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P.T. Barnum

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P.T. Barnum

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Biography courtesy of Robin Freed's UVa web

In 1829 Barnum married Charity Hallett. Four years later, Barnum moved his family to New York City to seek his fortune. Here he opened a boarding house and a grocery store. Shortly after their arrival in the city Barnum would enter into his first adventure as a showman by exhibiting an elderly African-American woman, Joice Heth . After exhibiting Ms. Heth, Barnum joined Aaron Turner's Traveling Circus, yet after several years Barnum knew that this was not his calling. He reflects: "I was thoroughly disgusted with the trade of a travelling showman...yet I always regarded it, not as an end, but as a means to something better." 5

In 1841, Barnum established his American Museum in New York City which enjoyed a 24-year run until it burned to the ground on July 13, 1865. Years later in 1880 Barnum merged with James Anthony Bailey to form the now infamous Barnum and Bailey Circus. In 1883 Barnum's earnings from the circus totaled $1,419,498. 6 By 1891 Barnum's heart was beginning to fail, yet he maintained his self-spectacle until the end. Barnum was curious as to how people would remember him so he granted The Evening Sun permission to print his obituary prematurely. The headline ran, "GREAT AND ONLY BARNUM. He Wanted To Read His Obituary; Here It Is." 7 On April 7, 1891, less than a month after the obituary appeared, Phineas Taylor Barnum died from heart failure.

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