural history, that you might bring to him the bone or even a section
of a bone of an animal which he had never seen described, and reasoning
from analogy, he would be able to draw a picture of the object from
which the bone had been taken. On one occasion his students attempted to
deceive him. They rolled one of their number in a cow skin and put him
under the Professor’s table as a new specimen. When the philosopher came
into the room, some of the students asked him what animal it was.
Suddenly the animal said “I am the devil and I am going to eat you.” It
was but natural that Cuvier should desire to classify this creature, and
examining it intently, he said, “Divided hoof; graminivorous! it cannot
be done.”

He knew that an animal with a split hoof must live upon grass and grain,
or other kind of vegetation, and would not be inclined to eat flesh,
dead or alive, so he considered himself perfectly safe. The possession
of a perfect knowledge of your business is an absolute necessity in
order to insure success.

Among the maxims of the elder Rothschild was one, an apparent paradox:
“Be cautious and bold.” This seems to be a contradiction in terms, but
it is not, and there is great wisdom in the maxim. It is, in fact, a
condensed statement of what I have already said. It is to say, “you must
exercise your caution in laying your plans, but be bold in carrying them
out.” A man who is all caution, will never dare to take hold and be
successful; and a man who is all boldness, is merely reckless, and must
eventually fail. A man may go on “‘change” and make fifty or one hundred
thousand dollars in speculating in stocks, at a single operation. But if
he has simple boldness without caution, it is mere chance, and what he
gains to-day he will lose to-morrow. You must have both the caution and
the boldness, to insure success.

The Rothschilds have another maxim: “Never have anything to do with an
unlucky man or place.” That is to say, never have anything to do with a
man or place which never succeeds, because, although a man may appear to
be honest and intelligent, yet if he tries this or that thing and always
fails, it is on account of some fault or infirmity that you may not be
able to discover, but nevertheless which must exist.

There is no such thing in the world as luck. There never was a man who
could go out in the morning and find a purse full of gold in the street
to-day, and another to-morrow, and so on, day after day. He may do so
once in his life; but so far as mere luck is concerned, he is as liable
to lose it as to find it. “Like causes produce like effects.” If a man
adopts the proper methods to be successful, “luck” will not prevent him.
If he does not succeed, there are reasons for it, although perhaps, he
may not be able to see them.

USE THE BEST TOOLS.--Men in engaging employees should be careful to get
the best. Understand, you cannot have too good tools to work with, and
there is no tool you should be so particular about as living tools. If
you get a good one, it is better to keep him, than keep changing. He
learns something every day, and you are benefited by the experience he
acquires. He is worth more to you this year than last, and he is the
last man to part with, provided his habits are good and he continues
faithful. If, as he gets more valuable, he demands an exorbitant
increase of salary on the supposition that you can’t do without him, let
him go. Whenever I have such an employee, I always discharge him; first,
to convince him that his place may be supplied, and second, because he
is good for nothing if he thinks he is invaluable and cannot be spared.

But I would keep him, if possible, in order to profit from the result of
his experience. An important element in an employee is the brain. You
can see bills up, “Hands Wanted,” but “hands” are not worth a great deal
without “heads.” Mr. Beecher illustrates this, in this wise:

An employee offers his services by saying, “I have a pair of hands and
one of my fingers thinks.” “That is very good,” says the employer.
Another man comes along, and says “he has two fingers that think.” “Ah!
that is better.” But a third calls in and says that “all his fingers and
thumbs think.” That is better still. Finally another steps in, and says,
“I have a brain that thinks; I think all over; I am a thinking as well
as a working man!” “You are the man I want,” says the delighted

Those men who have brains and experience are therefore the most valuable
and not to be readily parted with; it is better for them, as well as
yourself, to keep them, at reasonable advances in their salaries from
time to time.

DON’T GET ABOVE YOUR BUSINESS.--Young men after they get through their
business training, or apprenticeship, instead of pursuing their
avocation and rising in their business, will often lie about doing
nothing. They say, “I have learned my business, but I am not going to be
a hireling; what is the object of learning my trade or profession,
unless I establish myself?”

“Have you capital to start with?”

“No, but I am going to have it.”

“How are you going to get it?”

“I will tell you confidentially; I have a wealthy old aunt, and she will
die pretty soon; but if she does not, I expect to find some rich old man
who will lend me a few thousands to give me a start. If I only get the
money to start with I will do well.”

There is no greater mistake than when a young man believes he will
succeed with borrowed money. Why? Because every man’s experience
coincides with that of Mr. Astor, who said, ‘it was more difficult for
him to accumulate his first thousand dollars, than all the succeeding
millions that made up his colossal fortune.’ Money is good for nothing
unless you know the value of it by experience. Give a boy twenty
thousand dollars and put him in business and the chances are that he
will lose every dollar of it before he is a year older. Like buying a
ticket in the lottery, and drawing a prize, it is “easy come, easy go.”
He does not know the value of it; nothing is worth anything, unless it
costs effort. Without self denial and economy, patience and
perseverance, and commencing with capital which you have not earned, you
are not sure to succeed in accumulating. Young men instead of “waiting
for dead men’s shoes” should be up and doing, for there is no class of
persons who are so unaccommodating in regard to dying as these rich old
people, and it is fortunate for the expectant heirs that it is so. Nine
out of ten of the rich men of our country to-day, started out in life as
poor boys, with determined wills, industry, perseverance, economy and
good habits. They went on gradually, made their own money and saved it;
and this is the best way to acquire a fortune. Stephen Girard started
life as a poor cabin boy, and died worth nine million dollars. A. T.
Stewart was a poor Irish boy; now he pays taxes on a million and a half
dollars of income, per year. John Jacob Astor was a poor farmer boy, and
died worth twenty millions. Cornelius Vanderbilt began life rowing a
boat from Staten Island to New York; now he presents our government with
a steamship worth a million of dollars, and he is worth fifty millions.

“There is no royal road to learning,” says the proverb, and I may say it
is equally true, “there is no royal road to wealth.” But I think there
is a royal road to both. The road to learning is a royal one; the road
that enables the student to expand his intellect and add every day to
his stock of knowledge, until, in the pleasant process of intellectual
growth, he is able to solve the most profound problems, to count the
stars, to analyze every atom of the globe, and to measure the
firmament--this is a regal highway, and it is the only road worth

So in regard to wealth. Go on in confidence, study the rules, and above
all things, study human nature; for “the proper study of mankind is
man,” and you will find that while expanding the intellect and the
muscles, your enlarged experience will enable you every day to
accumulate more and more principal, which will increase itself by
interest and otherwise, until you arrive at a state of independence. You
will find, as a general thing, that the poor boys get rich and the rich
boys get poor. For instance, a rich man at his decease, leaves a large
estate to his family. His eldest sons, who have helped him earn his
fortune, know by experience the value of money, and they take their
inheritance and add to it. The separate portions of the young children
are placed at interest, and the little fellows are patted on the head,
and told a dozen times a day, “you are rich; you will never have to
work, you can always have whatever you wish, for you were born with a
golden spoon in your mouth.” The young heir soon finds out what that
means; he has the finest dresses and playthings; he is crammed with
sugar candies and almost “killed with kindness,” and he passes from
school to school, petted and flattered. He becomes arrogant and
self-conceited, abuses his teachers, and carries everything with a high
hand. He knows nothing of the real value of money, having never earned
any; but he knows all about the “golden spoon” business. At college, he
invites his poor fellow-students to his room where he “wines and dines”
them. He is cajoled and caressed, and called a glorious good fellow,
because he is so lavish of his money. He gives his game suppers, drives
his fast horses, invites his chums to fêtes and parties, determined to
have lots of “good times.” He spends the night in frolics and
debauchery, and leads off his companions with the familiar song, “we
won’t go home till morning.” He gets them to join him in pulling down
signs, taking gates from their hinges and throwing them into back yards
and horse-ponds. If the police arrest them, he knocks them down, is
taken to the lock-up, and joyfully foots the bills.

“Ah! my boys,” he cries, “what is the use of being rich, if you can’t
enjoy yourself?”

He might more truly say, “if you can’t make a fool of yourself”; but he
is “fast,” hates slow things, and don’t “see it.” Young men loaded down
with other people’s money are almost sure to lose all they inherit, and
they acquire all sorts of bad habits which, in the majority of cases,
ruins them in health, purse and character. In this country, one
generation follows another, and the poor of to-day are rich in the next
generation, or the third. Their experience leads them on, and they
become rich, and they leave vast riches to their young children. These
children, having been reared in luxury, are inexperienced and get poor;
and after long experience another generation comes on and gathers up
riches again in turn. And thus “history repeats itself,” and happy is he
who by listening to the experience of others avoids the rocks and shoals
on which so many have been wrecked.

LEARN SOMETHING USEFUL.--Every man should make his son or daughter learn
some trade or profession, so that in these days of changing fortunes--of
being rich to-day and poor to-morrow,--they may have something tangible
to fall back upon. This provision might save many persons from misery,
who by some unexpected turn of fortune have lost all their means.

kept poor, because they are too visionary. Every project looks to them
like certain success, and therefore they keep changing from one business
to another, always in hot water, always “under the harrow.” The plan of
“counting the chickens before they are hatched” is an error of ancient
date, but it does not seem to improve by age.

DO NOT SCATTER YOUR POWERS.--Engage in one kind of business only, and
stick to it faithfully until you succeed, or until your experience shows
that you should abandon it. A constant hammering on one nail will
generally drive it home at last, so that it can be clinched. When a
man’s undivided attention is centred on one object, his mind will
constantly be suggesting improvements of value, which would escape him
if his brain was occupied by a dozen different subjects at once. Many a
fortune has slipped through a man’s fingers because he was engaging in
too many occupations at a time. There is good sense in the old caution
against having too many irons in the fire at once.

BE SYSTEMATIC.--Men should be systematic in their business. A person who
does business by rule, having a time and place for everything, doing his
work promptly, will accomplish twice as much and with half the trouble
of him who does it carelessly and slipshod. By introducing system into
all your transactions, doing one thing at a time, always meeting
appointments with punctuality, you find leisure for pastime and
recreation; whereas the man who only half does one thing, and then turns
to something else and half does that, will have his business at loose
ends, and will never know when his day’s work is done, for it never will
be done. Of course there is a limit to all these rules. We must try to
preserve the happy medium, for there is such a thing as being too
systematic. There are men and women, for instance, who put away things
so carefully that they can never find them again. It is too much like
the “red tape” formality at Washington and Mr. Dickens’ “Circumlocution
Office,”--all theory and no result.

When the “Astor House” was first started in New York City, it was
undoubtedly the best hotel in the country. The proprietors had learned a
good deal in Europe regarding hotels, and the landlords were proud of
the rigid system which pervaded every department of their great
establishment. When twelve o’clock at night had arrived and there were a
number of guests around, one of the proprietors would say, “Touch that
bell, John”; and in two minutes sixty servants with a water bucket in
each hand, would present themselves in the hall. “This,” said the
landlord, addressing his guests, “is our fire bell; it will show you we
are quite safe here; we do everything systematically.” This was before
the Croton water was introduced into the city. But they sometimes
carried their system too far. On one occasion when the hotel was
thronged with guests, one of the waiters was suddenly indisposed, and
although there were fifty waiters in the hotel, the landlord thought he
must have his full complement, or his “system” would be interfered with.
Just before dinner time he rushed down stairs and said, “There must be
another waiter, I am one waiter short, what can I do?” He happened to
see “Boots” the Irishman. “Pat,” said he, “wash your hands and face;
take that white apron and come into the dining room in five minutes.”
Presently Pat appeared as required, and the proprietor said: “Now Pat,
you must stand behind these two chairs and wait on the gentlemen who
will occupy them; did you ever act as a waiter?”

“I know all about it sure, but I never did it.”

Like the Irish pilot, on one occasion when the captain, thinking he was
considerably out of his course, asked, “Are you certain you understand
what you are doing?”

Pat replied, “Sure and I knows every rock in the channel.”

That moment “bang” thumped the vessel against a rock.

“Ah! be jabers, and that is one of ’em,” continued the pilot. But to
return to the dining-room. “Pat,” said the landlord, “here we do
everything systematically. You must first give the gentlemen each a
plate of soup, and when they finish that, ask them what they will have

Pat replied, “Ah! an’ I understand parfectly the vartues of shystem.”

Very soon in came the guests. The plates of soup were placed before
them. One of Pat’s two gentlemen ate his soup, the other did not care
for it. He said “Waiter, take this plate away and bring me some fish.”
Pat looked at the untasted plate of soup, and remembering the
injunctions of the landlord in regard to “system,” replied:

“Not till ye have ate yer supe!”

Of course that was carrying “system” entirely too far.

READ THE NEWSPAPERS.--Always take a trustworthy newspaper and thus keep
thoroughly posted in regard to the transactions of the world. He who is
without a newspaper is cut off from his species. In these days of
telegraphs and steam, many important inventions and improvements in
every branch of trade are being made, and he who don’t consult the
newspapers will soon find himself and his business left out in the cold.

BEWARE OF “OUTSIDE OPERATIONS.”--We sometimes see men who have obtained
fortunes, suddenly become poor. In many cases this arises from
intemperance, and often from gaming, and other bad habits. Frequently it
occurs because a man has been engaged in “outside operations,” of some
sort. When he gets rich in his legitimate business, he is told of a
grand speculation where he can make a score of thousands. He is
constantly flattered by his friends, who tell him that he is born lucky,
that everything he touches turns into gold. Now if he forgets that his
economical habits, his rectitude of conduct and a personal attention to
a business which he understood, caused his success in life, he will
listen to the syren voices. He says:

“I will put in twenty thousand dollars. I have been lucky, and my good
luck will soon bring me back sixty thousand dollars.”

A few days elapse and it is discovered he must put in ten thousand
dollars more; soon after he is told “it is all right,” but certain
matters not foreseen require an advance of twenty thousand dollars
more, which will bring him a rich harvest; but before the time comes
around to realize, the bubble bursts, he loses all he is possessed of,
and then he learns what he ought to have known at the first, that
however successful a man may be in his own business, if he turns from
that and engages in a business which he don’t understand he is like
Sampson when shorn of his locks,--his strength has departed, and he
becomes like other men.

If a man has plenty of money he ought to invest something in everything
that appears to promise success and that will probably benefit mankind;
but let the sums thus invested be moderate in amount, and never let a
man foolishly jeopardize a fortune that he has earned in a legitimate
way, by investing it in things in which he has had no experience.

DON’T INDORSE WITHOUT SECURITY.--I hold that no man ought ever to
indorse a note or become security for any man, be it his father or
brother, to a greater extent than he can afford to lose and care nothing
about, without taking good security. Here is a man that is worth twenty
thousand dollars; he is doing a thriving manufacturing or mercantile
trade; you are retired and living on your money; he comes to you and

“You are aware that I am worth twenty thousand dollars, and don’t owe a
dollar; if I had five thousand dollars in cash, I could purchase a
particular lot of goods and double my money in a couple of months; will
you indorse my note for that amount?”

You reflect that he is worth twenty thousand dollars, and you incur no
risk by indorsing his note; you like to accommodate him, and you lend
your name without taking the precaution of getting security. Shortly
after, he shows you the note with your indorsement cancelled, and tells
you, probably truly, “that he made the profit that he expected by the
operation,” you reflect that you have done a good action, and the
thought makes you feel happy. By and by, the same thing occurs again,
and you do it again; you have already fixed the impression in your mind
that it is perfectly safe to indorse his notes without security.

But the trouble is, this man is getting money too easily. He has only to
take your note to the bank, get it discounted and take the cash. He gets
money for the time being without effort; without inconvenience to
himself. Now mark the result. He sees a chance for speculation outside
of his business. A temporary investment of only $10,000 is required. It
is sure to come back before a note at the bank would be due. He places a
note for that amount before you. You sign it almost mechanically. Being
firmly convinced that your friend is responsible and trustworthy, you
indorse his notes as “a matter of course.”

Unfortunately the speculation does not come to a head quite so soon as
was expected, and another $10,000 note must be discounted to take up the
last one when due. Before this note matures the speculation has proved
an utter failure and all the money is lost. Does the loser tell his
friend, the indorser, that he has lost half of his fortune? Not at all.
He don’t even mention that he has speculated at all. But he has got
excited; the spirit of speculation has seized him; he sees others making
large sums in this way (we seldom hear of the losers), and like other
speculators, he “looks for his money where he loses it.” He tries again.
Indorsing his notes has become chronic with you, and at every loss he
gets your signature for whatever amount he wants. Finally you discover
your friend has lost all of his property and all of yours. You are
overwhelmed with astonishment and grief, and you say “it is a hard
thing, my friend here has ruined me,” but, you should add, “I have also
ruined him.” If you had said in the first place, “I will accommodate
you, but I never indorse without taking ample security,” he could not
have gone beyond the length of his tether and he would never have been
tempted away from his legitimate business. It is a very dangerous thing,
therefore, at any time, to let people get possession of money too
easily; it tempts them to hazardous speculations, if nothing more.
Solomon truly said “he that hateth suretiship is sure.”

So with the young man starting in business; let him understand the value
of money by earning it. When he does understand its value, then grease
the wheels a little in helping him to start business, but remember men
who get money with too great facility cannot usually succeed. You must
get the first dollars by hard knocks, and at some sacrifice, in order to
appreciate the value of those dollars.

ADVERTISE YOUR BUSINESS.--We all depend, more or less, upon the public
for our support. We all trade with the public,--lawyers, doctors,
shoemakers, artists, blacksmiths, showmen, opera singers, railroad
presidents, and college professors. Those who deal with the public must
be careful that their goods are valuable; that they are genuine, and
will give satisfaction. When you get an article which you know is going
to please your customers, and that when they have tried it, they will
feel they have got their money’s worth, then let the fact be known that
you have got it. Be careful to advertise it in some shape or other,
because it is evident that if a man has ever so good an article for
sale, and nobody knows it, it will bring him no return. In a country
like this, where nearly everybody reads, and where newspapers are issued
and circulated in editions of five thousand to two hundred thousand, it
would be very unwise if this channel was not taken advantage of to reach
the public in advertising. A newspaper goes into the family and is read
by wife and children, as well as the head of the house; hence hundreds
and thousands of people may read your advertisement, while you are
attending to your routine business. Many, perhaps, read it while you are
asleep. The whole philosophy of life is, first “sow,” then “reap.” That
is the way the farmer does; he plants his potatoes and corn, and sows
his grain, and then goes about something else, and the time comes when
he reaps. But he never reaps first and sows afterwards. This principle
applies to all kinds of business, and to nothing more eminently than to
advertising. If a man has a genuine article, there is no way in which he
can reap more advantageously than by “sowing” to the public in this way.
He must, of course, have a really good article, and one which will
please his customers; anything spurious will not succeed permanently,
because the public is wiser than many imagine. Men and women are
selfish, and we all prefer purchasing where we can get the most for our
money; and we try to find out where we can most surely do so.

You may advertise a spurious article, and induce many people to call and
buy it once, but they will denounce you as an imposter and swindler, and
your business will gradually die out, and leave you poor. This is
right. Few people can safely depend upon chance custom. You all need to
have your customers return and purchase again. A man said to me, “I have
tried advertising, and did not succeed; yet I have a good article.”

I replied, “My friend, there may be exceptions to a general rule. But
how do you advertise?”

“I put it in a weekly newspaper three times, and paid a dollar and a
half for it.”

I replied: “Sir, advertising is like learning--‘a little is a dangerous

A French writer says that “The reader of a newspaper does not see the
first insertion of an ordinary advertisement; the second insertion he
sees, but does not read; the third insertion he reads; the fourth
insertion, he looks at the price; the fifth insertion, he speaks of it
to his wife; the sixth insertion, he is ready to purchase, and the
seventh insertion, he purchases.” Your object in advertising is to make
the public understand what you have got to sell, and if you have not the
pluck to keep advertising, until you have imparted that information, all
the money you have spent is lost. You are like the fellow who told the
gentleman if he would give him ten cents it would save him a dollar.
“How can I help you so much with so small a sum?” asked the gentleman in
surprise. “I started out this morning (hiccupped the fellow) with the
full determination to get drunk, and I have spent my only dollar to
accomplish the object, and it has not quite done it. Ten cents worth
more of whiskey would just do it, and in this manner I should save the
dollar already expended.”

So a man who advertises at all must keep it up until the public know who
and what he is, and what his business is, or else the money invested in
advertising is lost.

Some men have a peculiar genius for writing a striking advertisement,
one that will arrest the attention of the reader at first sight. This
tact, of course, gives the advertiser a great advantage. Sometimes a man
makes himself popular by an unique sign or a curious display in his
window. Recently I observed a swing sign extending over the sidewalk in
front of a store, on which was the inscription, in plain letters,


Of course I did, and so did everybody else, and I learned that the man
had made an independence by first attracting the public to his business
in that way and then using his customers well afterwards.

Genin, the hatter, bought the first Jenny Lind ticket at auction for two
hundred and twenty-five dollars, because he knew it would be a good
advertisement for him. “Who is the bidder?” said the auctioneer, as he
knocked down that ticket at Castle Garden. “Genin, the hatter,” was the
response. Here were thousands of people from the Fifth Avenue, and from
distant cities in the highest stations in life. “Who is ‘Genin,’ the
hatter?” they exclaimed. They had never heard of him before. The next
morning the newspapers and telegraph had circulated the facts from Maine
to Texas, and from five to ten millions of people had read that the
tickets sold at auction for Jenny Lind’s first concert amounted to about
twenty thousand dollars, and that a single ticket was sold at two
hundred and twenty-five dollars, to “Genin, the hatter.” Men throughout
the country involuntarily took off their hats to see if they had a
“Genin” hat on their heads. At a town in Iowa it was found that in the
crowd around the Post Office, there was one man who had a “Genin” hat,
and he showed it in triumph, although it was worn out and not worth two
cents. “Why,” one man exclaimed, “you have a real ‘Genin’ hat; what a
lucky fellow you are.” Another man said “Hang on to that hat, it will be
a valuable heir-loom in your family.” Still another man in the crowd,
who seemed to envy the possessor of this good fortune, said, “come, give
us all a chance; put it up at auction!” He did so, and it was sold as a
keepsake for nine dollars and fifty cents! What was the consequence to
Mr. Genin? He sold ten thousand extra hats per annum, the first six
years. Nine-tenths of the purchasers bought of him, probably, out of
curiosity, and many of them, finding that he gave them an equivalent for
their money, became his regular customers. This novel advertisement
first struck their attention, and then as he made a good article, they
came again.

Now, I don’t say that everybody should advertise as Mr. Genin did. But I
say if a man has got goods for sale, and he don’t advertise them in some
way, the chances are that some day the sheriff will do it for him. Nor
do I say that everybody must advertise in a newspaper, or indeed use
“printers’ ink” at all. On the contrary, although that article is
indispensable in the majority of cases, yet doctors and clergymen, and
sometimes lawyers and some others can more effectually reach the public
in some other manner. But it is obvious, they must be known in some way,
else how could they be supported?

BE POLITE AND KIND TO YOUR CUSTOMERS. Politeness and civility are the
best capital ever invested in business. Large stores, gilt signs,
flaming advertisements, will all prove unavailing if you or your
employees treat your patrons abruptly. The truth is, the more kind and
liberal a man is, the more generous will be the patronage bestowed upon
him. “Like begets like.” The man who gives the greatest amount of goods
of a corresponding quality for the least sum (still reserving to himself
a profit) will generally succeed best in the long run. This brings us to
the golden rule, “As ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to
them,” and they will do better by you than if you always treated them as
if you wanted to get the most you could out of them for the least
return. Men who drive sharp bargains with their customers, acting as if
they never expected to see them again, will not be mistaken. They never
will see them again as customers. People don’t like to pay and get
kicked also.

One of the ushers in my Museum once told me he intended to whip a man
who was in the lecture room as soon as he came out.

“What for?” I inquired.

“Because he said I was no gentleman,” replied the usher.

“Never mind,” I replied, “he pays for that, and you will not convince
him you are a gentleman by whipping him. I cannot afford to lose a
customer. If you whip him, he will never visit the Museum again, and he
will induce friends to go with him to other places of amusement instead
of this, and thus, you see, I should be a serious loser.”

“But he insulted me,” muttered the usher.

“Exactly,” I replied, “and if he owned the Museum, and you had paid him
for the privilege of visiting it, and he had then insulted you, there
might be some reason in your resenting it, but in this instance he is
the man who pays, while we receive, and you must, therefore, put up with
his bad manners.”

My usher laughingly remarked, that this was undoubtedly the true policy,
but he added that he should not object to an increase of salary if he
was expected to be abused in order to promote my interests.

BE CHARITABLE.--Of course men should be charitable, because it is a duty
and a pleasure. But even as a matter of policy, if you possess no higher
incentive, you will find that the liberal man will command patronage,
while the sordid, uncharitable miser will be avoided.

Solomon says: “There is that scattereth and yet increaseth; and there is
that withholdeth more than meet, but it tendeth to poverty.” Of course
the only true charity is that which is from the heart.

The best kind of charity is to help those who are willing to help
themselves. Promiscuous almsgiving, without inquiring into the
worthiness of the applicant, is bad in every sense. But to search out
and quietly assist those who are struggling for themselves, is the kind
that “scattereth and yet increaseth.” But don’t fall into the idea that
some persons practise, of giving a prayer instead of a potato, and a
benediction instead of bread, to the hungry. It is easier to make
Christians with full stomachs than empty.

DON’T BLAB.--Some men have a foolish habit of telling their business
secrets. If they make money they like to tell their neighbors how it was
done. Nothing is gained by this, and ofttimes much is lost. Say nothing
about your profits, your hopes, your expectations, your intentions. And
this should apply to letters as well as to conversation. Goethe makes
Mephistophiles say: “never write a letter nor destroy one.” Business men
must write letters, but they should be careful what they put in them. If
you are losing money, be specially cautious and not tell of it, or you
will lose your reputation.

PRESERVE YOUR INTEGRITY.--It is more precious than diamonds or rubies.
The old miser said to his sons: “Get money; get it honestly, if you can,
but get money.” This advice was not only atrociously wicked, but it was
the very essence of stupidity. It was as much as to say, “if you find it
difficult to obtain money honestly, you can easily get it dishonestly.
Get it in that way.” Poor fool! Not to know that the most difficult
thing in life is to make money dishonestly! not to know that our prisons
are full of men who attempted to follow this advice; not to understand
that no man can be dishonest without soon being found out, and that when
his lack of principle is discovered, nearly every avenue to success is
closed against him forever. The public very properly shun all whose
integrity is doubted. No matter how polite and pleasant and
accommodating a man may be, none of us dare to deal with him if we
suspect “false weights and measures.” Strict honesty not only lies at
the foundation of all success in life (financially), but in every other
respect. Uncompromising integrity of character is invaluable. It secures
to its possessor a peace and joy which cannot be attained without
it--which no amount of money, or houses and lands can purchase. A man
who is known to be strictly honest, may be ever so poor, but he has the
purses of all the community at his disposal;--for all know that if he
promises to return what he borrows, he will never disappoint them. As a
mere matter of selfishness, therefore, if a man had no higher motive for
being honest, all will find that the maxim of Dr. Franklin can never
fail to be true, that “honesty is the best policy.”

To get rich, is not always equivalent to being successful. “There are
many rich poor men,” while there are many others, honest and devout men
and women, who have never possessed so much money as some rich persons
squander in a week, but who are nevertheless really richer and happier
than any man can ever be while he is a transgressor of the higher laws
of his being.

The inordinate love of money, no doubt, may be and is “the root of all
evil,” but money itself, when properly used, is not only a “handy thing
to have in the house,” but affords the gratification of blessing our
race by enabling its possessor to enlarge the scope of human happiness
and human influence. The desire for wealth is nearly universal, and none
can say it is not laudable, provided the possessor of it accepts its
responsibilities, and uses it as a friend to humanity.

The history of money getting, which is commerce, is a history of
civilization, and wherever trade has flourished most, there, too, have
art and science produced the noblest fruits. In fact, as a general
thing, money getters are the benefactors of our race. To them, in a
great measure, are we indebted for our institutions of learning and of
art, our academies, colleges and churches. It is no argument against the
desire for, or the possession of wealth, to say that there are sometimes
misers who hoard money only for the sake of hoarding, and who have no
higher aspiration than to grasp everything which comes within their
reach. As we have sometimes hypocrites in religion, and demagogues in
politics, so there are occasionally misers among money getters. These,
however, are only exceptions to the general rule. But when, in this
country, we find such a nuisance and stumbling block as a miser, we
remember with gratitude that in America we have no laws of
primogeniture, and that in the due course of nature the time will come
when the hoarded dust will be scattered for the benefit of mankind. To
all men and women, therefore, do I conscientiously say, make money
honestly, and not otherwise, for Shakespeare has truly said, “He that
wants money, means and content, is without three good friends.”

Nearly every paper in London had something to say about my lecture, and
in almost every instance the matter and manner of the lecturer were
unqualifiedly approved. Indeed, the profusion of praise quite
overwhelmed me. The London _Times_, December 30, 1858, concluded a
half-column criticism with the following paragraph:

     “We are bound to admit that Mr. Barnum is one of the most
     entertaining lecturers that ever addressed an audience on a theme
     universally intelligible. The appearance of Mr. Barnum, it should
     be added, has nothing of the ‘charlatan’ about it, but is that of
     the thoroughly respectable man of business; and he has at command a
     fund of dry humor that convulses everybody with laughter, while he
     himself remains perfectly serious. A sonorous voice and an
     admirably clear delivery complete his qualifications as a lecturer,
     in which capacity he is no ‘humbug,’ either in a higher or lower
     sense of the word.”

The London _Morning Post_, the _Advertiser_, the _Chronicle_, the
_Telegraph_, the _Herald_, the _News_, the _Globe_, the _Sun_, and other
lesser journals of the same date, all contained lengthy and favorable
notices and criticisms of my lecture. My own lavish advertisements were
as nothing to the notoriety which the London newspapers voluntarily and
editorially gave to my new enterprise. The weekly and literary papers
followed in the train; and even _Punch_, which had already done so much
to keep Tom Thumb before the public, gave me a half-page notice, with an
illustration, and thereafter favored me with frequent paragraphs. The
city thus prepared the provinces to give me a cordial reception.

During the year 1859, I delivered this lecture nearly one hundred times
in different parts of England, returning occasionally to London to
repeat it to fresh audiences, and always with pecuniary success. Every
provincial paper had something to say about Barnum and “The art of Money
Getting,” and I was never more pleasantly or profusely advertised. The
tour, too, made me acquainted with many new people and added fresh and
fast friends to my continually increasing list. My lecturing season is
among my most grateful memories of England.

Remembering my experiences, some years before, with General Tom Thumb at
Oxford and Cambridge, and the fondness of the undergraduates for
practical joking, I was quite prepared when I made up my mind to visit
those two cities, to take any quantity of “chaff” and lampooning which
the University boys might choose to bring. I was sure of a full house in
each city, and as I was anxious to earn all the money I could, so as to
hasten my deliverance from financial difficulties, I fully resolved to
put up with whatever offered--indeed, I rather liked the idea of an
episode in the steady run of praise which had followed my lecture
everywhere, and I felt, too, in the coming encounter that I might give
quite as much as I was compelled to take.

I commenced at Cambridge, and, as I expected, to an overflowing house,
largely composed of undergraduates. Soon after I began to speak, one of
the young men called out: “Where is Joice Heth?” to which I very coolly

“Young gentleman, please to restrain yourself till the conclusion of the
lecture, when I shall take great delight in affording you, or any others
of her posterity, all the information I possess concerning your deceased

This reply turned the laugh against the youthful and anxious inquirer
and had the effect of keeping other students quiet for a half hour.
Thereafter, questions of a similar character were occasionally
propounded, but as each inquirer generally received a prompt Roland for
his Oliver, there was far less interruption than I had anticipated. The
proceeds of the evening were more than one hundred pounds sterling, an
important addition to my treasury at that time. At the close of the
lecture, several students invited me to a sumptuous supper where I met,
among other undergraduates, a nephew of Lord Macaulay, the historian.
This young gentleman insisted upon my breakfasting with him at his rooms
next morning, but as I was anxious to take an early train for London, I
only called to leave my card, and after his “gyp” had given me a strong
cup of coffee, I hastened away, leaving the young Macaulay, whom I did
not wish to disturb, fast asleep in bed.

At Oxford the large hall was filled half an hour before the time
announced for the lecture to begin and the sale of tickets was stopped.
I then stepped upon the platform, and said: “Ladies and Gentlemen: As
every seat is occupied and the ticket-office is closed, I propose to
proceed with my lecture now, and not keep you waiting till the
advertised hour.”

“Good for you, old Barnum,” said one; “Time is money,” said another;
“Nothing like economy,” came from a third, and other remarks and
exclamations followed which excited much laughter in the audience.
Holding up my hand as a signal that I was anxious to say something so
soon as silence should be restored, I thus addressed my audience:

“Young gentlemen, I have a word or two to say, in order that we may have
a thorough understanding between ourselves at the outset. I see symptoms
of a pretty jolly time here this evening, and you have paid me liberally
for the single hour of my time which is at your service. I am an old
traveller and an old showman, and I like to please my patrons. Now, it
is quite immaterial to me; you may furnish the entertainment for the
hour, or I will endeavor to do so, or we will take portions of the time
by turns--you supplying a part of the amusement, and I a part;--as we
say sometimes in America, ‘you pays your money, and you takes your

My auditors were in the best of humor from the beginning, and my
frankness pleased them. “Good for you, old Barnum,” cried their leader;
and I went on with my lecture for some fifteen minutes, when a voice
called out:

“Come, old chap! you must be tired by this time; hold up now till we
sing ‘Yankee Doodle,’” whereupon they all joined in that pleasing air
with a vigor which showed that they had thoroughly prepared themselves
for the occasion, and meanwhile I took a chair and sat down to show them
that I was quite satisfied with their manner of passing the time. When
the song was concluded, the leader of the party said: “Now, Mr. Barnum,
you may go ahead again.”

I looked at my watch and quietly remarked, “Oh! there is time for lots
of fun yet; we have nearly forty minutes of the hour remaining,” and I
proceeded with my lecture, or rather a lecture, for I began to adapt my
remarks to the audience and the occasion. At intervals of ten minutes,
or so, came interruptions which I, as my audience saw, fully enjoyed as
much as the house did. When this miscellaneous entertainment was
concluded, and I stopped short at the end of the hour, crowds of the
young men pressed forward to shake hands with me, declaring that they
had had a “jolly good time,” while the leader said: “Stay with us a
week, Barnum, and we will dine you, wine you, and give you full houses
every night.” But I was announced to lecture in London the next evening
and I could not accept the pressing invitation, though I would gladly
have stayed through the week. They asked me all sorts of questions about
America, the Museum, my various shows and successes, and expressed the
hope that I would come out of my clock troubles all right.

At least a score of them pressed me to breakfast with them next morning,
but I declined, till one young gentleman put it on this purely personal
ground: “My dear sir, you must breakfast with me; I have almost split my
throat in screaming here to-night and it is only fair that you should
repay me by coming to see me in the morning.” This appeal was
irresistible, and at the appointed time I met him and half a dozen of
his friends at his table and we spent a very pleasant hour together.
They complimented me on the tact and equanimity I had exhibited the
previous evening, but I replied: “Oh! I was quite inclined to have you
enjoy your fun, and came fully prepared for it.”

But they liked better, they said, to get the party angry. A fortnight
before, they told me, my friend Howard Paul had left them in disgust,
because they insisted upon smoking while his wife was on the stage,
adding that the entertainment was excellent and that Howard Paul could
have made a thousand pounds if he had not let his anger drive him away.
My new-found friends parted with me at the railway station, heartily
urging me to come again, and my ticket seller returned £169 as the
immediate result of an evening’s good-natured fun with the Oxford boys.

After delivering my lecture many times in different places, a prominent
publishing house in London, offered me £1,200 ($6,000,) for the
copyright. This offer I declined, not that I thought the lecture worth
more money, but because I had engaged to deliver it in several towns and
cities, and I thought the publication would be detrimental to the public
delivery of my lecture. It was a source of very considerable emolument
to me, bringing in much money, which went towards the redemption of my
pecuniary obligations, so that the lecture itself was an admirable
illustration of “The Art of Money Getting.”




While visiting Manchester, in 1858, I was invited by Mr. Peacock, the
lessee, to deliver a lecture in “Free Trade Hall.” I gave a lecture, the
title of which I now forget; but I well remember it contained numerous
personal reminiscences. The next day a gentleman sent his card to my
room at the hotel where I was stopping. I requested the servant to show
the gentleman up at once, and he soon appeared and introduced himself.
At first he seemed somewhat embarrassed, but gradually broke the ice by
saying he had been pleased in listening to my lecture the previous
evening, and added that he knew my history pretty well, as he had read
my autobiography. As his embarrassment at first meeting with a stranger
wore away, he informed me that he was joint proprietor with another
gentleman in a “cotton-mill” in Bury, near Manchester, “although,” he
modestly added, “only a few years ago I was working as a journeyman, and
probably should have been at this time, had it not been for your book.”
Observing my surprise at this announcement, he continued:

“The fact is, Mr. Barnum, upon reading your autobiography, I thought I
perceived you tried to make yourself out something worse than you really
were; for I discovered a pleasant spirit and a good heart under the
rougher exterior in which you chose to present yourself to the public;
but,” he added, “after reading your life I found myself in possession of
renewed strength, and awakened energies and aspirations, and I said to
myself, ‘Why can’t I go ahead and make money as Barnum did? He commenced
without money and succeeded; why may not I?’ In this train of thought,”
he continued, “I went to a newspaper office and advertised for a partner
with money to join me in establishing a cotton-mill. I had no
applications, and, remembering your experiences when you had money and
wanted a partner, I spent half a crown in a similar experiment. I
advertised for a partner to join a man who had plenty of capital. Then I
had lots of applicants ready to introduce me into all sorts of
occupations, from that of a banker to that of a horse-jockey or gambler,
if I would only furnish the money to start with. After a while, I
advertised again for a partner, and obtained one with money. We have a
good mill. I devote myself closely to business, and have been very
successful. I know every line in your book; so, indeed, do several
members of my family; and I have conducted my business on the principles
laid down in your published ‘Rules for Money-making.’ I find them
correct principles; and, sir, I have sought this interview in order to
thank you for publishing your autobiography, and to tell you that to
that act of yours I attribute my present position in life.”

Of course, I was pleased and surprised at this revelation, and, feeling
that my new friend, whom I will call Mr. Wilson,[B] had somewhat
exaggerated the results of my labors as influencing his own, I said:

“Your statement is certainly very flattering, and I am glad if I have
been able in any manner, through my experiences, to aid you in starting
in life; but I presume your genius would have found vent in good time if
I had never written a book.”

“No, indeed it would not,” he replied, in an earnest tone; “I am sure I
should have worked as a mill-hand all my life if it had not been for
you. Oh, I have made no secret of it,” he continued; “the commercial men
with whom I deal know all about it: indeed, they call me ‘Barnum’ on
‘change here in Manchester.”

 [B] By his consent I state that his name is John Fish.

This singular yet gratifying interview led to several others, and from
that time a warm personal friendship sprung up between us. In our
conversations, my enthusiastic friend would often quote entire pages
from my autobiography, which I had almost forgotten; and, after he had
frequently visited me by appointment where I happened to be stopping in
different parts of Great Britain, he would write me letters, often
quoting scraps of my conversation, and extolling what he called the
“wisdom” of these careless remarks. I laughed at him, and told him he
was about half Barnum-crazy. “Well,” he replied, “then there is method
in my madness, for whenever I follow the Barnum rules I am always

On one occasion, when General Tom Thumb exhibited in Bury, Mr. Wilson
closed his mill, and gave each of his employés a ticket to the
exhibition; out of respect, as he said, to Barnum. On a subsequent
occasion, when the little General visited England the last time, Mr.
Wilson invited him, his wife, Commodore Nutt, Minnie Warren, and the
managers of “the show,” to a splendid and sumptuous dinner at his house,
which the distinguished little party enjoyed exceedingly; and several
interesting incidents occurred on that pleasant occasion, which the
miniature guests will never cease to remember with gratitude. When I was
about to leave England for home, in 1859, my friend Wilson made an
appointment to come to Liverpool to see me off. He came the day before I
sailed, and brought his little daughter, some twelve years old, with
him. We had a remarkably pleasant and social time, and I did not part
with them until the tug was almost dropping off from the steamer in the
river Mersey. It was a very reluctant parting. We waved our
handkerchiefs until we could no longer distinguish each other; and up to
the present writing we have never again met. To my numerous invitations
to him and his family, to visit me in America, he sends but one
response,--that, as yet, his business will not permit him to leave home.
I hope ere long to receive a different answer. Our correspondence has
been regularly kept up ever since we parted.

My friend Wilson expressed himself extremely anxious to do any service
for me which might at any time be in his power. Soon after I arrived in
America, I read an account of a French giant, then exhibiting in Paris,
and said to be over eight feet in height. As this was a considerably
greater altitude than any specimen of the _genus homo_ within my
knowledge had attained, I wrote to my friend to take a trip to Paris for
me, secure an interview with this modern Anak, and by actual measurement
obtain for me his exact height. I enclosed an offer for this giant’s
services, arranging the price on a sliding scale, according to what his
height should actually prove to be,--commencing at eight feet, and
descending to seven feet two inches; and if he was not taller than the
latter figure, I did not want him at all.

Mr. Wilson, placing an English two-foot rule in his pocket, started for
Paris; and, after much difficulty and several days’ delay in trying to
speak with the giant, who was closely watched by his exhibitor, Mr.
Wilson succeeded, by the aid of an interpreter, in exchanging a few
words with him, and appointing an interview at his own (the giant’s)
lodgings. And now came a trouble which required all the patience and
diplomacy which my agent could command. Mr. Wilson, arriving at the
place of rendezvous, told the giant who he was, and the object of his
visit. In fact, he showed him my letter, and read the tempting offers
which I made for his services, provided he measured eight feet, or even
came within six inches of that height.

“Oh, I measure over eight feet in height,” said the giant. “Very
likely,” replied my faithful agent, “but you see my orders are to
measure you.” “There’s no need of that, you can see for yourself,”
stretching himself up a few inches, by aid of that peculiar muscular
knack which giants and dwarfs exercise when they desire to extend or
diminish their apparent stature. “No doubt you are right,” persisted the
agent; “but you see that is not according to orders.” “Well, stand
alongside of me; see, the top of your hat don’t come to my shoulder,”
said the giant, as he swung his arm completely over Mr. Wilson’s head,
hat and all.

But my wary agent happened just then to be watching

[Illustration: “_THE LONG AND SHORT OF IT._”]

the giant’s feet and knees, and he thought he saw a movement around the
“understandings” that materially helped the elevation of the
“upperworks.” “It is all very well,” said Mr. Wilson; “but I tell you I
have brought a two-foot rule from England, and, if I am not permitted to
measure your height with that, I shall not engage you.” My offer had
been very liberal; in fact, provided he was eight feet high, it was more
than four times the amount the giant was then receiving; it was
evidently a great temptation to his “highness,” and quite as evidently
he did not want to be fairly measured. “Well,” said the giant, “if you
can’t take my word for it, look at that door; you see my head is more
than two feet above the top:” (giving his neck and every muscle in his
body a severe stretch:) “just measure the height of that door.” My
English friend plainly saw that the giant felt that he could not come up
to the mark, and he laughed at this last _ruse_. “Oh, I don’t want to
measure the door; I prefer to measure you,” said Mr. Wilson, coolly. The
giant was now desperate, and, stretching himself up to the highest
point, he exclaimed: “Well, be quick! put your rule down to my feet and
measure me; no delay, if you please.”

The giant knew he could not hold himself up many seconds to the few
extra inches he had imparted to his extended muscles; but his remark had
drawn Mr. Wilson’s attention to his feet, and from the feet to the
boots, and he began to open his eyes. “Look here, Monsieur,” he
exclaimed with much earnestness, “this sort of thing wont do, you know.
I don’t understand this contrivance around the soles of your boots, but
it seems to me you have got a set of springs in there which materially
aids your altitude a few inches when you desire it. Now, I shall stand
no more nonsense. If I engage you at all, you must first take off your
boots, and lie flat upon your back in the middle of the floor; there you
will have no purchase, and you may stretch as much as you like; and for
every inch you fairly measure above seven feet two inches you know what
I am authorized to give you.” The giant grumbled and talked about his
word being doubted and his honor assailed, but Mr. Wilson calmly
persisted, until at length he slowly took off his coat and gradually got
down on the floor. Stretched upon his back, he made several vain efforts
to extend his natural height. Mr. Wilson carefully applied his English
two-foot rule, the result of the measurement causing him much
astonishment and the giant more indignation, the giant measuring exactly
seven feet one and one half inches. So he was not engaged, and my agent
returned to England and wrote me a most amusing letter, giving the
particulars of the gigantic interview.

On the occasion of the erection of a new engine in his mill, Mr. Wilson
proposed naming it after his daughter, but she insisted it should be
christened “Barnum,” and it was so done, with considerable ceremony.
Subsequently he introduced a second engine into his enlarged mill, and
named this, after my wife, “Charity.”

A short time since, I wrote informing him that I desired to give some of
the foregoing facts in my book, and asked him to give me his consent,
and also to furnish me some particulars in regard to the engines, and
the capacity of his mill. He wrote in return a modest letter, which is
so characteristic of my whole-souled friend that I cannot forbear making
the following extracts from it:

     Had I made a fortune of £100,000 I should have been proud of such a
     place in your book as Albert Smith has in your Autobiography; but,
     as I have only been able to make (here he named a sum which in this
     country would be considered almost a fortune), I feel I should be
     out of place in your pages; at all events, if you mention me at
     all, draw it mildly, if you please.

     The American war has made sad havoc in our trade, and it is only by
     close attention to business that I have lately been at all
     successful. I have built a place for one thousand looms, and have,
     as you know, put in a pair of engines, which I have named “Barnum”
     and “Charity.” Each engine has its name engraved on two large brass
     plates at either end of the cylinder, which has often caused much
     mirth when I have explained the circumstances to visitors. I
     started and christened “Charity” on the 14th of January last, and
     she has saved me £12 per month in coals ever since. The steam from
     the boiler goes first to “Charity” (she is high pressure), and
     “Barnum” only gets the steam after she has done with it. He has to
     work at low pressure (a condensing engine), and the result is a
     saving. Barnum was extravagant when he took steam direct, but,
     since I fixed Charity betwixt him and the boiler, he can only get
     what she gives him. This reminds me that you state in your “Life”
     you could always make money, but formerly did not save it. Perhaps
     you never took care of it till Charity became Chancellor of
     Exchequer. When I visited you at the Bull Hotel, in Blackburn, you
     pointed to General Tom Thumb, and said: “That is my piece of goods;
     I have sold it hundreds of thousands of times, and have never yet
     delivered it!” That was ten years ago, in 1858. If I had been doing
     the same with my pieces of calico, I must have been wealthy by this
     time: but I have been hammering at one (cotton) nail several
     months, and, as it did not offer to clinch, I was almost tempted to
     doubt one of your “rules,” and thought I would drive at some other
     nail; but, on reflection, I knew I understood cotton better than
     anything else, and so I back up your rule and stick to cotton, not
     doubting it will be all right and successful.

Mr. Wilson was one of the large class of English manufacturers who
suffered seriously from the effects of the rebellion in the United
States. As an Englishman he could not have a patriot’s interest in the
progress of that terrible struggle; but he made a practical exhibition
of sympathy for the suffering soldiers, in a pleasant and characteristic

The great fair of the Sanitary Commission, held in New York during the
war, affords one of the most interesting chapters in American history.
It meant cordial for the sick and suffering in the hospitals, and balm
and relief for the wounded in the field. None of those who visited the
Fair will forget, in the multiplicity of offerings to put money into the
treasury of the Commission, two monster cakes, which were as strange in
shape and ornament as they were fairly mammoth in their proportions. One
of these great cakes was covered with miniature forts, ships of war,
cannon, armies, arms of the whole “panoply of war,” and it excited the
attention of all visitors. This strange cake was what is called in Bury,
England, where name, cake and custom originated, a “Simnel cake,” and an
interesting history pertains to it.

There is an anniversary in Bury, and I believe only in that place in
England, called “Simnel Sunday.” Like many old observances, its origin
is lost in antiquity; but on the fourth Sunday in Lent, which is Simnel
Sunday, everybody in Bury eats Simnel cake. It is a high day for the
inhabitants, and the streets are thronged with people. During the
preceding week, the shop windows of the confectioners exhibit a plethora
of large, flat cakes, of a peculiar pattern and of toothsome
composition. Every confectioner aims to outdo his rivals in the bigness
of the one show-cake which nearly fills his window, and in the moulding
and ornamental accessories. A local description, giving the requisite
characteristics, says: “The great Simnel must be rich, must be big, and
must be novel in ornamentation.” Such is the Simnel cake, the specialty
of Simnel Sunday, in the town of Bury, in Old England.

And such was the monster cake, with its warlike emblems, which attracted
so much attention at the Fair, and added considerably to the receipts
for the Sanitary Commission. It was sent to me expressly for this Fair,
by my friend Wilson, and, while it was in itself a generous gift, it was
doubly so as coming from an English manufacturer who had suffered by the
war. The second great Simnel cake which stood beside it in the Fair was
sent to me personally by Mr. Wilson; but with his permission I took much
pleasure in contributing it, with his own offering, for the benefit of
our suffering soldiers.

It may thus be seen that my friend Wilson is not only “an enterprising
Englishman,” but that he is also a generous, noble-hearted man,--one who
in a great struggle like the late civil war in America, could sincerely
sympathize with suffering humanity, notwithstanding, as he expressed it,
“the American war has made sad havoc in our trade.” His soul soars above
“pounds, shillings and pence”; and I take great pleasure in expressing
admiration for a gentleman of such marked enterprise, philanthropy and




In 1859 I returned to the United States. During my last visit abroad I
had secured many novelties for the Museum, including the Albino Family,
which I engaged at Amsterdam, and Thiodon’s mechanical theatre, which I
found at Southampton, beside purchasing many curiosities. These things
all afforded me a liberal commission, and thus, by constant and earnest
effort, I made much money, besides what I derived from the Tom Thumb
exhibitions, my lectures, and other enterprises. All of this money, as
well as my wife’s income and a considerable sum raised by selling a
portion of her property, was faithfully devoted to the one great object
of my life at that period--my extrication from those crushing clock
debts. I worked and I saved. When my wife and youngest daughter were not
boarding in Bridgeport, they lived frugally in the suburbs, in a small
one-story house which was hired at the rate of $150 a year. I had now
been struggling about four years with the difficulties of my one great
financial mistake, and the end still seemed to be far off. I felt that
the land, purchased by my wife in East Bridgeport at the assignees’
sale, would, after a while, increase rapidly in value; and on the
strength of this expectation more money was borrowed for the sake of
taking up the clock notes, and some of the East Bridgeport property was
sold in single lots, the proceeds going to the same object.

At last, in March 1860, all the clock indebtedness was satisfactorily
extinguished, excepting some $20,000 which I had bound myself to take up
within a certain number of months, my friend, James D. Johnson,
guaranteeing my bond to that effect. Mr. Johnson was by far my most
effective agent in working me through these clock troubles, and in
aiding to bring them to a successful conclusion. Another man, however,
who pretended to be my friend, and whom I liberally paid to assist in
bringing me out of my difficulties, gained my confidence, possessed
himself of a complete knowledge of the situation of my affairs, and then
coolly proposed to Mr. Johnson to counteract all my efforts to get out
of debt, and to divide between them what could be got out of my estate.
Failing in this, the scoundrel, taking advantage of the confidence
reposed in him, slyly arranged with the owners of clock notes to hold on
to them, and share with him whatever they might gain by adopting his
advice, he assuming that he knew all my secrets and that I would soon
come out all right again. Thus I had to contend with foes from within as
well as without; but the “spotting” of this traitor was worth something,
for it opened my eyes in relation to former transactions in which I had
intrusted large sums of money to his hands, and it put me on guard for
the future. But I bear no malice towards him; I only pity him, as I do
any man who knows so little of the true road to contentment and
happiness as to think that it lies in the direction of dishonesty.

I need not dwell upon the details of what I suffered from the doings of
those heartless, unscrupulous men who fatten upon the misfortunes of
others. It is enough to say that I triumphed over them and all my
troubles. I was once more a free man. At last I was able to make
proclamation that “Richard’s himself again”; that Barnum was once more
on his feet. The Museum had not flourished greatly in the hands of
Messrs. Greenwood & Butler, and so, when I was free, I was quite willing
to take back the property upon terms that were entirely satisfactory to
them. I had once retired from the establishment a man of independent
fortune; I was now ready to return, to make, if possible, another

On the 17th of March, 1860, Messrs. Butler & Greenwood signed an
agreement to sell and deliver to me on the following Saturday, March
24th, their good will and entire interest in the Museum collection. This
fact was thoroughly circulated and it was everywhere announced in
blazing posters, placards and advertisements which were headed, “Barnum
on his feet again.” It was furthermore stated that the Museum would be
closed, March 24th, for one week for repairs and general renovation, to
be re-opened, March 31st, under the management and proprietorship of its
original owner. It was also announced that on the night of closing I
would address the audience from the stage.

The American Museum, decorated on that occasion, as on holidays, with a
brilliant display of flags and banners, was filled to its utmost
capacity, and I experienced profound delight at seeing hundreds of old
friends of both sexes in the audience. I lacked but four months of being
fifty years of age; but I felt all the vigor and ambition that fired me
when I first took possession of the premises twenty years before; and I
was confident that the various experiences of that score of years would
be valuable to me in my second effort to secure an independence.

At the rising of the curtain and before the play commenced, I stepped on
the stage and was received by the large and brilliant audience with an
enthusiasm far surpassing anything of the kind I had ever experienced or
witnessed in a public career of a quarter of a century. Indeed, this
tremendous demonstration nearly broke me down, and my voice faltered and
tears came to my eyes as I thought of this magnificent conclusion to the
trials and struggles of the past four years. Recovering myself, however,
I bowed my grateful acknowledgments for the reception, and addressed the
audience as follows:

“LADIES AND GENTLEMEN: I should be more or less than human, if I could
meet this unexpected and overwhelming testimonial at your hands, without
the deepest emotion. My own personal connection with the Museum is now
resumed, and I avail myself of the circumstance to say why it is so.
Never did I feel stronger in my worldly prosperity than in September,
1855. Three months later, I was so deeply embarrassed that I felt
certain of nothing, except the uncertainty of everything. A combination
of singular efforts and circumstances tempted me to put faith in a
certain clock manufacturing company, and I placed my signature to
papers which ultimately broke me down. After nearly five years of hard
struggle to keep my head above water, I have touched bottom at last, and
here, to-night, I am happy to announce that I have waded ashore. Every
clock debt of which I have any knowledge has been provided for. Perhaps,
after the troubles and turmoils I have experienced, I should feel no
desire to re-engage in the excitements of business, but a man like
myself, less than fifty years of age, and enjoying robust health, is
scarcely old enough to be embalmed and put in a glass case in the Museum
as one of its million of curiosities. ‘It is better to wear out than
rust out.’ Besides, if a man of active temperament is not busy, he is
apt to get into mischief. To avoid evil, therefore, and since business
activity is a necessity of my nature, here I am, once more, in the
Museum, and among those with whom I have been so long and so pleasantly
identified. I am confident of a cordial welcome, and hence feel some
claim to your indulgence while I briefly allude to the means of my
present deliverance from utter financial ruin. Need I say, in the first
place, that I am somewhat indebted to the forbearance of generous
creditors. In the next place, permit me to speak of sympathizing
friends, whose volunteered loans and exertions vastly aided my rescue.
When my day of sorrow came, I first paid or secured every debt I owed of
a personal nature. This done, I felt bound in honor to give up all of my
property that remained towards liquidating my “clock debts.” I placed it
in the hands of trustees and receivers for the benefit of all the
“clock” creditors. But, at the forced sale of my Connecticut real
estate, there was a purchaser behind the screen, of whom the world had
little knowledge. In the day of my prosperity I made over to my wife
much valuable property, including the lease of this Museum building,--a
lease then having about twenty-two years to run, and enhanced in value
to more than double its original worth. I sold the Museum collection to
Messrs. Greenwood and Butler, subject to my wife’s separate interest in
the lease, and she has received more than eighty thousand dollars over
and above the sums paid to the owners of the building. Instead of
selfishly applying this amount to private purposes, my family lived with
a due regard to economy, and the savings (strictly belonging to my wife)
were devoted to buying in portions of my estate at the assignees’ sales,
and to purchasing “clock notes” bearing my indorsements. The Christian
name of my wife is Charity. I may well acknowledge, therefore, that I am
not only a proper ‘subject of charity,’ but that ‘without Charity, I am

“But, ladies and gentlemen, while Charity thus labored in my behalf,
Faith and Hope were not idle. I have been anything but indolent during
the last four years. Driven from pillar to post, and annoyed beyond
description by all sorts of legal claims and writs, I was perusing
protests and summonses by day, and dreaming of clocks run down by night.
My head was ever whizzing with dislocated cog-wheels and broken
main-springs; my whole mind (and my credit) was running upon tick, and
everything pressing on me like a dead weight.

“In this state of affairs I felt that I was of no use on this side of
the Atlantic; so, giving the pendulum a swing, and seizing time by the
forelock, I went to Europe. There I furtively pulled the wires of
several exhibitions, among which that of Tom Thumb may be mentioned for
example. I managed a variety of musical and commercial speculations in
Great Britain, Germany, and Holland. These enterprises, together with
the net profits of my public lectures, enabled me to remit large sums to
confidential agents for the purchase of my obligations. In this manner,
I quietly extinguished, little by little, every dollar of my clock
liabilities. I could not have achieved this difficult feat, however,
without the able assistance of enthusiastic friends,--and among the
chief of them let me gratefully acknowledge the invaluable services of
Mr. James D. Johnson, a gentleman of wealth, in Bridgeport, Connecticut.
Other gentlemen have been generous with me. Some have loaned me large
sums, without security, and have placed me under obligations which must
ever command my honest gratitude; but Mr. Johnson has been a ‘friend
indeed,’ for he has been truly a ‘friend in need.’

“You must not infer, from what I have said, that I have completely
recovered from the stunning blow to which I was subjected four years
ago. I have lost more in the way of tens of thousands, yes, hundreds of
thousands, than I care to remember. A valuable portion of my real estate
in Connecticut, however, has been preserved, and as I feel all the ardor
of twenty years ago, and the prospect here is so flattering, my heart is
animated with the hope of ultimately, by enterprise and activity,
obliterating unpleasant reminiscences, and retrieving the losses of the
past. Experience, too, has taught me not only that even in the matter of
money, ‘enough is as good as a feast,’ but that there are, in this
world, some things vastly better than the Almighty Dollar! Possibly I
may contemplate, at times, the painful day when I said: ‘Othello’s
occupation’s gone;’ but I shall more frequently cherish the memory of
this moment, when I am permitted to announce that ‘Richard’s himself

“Many people have wondered that a man considered so acute as myself
should have been deluded into embarrassments like mine, and not a few
have declared, in short metre, that ‘Barnum was a fool.’ I can only
reply that I never made pretensions to the sharpness of a pawn-broker,
and I hope I shall never so entirely lose confidence in human nature as
to consider every man a scamp by instinct, or a rogue by necessity. ‘It
is better to be deceived sometimes, than to distrust always,’ says Lord
Bacon, and I agree with him.

“Experience is said to be a hard schoolmaster, but I should be sorry to
feel that this great lesson in adversity has not brought forth fruits of
some value. I needed the discipline this tribulation has given me, and I
really feel, after all, that this, like many other apparent evils, was
only a blessing in disguise. Indeed, I may mention that the very clock
factory which I built in Bridgeport, for the purpose of bringing
hundreds of workmen to that city, has been purchased and quadrupled in
size by the Wheeler and Wilson Sewing Machine Company, and is now filled
with intelligent New England mechanics, whose families add two thousand
to the population, and who are doing a great work in building up and
beautifying that flourishing city. So that the same concern which
prostrated me seems destined as a most important agent towards my
recuperation. I am certain that the popular sympathy has been with me
from the beginning; and this, together with a consciousness of
rectitude, is more than an offset to all the vicissitudes to which I
have been subjected.

“In conclusion, I beg to assure you and the public that my chief
pleasure, while health and strength are spared me, will be to cater for
your and their healthy amusement and instruction. In future, such
capabilities as I possess will be devoted to the maintenance of this
Museum as a popular place of family resort, in which all that is novel
and interesting shall be gathered from the four quarters of the globe,
and which ladies and children may visit at all times unattended, without
danger of encountering anything of an objectionable nature. The dramas
introduced in the Lecture Room will never contain a profane expression
or a vulgar allusion; on the contrary, their tendency will always be to
encourage virtue, and frown upon vice.

“I have established connections in Europe, which will enable me to
produce here a succession of interesting novelties otherwise
inaccessible. Although I shall be personally present much of the time,
and hope to meet many of my old acquaintances, as well as to form many
new ones, I am sure you will be glad to learn that I have re-secured the
services of one of the late proprietors, and the active manager of this
Museum, Mr. John Greenwood, Jr. As he is a modest gentleman, who would
be the last to praise himself, allow me to add that he is one to whose
successful qualities as a caterer for the popular entertainments, the
crowds that have often filled this building may well bear testimony.
But, more than this, he is the unobtrusive one to whose integrity,
diligence and devotion, I owe much of my present position of
self-congratulation. Mr. Greenwood will hereafter act as assistant
manager, while his late co-partner, Mr. Butler, has engaged in another
branch of business. Once more, thanking you all for your kind welcome,
I bid you, till the re-opening, ‘an affectionate adieu.’”

This off-hand speech was received with almost tumultuous applause. At
nearly fifty years of age, I was now once more before the public with
the promise to put on a full head of steam, to “rush things,” to give
double or treble the amount of attractions ever before offered at the
Museum, and to devote all my own time and services to the enterprise. In
return, I asked that the public should give my efforts the patronage
they merited, and the public took me at my word. The daily number of
visitors at once more than doubled, and my exertions to gratify them
with rapid changes and novelties never tired.

The announcement that “Richard’s himself again”--that I was at last out
of the financial entanglement--was variously received in the community.
That portion of the press which had followed me with abuse when I was
down, under the belief that my case was past recovery, were chary in
allusions to the new state of things, or passed them over without
comment. The sycophants always knew I would get up again, “and said so
at the time;” the many and noble journals which had stood by me and
upheld me in my misfortunes, were of course rejoiced, and their words of
sincere congratulation gave me a higher satisfaction than I have power
of language to acknowledge. Letters of congratulation came in upon me
from every quarter. Friendly hands that had never been withheld during
the long period of my misfortune were now extended with a still heartier
grip. I never knew till now the warmth and number of my friends.

My editorial friend, Mr. Robert Bonner, of the New York _Ledger_,
sincerely congratulated me upon my full and complete restoration. I had
some new plays which were adapted from very popular stories which had
been written for Mr. Bonner’s paper, and I went to him to purchase, if I
could, the large cuts he had used to advertise these stories in his
street placards. He at once generously offered to lend them to me as
long as I wished to use them and tendered me his services in any way.
Mr. Bonner was the boldest of advertisers, following me closely in the
field in which I was the pioneer, and to his judicious use of printers’
ink, he owes the fine fortune which he so worthily deserves and enjoys.

Nor must I neglect to state that a large number of my creditors who held
the clock notes, proved very magnanimous in taking into consideration
the gross deception which had put me in their power. Not a few of them
said to me in substance: “you never supposed you had made yourself
liable for this debt; you were deluded into it; it is not right that it
should be held over you to keep you hopelessly down; take it, and pay me
such percentage as, under the circumstances, it is possible for you to
pay.” But for such men and such consideration I fear I should never have
got on my feet again; and of the many who rejoiced in my bettered
fortune, not a few were of this class of my creditors.

My old friend, the Boston _Saturday Evening Gazette_, which printed a
few cheering poetical lines of consolation and hope when I was down, now
gave me the following from the same graceful pen, conveying glowing
words of congratulation at my rise again:


    Barnum, your hand! The struggle o’er,
      You face the world and ask no favor;
    You stand where you have stood before,
      The old salt hasn’t lost its savor.

    You now can laugh with friends, at foes,
      Ne’er heeding Mrs. Grundy’s tattle;
    You’ve dealt and taken sturdy blows,
      Regardless of the rabble’s prattle.

    Not yours the heart to harbor ill
      ’Gainst those who’ve dealt in trivial jesting;
    You pass them with the same good will
      Erst shown when they their wit were testing.
    You’re the same Barnum that we knew,
      You’re good for years, still fit for labor,
    Be as of old, be bold and true,
      Honest as man, as friend, as neighbor.

At about this period, the following poem was published in a Pottsville,
Pa., paper, and copied by many journals of the day:


    Companions! fill your glasses round,
      And drink a health to one
    Who has few coming after him,
      To do as he has done;
    Who made a fortune for himself,
      Made fortunes, too, for many,
    Yet wronged no bosom of a sigh,
      No pocket of a penny.
    Come! shout a gallant chorus,
      And make the glasses ring,--
    Here’s health and luck to Barnum!
      The Exhibition King.

    Who lured the Swedish Nightingale
      To Western woods to come?
    Who prosperous and happy made
      The life of little Thumb?
    Who oped Amusement’s golden door
      So cheaply to the crowd,
    And taught Morality to smile
      On all _his_ stage allowed?
    Come! shout a gallant chorus,
      Until the glasses ring,--
    Here’s health and luck to Barnum!
      The Exhibition King.

    And when the sad reverses came,
      As come they may to all,
    Who stood a Hero, bold and true,
      Amid his fortune’s fall?
    Who to the utmost yielded up
        What Honor could not keep,
    Then took the field of life again
        With courage calm and deep?
    Come! shout a gallant chorus,
        Until the glasses dance,--
    Here’s health and luck to Barnum,
        The Napoleon of Finance.

    Yet, no--_our_ hero would not look
        With smiles on such a cup;
    Throw out the wine--with water clear,
        Fill the pure crystal up.
    Then rise, and greet with deep respect,
        The courage he has shown,
    And drink to him who well deserves
        A seat on Fortune’s throne.
    Here’s health and luck to Barnum!
        An _Elba_ he has seen,
    And never may his map of life
        Display a _St. Helene_!






I was now fairly embarked on board the good old ship American Museum, to
try once more my skill as captain, and to see what fortune the voyage
would bring me. Curiosities began to pour into the Museum halls, and I
was eager for enterprises in the show line, whether as part of the
Museum itself, or as outside accessories or accompaniments. Among the
first to give me a call, with attractions sure to prove a success, was
James C. Adams, of hard-earned, grizzly-bear fame. This extraordinary
man was eminently what is called “a character.” He was universally known
as “Grizzly Adams,” from the fact that he had captured a great many
grizzly bears, at the risk and cost of fearful encounters and perils. He
was brave, and with his bravery there was enough of the romantic in his
nature to make him a real hero. For many years a hunter and trapper in
the Rocky and Sierra Nevada Mountains, he acquired a recklessness,
which, added to his natural invincible courage, rendered him one of the
most striking men of the age, and he was emphatically a man of pluck. A
month after I had re-purchased the Museum, he arrived in New York with
his famous collection of California animals, captured by himself,
consisting of twenty or thirty immense grizzly bears, at the head of
which stood “Old Sampson,” together with several wolves, half a dozen
different species of California bears, California lions, tigers,
buffalo, elk, and “Old Neptune,” the great sea-lion from the Pacific.

Old Adams had trained all these monsters so that with him they were as
docile as kittens, though many of the most ferocious among them would
attack a stranger without hesitation, if he came within their grasp. In
fact the training of these animals was no fool’s play, as Old Adams
learned to his cost, for the terrific blows which he received from time
to time, while teaching them “docility,” finally cost him his life.

Adams called on me immediately on his arrival in New York. He was
dressed in his hunter’s suit of buckskin, trimmed with the skins and
bordered with the hanging tails of small Rocky Mountain animals; his cap
consisting of the skin of a wolf’s head and shoulders, from which
depended several tails, and under which appeared his stiff, bushy, gray
hair and his long, white, grizzly beard; in fact Old Adams was quite as
much of a show as his beasts. They had come around Cape Horn on the
clipper ship “Golden Fleece,” and a sea voyage of three and a half
months had probably not added much to the beauty or neat appearance of


the old bear-hunter. During our conversation, Grizzly Adams took off his
cap, and showed me the top of his head. His skull was literally broken
in. It had on various occasions been struck by the fearful paws of his
grizzly students; and the last blow, from the bear called “General
Fremont,” had laid open his brain so that its workings were plainly
visible. I remarked that I thought it was a dangerous wound and might
possibly prove fatal.

“Yes,” replied Adams, “that will fix me out. It had nearly healed; but
old Fremont opened it for me, for the third or fourth time, before I
left California, and he did his business so thoroughly, I’m a used-up
man. However I reckon I may live six months or a year yet.” This was
spoken as coolly as if he had been talking about the life of a dog. The
immediate object of “old Adams” in calling upon me was this; I had
purchased, a week previously, one-half interest in his California
menagerie, from a man who had come by way of the Isthmus from
California, and who claimed to own an equal interest with Adams in the
show. Adams declared that the man had only advanced him some money, and
did not possess the right to sell half of the concern. However, the man
held a bill of sale for half of the “California Menagerie,” and old
Adams finally consented to accept me as an equal partner in the
speculation, saying that he guessed I could do the managing part, and he
would show up the animals. I obtained a canvas tent, and erecting it on
the present site of Wallack’s Theatre, Adams there opened his novel
California Menagerie. On the morning of opening, a band of music
preceded a procession of animal cages down Broadway and up the Bowery,
old Adams dressed in his hunting costume, heading the line, with a
platform wagon on which were placed three immense grizzly bears, two of
which he held by chains, while he was mounted on the back of the largest
grizzly, which stood in the centre and was not secured in any manner
whatever. This was the bear known as “General Fremont,” and so docile
had he become, that Adams said he had used him as a pack-bear to carry
his cooking and hunting apparatus through the mountains for six months,
and had ridden him hundreds of miles. But apparently docile as were many
of these animals, there was not one among them that would not
occasionally give Adams a sly blow or a sly bite when a good chance
offered; hence old Adams was but a wreck of his former self, and
expressed pretty nearly the truth when he said:

“Mr. Barnum, I am not the man I was five years ago. Then I felt able to
stand the hug of any grizzly living, and was always glad to encounter,
single handed, any sort of an animal that dared present himself. But I
have been beaten to a jelly, torn almost limb from limb, and nearly
chawed up and spit out by these treacherous grizzly bears. However, I am
good for a few months yet, and by that time I hope we shall gain enough
to make my old woman comfortable, for I have been absent from her some

His wife came from Massachusetts to New York and nursed him. Dr. Johns
dressed his wounds every day, and not only told Adams he could never
recover, but assured his friends, that probably a very few weeks would
lay him in his grave. But Adams was as firm as adamant and as resolute
as a lion. Among the thousands who saw him dressed in his grotesque
hunter’s suit, and witnessed the seeming vigor with which he
“performed” the savage monsters, beating and whipping them into
apparently the most perfect docility, probably not one suspected that
this rough, fierce looking, powerful demi-savage, as he appeared to be,
was suffering intense pain from his broken skull and fevered system, and
that nothing kept him from stretching himself on his death-bed but his
most indomitable and extraordinary will.

Old Adams liked to astonish others, as he often did, with his astounding
stories, but no one could astonish him; he had seen everything and knew
everything, and I was anxious to get a chance of exposing this weak
point to him. A fit occasion soon presented itself. One day, while
engaged in my office at the Museum, a man with marked Teutonic features
and accent approached the door and asked if I would like to buy a pair
of living golden pigeons.

“Yes,” I replied, “I would like a flock of golden pigeons, if I could
buy them for their weight in silver; for there are no ‘golden’ pigeons
in existence, unless they are made from the pure metal.”

“You shall see some golden pigeons alive,” he replied, at the same time
entering my office, and closing the door after him. He then removed the
lid from a small basket which he carried in his hand, and sure enough,
there were snugly ensconced a pair of beautiful, living ruff-necked
pigeons, as yellow as saffron, and as bright as a double-eagle fresh
from the mint.

I confess I was somewhat staggered at this sight and quickly asked the
man where those birds came from. A dull, lazy smile crawled over the
sober face of my German visitor, as he replied in a slow, guttural tone
of voice:

“What you think yourself?”

Catching his meaning, I quickly replied:

“I think it is a humbug.”

“Of course, I know you will say so; because you ‘forstha’ such things;
so I shall not try to humbug you; I have color them myself.”

On further inquiry I learned that this German was a chemist, and that he
possessed the art of coloring birds any hue desired, and yet retain a
natural gloss on the feathers, which gave every shade the appearance of

“I can paint a green pigeon or a blue pigeon, a gray pigeon or a black
pigeon, a brown pigeon or a pigeon half blue or half green,” said the
German; “and if you prefer it, I can paint them pink or purple, or give
you a little of each color, and make you a rainbow pigeon.”

The “rainbow pigeon” did not strike me as particularly desirable; but
thinking here was a good chance to catch “Grizzly Adams,” I bought the
pair of golden pigeons for ten dollars, and sent them up to the “Happy
Family” (where I knew Adams would soon see them), marked, “Golden
Pigeons, from California.” Mr. Taylor, the great pacificator, who had
charge of the Happy Family, soon came down in a state of excitement.

“Really, Mr. Barnum,” said he, “I could not think of putting those
elegant golden pigeons into the Happy Family,--they are too valuable a
bird, and they might get injured; they are by far the most beautiful
pigeons I ever saw; and as they are so rare, I would not jeopardize
their lives for anything.”

“Well,” said I, “you may put them in a separate cage, properly

Monsieur Guillaudeu, the naturalist and taxidermist of the Museum, had
been attached to that establishment since the year it was founded, in
1810. He is a Frenchman, and has read nearly everything upon natural
history that was ever published in his own or in the English language.
When he saw the “Golden Pigeons from California,” he was considerably
astonished. He examined them with great delight for half an hour,
expatiating upon their beautiful color and the near resemblance which
every feature bore to the American ruff-necked pigeon. He soon came to
my office, and said:

“Mr. Barnum, these golden pigeons are superb, but they cannot be from
California. Audubon mentions no such bird in his work upon American

I told him he had better take Audubon home with him that night, and
perhaps by studying him attentively he would see occasion to change his

The next day, the old naturalist called at my office and remarked:

“Mr. Barnum, those pigeons are a more rare bird than you imagine. They
are not mentioned by Linnæus, Cuvier, Goldsmith, or any other writer on
natural history, so far as I have been able to discover. I expect they
must have come from some unexplored portion of Australia.”

“Never mind,” I replied, “we may get more light on the subject, perhaps,
before long. We will continue to label them ‘California Pigeons’ until
we can fix their nativity elsewhere.”

The next morning, “Old Grizzly Adams,” passed through the Museum when
his eyes fell on the “Golden California Pigeons.” He looked a moment and
doubtless admired. He soon after came to my office.

“Mr. Barnum,” said he, “you must let me have those California pigeons.”

“I can’t spare them,” I replied.

“But you must spare them. All the birds and animals from California
ought to be together. You own half of my California menagerie, and you
must lend me those pigeons.”

“Mr. Adams, they are too rare and valuable a bird to be hawked about in
that manner.”

“Oh, don’t be a fool,” replied Adams. “Rare bird, indeed! Why they are
just as common in California as any other pigeon! I could have brought a
hundred of them from San Francisco, if I had thought of it.”

“But why did you not think of it?” I asked, with a suppressed smile.

“Because they are so common there,” said Adams, “I did not think they
would be any curiosity here. I have eaten them in pigeon-pies hundreds
of times, and have shot them by the thousands!”

I was ready to burst with laughter to see how readily Adams swallowed
the bait, but maintaining the most rigid gravity, I replied:

“Oh well, Mr. Adams, if they are really so common in California, you had
probably better take them, and you may write over and have half a dozen
pairs sent to me for the Museum.”

“All right,” said Adams, “I will send over to a friend in San Francisco,
and you shall have them here in a couple of months.”

I told Adams that, for certain reasons, I would prefer to have him
change the label so as to have it read: “Golden Pigeons from Australia.”

“Well, I will call them what you like,” said Adams; “I suppose they are
probably about as plenty in Australia as they are in California.”

Six or eight weeks after this incident, I was in the California
Menagerie, and noticed that the “Golden Pigeons” had assumed a
frightfully mottled appearance. Their feathers had grown out and they
were half white. Adams had been so busy with his bears that he had not
noticed the change. I called him up to the pigeon cage, and remarked:

“Mr. Adams, I fear you will lose your Golden Pigeons; they must be very
sick; I observe they are turning quite pale.”

Adams looked at them a moment with astonishment, then turning to me, and
seeing that I could not suppress a smile, he indignantly exclaimed:

“Blast the Golden Pigeons! You had better take them back to the Museum.
You can’t humbug me with your painted pigeons!”

This was too much, and “I laughed till I cried,” to witness the mixed
look of astonishment and vexation which marked the grizzly features of
old Adams.

After the exhibition on Thirteenth Street and Broadway had been open six
weeks, the doctor insisted that Adams should sell out his share in the
animals and settle up all his worldly affairs, for he assured him that
he was growing weaker every day, and his earthly existence must soon
terminate. “I shall live a good deal longer than you doctors think for,”
replied Adams doggedly; and then, seeming after all to realize the truth
of the doctor’s assertion, he turned to me and said: “Well, Mr. Barnum,
you must buy me out.” He named his price for his half of the “show,” and
I accepted his offer. We had arranged to exhibit the bears in
Connecticut and Massachusetts during the summer, in connection with a
circus, and Adams insisted that I should hire him to travel for the
season and exhibit the bears in their curious performances. He offered
to go for $60 per week and travelling expenses of himself and wife. I
replied that I would gladly engage him as long as he could stand it, but
I advised him to give up business and go to his home in Massachusetts;
“for,” I remarked, “you are growing weaker every day, and at best cannot
stand it more than a fortnight.”

“What will you give me extra if I will travel and exhibit the bears
every day for ten weeks?” added old Adams, eagerly.

“Five hundred dollars,” I replied, with a laugh.

“Done!” exclaimed Adams, “I will do it, so draw up an agreement to that
effect at once. But mind you, draw it payable to my wife, for I may be
too weak to attend to business after the ten weeks are up, and if I
perform my part of the contract, I want her to get the $500 without any

I drew up a contract to pay him $60 per week for his services, and if he
continued to exhibit the bears for ten consecutive weeks I was then to
hand him, or his wife, $500 extra.

“You have lost your $500!” exclaimed Adams on taking the contract; “for
I am bound to live and earn it.”

“I hope you may, with all my heart, and a hundred years more if you
desire it,” I replied.

“Call me a fool if I don’t earn the $500!” exclaimed Adams, with a
triumphant laugh.

The “show” started off in a few days, and at the end of a fortnight I
met it at Hartford, Connecticut.

“Well,” said I, “Adams, you seem to stand it pretty well. I hope you and
your wife are comfortable?”

“Yes,” he replied, with a laugh; “and you may as well try to be
comfortable, too, for your $500 is a goner.”

“All right,” I replied, “I hope you will grow better every day.”

But I saw by his pale face and other indications that he was rapidly
failing. In three weeks more, I met him again at New Bedford,
Massachusetts. It seemed to me, then, that he could not live a week, for
his eyes were glassy and his hands trembled, but his pluck was as great
as ever.

“This hot weather is pretty bad for me,” he said, “but my ten weeks are
half expired, and I am good for your $500, and, probably, a month or two

This was said with as much bravado as if he was offering to bet upon a
horse-race. I offered to pay him half of the $500 if he would give up
and go home; but he peremptorily declined making any compromise
whatever. I met him the ninth week in Boston. He had failed considerably
since I last saw him, but he still continued to exhibit the bears
although he was too weak to lead them in, and he chuckled over his
almost certain triumph. I laughed in return, and sincerely congratulated
him on his nerve and probable success. I remained with him until the
tenth week was finished, and handed him his $500. He took it with a leer
of satisfaction, and remarked, that he was sorry I was a teetotaler, for
he would like to stand treat!

Just before the menagerie left New York, I had paid $150 for a new
hunting suit, made of beaver skins, similar to the one which Adams had
worn. This I intended for Herr Driesbach, the animal tamer, who was
engaged by me to take the place of Adams, whenever he should be
compelled to give up. Adams, on starting from New York, asked me to loan
this new dress to him to perform in once in a while in a fair day, where
he had a large audience, for his own costume was considerably soiled. I
did so, and now when I handed him his $500, he remarked:

“Mr. Barnum, I suppose you are going to give me this new hunting dress?”

“Oh, no,” I replied, “I got that for your successor, who will exhibit
the bears to-morrow; besides, you have no possible use for it.”

“Now, don’t be mean, but lend me the dress, if you won’t give it to me,
for I want to wear it home to my native village.”

I could not refuse the poor old man anything, and I therefore replied:

“Well, Adams, I will lend you the dress; but you will send it back to

“Yes, when I have done with it,” he replied, with an evident chuckle of

I thought to myself, he will soon be done with it, and replied: “That’s
all right.”

A new idea evidently struck him, for, with a brightening look of
satisfaction, he said:

“Now, Barnum, you have made a good thing out of the California
menagerie, and so have I; but you will make a heap more. So if you won’t
give me this new hunter’s dress, just draw a little writing, and sign
it, saying that I may wear it until I have done with it.”

Of course, I knew that in a few days at longest, he would be “done” with
this world altogether, and, to gratify him, I cheerfully drew and
signed the paper.

“Come, old Yankee, I’ve got you this time--see if I haint!” exclaimed
Adams, with a broad grin, as he took the paper.

I smiled, and said:

“All right, my dear fellow; the longer you live the better I shall like

We parted, and he went to Neponset, a small town near Boston, where his
wife and daughter lived. He took at once to his bed, and never rose from
it again. The excitement had passed away, and his vital energies could
accomplish no more. The fifth day after arriving home, the physician
told him he could not live until the next morning. He received the
announcement in perfect calmness, and with the most apparent
indifference; then, turning to his wife, with a smile he requested her
to have him buried in the new hunting suit. “For,” said he, “Barnum
agreed to let me have it until I have done with it, and I was determined
to fix his flint this time. He shall never see that dress again.” His
wife assured him that his request should be complied with. He then sent
for the clergyman and they spent several hours in communing together.

Adams, who, rough and untutored, had nevertheless, a natural eloquence,
and often put his thoughts in good language, said to the clergyman, that
though he had told some pretty big stories about his bears, he had
always endeavored to do the straight thing between man and man. “I have
attended preaching every day, Sundays and all,” said he, “for the last
six years. Sometimes an old grizzly gave me the sermon, sometimes it was
a panther; often it was the thunder and lightning, the tempest, or the
hurricane on the peaks of the Sierra Nevada, or in the gorges of the
Rocky Mountains; but whatever preached to me, it always taught me the
majesty of the Creator, and revealed to me the undying and unchanging
love of our kind Father in heaven. Although I am a pretty rough
customer,” continued the dying man, “I fancy my heart is in about the
right place, and look with confidence for that rest which I so much
need, and which I have never enjoyed upon earth.” He then desired the
clergyman to pray with him, after which he took him by the hand, thanked
him for his kindness, and bade him farewell. In another hour his spirit
had taken its flight. It was said by those present, that his face
lighted into a smile as the last breath escaped him, and that smile he
carried into his grave. Almost his last words were: “Won’t Barnum open
his eyes when he finds I have humbugged him by being buried in his new
hunting dress?” That dress was indeed the shroud in which he was

And that was the last on earth of “Old Grizzly Adams.”

After the death of Adams, the grizzly bears and other animals were added
to the collection in my Museum, and I employed Herr Driesbach, the
celebrated lion-tamer, as an exhibitor. Some time afterwards the bears
were sold to a menagerie company, but I kept “old Neptune,” the
sea-lion, for several years, sending him occasionally for exhibition in
other cities, as far west as Chicago. This noble and ferocious animal
was a very great curiosity and attracted great attention. He was kept in
a large tank, which was supplied with salt water every day from the Fall
River steamboats, whose deck hands filled my barrels on every passage to


city with salt water from the deepest part of Long Island Sound. On his
tours through the country the sea-lion lived very well in fresh water.

It was at one time my serious intention to engage in an American Indian
Exhibition on a stupendous scale. I proposed to secure at the far West
not less than one hundred of the best specimens of full-blood Indians,
with their squaws and papooses, their paint, ponies, dresses, and
weapons, for a general tour throughout the United States and Europe. The
plan comprehended a grand entry at every town and city where the Indians
were to exhibit--the Indians in all the glory of paint and feathers,
beads and bright blankets, riding on their ponies, followed by tame
buffaloes, elks and antelopes; then an exhibition on a lot large enough
to admit of a display of all the Indian games and dances, their method
of hunting, their style of cooking, living, etc. Such an exhibition is
perfectly practicable now to any one who has the capital and tact to
undertake it, and a sure fortune would follow the enterprise.

On the 13th of October, 1860, the Prince of Wales, then making a tour in
the United States, in company with his suite, visited the American
Museum. This was a very great compliment, since it was the only place of
amusement the Prince attended in this country. Unfortunately, I was in
Bridgeport at the time, and the Museum was in charge of my manager, Mr.
Greenwood. Knowing that the name of the American Museum was familiar
throughout Europe, I was quite confident of a call from the Prince, and
from regard to his filial feelings I had, a day or two after his arrival
in New York, ordered to be removed to a dark closet a frightful wax
figure of his royal mother, which, for nineteen years, had excited the
admiration of the million and which bore a placard with the legend, “An
exact likeness of Her Majesty Queen Victoria, taken from life.” Mr.
Greenwood, who was an Englishman, was deeply impressed with the
condescension of the Prince, and backed his way through the halls,
followed by the Prince, the Duke of Newcastle, and other members of the
royal suite, and he actually trembled as he attempted to do the
reception honors.

Presently they arrived in front of the platform on which were exhibited
the various living human curiosities and monstrosities. The tall giant
woman made her best bow; the fat boy waddled out and kissed his hand;
the “negro turning white” showed his ivory and his spots; the dwarfs
kicked up their heels, and like the clown in the ring, cried “here we
are again”; the living skeleton stalked out, reminding the Prince,
perhaps, of the wish of Sidney Smith in a hot day that he could lay off
his flesh and sit in his bones; the Albino family went through their
performances; the “What is it?” grinned; the Infant Drummer-boy beat a
tattoo; and the Aztec children were shown and described as specimens of
a remarkable and ancient race in Mexico and Central America. The Prince
and his suite seemed pleased, and Greenwood was duly delighted. He was,
however, quite overwhelmed with the responsibility of his position,
especially whenever the Prince addressed him, and leading the way to the
wax figure hall he called attention to the figures of the Siamese Twins
and the Quaker Giant and his wife.

“I suppose,” said the Prince, “these figures are representatives of
different living curiosities exhibited from time to time in your

“Yes, your Royal Highness, all of them,” replied the confused Greenwood,
and as “all of them” included very fair figures of the Emperors Nicholas
and Napoleon, the Empress Eugenie, and other equally distinguished
personages, the Prince must have thought that the Museum had contained,
in times past, some famous “living curiosities.” On leaving the Museum,
the Prince asked to see Mr. Barnum, and when he was told that I was out
of town, he remarked: “We have missed the most interesting feature of
the establishment.” A few days afterwards, when the Prince was in
Boston, happening to be in that city, I sent my card to him at the
Revere House, and was cordially received. He smiled when I reminded him
that I had seen him when he was a little boy, on the occasion of one of
my visits to Buckingham Palace with General Tom Thumb. The Prince told
me that he was much pleased with his recent inspection of my Museum, and
that he and his suite had left their autographs in the establishment, as
mementos of their visit.

When I arrived in Boston, by the by, on this visit, the streets were
thronged with the military and citizens assembled to receive the Prince
of Wales, and I had great difficulty, in starting from the depot to the
Revere House, in getting through the assembled crowd. At last, a
policeman espied me, and taking me for Senator Stephen A. Douglas, he
cried out, at the top of his voice: “Make way there for Judge Douglas’s
carriage.” The crowd opened a passage for my carriage at short notice,
and shouted out “Douglas, Douglas, hurrah for Douglas.” I took off my
hat and bowed, smiling from the windows on each side of my carriage; the
cheers and enthusiasm increased as I advanced, and all the way to the
Revere House I continued to bow Judge Douglas’s grateful acknowledgments
for the enthusiastic reception. There must have been at least fifty
thousand people who joined in this spontaneous demonstration in honor of
Judge Douglas.

When Douglas ran for the presidency in 1860, my democratic friend, J. D.
Johnson, bet me a hat that the Judge would be elected. Douglas passed
through Bridgeport on his electioneering tour down East, and made a
brief speech from the rear platform of the car, to the people assembled
at the depot. The next day Mr. Johnson met me in a crowded barber shop
and asked me if I had ever seen Douglas? I answered that I had, and
Johnson then asked what sort of a looking man he was. Remembering our
hat bet, and knowing that Johnson expected a pretty hard description of
his favorite candidate, I said:

“He is a red-nosed, blear-eyed, dumpy, swaggering chap, looking like a
regular bar-room loafer.”

“I thought as much,” said Johnson, “for here is the New Haven paper of
this morning, which says that he is the very image, in personal
appearance, of P. T. Barnum.”

When the roar that followed subsided, I told Johnson I must have had
some other man in my mind’s eye, when I answered his question.

One day I went out of the Museum in great haste to Tom Higginson’s
barber shop, in the Park Hotel, where my daily tonsorial operations were
performed, and finding a rough-looking Hibernian just ahead of me, I
told him that if he would be good enough to give me his “turn,” I would
pay his bill; to which he consented, and taking his turn and my own
shave, I speedily departed, saying to Tom, as I went out: “Fix out this
man, and for whatever he has done I will pay the bill.”

Two or three clerks and reporters, who were in the shop, and who knew
me, put their freshly-dressed heads together and suggested to Tom that
here was an opportunity to perpetrate a practical joke on Barnum, and
they explained the plan, in which Higginson readily acquiesced.

“Now,” says one of them to the Irishman, “get everything done which you
like, and it will cost you nothing; it will be charged to the gentleman
to whom you gave your turn.”

“Sure and a liberal gintleman he must be,” said Pat.

“Will you take a bath?” asked the barber.

“That indade I will, if the gintleman pays,” was the reply.

When he came out of the bath he was asked if he would be shampooed. “And
what is that?” asked the bewildered Hibernian. The process was explained
and he consented to go through with the operation. Thereafter, moved and
instigated thereto by the barber and his confederates, Pat permitted
Higginson to dye his red hair and whiskers a beautiful brown, and then
to curl them. When all was done, the son of Erin looked in the mirror
and could scarcely believe the evidence of his own eyes. A more thorough
transformation could scarcely be conceived, and as he went out of the
door he said to Higginson:

“Give the generous gintleman me best complements and tell him he can
have my turn ony day on the same terms.”

One of the newspaper reporters, who assisted in the joke, published the
whole story the next day, and when I called at the barber shop a bill
for $1.75 was presented, which, of course, I could do no less than to
pay. The joke went the rounds of the papers; and after a few months, an
English friend sent me the whole story in a copy of the London _Family
Herald_--a publication that issues about half a million of copies
weekly. Mr. Currier, the lithographer, put the joke into pictorial form,
representing the Irishman as he appeared before, also as he appeared
after the “barbar-ous” operations. After all, it was a good
advertisement for me, as well as for Higginson; and it would have been
pretty difficult to serve me up about these times in printers’ ink in
any form that I should have objected to.

Meanwhile, the Museum flourished better than ever; and I began to make
large holes in the mortgages which covered the property of my wife in
New York and in Connecticut. Still, there was an immense amount of debts
resting upon all her real estate, and nothing but time, economy,
industry and diligence would remove the burdens.

[Illustration: _EAST BRIDGEPORT._]




For nearly five years my family had been knocked about, the sport of
adverse fortune, without a settled home. Sometimes we boarded, and at
other times we lived in a small hired house. Two of my daughters were
married, and my youngest daughter, Pauline, was away at boarding school.
The health of my wife was much impaired, and she especially needed a
fixed residence which she could call “home.” Accordingly, in 1860, I
built a pleasant house adjoining that of my daughter Caroline, in
Bridgeport, and one hundred rods west of the grounds of Iranistan. I had
originally a tract of twelve acres, but half of it had been devoted to
my daughter, and on the other half I now proposed to establish my own
residence. To prepare the site it was necessary to cart in several
thousands of loads of dirt to fill up the hollow and to make the broad,
beautiful lawn, in the centre of which I erected the new house, and
after supplying the place with fountains, shrubbery, statuary and all
that could adorn it, I named my new home “Lindencroft.” It was, in
truth, a very delightful place, complete and convenient in all respects,
and there is scarcely a more beautiful residence in Bridgeport now.

Meanwhile, my pet city, East Bridgeport, was progressing with giant
strides. The Wheeler and Wilson Sewing Machine manufactory had been
quadrupled in size, and employed about a thousand workmen. Numerous
other large factories had been built, and scores of first-class houses
were erected, besides many neat, but smaller and cheaper houses for
laborers and mechanics. That piece of property, which, but eight years
before, had been farm land, with scarcely six houses upon the whole
tract, was now a beautiful new city, teeming with busy life, and looking
as neat as a new pin. The greatest pleasure which I then took, or even
now take, was in driving through those busy streets, admiring the
beautiful houses and substantial factories, with their thousands of
prosperous workmen, and reflecting that I had, in so great a measure,
been the means of adding all this life, bustle and wealth to the City of
Bridgeport. And reflection on this subject only confirmed in my mind the
great doctrine of compensations. How plain was it in my case, that an
“apparent evil” was a “blessing in disguise!” How palpable was it now,
that, had it not been for the clock failure, this prosperity could not
have existed here. An old citizen of Bridgeport used to say to me, when,
a few years before, he had noticed my zeal in trying to build up the
east side:

“Mr. Barnum, your contemplated new city is like a fire made with
chestnut wood; it burns so long as you keep blowing it, and when you
stop, it goes out!”

I like, now-a-days to laugh at him about his “chestnut wood fire.” Of
course, I did blow the fire in all possible ways, but the result proved
that the wood which fed the fire was not chestnut, but the best and
soundest old hickory. The situation was everything that could be
desired, and I knew that in order to induce manufacturers to establish
their business in the new city, a prime requisite was the advantage I
could offer to employers, agents and workmen, to secure good and cheap
homes in the vicinity of their place of labor. To show the method I
adopted to secure this end, I copy from the files of the Bridgeport
_Standard_, an offer which I made, and the editorial comment thereon.
This offer, I may add, was not so much for the purpose of blowing the
fire, which was already fairly roaring with a lively blaze, as for the
sake of helping those who were willing to help themselves, and, at the
same time, contribute to my happiness, as well as their own, by
forwarding the growth of the new city.



     “There is a demand at the present moment for two hundred more
     dwelling-houses in East Bridgeport. It is evident that if the money
     expended in rent can be paid towards the purchase of a house and
     lot, the person so paying will in a few years own the house he
     lives in, instead of always remaining a tenant. In view of this
     fact, I propose to loan money at six per cent to any number, not
     exceeding fifty, industrious, temperate and respectable
     individuals, who desire to build their own houses.

     “They may engage their own builders, and build according to any
     reasonable plan (which I may approve), or I will have it done for
     them at the lowest possible rate, without a farthing profit to
     myself or agent, I putting the lot at a fair price and advancing
     eighty per cent of the entire cost; the other party to furnish
     twenty per cent in labor, material or money, and they may pay me in
     small sums weekly, monthly or quarterly, any amount not less than
     three per cent per quarter, all of which is to apply on the money
     advanced until it is paid.

     “It has been ascertained that by purchasing building materials for
     cash, and in large quantities, nice dwellings, painted and
     furnished with green blinds, can be erected at a cost of $1,500 or
     $1,800, for house, lot, fences, etc., all complete, and if six or
     eight friends prefer to join in erecting a neat block of houses
     with verandas in front, the average cost need not exceed about
     $1,300 per house and lot. If, however, some parties would prefer a
     single or double house that would cost $2,500 to $3,000, I shall be
     glad to meet their views.


     “February 16, 1864.”

The editor of the _Standard_ printed the following upon my announcement:

     “AN ADVANTAGEOUS OFFER.--We have read with great pleasure Mr.
     Barnum’s advertisement, offering assistance to any number of
     persons, not exceeding fifty, in the erection of dwelling houses.
     This plan combines all the advantages and none of the objections of
     Building Associations. Any individual who can furnish in cash,
     labor, or material, one-fifth only of the amount requisite for the
     erection of a dwelling house, can receive the other four-fifths
     from Mr. Barnum, rent his house and by merely paying what may be
     considered as only a fair rent for a few years, find himself at
     last the owner, and all further payments cease. In the mean time,
     he can be making such inexpensive improvements in his property as
     would greatly improve its market value, and besides have the
     advantage of any rise in the value of real estate. It is not often
     that such a generous offer is made to working men. It is a loan on
     what would be generally considered inadequate security, at six per
     cent, at a time when a much better use of money can be made by any
     capitalist. It is therefore generous. Mr. Barnum may make money by
     the operation. Very well, perhaps he will, but if he does, it will
     be by making others richer, not poorer; by helping those who need
     assistance, not by hindering them, and we can only wish that every
     rich man would follow such a noble example, and thus, without
     injury to themselves, give a helping hand to those who need it.
     Success to the enterprise. We hope that fifty men will be found
     before the week ends, each of whom desires in such a manner to
     obtain a roof which he can call his own.”

Quite a number of men at once availed themselves of my offer, and
eventually succeeded in paying for their homes without much effort. I am
sorry to add, that rent is still paid, month after month, by many men
who would long ago have owned neat homesteads, free from all
incumbrances, if they had accepted my proposals and had signed and kept
the temperance pledge, and given up the use of tobacco. The money they
have since expended for whiskey and tobacco, would have given them a
house of their own, if the money had been devoted to that object, and
their positions, socially and morally, would have been far better than
they are to-day. How many infatuated men there are in all parts of the
country, who could now be independent, and even owners of their own
carriages, but for their slavery to these miserable habits!

I built a number of houses to let, in order to accommodate those who
were unable to buy. I find this the most unpleasant part of my
connection with the new city. The interest on the investment, the taxes,
repairs, wear and tear, and insurance render tenant-houses the most
unprofitable property to own; besides which the landlord is often looked
upon by the tenants as an overbearing, grasping man and one whose
property it is their highest duty to injure as much as possible; for all
concerned therefore, it is much better that every person should somehow
manage to own the roof he sleeps under. Men are more independent and
feel happier who live in their own houses; they keep the premises in
neater order, and they make better citizens. Hence I always encourage
poor people to become householders if possible, for I find that
oftentimes when they have lived long in one of my houses they think it
very hard if the property is not given to them. They argue that the
landlord is rich and would never feel the loss of one little place, not
stopping to consider that the aggregate of a great many “little places”
thus given away would make the landlord poor,--nor would the tenants be
benefited so much by homes that were given to them as they would by
homes that were the fruits of their own industry and economy.

The land in East Bridgeport was originally purchased by me at from $50
to $75, and from those sums to $300 per acre; and the average cost of
all I bought on that side of the river was $200 per acre. Some portions
of this land are now assessed in the Bridgeport tax-list at from $3,000
to $4,000 per acre. At the time I joined Mr. Noble in this enterprise,
the site we purchased was not a part of the City of Bridgeport. It is
now, however, a most important section of the city, and the three
bridges connecting the two banks of the river, and originally chartered
as toll-bridges, have been bought by the city and thrown open as free
highways to the public. A horse railroad, in which I took one-tenth part
of the stock, connects the two portions of the city, extending westerly
beyond Iranistan and Lindencroft, while a branch road runs to the
beautiful “Sea-side Park” on the Sound shore.

The eastern line of East Bridgeport, when I first purchased so large a
portion of the property, was bounded by a long, narrow swale or valley
of salt meadow, through which a small stream passed, and which was
flooded with salt water at every tide. At considerable expense, I
erected a dam at the foot of this meadow, and thus converted this
heretofore filthy, repulsive, mosquito-inhabited and malaria-breeding
marsh into a charming sheet of water, which is now known as Pembroke
Lake. If this improvement had not been made, in all probability the
eastern portion of my property would never have been devoted to dwelling
houses; as it is, Barnum Street has been extended by means of a bridge
across the lake, and the eastern shore is already studded with houses.
The land on that side of the lake lies in the town of Stratford, and the
growth of the new settlement promises to be as rapid as that of East

General Noble, in laying out the first portion of our new city, named
several streets after members of his own family, and also of mine.
Hence, we have a “Noble” Street--and a noble street it is; a “Barnum”
Street; while other streets are named “William,” from Mr. Noble;
“Harriet,” the Christian name of Mrs. Noble; “Hallett,” the maiden name
of my wife; and “Caroline,” “Helen,” and “Pauline,” the names of my
three daughters. There is also the “Barnum School District” and
school-house; so that it seems as if, for a few scores of years at
least, posterity would know who were the founders of the new,
flourishing and beautiful city. We have yet another enduring and
ever-growing monument in the many thousands of trees which we set out
and which now line and gratefully shade the streets of East Bridgeport.

Figures can scarcely give an appreciable idea of the rapid growth and
material prosperity of this important portion of the City of Bridgeport;
but the city records show that my first purchase of land on that side of
the river was appraised in the Bridgeport assessment list, in October,
1851, at $36,000, while in July, 1859, the same real estate, with
improvements, less the Washington Park, the Public School lot in Barnum
District, the land for streets, and four church lots, was valued in the
city assessment list at $1,200,000. When we bought the property there
were but six old farm houses on the entire tract, when the centre bridge
was built and opened. Now there are on the same land hundreds of
dwelling-houses, some of them as fine as any in the State. Three
handsome churches, Methodist, Episcopal and Congregational, front on the
beautiful Washington Park of seven acres, which Mr. Noble and myself
presented to the city, and which would be worth $100,000 to-day for
building lots. This pleasant park is enclosed by a substantial iron
fence, and contains a fine, natural grove of full-grown trees, while the
surrounding streets are lined with charming residences, and, on one or
more evenings in the week during the summer, the city band, or the
Wheeler & Wilson band, plays in the Park for the amusement and benefit
of the citizens of East Bridgeport.

Some of the largest and most prosperous manufactories in the United
States are located in the new city. Among these are the Wheeler & Wilson
Sewing Machine Manufactories, which cover four entire squares, with
fire-proof buildings, are rapidly extending, and employ more than one
thousand operators; the Howe Sewing Machine Factory is also an immense
edifice, employing nearly the same number of men; Schuyler, Hartley,
Graham & Company’s great cartridge and ammunition works, almost supply
the armies of the world with the means of destruction; besides these,
the Winchester Arms Manufactory for making the “twenty-shooter
breech-loader”; a large brass manufactory; an immense hat manufactory;
and Hotchkiss, Sons & Company’s Hardware Manufactory, are among the more
prominent establishments, and other and like concerns are constantly
adding. Indeed, at this time (1869) one-fourth of the population and
three-fourths of the manufacturing capital and business of Bridgeport
are located on the east side within limits which, in 1850, contained
only six old farm houses.

The following details respecting the business of some of the largest
establishments will give an idea of the manufacturing industries of East
Bridgeport. The Wheeler and Wilson Manufacturing Company employ more
than $4,000,000 in their business. Their employees number ten hundred,
and they manufacture an average of three hundred sewing machines per
day; the total number of machines manufactured up to July 1, 1869, is
over four hundred thousand, and the factories cover six and one-half
acres of ground. The Union Metallic Cartridge Company, Messrs. Schuyler,
Hartley, Graham & Co., have a capital of $350,000, employ two hundred
and fifty men, and manufacture cartridges and primers of Berdan’s patent
military and sporting caps, and elastic gun waddings, at the rate of
1,000,000 cartridges, 720,000 primers, and 720,000 caps per week, and to
July 1, 1869, they had manufactured 50,000,000 cartridges. The
Bridgeport Brass Company employ two hundred men, have a capital of
$150,000, and manufacture rolled brass wire and tubing, kerosene
burners, lamp goods, corset steels, oil cans, etc., and roll and use in
these goods 1,000,000 pounds of brass a year. The Winchester Arms
Company have a capital of $450,000, employ three hundred men, and
manufacture the Winchester rifle, cartridges and ammunition. The Howe
Machine Company have a capital of $300,000, employ five hundred men, and
manufacture sewing machines at the rate of one hundred and fifty per
day. Messrs. Hotchkiss and Sons, with a capital of $162,500, and one
hundred and twenty-five men, manufacture hardware, currycombs, game
traps, and harness snaps to the amount of $20,000 per month. The
Bridgeport Manufacturing Company, with fifty men, and a capital of
$300,000, manufacture the American submerged pump. The Odorless Rubber
Company, with fifty men, and $200,000 capital, manufacture soft rubber
goods, hose, clothing, etc. The American Silver Steel Company,
manufacture steel from the Mine Hill, Roxbury, Connecticut, Spathic
ore, and employ two hundred and fifty men, and a capital of $500,000.
Messrs. Glover Sanford and Sons, employ two hundred and fifty men, and
manufacture two hundred and fifty dozen wool hats per day. The New York
Tap and Die Company, with a capital of $150,000, and one hundred men,
manufacture taps, dies, drills, bits, etc. These companies thus employ
about six and one-half millions in capital, and nearly twenty-seven
hundred men, and expend more than $2,000,000 a year in wages to the

In addition, there are several substantial brick blocks devoted to
business; there are book stores, drug stores, dry goods stores, jewelry
stores, boot and shoe shops and stores, tailoring and furnishing
establishments, more than twenty grocery stores, six meat markets, three
fish markets, coal, wood, lumber and brick yards, steam flouring mills,
and a large brick hotel. The water and gas supplies are the same as
those afforded on the other side of the river. It is quite within the
bounds of probability that in the course of twenty years, the east side
will contain the larger proportion of the inhabitants. A post-office and
a railway station will soon be built on that side of the river. A new
iron bridge is about to connect the two parts of the city, affording
additional facilities for inter-communication. In 1868, March 2, a
special committee of the Common Council reported the census of the City
of Bridgeport as follows: First ward, 7,397; Second ward, 4,237; Third
ward, East Bridgeport, 5,497; total, 17,131. In this enumeration, our
new city contained nearly one-third of the entire population, and its
increase since has been far more rapid than that of any other part of

The entire City of Bridgeport is advancing in population and prosperity
with a rapidity far beyond that of any other city in Connecticut, and
everything indicates that it will soon take its proper position as the
second, if not the first, city in the State. Its situation as the
terminus of the Naugatuck and the Housatonic railways, its accessibility
to New York, with its two daily steamboats to and from the metropolis,
and its dozen daily trains of the New York and Boston and Shore Line
railways, are all elements of prosperity which are rapidly telling in
favor of this busy, beautiful and charming city.




On the 13th of October, 1860, the American Museum was the scene of
another re-opening, which was, in fact, the commencement of the fall
dramatic season, the summer months having been devoted to pantomime. A
grand flourish of trumpets in the way of newspaper advertisements and
flaming posters drew a crowded house. Among other attractions, it was
announced that Mr. Barnum would introduce a mysterious novelty never
before seen in that establishment. I appeared upon the stage behind a
small table, in front of which was nailed a white sack, on which was
inscribed, in large letters, “The cat let out of the bag.” I then stated
that, having spent two of the summer months in the country, leaving the
Museum in charge of Mr. Greenwood, he had purchased a curiosity with
which he was not satisfied; but, for my part, I thought he had received
his money’s worth, and I proposed to exhibit it to the audience, for
the purpose of getting their opinion on the subject. I stated that a
farmer came in from the country, and said he had got a “cherry-colored
cat” at home which he would like to sell; that Mr. Greenwood gave him a
writing promising to pay him twenty-five dollars for such a cat
delivered in good health, provided it was not artificially colored; and
that the cat was then in the bag in front of the table, ready for
exhibition. Whereupon, my assistant drew from the bag a common black
cat, and I informed the audience that when the farmer brought his
“cherry-colored cat,” he quietly remarked to Mr. Greenwood, that, of
course, he meant “a cat of the color of black cherries.” The laughter
that followed this narration was uproarious, and the audience
unanimously voted that the “cherry-colored cat,” all things considered,
was well worth twenty-five dollars. The cat, adorned with a collar
bearing the inscription, “The Cherry-colored Cat,” was then placed in
the cage of the “Happy Family,” and the story getting into the
newspapers, it became another advertisement of the Museum.

In 1861, I learned that some fishermen at the mouth of the St. Lawrence
had succeeded in capturing a living white whale, and I was also informed
that a whale of this kind, if placed in a box lined with sea-weed and
partially filled with salt water, could be transported by land to a
considerable distance, and be kept alive. It was simply necessary that
an attendant, supplied with a barrel of salt water and a sponge, should
keep the mouth and blow-hole of the whale constantly moist. It seemed
incredible that a living whale could be “expressed” by railroad on a
five days’ journey, and although I knew nothing of the white whale or
its habits, since I had never seen one, I determined to experiment in
that direction. Landsman as I was, I believed that I was quite as
competent as a St. Lawrence fisherman to superintend the capture and
transportation of a live white whale.

When I had fully made up my mind to attempt the task, I made every
provision for the expedition, and took precaution against every
conceivable contingency. I determined upon the capture and transport to
my Museum of at least two living whales, and prepared in the basement of
the building a brick and cement tank, forty feet long, and eighteen feet
wide, for the reception of the marine monsters. When this was done,
taking two trusty assistants, I started upon my whaling expedition.
Going by rail to Quebec, and thence by the Grand Trunk Railroad, ninety
miles, to Wells River, where I chartered a sloop to Elbow Island (Isle
au Coudres), in the St. Lawrence River, and found the place populated by
Canadian French people of the most ignorant and dirty description. They
were hospitable, but frightfully filthy, and they gained their
livelihood by farming and fishing. Immense quantities of maple-sugar are
made there, and in exploring about the island, we saw hundreds of
birch-bark buckets suspended to the trees to catch the sap. After
numerous consultations, extending over three whole days, with a party of
twenty-four fishermen, whose gibberish was almost as untranslatable as
it was unbearable, I succeeded in contracting for their services to
capture for me, alive and unharmed, a couple of white whales, scores of
which could at all times be discovered by their “spouting” within sight
of the island. I was to pay these men a stipulated price per day for
their labor, and if they secured the whales, they were to have a liberal


The plan decided upon was to plant in the river a “kraal,” composed of
stakes driven down in the form of a V, leaving the broad end open for
the whales to enter. This was done in a shallow place, with the point of
the kraal towards shore; and if by chance one or more whales should
enter the trap at high water, my fishermen were to occupy the entrance
with their boats, and keep up a tremendous splashing and noise till the
tide receded, when the frightened whales would find themselves nearly
“high and dry,” or with too little water to enable them to swim, and
their capture would be the next thing in order. This was to be effected
by securing a slip-noose of stout rope over their tails, and towing them
to the sea-weed lined boxes in which they were to be transported to New

All this was simple enough “on paper”; but several days elapsed before a
single spout was seen inside the kraal, though scores of whales were
constantly around and near it. In time, it became exceedingly
aggravating to see the whales glide so near the trap without going into
it, and our patience was sorely tried. One day a whale actually went
into the kraal, and the fishermen proposed to capture it; but I wanted
another, and while we waited for number two to go in, number one knowing
the proverb, probably, and having an eye to his own interests, went out.
Two days afterwards, I was awakened at daylight by a great noise, and
amid the clamor of many voices, I caught the cheering news that two
whales were even then within the kraal, and hastily dressing myself, I
took a boat for the exciting scene. The real difficulty, which was to
get the whales into the trap, was now over, and the details of capture
and transportation could safely be left to my trusty assistants and the
fishermen. What they were to do until the tide went out and thereafter
was once more fully explained; and after depositing money enough to pay
the bill, if the capture was successful, I started at once for Quebec.
There I learned by telegraph that both whales had been caught, boxed,
and put on board sloop for the nearest point where they could be
transhipped in the cars. I had made every arrangement with the railway
officials, and had engaged a special car for the precious and curious

Elated as I was at the result of this novel enterprise, I had no idea of
hiding my light under a bushel, and I immediately wrote a full account
of the expedition, its intention, and its success, for publication in
the Quebec and Montreal newspapers. I also prepared a large number of
brief notices which I left at every station on the line, instructing
telegraph operators to “take off” all “whaling messages” that passed
over the wires to New York, and to inform their fellow townsmen at what
hour the whales would pass through each place. The result of these
arrangements may be imagined; at every station crowds of people came to
the cars to see the whales which were travelling by land to Barnum’s
Museum, and those who did not see the monsters with their own eyes, at
least saw some one who had seen them, and I thus secured a tremendous
advertisement, seven hundred miles long, for the American Museum.

When I arrived in New York, a dozen despatches had come from the
“whaling expedition,” and they continued to come every few hours. These
I bulletined in front of the Museum and sent copies to the papers. The
excitement was intense, and, when at last, these marine monsters arrived
and were swimming in the tank that had been prepared for them, anxious
thousands literally rushed to see the strangest curiosities ever
exhibited in New York.

Thus was my first whaling expedition a great success; but I did not know
how to feed or to take care of the monsters, and, moreover, they were in
fresh water, and this, with the bad air in the basement, may have
hastened their death, which occurred a few days after their arrival, but
not before thousands of people had seen them. Not at all discouraged, I
resolved to try again. My plan now was to connect the water of New York
bay with the basement of the Museum by means of iron pipes under the
street, and a steam engine on the dock to pump the water. This I
actually did at a cost of several thousand dollars, with an extra
thousand to the aldermanic “ring” for the privilege, and I constructed
another tank in the second floor of the building. This tank was built of
slate and French glass plates six feet long, five feet broad, and one
inch thick, imported expressly for the purpose, and the tank, when
completed, was twenty-four feet square, and cost $4,000. It was kept
constantly supplied with what would be called Hibernically, “fresh” salt
water, and inside of it I soon had two white whales, caught, as the
first had been, hundreds of miles below Quebec, to which city they were
carried by a sailing vessel, and from thence were brought by railway to
New York.

Of this whole enterprise, I confess I was very proud that I had
originated it and brought it to such successful conclusion. It was a
very great sensation, and it added thousands of dollars to my treasury.
The whales, however, soon died--their sudden and immense popularity was
too much for them--and I then despatched agents to the coast of
Labrador, and not many weeks thereafter I had two more live whales
disporting themselves in my monster aquarium. Certain envious people
started the report that my whales were only porpoises, but this petty
malice was turned to good account, for Professor Agassiz, of Harvard
University, came to see them, and gave me a certificate that they were
genuine white whales, and this indorsement I published far and wide.

The tank which I had built in the basement served for a yet more
interesting exhibition. On the 12th of August, 1861, I began to exhibit
the first and only genuine hippopotamus that had ever been seen in
America, and for several weeks the Museum was thronged by the curious
who came to see the monster. I advertised him extensively and
ingeniously, as “the great behemoth of the Scriptures,” giving a full
description of the animal and his habits, and thousands of cultivated
people, biblical students, and others, were attracted to this novel
exhibition. There was quite as much excitement in the city over this
wonder in the animal creation as there was in London when the first
hippopotamus was placed in the zoölogical collection in Regent’s Park.

Having a stream of salt water at my command at every high tide, I was
enabled to make splendid additions to the beautiful aquarium, which I
was the first to introduce into this country. I not only procured living
sharks, porpoises, sea horses, and many rare fish from the sea in the
vicinity of New York, but in the summer of 1861, I despatched a fishing
smack and crew to the Island of Bermuda and its neighborhood, whence
they brought scores of specimens of the beautiful “angel fish,” and
numerous other tropical fish of brilliant colors and unique forms. These
fish were a great attraction to all classes, and especially to
naturalists and others, who commended me for serving the ends of science
as well as amusement. But as cold weather approached, these tropical
fish began to die, and before the following spring, they were all gone.
I, therefore, replenished this portion of my aquaria during the summer,
and for several summers in succession, by sending a special vessel to
the Gulf for specimens. These operations were very expensive, but I
really did not care for the cost, if I could only secure valuable

In the same year, I bought out the Aquarial Gardens in Boston, and soon
after removed the collection to the Museum. I had now the finest
assemblage of fresh as well as salt water fish ever exhibited, and with
a standing offer of one hundred dollars for every living brook-trout,
weighing four pounds or more, which might be brought to me, I soon had
three or four of these beauties, which trout-fishermen from all parts of
the country came to New York to see. But the trout department of my
Museum required so much care, and was attended with such constant risks,
that I finally gave it up.

In December, 1861, I made one of my most “palpable hits.” I was visited
at the Museum by a most remarkable dwarf, who was a sharp, intelligent
little fellow, with a deal of drollery and wit. He had a splendid head,
was perfectly formed, was very attractive, and, in short, for a
“showman,” he was a perfect treasure. His name, he told me, was George
Washington Morrison Nutt, and his father was Major Rodnia Nutt, a
substantial farmer, of Manchester, New Hampshire. I was not long in
despatching an efficient agent to Manchester, and in overcoming the
competition with other showmen who were equally eager to secure this
extraordinary pigmy. The terms upon which I engaged him for three years
were so large that he was christened the $30,000 Nutt; I, in the mean
time, conferring upon him the title of Commodore. As soon as I engaged
him, placards, posters and the columns of the newspapers proclaimed the
presence of “Commodore Nutt,” at the Museum. I also procured for the
Commodore a pair of Shetland ponies, miniature coachman and footman, in
livery, gold-mounted harness and an elegant little carriage, which, when
closed, represented a gigantic English walnut. The little Commodore
attracted great attention and grew rapidly in public favor. General Tom
Thumb was then travelling in the South and West. For some years he had
not been exhibited in New York, and during these years he had increased
considerably in rotundity and had changed much in his general
appearance. It was a singular fact, however, that Commodore Nutt was
almost a _fac-simile_ of General Tom Thumb, as he looked half-a-dozen
years before. Consequently, very many of my patrons, not making
allowance for the time which had elapsed since they had last seen the
General, declared that I was trying to play “Mrs. Gamp” with my “Mrs.
Harris”; that there was, in fact, no such person as “Commodore Nutt”;
and that I was exhibiting my old friend Tom Thumb under a new name. The
mistake was very natural, and to me it was very laughable, for the more
I tried to convince people of their error, the more they winked and
looked wise, and said, “It’s pretty well done, but you can’t take me

Commodore Nutt enjoyed the joke very much. He would sometimes half admit
the deception, simply to add to the bewilderment of the doubting portion
of my visitors. After he had been in the Museum a few weeks, I took the
Commodore to Bridgeport to spend a couple of days by way of relaxation.
Many of the citizens of Bridgeport, who had known Tom Thumb from his
birth, would salute the Commodore as the General Tom Thumb. The little
fellow would return these salutes, for he delighted in keeping up the

Going into a crowded barber-shop one morning with the little Commodore,
we met my friend Mr. Gideon Thompson, who was sitting there, and who
called out:

“Good morning, Charley; how are you? When did you get home?”

“I’m quite well, thank you, and I arrived last night,” responded the
Commodore, with due gravity.

“I’ve got a horse now that will beat yours,” said Mr. Thompson.

“He must be pretty fast, then.”

“Well, Charley, I’ll drive out by your mother’s the first fine day, and
give you a trial.”

“All right,” said little Nutt, “but you had better not wager too much on
your fast horse, for you know mine is some pumpkins.”

“Well, Uncle Gid.,” I exclaimed, “you are ‘had’ this time; this little
gentleman is not General Tom Thumb, but Commodore Nutt.”

“What!” roared friend Gid.; “do you think I am an infernal fool? Why, I
knew Charley Stratton years before you ever saw him, didn’t I, General?”

No one in the room suspected that my little friend was any other than
General Tom Thumb, till Mr. William Bassett, the General’s
brother-in-law, came in and remarked the “wonderful resemblance to our
little Charley, as he looked years ago.”

“Is not this the General?” inquired half a dozen astonished men, who
were speedily assured he was not, but was quite another person. This
gave rise to a proposition to exhibit the Commodore to the General’s
mother, and a coach was procured, and Mr. Bassett, the Commodore, and I
went to Mrs. Stratton’s house. When we arrived, the Commodore shouted

“How are you, mother?”

But the mother, of all persons in Bridgeport, was not to be deceived,
though she expressed her astonishment at the very striking likeness the
Commodore bore to her son as he once looked. Mrs. Bassett concurred in
the testimony and said the Commodore looked so much like her brother
that she was loth to let him go. It is no wonder that other people were
deceived by the resemblance.

It was evident that here was an opportunity to turn all doubts into hard
cash by simply bringing the two dwarf Dromios together, and showing them
on the same platform. I therefore induced Tom Thumb to bring his Western
engagements to a close, and to appear for four weeks, beginning with
August 11, 1862, in my Museum. Announcements headed “The Two Dromios,”
and “Two Smallest Men, and Greatest Curiosities Living,” as I expected,
drew large crowds to see them, and many came especially to solve their
doubts with regard to the genuineness of the “Nutt.” But here I was
considerably nonplussed, for astonishing as it may seem, the doubts of
many of the visitors were confirmed! The sharp people who were
determined “not to be humbugged, anyhow,” still declared that Commodore
Nutt was General Tom Thumb, and that the little fellow whom I was trying
to pass off as Tom Thumb, was no more like the General than he was like
the man in the Moon. It is very amusing to see how people will sometimes
deceive themselves by being too incredulous.

As an illustration--the “Australian Golden Pigeons” which deceived Old
Adams were the occasion of another ludicrous incident. A shrewd lady,
one of my neighbors in Connecticut, was visiting the Museum, and after
inspecting the “Golden Angel Fish” swimming in one of the aquaria, she
abruptly addressed me:

“You can’t humbug me, Mr. Barnum; that fish is painted!”

“Nonsense!” said I, with a laugh; “the thing is impossible.”

“I don’t care, I know it is painted; it is as plain as can be.”

“But, my dear Mrs. H., paint would not adhere to a fish in the water;
and if it would, it would kill him.”

She left the Museum not more than half convinced, and in the afternoon
of the same day I met her in the California Menagerie. She knew I was
part proprietor in the establishment, and seeing me in conversation with
Old Adams, she came to me, her eyes glistening with excitement, and

“Oh, Mr. Barnum, I never saw anything so beautiful as those elegant
“Golden Pigeons”; you must give me some of their eggs for my own pigeons
to hatch; I should prize them beyond measure.”

“Oh, you don’t want ‘Golden Pigeons,’” I said; “they are painted.”

“No, they are not painted,” said she, with a laugh, “but I half think
the ‘Angel Fish’ is.”

I could scarcely control my laughter as I explained: “Now, Mrs. H., I
never spoil a good joke, even when the exposure betrays a Museum secret.
I assure you, upon honor, that the “Australian Golden Pigeons,” as they
are labelled, are really painted; I bought them for the sole purpose of
giving Old Adams a lesson; in their natural state they are nothing more
than common white ruff-neck pigeons.” She was convinced, and to this day
she blushes whenever any allusion is made to the “Angel Fish” or the
“Golden Pigeons.”

In 1862, I sent the Commodore to Washington, and joining him there, I
received an invitation from President Lincoln to call at the White House
with my little friend. Arriving at the appointed hour I was informed
that the President was in a special cabinet meeting, but that he had
left word if I called to be shown in to him with the Commodore. These
were dark days in the rebellion and I felt that my visit, if not
ill-timed, must at all events be brief. When we were admitted Mr.
Lincoln received us cordially, and introduced us to the members of the
cabinet. When Mr. Chase was introduced as the Secretary of the Treasury,
the little Commodore remarked:

“I suppose you are the gentleman who is spending so much of Uncle Sam’s

“No, indeed,” said Secretary of War Stanton, very promptly: “I am
spending the money.”

“Well,” said Commodore Nutt, “it is in a good cause, anyhow, and I guess
it will come out all right.”

His apt remark created much amusement. Mr. Lincoln then bent down his
long, lank body, and taking Nutt by the hand, he said:

“Commodore, permit me to give you a parting word of advice. When you are
in command of your fleet, if you find yourself in danger of being taken
prisoner, I advise you to wade ashore.”

The Commodore found the laugh was against him, but placing himself at
the side of the President, and gradually raising his eyes up the whole
length of Mr. Lincoln’s very long legs, he replied:

“I guess Mr. President, you could do that better than I could.”

Commodore Nutt and the Nova Scotia giantess, Anna Swan, illustrate the
old proverb sufficiently to show how extremes occasionally met in my
Museum. He was the shortest of men and she was the tallest of women. I
first heard of her through a quaker who came into my office one day and
told me of a wonderful girl, seventeen years of age, who resided near
him at Pictou, Nova Scotia, and who was probably the tallest girl in the
world. I asked him to obtain her exact height, on his return home, which
he did and sent it to me, and I at once sent an agent who in due time
came back with Anna Swan. She was an intelligent and by no means
ill-looking girl, and during the long period while she was in my employ
she was visited by thousands of persons. After the burning of my second
Museum, she went to England where she attracted great attention.

For many years I had been in the habit of engaging parties of American
Indians from the far West to exhibit at the Museum, and had sent two or
more Indian companies to Europe, where they were regarded as very great
“curiosities.” In 1864, ten or twelve chiefs of as many different
tribes, visited the President of the United States at Washington. By a
pretty liberal outlay of money, I succeeded in inducing the interpreter
to bring them to New York, and to pass some days at my Museum. Of
course, getting these Indians to dance, or to give any illustration of
their games or pastimes, was out of the question. They were real chiefs
of powerful tribes, and would no more have consented to give an
exhibition of themselves than the Chief Magistrate of our own nation
would have done. Their interpreter could not therefore promise that they
would remain at the Museum for any definite time; “for,” said he, “you
can only keep them just so long as they suppose all your patrons come to
pay them visits of honor. If they suspected that your Museum was a place
where people paid for entering,” he continued, “you could not keep them
a moment after the discovery.”

On their arrival at the Museum, therefore, I took them upon the stage
and personally introduced them to the public. The Indians liked this
attention from me, as they had been informed that I was the proprietor
of the great establishment in which they were invited and honored
guests. My patrons were of course pleased to see these old chiefs, as
they knew they were the “_real_ thing,” and several of them were known
to the public, either as being friendly or cruel to the whites. After
one or two appearances upon the stage, I took them in carriages and
visited the Mayor of New York in the Governor’s room at the City Hall.
Here the Mayor made them a speech of welcome, which being interpreted to
the savages was responded to by a speech from one of the chiefs, in
which he thanked the great “Father” of the city for his pleasant words,
and for his kindness in pointing out the portraits of his predecessors
hanging on the walls of the Governor’s room.

On another occasion, I took them by special invitation to visit one of
the large public schools up town. The teachers were pleased to see them,
and arranged an exhibition of special exercises by the scholars, which
they thought would be most likely to gratify their barbaric visitors. At
the close of these exercises, one old chief arose, and simply said,
“This is all new to us. We are mere unlearned sons of the forest, and
cannot understand what we have seen and heard.”

On other occasions, I took them to ride in Central Park, and through
different portions of the city. At every street corner which we passed,
they would express their astonishment to each other, at seeing the long
rows of houses which extended both ways on either side of each
cross-street. Of course, between each of these outside visits I would
return with them to the Museum, and secure two or three appearances upon
the stage to receive the people who had there congregated “to do them

As they regarded me as their host, they did not hesitate to trespass
upon my hospitality. Whenever their eyes rested upon a glittering shell
among my specimens of conchology, especially if it had several brilliant
colors, one would take off his coat, another his shirt, and insist that
I should exchange my shell for their garment. When I declined the
exchange, but on the contrary presented them with the coveted article, I
soon found I had established a dangerous precedent. Immediately, they
all commenced to beg for everything in my vast collection, which they
happened to take a liking to. This cost me many valuable specimens, and
often “put me to my trumps” for an excuse to avoid giving them things
which I could not part with.

The chief of one of the tribes one day discovered an ancient shirt of
chain-mail which hung in one of my cases of antique armor. He was
delighted with it, and declared he must have it. I tried all sorts of
excuses to prevent his getting it, for it had cost me a hundred dollars
and was a great curiosity. But the old man’s eyes glistened, and he
would not take “no” for an answer. “The Utes have killed my little
child,” he told me through the interpreter; and now he must have this
steel shirt to protect himself; and when he returned to the Rocky
Mountains he would have his revenge. I remained inexorable until he
finally brought me a new buckskin Indian suit, which he insisted upon
exchanging. I felt compelled to accept his proposal; and never did I see
a man more delighted than he seemed to be when he took the mailed shirt
into his hands. He fairly jumped up and down with joy. He ran to his
lodging room, and soon appeared again with the coveted armor upon his
body, and marched down one of the main halls of the Museum, with folded
arms, and head erect, occasionally patting his breast with his right
hand, as much as to say, “now, Mr. Ute, look sharp, for I will soon be
on the war path!”

Among these Indians were War Bonnet, Lean Bear, and Hand-in-the-water,
chiefs of the Cheyennes; Yellow Buffalo, of the Kiowas; Yellow Bear, of
the same tribe; Jacob, of the Caddos; and White Bull, of the Apaches.
The little wiry chief known as Yellow Bear had killed many whites as
they had travelled through the “far West.” He was a sly, treacherous,
blood-thirsty savage, who would think no more of scalping a family of
women and children, than a butcher would of wringing the neck of a
chicken. But now he was on a mission to the “Great Father” at
Washington, seeking for presents and favors for his tribe, and he
pretended to be exceedingly meek and humble, and continually urged the
interpreter to announce him as a “great friend to the white man.” He
would fawn about me, and although not speaking or understanding a word
of our language, would try to convince me that he loved me dearly.

In exhibiting these Indian warriors on the stage, I explained to the
large audiences the names and characteristics of each. When I came to
Yellow Bear I would pat him familiarly upon the shoulder, which always
caused him to look up to me with a pleasant smile, while he softly
stroked down my arm with his right hand in the most loving manner.
Knowing that he could not understand a word I said, I pretended to be
complimenting him to the audience, while I was really saying something
like the following:

“This little Indian, ladies and gentlemen, is Yellow Bear, chief of the
Kiowas. He has killed, no doubt, scores of white persons, and he is
probably the meanest, black-hearted rascal that lives in the far West.”
Here I patted him on the head, and he, supposing I was sounding his
praises, would smile, fawn upon me, and stroke my arm, while I
continued: “If the blood-thirsty little villain understood what I was
saying, he would kill me in a moment; but as he thinks I am
complimenting him, I can safely state the truth to you, that he is a
lying, thieving, treacherous, murderous monster. He has tortured to
death poor, unprotected women, murdered their husbands, brained their
helpless little ones; and he would gladly do the same to you or to me,
if he thought he could escape punishment. This is but a faint
description of the character of Yellow Bear.” Here I gave him another
patronizing pat on the head, and he, with a pleasant smile, bowed to the
audience, as much as to say that my words were quite true, and that he
thanked me very much for the high encomiums I had so generously heaped
upon him.

After they had been about a week at the Museum, one of the chiefs
discovered that visitors paid money for entering. This information he
soon communicated to the other chiefs, and I heard an immediate murmur
of discontent. Their eyes were opened, and no power could induce them to
appear again upon the stage. Their dignity had been offended, and their
wild, flashing eyes were anything but agreeable. Indeed, I hardly felt
safe in their presence, and it was with a feeling of relief that I
witnessed their departure for Washington the next morning.

In the spring of 1864, the United States Consul at Larnica, Island of
Cyprus, Turkish Dominions, wrote me a letter, declaring that he and the
English Consul, an American physician, resident in the island, and a
large company of Europeans as well as natives, had seen the most
remarkable object, no doubt, in the world,--a _lusus naturæ_, a feminine
phenomenon. This woman was represented to have “four cornicles on her
head, and one large horn, equal in size to an ordinary ram’s horn,
growing out of the side of her head”; and the consistency of the horns
was represented to be similar to that of cows’ or goats’ horns. This
singular story continued: “These horns have been growing for ten or
twelve years, and were carefully concealed by the woman until a few
weeks since, when a vision appeared in the person of an old man, and
warned her to remove the veil she wore, or God would punish her. She
sent to the Greek priest (she being of that persuasion), and confessed
to him, and was ordered to uncover her head, which she at once did.” She
was subsequently seen by the entire population, and the French consul,
in company with others, offered her fifty thousand piastres to go to
Paris for exhibition. The English consul, I was further informed, had
pronounced this woman to be “worth her weight in gold”; and I was
assured that if I wished to add her to my “wonderful Museum, and present
to the American public the most remarkable object yet exhibited,” I had
only to “send an agent immediately to secure the prize.”

Informing myself of the trustworthiness of my correspondent (who also
wrote a similar account to the New York _Observer_), I was not long in
making up my mind to secure this freak of nature; and I despatched Mr.
John Greenwood, Jr., in the steamer “City of Baltimore,” for Liverpool,
April 30, 1864. He went to London and Paris, and thence to Marseilles,
where he took a Syrian and Egyptian steamer to Palermo, and from thence
proceeded to Cyprus. On arriving, if he could have seen the woman at
once, he could have re-embarked on the steamer, which sailed again in a
few hours for other islands; but unfortunately, the woman was a few
miles in the interior, and poor Greenwood was detained a month on the
island before he could take another steamer to get away. Worse yet, the
woman, spite of the impression she had made upon so many and such
respectable witnesses, was really no curiosity after all, as it proved
upon examination, that her “horns” were not horns at all, but fleshy
excrescences, which may have been singularly shaped tumors, or wens. It
is needless to add that my agent did not engage her; and after a month
of discomfort and hard living, he succeeded in getting away, and sailed
for Constantinople, mainly to see what could be done in the way of
securing one or more Circassian women for exhibition in my Museum.

On his way through the Mediterranean, he had the following adventure: On
board the steamer, the harem of a Turkish Pasha occupied one side of the
quarter deck, which was divided off from the rest by a hurdle fence run
longitudinally through the middle of the deck. Greenwood was one day
sitting in an easy chair with his back to these women and their
attendants, when, feeling his chair move, he turned and saw one of the
Pasha’s wives getting over the hurdle, and as there was scarcely room
for her to squeeze herself between the chairs in which passengers were
sitting, he moved his own chair out of the way and rising, offered his
hand to assist the woman over the fence. She indignantly jumped back,
and Greenwood was immediately seized by two of the Pasha’s attendants,
violently shaken, and taken to task in Turkish for daring to offer to
touch the hand of one of his Excellency’s women. Greenwood had that day
formed the acquaintance of a fellow-passenger, a young Greek from Scio,
who was going to Beyrout to act as clerk for a merchant in that place.
He spoke good English, and seeing Greenwood in trouble among the Turks,
and knowing that he could speak neither Greek nor Arabic, he went to the
rescue, and demanded an explanation of the difficulty.

Upon hearing what was the trouble, he informed the


turbulent fellows that Greenwood had no motive in his act beyond simple
common courtesy. The prisoner, however, was still detained in the grasp
of the Turks, till the will of the insulted Pasha could be known. On
deck soon came the irate Pasha, in company with an old gentleman who was
said to have been tutor, formerly, to the present Sultan of Turkey. When
the two heard the charge and the explanation, and had consulted together
a little while, Greenwood was released. But for the friendly
interposition of the Greek, he might have been bastinadoed, or even

During the remainder of the voyage he was closely watched, but he was
very careful to be guilty of no act of “politeness,” and he went on
shore at Constantinople without so much as saying good-by to the Pasha.
In Constantinople he had some very singular adventures. To carry out his
purpose of getting access to the very interior of the slave-marts, he
dressed himself in full Turkish costume, learned a few words and phrases
which would be necessary in his assumed character as a slave-buyer, and,
as the Turks are a notably reticent people, he succeeded very well in
passing himself off for what he appeared, though he ran a risk of
detection many times every day. In this manner, he saw a large number of
Circassian girls and women, some of them the most beautiful beings he
had ever seen, and after a month in Constantinople and in other Turkish
cities, he sailed for Marseilles, then went to Paris, picking up many
treasures for my Museum, and returned to New York, after a journey of
13,112 miles.




In 1862 I heard of an extraordinary dwarf girl, named Lavinia Warren,
who was residing with her parents at Middleboro’, Massachusetts, and I
sent an invitation to her and her parents to come and visit me at
Bridgeport. They came, and I found her to be a most intelligent and
refined young lady, well educated, and an accomplished, beautiful and
perfectly-developed woman in miniature. I succeeded in making an
engagement with her for several years, during which she contracted--as
dwarfs are said to have the power to do--to visit Great Britain, France,
and other foreign lands.

Having arranged the terms of her engagement, I took her to the house of
one of my daughters in New York, where she remained quietly, while I was
procuring her wardrobe and jewelry, and making arrangements for her
début. As yet, nothing had been said in the papers about this
interesting young lady, and one day as I was taking her home with me to
Bridgeport, I met in the cars the wife of a wealthy menagerie
proprietor, who introduced me to her two daughters, young ladies of
sixteen and eighteen years of age, and then said:

“You have disguised the little Commodore very nicely.”

“That is not Commodore Nutt,” I replied, “it is a young lady whom I have
recently discovered.”

“Very well done, Mr. Barnum,” replied Mrs. B., with a look of self

“Really,” I repeated, “this _is_ a young lady.”

“Thank you, Mr. Barnum, but I know Commodore Nutt in whatever costume
you put him; and I recognized him the moment you brought him into the

“But, Mrs. B.,” I replied, “Commodore Nutt is now exhibiting in the
Museum, and this is a little lady whom I hope to bring before the public

“Mr. Barnum,” she replied, “you forget that I am a showman’s wife,
conversant with all the showman’s tricks, and that I cannot be

Seeing there was no prospect of convincing her, I replied in a
confidential whisper, for such chance for a joke was not to be lost:

“Well, I see you are too sharp for me, but I beg you not to mention it,
for you are the only person on board this train who suspects it is the

“I will say nothing,” she replied, “but do please bring the little
fellow over here, for my daughters have never seen him.”

I stepped and told Lavinia the joke and asked her to help carry it out.
I then took her over where she got a seat in the midst of the three

“Ah, Commodore,” whispered Mrs. B., “you have done it pretty well, but
bless you, I knew those eyes and that nose the moment I saw you.”

“Your eyes must be pretty sharp, then,” replied Lavinia.

“Oh, you see people in our line understand these things, and are never
deceived by appearances; but let me introduce you to these two young
ladies, my daughters.”

“We are happy to see you, sir,” said one of the young ladies. They then
enjoyed a very animated conversation, in the course of which they asked
the “Commodore” all about his family, and Lavinia managed to answer the
questions in such a way as to avoid suspicion. The ladies then informed
the “Commodore” that there was a sweet little lady living in their town
only sixteen years old, and if he would visit them, they would introduce
him; that her family was highly respectable, and she would make him a
capital wife! Lavinia thanked them and promised to visit them if it
should be convenient. As the ladies left the car, they shook hands with
Lavinia, kissed her, and in a whisper said “good morning, sir.” Meeting
the husband of the lady, some weeks afterwards, I told him the joke, and
he enjoyed it so highly that he will probably never let his wife and
daughters hear the last of it.

I purchased a very splendid wardrobe for Miss Warren, including scores
of the richest dresses that could be procured, costly jewels, and in
fact everything that could add to the charms of her naturally charming
little person. She was then placed on exhibition at the Museum and from
the day of her _débût_ she was an extraordinary success. Commodore Nutt
was on exhibition with her, and although he was several years her
junior he evidently took a great fancy to her. One day I presented to
Lavinia a diamond and emerald ring, and as it did not exactly fit her
finger, I told her I would give her another one and that she might
present this one to the Commodore in her own name. She did so, and an
unlooked-for effect was speedily apparent; the little Commodore felt
sure that this was a love-token, and poor Lavinia was in the greatest
trouble, for she considered herself quite a woman, and regarded the
Commodore only as a nice little boy. But she did not like to offend him,
and while she did not encourage, she did not openly repel his
attentions. Miss Lavinia Warren, however, was never destined to be Mrs.
Commodore Nutt.

It was by no means an unnatural circumstance that I should be suspected
of having instigated and brought about the marriage of Tom Thumb with
Lavinia Warren. Had I done this, I should at this day have felt no
regrets, for it has proved, in an eminent degree, one of the “happy
marriages.” I only say, what is known to all of their immediate friends,
that from first to last their engagement was an affair of the heart--a
case of “love at first sight”--that the attachment was mutual, and that
it only grows with the lapse of time. But I had neither part nor lot in
instigating or in occasioning the marriage. And as I am anxious to be
put right before the public, and so to correct whatever of false
impression may have gained ground, I have procured the consent of all
the parties to a sketch of the wooing, winning and nuptials. Of course I
should not lay these details before the public, except with the sanction
of those most interested. In this they consent to pay the penalty of
distinction. And if the wooings of kings and queens must be told, why
not the courtship and marriage of General and Mrs. Tom Thumb? The story
is an interesting one, and shall be told alike to exonerate me from the
suspicion named, and to amuse those--and they count by scores of
thousands--who are interested in the welfare of the distinguished

In the autumn of 1862, when Lavinia Warren was on exhibition at the
Museum, Tom Thumb had no business engagement with me; in fact, he was
not on exhibition at the time at all; he was taking a “vacation” at his
house in Bridgeport. Whenever he came to New York he naturally called
upon me, his old friend, at the Museum. He happened to be in the city at
the time referred to, and one day he called, quite unexpectedly to me,
while Lavinia was holding one of her levees. Here he now saw her for the
first time, and very naturally made her acquaintance. He had a short
interview with her, after which he came directly to my private office
and desired to see me alone. Of course I complied with his request, but
without the remotest suspicion as to his object. I closed the door, and
the General took a seat. His first question let in the light. He
inquired about the family of Lavinia Warren. I gave him the facts, which
I clearly perceived gave him satisfaction of a peculiar sort. He then
said, with great frankness, and with no less earnestness:

“Mr. Barnum, that is the most charming little lady I ever saw, and I
believe she was created on purpose to be my wife! Now,” he continued,
“you have always been a friend of mine, and I want you to say a good
word for me to her. I have got plenty of money, and I want to marry and
settle down in life, and I really feel as if I must marry that young

The little General was highly excited, and his general manner betrayed
the usual anxiety, which, I doubt not, most of my readers will
understand without a description. I could not repress a smile, nor
forget my joke; and I said:

“Lavinia is engaged already.”

“To whom--Commodore Nutt?” asked Tom Thumb, with much earnestness, and
some exhibition of the “green-eyed monster.”

“No, General, to me,” I replied.

“Never mind,” said the General, laughing, “you can exhibit her for a
while, and then give up the engagement; but I do hope you will favor my
suit with her.”

I told the General that this was too sudden an affair; that he must take
time to think of it; but he insisted that years of thought would make no
difference, for his mind was fully made up.

“Well, General,” I replied, “I will not oppose you in your suit, but you
must do your own courting. I tell you, however, the Commodore will be
jealous of you, and more than that, Miss Warren is nobody’s fool, and
you will have to proceed very cautiously if you can succeed in winning
her affections.”

The General thanked me, and promised to be very discreet. A change now
came suddenly over him in several particulars. He had been (much to his
credit) very fond of his country home in Bridgeport, where he spent his
intervals of rest with his horses, and especially with his yacht, for
his fondness for the water was his great passion. But now he was
constantly having occasion to visit the city, and horses and yachts were
strangely neglected. He had a married sister in New York, and his
visits to her multiplied, for, of course, he came to New York “to see
his sister!” His mother, who resided in Bridgeport, remarked that
Charles had never before shown so much brotherly affection, nor so much
fondness for city life.

His visits to the Museum were very frequent, and it was noticeable that
new relations were being established between him and Commodore Nutt. The
Commodore was not exactly jealous, yet he strutted around like a bantam
rooster whenever the General approached Lavinia. One day he and the
General got into a friendly scuffle in the dressing-room, and the
Commodore threw the General upon his back in “double quick” time. The
Commodore is lithe, wiry, and quick in his movements, but the General is
naturally slow, and although he was considerably heavier than the
Commodore, he soon found that he could not stand before him in a
personal encounter. Moreover, the Commodore is naturally quick-tempered,
and when excited, he brags about his knowledge of “the manly art of
self-defence,” and sometimes talks about pistols and bowie knives, etc.
Tom Thumb, on the contrary, is by natural disposition decidedly a man of
peace; hence, in this, agreeing with Falstaff as to what constituted the
“better part of valor,” he was strongly inclined to keep his distance,
if the little Commodore showed any belligerent symptoms.

In the course of several weeks the General found numerous opportunities
to talk with Lavinia, while the Commodore was performing on the stage,
or was otherwise engaged; and, to a watchful discerner, it was evident
he was making encouraging progress in the affair of the heart. He also
managed to meet Lavinia on Sunday afternoons and evenings, without the
knowledge of the Commodore; but he assured me he had not yet dared to
suggest matrimony.

He finally returned to Bridgeport, and privately begged that on the
following Saturday I would take Lavinia up to my house, and also invite

His immediate object in this was, that his mother might get acquainted
with Lavinia, for he feared opposition from that source whenever the
idea of his marriage should be suggested. I could do no less than accede
to his proposal, and on the following Friday, while Lavinia and the
Commodore were sitting in the green-room, I said:

“Lavinia, you may go up to Bridgeport with me to-morrow morning, and
remain until Monday.”

“Thank you,” she replied; “it will be quite a relief to get into the
country for a couple of days.”

The Commodore immediately pricked up his ears, and said:

“Mr. Barnum, _I_ should like to go to Bridgeport to-morrow.”

“What for?” I asked.

“I want to see my little ponies; I have not seen them for several
months,” he replied.

I whispered in his ear, “you little rogue, _that_ is the pony you want
to see,” pointing to Lavinia.

He insisted I was mistaken. When I remarked that he could not well be
spared from the Museum, he said:

“Oh! I can perform at half past seven o’clock, and then jump on to the
eight o’clock evening train, and go up by myself, reaching Bridgeport
before eleven, and return early Monday morning.”

I feared there would be a clashing of interests between the rival
pigmies; but wishing to please him, I consented to his request,
especially as Lavinia also favored it. I wished I could then fathom that
little woman’s heart, and see whether she (who must have discovered the
secret of the General’s frequent visits to the Museum) desired the
Commodore’s visit in order to stir up the General’s ardor, or whether,
as seemed to me the more likely, she was seeking in this way to prevent
a _denouement_ which she was not inclined to favor. Certain it is, that
though I was the General’s confidant, and knew all his desires upon the
subject, no person had discovered the slightest evidence that Lavinia
Warren had ever entertained the remotest suspicion of his thoughts
regarding marriage. If she had made the discovery, as I assume, she kept
the secret well. In fact, I assured Tom Thumb that every indication, so
far as any of us could observe, was to the effect that his suit would be
rejected. The little General was fidgety, but determined; hence he was
anxious to have Lavinia meet his mother, and also see his possessions in
Bridgeport, for he owned considerable land and numerous houses there.

The General met us at the depot in Bridgeport, on Saturday morning, and
drove us to my house in his own carriage--his coachman being tidily
dressed, with a broad velvet ribbon and silver buckle placed upon his
hat expressly for the occasion. Lavinia was duly informed that this was
the General’s “turn out”; and after resting half an hour at Lindencroft,
he took her out to ride. He stopped a few moments at his mother’s house,
where she saw the apartments which his father had built expressly for
him, and filled with the most gorgeous furniture--all corresponding to
his own diminutive size. Then he took her to East Bridgeport, and
undoubtedly took occasion to point out in great detail all of the houses
which he owned, for he depended much upon having his wealth make some
impression upon her. They returned, and the General stayed to lunch. I
asked Lavinia how she liked her ride; she replied:

“It was very pleasant, but,” she added, “it seems as if you and Tom
Thumb owned about all of Bridgeport!”

The General took his leave and returned at five o’clock to dinner, with
his mother. Mrs. Stratton remained until seven o’clock. She expressed
herself charmed with Lavinia Warren; but not a suspicion passed her mind
that little Charlie was endeavoring to give her this accomplished young
lady as a daughter-in-law. The General had privately asked me to invite
him to stay over night, for, said he, “If I get a chance, I intend to
‘pop the question’ before the Commodore arrives.” So I told his mother I
thought the General had better stop with us over night, as the Commodore
would be up in the late train, adding that it would be more pleasant for
the little folks to be together. She assented, and the General was

After tea Lavinia and the General sat down to play backgammon. As nine
o’clock approached, I remarked that it was about time to retire, but
somebody would have to sit up until nearly eleven o’clock, in order to
let in the Commodore. The General replied:

“I will sit up with pleasure, if Miss Warren will remain also.”

Lavinia carelessly replied, that she was accustomed to late hours, and
she would wait and see the Commodore. A little supper was placed upon
the table for the Commodore, and the family retired.

Now it happened that a couple of mischievous young ladies were visiting
at my house, one of whom was to sleep with Lavinia. They were suspicious
that the General was going to propose to Lavinia that evening, and, in a
spirit of ungovernable curiosity, they determined, notwithstanding its
manifest impropriety, to witness the operation, if they could possibly
manage to do so on the sly. Of course this was inexcusable, the more so
as so few of my readers, had they been placed under the same temptation,
would have been guilty of such an impropriety! Perhaps I should hesitate
to use the testimony of such witnesses, or even to trust it. But a few
weeks after, they told the little couple the whole story, were forgiven,
and all had a hearty laugh over it.

It so happened that the door of the sitting room, in which the General
and Lavinia were left at the backgammon board, opened into the hall just
at the side of the stairs, and these young misses, turning out the
lights in the hall, seated themselves upon the stairs in the dark, where
they had a full view of the cosy little couple, and were within easy
ear-shot of all that was said.

The house was still. The General soon acknowledged himself vanquished at
backgammon, and gave it up. After sitting a few moments, he evidently
thought it was best to put a clincher on the financial part of his
abilities; so he drew from his pocket a policy of insurance, and handing
it to Lavinia, he asked her if she knew what it was.

Examining it, she replied, “It is an insurance policy. I see you keep
your property insured.”

“But the beauty of it is, it is not my property,” replied the General,
“and yet I get the benefit of the insurance in case of fire. You will
see,” he continued, unfolding the policy, “this is the property of Mr.
Williams, but here, you will observe, it reads ‘loss, if any, payable to
Charles S. Stratton, as his interest may appear.’ The fact is, I loaned
Mr. Williams three thousand dollars, took a mortgage on his house, and
made him insure it for my benefit. In this way, you perceive, I get my
interest, and he has to pay the taxes.”

“That is a very wise way, I should think,” remarked Lavinia.

“That is the way I do all my business,” replied the General,
complacently, as he returned the huge insurance policy to his pocket.
“You see,” he continued, “I never lend any of my money without taking
bond and mortgage security, then I have no trouble with taxes; my
principal is secure, and I receive my interest regularly.”

The explanation seemed satisfactory to Lavinia, and the General’s
courage began to rise. Drawing his chair a little nearer to hers, he

“So you are going to Europe, soon?”

“Yes,” replied Lavinia, “Mr. Barnum intends to take me over in a couple
of months.”

“You will find it very pleasant,” remarked the General; “I have been
there twice, in fact I have spent six years abroad, and I like the old
countries very much.”

“I hope I shall like the trip, and I expect I shall,” responded Lavinia;
“for Mr. Barnum says I shall visit all the principal cities, and he has
no doubt I will be invited to appear before the Queen of England, the
Emperor and Empress of France, the King of Prussia, the Emperor of
Austria, and at the courts of any other countries which we may visit.
Oh! I shall like that, it will be so new to me.”

“Yes, it will be very interesting indeed. I have visited most of the
crowned heads,” remarked the General, with an evident feeling of
self-congratulation. “But are you not afraid you will be lonesome in a
strange country?” asked the General.

“No, I think there is no danger of that, for friends will accompany me,”
was the reply.

“I wish I was going over, for I know all about the different countries,
and could explain them all to you,” remarked Tom Thumb.

“That would be very nice,” said Lavinia.

“Do you think so?” said the General, moving his chair still closer to

“Of course,” replied Lavinia, coolly, “for I, being a stranger to all
the habits and customs of the people, as well as to the country, it
would be pleasant to have some person along who could answer all my
foolish questions.”

“I should like it first rate, if Mr. Barnum would engage me,” said the

“I thought you remarked the other day that you had money enough, and was
tired of travelling,” said Lavinia, with a slightly mischievous look
from one corner of her eye.

“That depends upon my company while travelling,” replied the General.

“You might not find my company very agreeable.”

“I would be glad to risk it.”

“Well, perhaps Mr. Barnum would engage you, if you asked him,” said

“Would you really like to have me go?” asked the General, quietly
insinuating his arm around her waist, but hardly close enough to touch

“Of course I would,” was the reply.

The little General’s arm clasped the waist closer as he turned his face
nearer to hers, and said:

“Don’t you think it would be pleasanter if we went as man and wife?”

The little fairy quickly disengaged his arm, and remarked that the
General was a funny fellow to joke in that way.

“I am not joking at all,” said the General, earnestly, “it is quite too
serious a matter for that.”

“I wonder why the Commodore don’t come?” said Lavinia.

“I hope you are not anxious for his arrival, for I am sure _I_ am not,”
responded the General, “and what is more, I do hope you will say ‘yes,’
before he comes at all!”

“Really, Mr. Stratton,” said Lavinia, with dignity, “if you are in
earnest in your strange proposal, I must say I am surprised.”

“Well, I hope you are not _offended_,” replied the General, “for I was
never more in earnest in my life, and I hope you will consent. The first
moment I saw you I felt that you were created to be my wife.”

“But this is so sudden.”

“Not so very sudden; it is several months since we first met, and you
know all about me, and my family, and I hope you find nothing to object
to in me.”

“Not at all; on the contrary, I have found you very agreeable, in fact I
like you very much as a friend, but I have not thought of marrying,

“And what? my dear,” said the General, giving her a kiss. “Now, I beg
of you, don’t have any ‘buts’ or ‘ands’ about it. You say you like me as
a friend, why will you not like me as a husband? You ought to get
married; I love you dearly, and I want you for a wife. Now, deary, the
Commodore will be here in a few minutes, I may not have a chance to see
you again alone; do say that we will be married, and I will get Mr.
Barnum to give up your engagement.”

Lavinia hesitated, and finally said:

“I think I love you well enough to consent, but I have always said I
would never marry without my mother’s consent.”

“Oh! I’ll ask your mother. May I ask your mother? Come, say yes to that,
and I will go and see her next week. May I do that, pet?”

Then there was a sound of something very much like the popping of
several corks from as many beer bottles. The young eaves-droppers had no
doubt as to the character of these reports, nor did they doubt that they
sealed the betrothal, for immediately after they heard Lavinia say:

“Yes, Charles, you may ask my mother.” Another volley of reports
followed, and then Lavinia said, “Now, Charles, don’t whisper this to a
living soul; let us keep our own secrets for the present.”

“All right,” said the General, “I will say nothing; but next Tuesday I
shall start to see your mother.”

“Perhaps you may find it difficult to obtain her consent,” said Lavinia.

At that moment a carriage drove up to the door, and immediately the bell
was rung, and the little Commodore entered.

“_You_ here, General?” said the Commodore, as he espied his rival.

“Yes,” said Lavinia, “Mr. Barnum asked him to stay, and we were waiting
for you; come, warm yourself.”

“I am not cold,” said the Commodore; “where is Mr. Barnum?”

“He has gone to bed,” remarked the General, “but a nice supper has been
prepared for you.”

“I am not hungry, I thank you; I am going to bed. Which room does Mr.
Barnum sleep in?” said the little bantam, in a petulant tone of voice.

His question was answered; the young eaves-droppers scampered to their
sleeping apartments, and the Commodore soon came to my room, where he
found me indulging in the foolish habit of reading in bed.

“Mr. Barnum, does Tom Thumb board here?” asked the Commodore,

“No,” said I, “Tom Thumb does not _board_ here. I invited him to stop
over night, so don’t be foolish, but go to bed.”

“Oh, it’s no affair of mine. I don’t care anything about it; but I
thought he had taken up his board here,” replied the Commodore, and off
he went to bed, evidently in a bad humor.

Ten minutes afterwards Tom Thumb came rushing into my room, and closing
the door, he caught hold of my hand in a high state of excitement and

“We are engaged, Mr. Barnum! we are engaged! we are engaged!” and he
jumped up and down in the greatest glee.

“Is that possible?” I asked.

“Yes, sir, indeed it is; but you must not mention it,” he responded; “we
agreed to tell nobody, so please don’t say a word. I must tell _you_,
of course, but ‘mum is the word.’ I am going, Tuesday, to get her
mother’s consent.”

I promised secrecy, and the General retired in as happy a mood as I ever
saw him. Lavinia also retired, but not a hint did she give to the young
lady with whom she slept regarding the engagement. Indeed, our family
plied her upon the subject the next day, but not a breath passed her
lips that would give the slightest indication of what had transpired.
She was quite sociable with the Commodore, and as the General concluded
to go home the next morning, the Commodore’s equanimity and good
feelings were fully restored. The General made a call of half an hour
Sunday evening, and managed to have an interview with Lavinia. The next
morning she and the Commodore returned to New York in good spirits, I
remaining in Bridgeport.

The General called on me Monday, however, bringing a very nice letter
which he had written to Lavinia’s mother. He had concluded to send this
letter by his trusty friend, Mr. George A. Wells, instead of going
himself, and he had just seen Mr. Wells, who had consented to go to
Middleborough with the letter the following day, and to urge the
General’s suit, if it should be necessary.

The General went to New York on Wednesday, and was there to await Mr.
Wells’ arrival. On Wednesday morning the General and Lavinia walked into
my office, and after closing the door, the little General said:

“Mr. Barnum, I want somebody to tell the Commodore that Lavinia and I
are engaged, for I am afraid there will be a ‘row’ when he hears of it.”

“Do it yourself, General,” I replied.

“Oh,” said the General, almost shuddering, “I would not dare to do it,
he might knock me down.”

“I will do it,” said Lavinia; and it was at once arranged that I should
call the Commodore and Lavinia into my office, and either she or myself
would tell him. The General, of course, “vamosed.”

When the Commodore joined us and the door was closed, I said:

“Commodore, do you know what this little witch has been doing?”

“No, I don’t,” he answered.

“Well, she has been cutting up one of the greatest pranks you ever heard
of,” I replied. “She almost deserves to be shut up, for daring to do it.
Can’t you guess what she has done?”

He mused a moment, and then looking at me, said in a low voice, and with
a serious looking face, “Engaged?”

“Yes,” said I, “absolutely engaged to be married to General Tom Thumb.
Did you ever hear of such a thing?”

“Is that so, Lavinia?” asked the Commodore, looking her earnestly in the

“That is so,” said Lavinia; “and Mr. Wells has gone to obtain my
mother’s consent.”

The Commodore turned pale, and choked a little, as if he was trying to
swallow something. Then, turning on his heel, he said, in a broken

“I hope you may be happy.”

As he passed out of the door, a tear rolled down his cheek.

“That is pretty hard,” I said to Lavinia.

“I am very sorry,” she replied, “but I could not help it. That diamond
and emerald ring which you bade me present in my name, has caused all
this trouble.”

Half an hour after this incident, the Commodore came to my office, and

“Mr. Barnum, do you think it would be right for Miss Warren to marry
Charley Stratton if her mother should object?”

I saw that the little fellow had still a slight hope to hang on, and I

“No, indeed, it would not be right.”

“Well, she says she shall marry him any way; that she gives her mother
the chance to consent, but if she objects, she will have her own way and
marry him,” said the Commodore.

“On the contrary,” I replied, “I will not permit it. She is engaged to
go to Europe for me, and I will not release her, if her mother does not
fully consent to her marrying Tom Thumb.”

The Commodore’s eyes glistened with pleasure, as he replied:

“Between you and me, Mr. Barnum, I don’t believe she will give her

But the next day dissipated his hopes. Mr. Wells returned, saying that
Lavinia’s mother at first objected, for she feared it was a contrivance
to get them married for the promotion of some pecuniary advantage; but,
upon reading the letter from the General, and one still more urgent from
Lavinia, and also upon hearing from Mr. Wells that, in case of their
marriage, I should cancel all claims I had upon Lavinia’s services, she

After the Commodore had heard the news, I said to him:

“Never mind, Commodore, Minnie Warren is a better match for you; she is
a charming little creature, and two years younger than you, while
Lavinia is several years your senior.”

“I thank you, sir,” replied the Commodore, pompously, “I would not marry
the best woman living; I don’t believe in women, any way.”

I then suggested that he should stand with little Minnie, as groom and
bridesmaid, at the approaching wedding.

“No, sir!” replied the Commodore, emphatically; “I won’t do it!”

That idea was therefore abandoned. A few weeks subsequently, when time
had reconciled the Commodore, he told me that Tom Thumb had asked him to
stand as groom with Minnie, at the wedding, and he was going to do so.

“When I asked you, a few weeks ago, you refused,” I said.

“It was not your business to ask me,” replied the Commodore, pompously.
“When the proper person invited me I accepted.”

Of course the approaching wedding was announced. It created an immense
excitement. Lavinia’s levees at the Museum were crowded to suffocation,
and her photographic pictures were in great demand. For several weeks
she sold more than three hundred dollars’ worth of her _cartes de
visite_ each day. And the daily receipts at the Museum were frequently
over three thousand dollars. I engaged the General to exhibit, and to
assist her in the sale of pictures, to which his own photograph, of
course, was added. I could afford to give them a fine wedding, and I did

The little couple made a personal application to Bishop Potter to
perform the nuptial ceremony, and obtained his consent; but the matter
became public, and outside pressure from some of the most squeamish of
his clergy was brought to bear upon the bishop, and he rescinded his

This fact of itself, as well as the opposition that caused it, only
added to the notoriety of the approaching wedding, and increased the
crowds at the Museum. The financial result to me was a piece of good
fortune, which I was, of course, quite willing to accept, though in this
instance the “advertisement,” so far as the fact of the betrothal of the
parties with its preliminaries were concerned, was not of my seeking, as
the recital now given shows. But seeing the turn it was taking in
crowding the Museum, and pouring money into the treasury, I did not
hesitate to seek continued advantage from the notoriety of the
prospective marriage. Accordingly, I offered the General and Lavinia
fifteen thousand dollars if they would postpone the wedding for a month,
and continue their exhibitions at the Museum.

“Not for fifty thousand dollars,” said the General, excitedly.

“Good for you, Charley,” said Lavinia, “only you ought to have said not
for a _hundred thousand_, for I would not!”

They both laughed heartily at what they considered my discomfiture, and
such, looked at from a business point of view, it certainly was. The
wedding day approached and the public excitement grew. For several days,
I might say weeks, the approaching marriage of Tom Thumb was the New
York “sensation.” For proof of this I did not need what, however, was

[Illustration: _MARRIAGE IN MINIATURE._]

ample, the newspaper paragraphs. A surer index was in the crowds that
passed into the Museum, and the dollars that found their way into the
ticket office.

It was suggested to me that a small fortune in itself could be easily
made out of the excitement. “Let the ceremony take place in the Academy
of Music, charge a big price for admission, and the citizens will come
in crowds.” I have no manner of doubt that in this way twenty-five
thousand dollars could easily have been obtained. But I had no such
thought. I had promised to give the couple a genteel and graceful
wedding, and I kept my word.

The day arrived, Tuesday, February 10, 1863. The ceremony was to take
place in Grace Church, New York. The Rev. Junius Willey, Rector of St.
John’s Church in Bridgeport, assisted by the late Rev. Dr. Taylor, of
Grace Church, was to officiate. The organ was played by Morgan. I know
not what better I could have done, had the wedding of a prince been in
contemplation. The church was comfortably filled by a highly select
audience of ladies and gentlemen, none being admitted except those
having cards of invitation. Among them were governors of several of the
States, to whom I had sent cards, and such of those as could not be
present in person were represented by friends, to whom they had given
their cards. Members of Congress were present, also generals of the
army, and many other prominent public men. Numerous applications were
made from wealthy and distinguished persons for tickets to witness the
ceremony, and as high as sixty dollars was offered for a single
admission. But not a ticket was sold; and Tom Thumb and Lavinia Warren
were pronounced “man and wife” before witnesses.

The following entirely authentic correspondence, the only suppression
being the name of the person who wrote to Dr. Taylor and to whom Dr.
Taylor’s reply is addressed, shows how a certain would-be “witness” was
not a witness of the famous wedding. In other particulars, the
correspondence speaks for itself.

     TO THE REV. DR. TAYLOR.--_Sir_: The object of my unwillingly
     addressing you this note is to inquire what right you had to
     exclude myself and other owners of pews in Grace Church from
     entering it yesterday, enforced, too, by a cordon of police for
     that purpose. If my pew is not my property, I wish to know it; and
     if it is, I deny your right to prevent me from occupying it
     whenever the church is open, even at a marriage of mountebanks,
     which I would not take the trouble to cross the street to witness.

Respectfully, your obedient servant,

W*** S***

       *       *       *       *       *

804 BROADWAY, NEW YORK, Feb. 16, 1863.

     MR. W*** S***--_Dear Sir_: I am sorry, my valued friend, that you
     should have written me the peppery letter that is now before me. If
     the matter of which you complain be so utterly insignificant and
     contemptible as “a marriage of mountebanks, which you would not
     take the trouble to cross the street to witness,” it surprises me
     that you should have made