On This Day

P. T. Barnum

Circus Showman and Businessman P. T. Barnum

Full Name: Phineas Taylor Barnum
Profession: Circus Showman and Businessman

Nationality:
United States of America
American

Why Famous: Known as 'The Greatest Showman,' Barnum is best remembered for founding the traveling Barnum & Bailey Circus which ran from 1871 until 2017, and for promoting various hoaxes on his audiences. He is credited with the saying "there's a sucker born every minute," though it cannot be proven he coined this.

Barnum ran the Barnum's American Museum after purchasing it in 1841. Here he produced several elaborate hoaxes, including the Fiji mermaid hoax, and employed the famous dwarf General Tom Thumb. When he started the Barnum & Bailey Circus with James Bailey he became known as the "Shakespeare of Advertising" for his innovative ways getting patrons to see his exhibits, though he was often accused of false advertising.

In the latter part of his career he also served as a politician, serving in the Connecticut legislature in the 1860s and as the mayor of Bridgeport from 1875 to 1876. In 2017 Australian actor Hugh Jackman played Barnum in the film The Greatest Showman. The soundtrack to the film was the best-selling album of 2018 in the United States.

Born: July 5, 1810
Birthplace: Bethel, Connecticut, USA
Star Sign: Cancer

Died: April 7, 1891 (aged 80)
Cause of Death: Stroke

Events in the Life of P. T. Barnum

  • 1835-06-02 P. T. Barnum & his circus begin 1st tour of US
  • 1836-02-25 Showman P. T. Barnum exhibits African American slave Joice Heth, claiming she was the 161 year-old nursemaid to George Washington
  • 1865-07-13 P. T. Barnum's museum burns down
  • 1865-11-13 P. T. Barnum's New American museum opens in Bridgeport
  • 1873-10-30 P. T. Barnum's circus, "Greatest Show on Earth", debuts (New York City)
  • 1881-03-18 Barnum & Bailey Circus, travelling as "The Greatest Show on Earth", debuts at (Madison Square Garde, New York City, would last 146 years before closing in 2017
  • 1881-03-28 "Greatest Show On Earth" formed by P. T. Barnum and James Anthony Bailey
  • 1882-02-03 Circus owner P. T. Barnum buys his world famous elephant Jumbo
  • 1907-10-22 Ringling Brothers Greatest Show on Earth buys Barnum & Bailey circus
  • 2017-05-21 Barnum & Bailey Circus performs for the last time at the Nassau Coliseum in NYC after 146 years

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