A Unique Story of a Marvellous Career. Life of Hon. Phineas T. Barnum, by Joel Benton.
Part 4 out of 8
INCIDENT--UP THE MISSISSIPPI--LEGERDEMAIN.
Soon after arriving at Havana, Barnum made a discovery. The
Habaneros, not accustomed to the high prices which opera tickets
command in the States, had determined that they would force
Barnum to lower the admission fee. This the manager refused to
do, and it soon became evident that although they attended the
concerts, they were not disposed to show the singer the least
favor. It was, therefore, with much inward trepidation that
Barnum watched the curtain rise on the first concert. The
following account of that concert is taken from the New York
"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 it 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 eyes 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 lips; 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
"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."
With tears of joy rolling down his cheeks, Barnum rushed behind
the scenes, and met her as she was withdrawing after the fifth
"God bless you, Jenny," he cried, "you've settled them!"
"Are you satisfied?" said the singer, throwing her arms around
his neck and weeping for joy. This was the first she had known of
the opposition, all hint of it having been kept from her by Mr.
Barnum, but she fully sympathized with him in his determination
not to lower the prices.
The papers continued to cry out for a reduction, and this caused
many people to stay away from the concerts, expecting Barnum to
yield. But when, after three concerts, it was announced that the
next one, devoted to charity, was also to be Miss Lind's
farewell, they became very much excited. Committees waited on
them to request more concerts, which resulted only in refusals:
some of the leading Dons offered to guarantee them $25,000, for
three concerts, but Barnum assured them that there was not money
enough in the Island of Cuba to induce him to consent.
The proceeds of the fourth concert were distributed between two
hospitals and a convent, besides giving $500 to Barnum's old
protege Vivalla, the little Italian plate-dancer, whom they had
met in Havana. The poor fellow's fortunes were at a very low ebb,
having lost the use of his left side from paralysis. He supported
himself by exhibiting a performing dog, which turned a spinning
wheel and did several other tricks. Miss Lind had heard of his
case and was very anxious that part of the benefit money should
be given him.
The morning after the concert the bell rang and Barnum found, on
going to the door, a procession of children from the convent
which had received a large sum of money from Miss Lind. The
children were attended by ten or twelve priests in rich
vestments. They had come to see the songstress and to thank her
in person. But Jenny shrank from appearing before such a stately
deputation: "Tell them I cannot see them," she exclaimed. "They
have nothing to thank me for. If I have done good it was no more
than my duty." And the grand procession with its wreaths and
banners, were obliged to depart.
The same day, Vivalla called and brought her a basket of fruit.
With tears of joy, he called down every blessing on the head of
the benevolent lady. "I shall go back to Italy! I shall see my
brothers and sisters again!" he cried. Miss Lind had gone for a
drive, but Barnum promised to give her the fruit and the message.
As he was passing out the door he hesitated end 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 the wheel for her? She is such a good lady, I
wish to please her very much." Mr. Barnum told the grateful
fellow that Miss Lind had refused to see the priests from the
convent that morning, because she never received thanks for
favors, and that he was quite welcome to the money.
When Miss Lind returned and heard the story, she exclaimed: "Poor
man, poor man, do let him come; its all the good creature can do
for me;" then with tears rolling down her face--"I like that, I
like that; do let him come and bring his dog. It will make him so
"God bless you, it WILL make him happy," said Barnum. "He shall
come to-morrow." And he went himself to tell Vivalla that Jenny
Lind would see his dog perform, the next day at four precisely.
"I will be punctual," said Vivalla, quite overcome 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 the whole
party 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
Poor Vivalla! He was probably never so happy before, but his
enjoyment did not exceed that of Miss Lind. 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.
In the party which accompanied Barnum to Havana was a man who had
formerly kept the Peale Museum in New York, afterwards managing
the establishment for Mr. Barnum. At present he was acting as
He was a curious fellow, at times full of fun and gayety and at
other times melancholy to the verge of insanity. Madness ran in
his family, and one of his brothers, in a moment of frenzy had
blown his brains out. Barnum knew of Bennett's tendency to
melancholy and watched him constantly. When they were on board
the steamer "Falcon" on their way back to New Orleans, a
thrilling incident occurred which Barnum afterwards related in
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. I was always glad to get
such notices, for they served as inexpensive advertisements to my
"Ticket-taker Bennett, however, took much to heart the attacks of
Editor Bennett upon Jenny Lind. When Editor Bennett came on board
the 'Falcon,' his violent name-sake said to a by-stander:
" '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 for 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
" 'Old Bennett has gone forward alone in the dark--and 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 exclaimed:
" '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 name-sake and drop
him overboard. The matter was too serious for a joke, and we made
little mention of it; but more than one of our 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. Barnum.' "
Bennett's end was tragic, as might be expected. Sometime after
the Havana journey Barnum sent him to London. He conducted the
business successfully, wrote up the accounts to a penny, then
handing the papers to a mutual friend with directions to give
them to Barnum when he should arrive, he went to his lodgings and
"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," she
said in despair.
"Leave that to me. Remain quiet for ten minutes, and there shall
be no crowd here," replied Barnum.
Taking his daughter on his arm, she drew her vail over her face
and they descended the gangway.
"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," said Barnum, and so
pushing and squeezing they reached the carriage and drove to Miss
Lind's apartments. A few minutes later Jenny and her companion
came quietly in a carriage and were in the house before the ruse
was discovered. In answer to the calls of the crowd she appeared
on the balcony, and bowed to the throng, which gave her three
cheers and dispersed.
A very funny incident occurred in New Orleans. Next to the
theatre where the concerts were given, was an exhibition in the
large open lots of mammoth hogs, 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 concert.
"I liked the music better than I expected," said he 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.
The party took passage to Cairo, Illinois, in the beautiful river
steamer "Magnolia." They had made arrangements with the captain
to delay in Natchez and in Memphis where concerts were given.
The time on board the steamer was pleasantly spent in reading and
watching the scenery. One day they had a musicale in the ladies'
cabin for the gratification of the passengers, at which Miss Lind
volunteered to sing. Barnum amused the passengers with his
inexhaustible fund of anecdotes and stories, and the tricks of
legerdemain, which he had learned and used in the South under
rather different circumstances. Among other tricks, he made a
silver piece disappear so mysteriously that the negro barber who
witnessed the feat, came to the conclusion that the great man
must be in league with the devil. "The next morning," says Mr.
Barnum, "I seated myself in the barber's chair and the darkey
began to talk:
" '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 comes.'
"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
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
" 'Beg pardon, Mr. Barnum, but where is my money? Can you get
" '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
"His curiosity was still great. 'Please do another trick,' said
" 'Very well,' I replied, 'stand perfectly still.'
"He did so, and I commenced muttering some mysterious words, as
if performing an incantation.
" 'What are you doing?' said the barber.
" 'I am changing you into a black cat,' I replied, 'but don't be
afraid; I will change you back again, if I don't forget the words
to do it with.'
"This was too much for the terrified darkey; with an awful
screech he rushed to the side of the boat resolved to drown
rather than undergo such a transformation.
"He was captured and brought back to me, when I dispelled his
fright by explaining the way in which I had tricked him. Relieved
and reassured, he clapped his hands and executed an impromtu jig,
exclaiming, 'Ha! ha! when I get back to New Orleans won't I come
de Barnum ober dem niggers!' "
CHAPTER XX. THE TRIALS OF AN IMPRESSARIO.
ST. LOUIS--THE SECRETARY'S LITTLE GAME--LEGAL ADVICE--SMOOTH
WATERS AGAIN--BARNUM'S EFFORTS APPRECIATED--AN EXTRAVAGANT
The concerts at Natchez and Memphis were extremely successful.
The sixty-first concert was given in St. Louis, and on the
morning of their arrival in the city Miss Lind's secretary came
to Mr. Barnum, commissioned, as he claimed, by the singer, and
told the Manager that as sixty concerts had already been given,
Miss Lind proposed to avail herself of one of the conditions of
the contract and cancel the engagement next morning. Much
startled by this sudden complication, but outwardly undisturbed,
Barnum asked if Miss Lind had authorized the notice. "I so
understand it," was the secretary's reply. Thinking that it might
be another scheme of her advisers and that Miss Lind herself
might possibly know nothing of it, Barnum told the secretary that
he would see him again in an hour. He then proceeded to his old
friend Sol Smith for legal advice. They went over the contract
together, Barnum telling his friend of the annoyances he had
suffered from Miss Lind's advisers, and they both agreed that if
she broke the contract thus suddenly, she was bound to pay back
all that she had received over the stipulated $1000, for each
concert. As she had been paid $137,000, for sixty concerts, this
extra money amounted to something like $77,000.
Barnum then went back to the secretary and told him that he was
ready to settle with Miss Lind and to close the engagement.
"But," said he, evidently much surprised, "you have already
advertised concerts in Louisville and Cincinnati, have you not?"
"Yes," answered Barnum calmly, "but you may take the contracts
for halls and printing off my hands at cost." He further offered
the assistance of his agent and his own personal services to give
Miss Lind a good start on her own account.
The secretary emboldened by this liberality then made a
proposition so extraordinary that Barnum at once saw that Miss
Lind could have had nothing to do with the scheme.
"Now suppose," he asked, "Miss Lind should wish to give some
fifty concerts in this country, what would you charge as
"A million dollars a concert," answered Barnum promptly; then he
added, "Now see here; I don't believe Miss Lind has authorized
you to make this proposition. If she has, just bring me a line to
that effect, over her own signature, and her check for the amount
due me by the terms of our contract, some $77,000, and we will
close our business connection at once."
"But why not make a new arrangement," persisted the secretary,
"for fifty more concerts, by which Miss Lind will pay you
liberally, say $1,000 a concert?"
"For the simple reason that I hired Miss Lind, and not she me,"
replied Barnum, "and because I ought never to take a farthing
less for my risk and trouble than the contract gives me. I have
voluntarily given Miss Lind more than twice as much as I
originally contracted to give her, or as she expected to receive
when she 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 ask her for it in the morning."
The next morning Barnum asked him again for the written
communication from Miss Lind; the secretary replied that it was
all a "joke," and that he merely wanted to see what the manager
would say to the proposition. He begged that nothing would be
said to Miss Lind concerning it. So it is altogether likely that
she knew nothing of it. The four concerts at St. Louis were given
and the program as arranged for the other cities was carried out,
with no more troublous incidents occurring.
To show that Barnum's efforts as manager of the Jenny Lind
enterprise were appreciated, we copy the dedication of Sol
Smith's Autobiography published in 1854. Smith was one of the
characters of his time, being celebrated as a comedian, an
author, a manager and a lawyer:
"TO PHINEAS T. BARNUM, PROPRIETOR OF THE AMERICAN MUSEUM, ETC.
"Great Impressario. Whilst you were engaged in your grand Jenny
Lind speculation, the following conundrum went the rounds of the
" 'Why is it that Jenny Lind and Barnum will never fall out?'
Answer: 'Because he is always for-getting, and she is always
"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
"Of all your speculations--from the negro centenarian, 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
"As a small installment 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,
"CHOUTEAU AVENUE, ST. LOUIS,
"NOV. 1, 1854."
Although Barnum never acknowledged it, there was a vast deal of
truth in Mr. Smith's statements.
Whenever Miss Lind sang for charity she gave what she might have
earned at a regular concert; Barnum always insisted upon paying
for the hall, orchestra, printing and other expenses. But Miss
Lind received the entire credit for liberality and benevolence.
It is but just to say, however, that she frequently remonstrated
with Barnum and declared that the expenses ought to be deducted
from the proceeds of the concert, but he always insisted on doing
what he called his share.
CHAPTER XXI. CLOSING THE GRAND TOUR.
APRIL FOOL JOKES AT NASHVILLE--A TRICK AT CINCINNATI--RETURN TO
NEW YORK--JENNY LIND PERSUADED TO LEAVE BARNUM--FINANCIAL RESULTS
OF THE ENTERPRISE.
Five concerts were given at St. Louis, and then they went to
Nashville, Tenn., where the sixty-sixth and sixty-seventh of the
series were given. At the latter place, Jenny Lind, accompanied
by Barnum and his daughter, Mrs. Lyman, visited "The Hermitage,"
where Barnum himself had years before seen "Old Hickory" Jackson.
While there, the prima donna heard, for the first time in her
life, wild mocking birds singing in the trees, and great was her
They spent the first of April, 1851, at Nashville. In the
forenoon of the day, the various members of the party amused
themselves by playing little "April Fool" jokes on Barnum, and
after dinner he took his revenge upon them. Securing a supply of
telegraph blanks and envelopes, he set to work preparing messages
full of the most sensational and startling intelligence, for most
of the people in the party. Almost every one of them presently
received what purported to be a telegraphic despatch. Barnum's
own daughter did not escape. She 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 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." And so cleverly did Barnum manage the
whole business that his victims did not discover how they had
been fooled until next morning, when they read the whole story in
a local newspaper, to which it had been given by Barnum himself.
From Nashville, Jenny Lind and a few of the party went to the
Mammoth Cave, and thence to Louisville, the others going directly
to the latter point by steamer. There they were joined by Signor
Salvi, whom Barnum had engaged at Havana. Three concerts were
given at Louisville, and they then proceeded to Cincinnati,
accompanied by George D. Prentice, the famous editor of The
Louisville Journal. A stop was made at Madison long enough to
give one concert, and they reached Cincinnati the next morning.
There was a tremendous crowd on the wharf, and Barnum was afraid
that an attempt to repeat the ruse he had played with his
daughter at New Orleans would not work here, as an account of it
had been published in the Cincinnati papers, and everyone would
be suspecting it. But he was fertile in expedients, and quickly
devised another scheme.
So he took Miss Lind on his arm and boldly started to walk down
the gang-plank in the face of the crowd. As he did so, Le Grand
Smith, who was in the plot, called out from the deck of 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 him to pass with the lady whom they supposed to
be his 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.
A concert was given at Wheeling, and another at Pittsburg, and
then, early in May, the company returned to New York. There they
gave fourteen concerts, partly at Castle Garden and partly at
Metropolitan Hall, making ninety-two of the regular series.
Miss Lind now came within the influence of various legal and
other advisers, who seemed intent on creating trouble between her
and her manager. Barnum soon discovered this state of affairs,
but was little troubled by it. Indeed he really hoped that they
would persuade her to stop at the hundredth concert, for he was
already worn out with the constant excitement and unremitting
exertions of the tour. He thought that perhaps it would be well
for Miss Lind to try giving a few concerts on her own account, or
under some other manager, in order to disprove what her friends
had told her, namely, that Mr. Barnum had not managed the
enterprise as successfully as he might have done.
Accordingly he was much pleased when, after the eighty-fifth
concert, she told him that she had decided to pay the forfeit of
$25,000, and terminate the concert tour after the one hundredth
performance. After the second series of concerts in New York,
they went to Philadelphia, where Barnum had advertised the
ninety-third and ninety-fourth concerts. As he did not care
enough for the probable profits of the last seven of the hundred
concerts to run the risk of disturbing the very friendly
relations which had so far existed between him and Miss Lind, he
now offered to relinquish the engagement, if she desired it, at
the end of the ninety-third concert. The only terms he required
were that she would allow him $1,000 for each of the remaining
seven concerts, besides the $25,000 forfeit already agreed upon.
She accepted this offer, and the engagement was forthwith ended.
After parting with Barnum, Miss Lind gave a number of concerts,
with varied success. Then she went to Niagara Falls for a time,
and afterward to Northampton, Massachusetts. While living at the
latter place she visited Boston, and was there married to Otto
Goldschmidt. He was a German composer and pianist, who had
studied music with her in Germany, and to whom she had long been
much attached. He had, indeed, travelled with her and Barnum
during a portion of their tour, and had played at several of the
After the end of their engagement, Barnum and Miss Lind met on
several occasions, always in the friendliest manner. Once, at
Bridgeport, she complained rather bitterly to him of the
unpleasant experiences she had had since leaving him. "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," said Mr. Barnum, sometime afterward, "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 that I have all the money which
I shall ever need."
It is pleasant to add that this noble resolution was carried out.
A large proportion of the concerts which she gave after her
return to Europe and during the remainder of her entire public
career, were devoted to objects of charity. If she consented, for
example, to sing for a charitable object in London, the fact was
not advertised at all, but the tickets were readily disposed of
in private for from $5 to $10 each.
As for Mr. Barnum, he was glad to enjoy a season of rest and
quiet after such an arduous campaign. After leaving Miss Lind, in
Philadelphia, therefore, he went to Cape May for a week and then
to his home Iranistan, where he spent the remainder of the
It is interesting, as a matter of record, to review at this
point, the financial results of this notable series of concerts.
The following recapitulation is entirely accurate, being taken
from Mr. Barnum's own account books:
JENNY LIND CONCERTS.
TOTAL RECEIPTS, EXCEPTING OF CONCERTS DEVOTED TO CHARITY.
New York .............. $17,864.05
" .............. 14,203.03
No. 1. "................ 12,519.59
2. "................ 14,266.09
3. "................ 12,174.74
4. "................ 16,028.39
5. Boston............ 16,479.50
6. "................ 11,848.62
7. "................ 8,639 92
8. "................ 10,169.25
9. Providence........ 6,525.54
10. Boston............ 10,524.87
11. "................ 5,240.00
12. "................ 7,586.00
13. Philadelphia...... 9,291.25
14. "................ 7,547.00
15. "................ 8,458.65
16. New York.......... 6,415.90
17. "................ 4,009.70
18. "................ 5,982.00
19. "................ 8,007.10
20. "................ 6,334.20
21. "................ 9,429.15
22. "................ 9,912.17
23. "................ 5,773.40
24. "................ 4,993.50
25. "................ 6,670.15
26. "................ 9,840.33
27. "................ 7,097.15
28. "................ 8,263.30
29. "................ 10,570.25
30. "................ 10,646.45
31. Philadelphia...... 5,480.75
32. "................ 5,728.65
33. "................ 3,709.88
34. "................ 4,815.48
35. Baltimore......... 7,117.00
36. "................ 8,357.05
37. "................ 8,406.50
38. "................ 8,121.33
39. Washington City... 6,878.55
40. "................ 8,507.05
41. Richmond.......... 12,385.21
42. Charleston........ 6,775.00
43. "................ 3,653.75
44. Havana............ 4,666.17
45. "................ 2,837.92
46. Havana............ 2,931.95
47. New Orleans....... 12,599.85
48. "................ 10,210.42
49. "................ 8,131.15
50. "................ 6,019.85
51. "................ 6,644.00
52. "................ 9,720.80
53. "................ 7,545.50
54. "................ 6,053.50
55. "................ 4,850.25
56. "................ 4,495.35
57 "................ 6,630.35
58. "................ 4,745.10
59. Natchez........... 5,000.00
60. Memphis........... 4,539.56
61. St. Louis......... 7,811.85
62. "................ 7,961.92
63. "................ 7,708.70
64. "................ 4,086.50
65. "................ 3,044.70
66. Nashville......... 7,786.30
67. "................ 4,248.00
68. Louisville........ 7,833.90
69. "................ 6,595.60
70. "................ 5,000.00
71. Madison........... 3,693.25
72. Cincinnati........ 9,339.75
73. "................ 11,001.50
74. "................ 8,446.30
75. "................ 8,954.18
76. "................ 6,500.40
77. Wheeling.......... 5,000.00
78. Pittsburg......... 7,210.58
79. New York.......... 6,858.42
80. "................ 5,453.00
81. "................ 5,463.70
82. "................ 7,378.35
83. "................ 7,179.27
84. "................ 6,641.00
85. "................ 6,917.13
86. New York.......... 6,642.04
87. "................ 3,738.75
88. "................ 4,335.28
89. "................ 5,339.23
90. "................ 4,087.03
91. "................ 5,717.00
92. "................ 9,525.80
93. Philadelphia...... 3,852.75
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 " " 32,101.83 " 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 " 3478.68
New Orleans l2 " " 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
JENNY LIND'S RECEIPTS.
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
Leaving the total excess, as above....$199,283.11 Being equally
divided, Miss Lind's portion was....$99,641.55 Barnum 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 Barnum as forfeiture, per contract, in case she
withdrew after the 100th Concert..........$25,000 She also paid
him $1,000 each for the seven concerts
JENNY LIND'S net avails of 95 concerts................$176,675.09
P. T. BARNUM'S gross receipts, after paying Miss Lind
TOTAL RECEIPTS of 95 Concerts $712,161.34
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. 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.
CHAPTER XXII. A FEW SIDE ISSUES.
THE EXPEDITION TO CEYLON--HARNESSING AN ELEPHANT TO A
PLOW--BARNUM AND VANDERBILT--THE TALKING MACHINE--A FIRE AT
IRANISTAN--MOUNTAIN GROVE CEMETERY.
The great showman did not allow even so great an enterprise as
the Jenny Lind concerts to monopolize his attention. In 1849 he
planned the formation of a great travelling show, combining the
features of a museum, a menagerie and a circus. In this he
associated with himself Mr. Seth B. Howes, who was already a
noted and successful showman, and also Mr. Stratton, the father
of Tom Thumb. In order to procure a supply of novelties for this
show they chartered the ship "Regatta," and sent it from New York
in May, 1850, to Ceylon. The object of this voyage, was to
procure, either by purchase or by capture, a number of living
elephants and other wild animals. To make sure of a sufficient
supply of fodder for them, nearly a thousand tons of hay were
purchased in New York and taken out aboard the ship. Five hundred
tons of it were left at the Island of St. Helena, to be taken up
on the return trip, and a great supply of staves and hoops were
also left there for the construction of water casks.
This extraordinary mission was successful. In almost exactly a
year from the day of sailing the ship returned to New York. Its
novel cargo was unloaded, the ten elephants which had been
secured were harnessed in pairs to a gigantic chariot, and the
whole show paraded up Broadway past the Irving House. It was
reviewed from the window of that hotel by Jenny Lind, who was
stopping there on her second visit to New York. An elaborate
outfit of horses, wagons, tents, etc., was added, the whole
costing over $100,000, and then the show went on the road under
the nominal leadership of Tom Thumb. It was called, "Barnum's
Great Asiatic Caravan, Museum and Menagerie;" it travelled about
the country for four years, and yielded to its proprietors
At the end of this tour Barnum sold out the entire establishment,
including animals, cages, chariots and everything else, excepting
one elephant. This huge brute he took to his farm at Bridgeport,
for advertising purposes. It occurred to him that if he should
keep the animal there for a time and put him to some novel use,
such as working on the farm, it would set people to talking and
greatly add to public curiosity and interest in his American
He accordingly took the elephant to Bridgeport and put him in
charge of a competent keeper, who was dressed in a striking
Oriental costume. A six acre field close by the New York and New
Haven railroad track was set apart for their use. Barnum gave the
keeper a time-table of the road and directed him to make a point,
whenever trains were passing, always to be busily engaged with
the elephant at plowing or other agricultural work as close to
the track as possible. Of course the passengers noticed the
strange spectacle, items concerning it appeared in the
newspapers, extending even to the press of foreign lands, and
thousands of people came from all parts of the country to witness
the strange sight. Every mail brought numerous letters inquiring
about it. Many of these were from the officers of agricultural
societies in all parts of the United States, making serious and
earnest inquiry as to the utility of the elephant as an
agricultural animal. These letters were greatly diversified in
tone, but the substance of their inquires was about as follows:
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?"
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.
Barnum presently began to be alarmed lest some one should buy an
elephant and thus share the fate of the man who drew one in a
lottery and did not know what to do with him. "Accordingly," he
says, "I 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 excellent 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 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 farming."
The result of this experiment in advertising was highly
successful. Newspaper correspondents sent highly colored accounts
of it all over the world, and numerous pictures of the elephant
harnessed to a plow appeared in the illustrated papers and
magazines. After the field had been plowed over fifty or sixty
times, Barnum concluded that the elephant had been "worked for
all he was worth," and sold him to Van Amburgh's menagerie.
In 1851 Mr. Barnum became a part owner of the steamship "North
America," which he proposed to run between America and Ireland as
a passenger and freight vessel. This idea was presently
abandoned, and the ship was sent around Cape Horn to San
Francisco and put into service on the Pacific Mail Line,
Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt having purchased a one-half
interest in it and Mr. Barnum retaining one-third interest in the
remaining half. After she had made several trips Barnum called
upon Mr. Vanderbilt at his office and introduced himself. It was
their first meeting, and this is Barnum's own account of the
" '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 some.'
"A few months subsequent to this, I sold out my share in the
steamship to Mr. Daniel Drew."
Numerous smaller enterprises also marked this stage of Mr.
Barnum's career. Some of these were connected with his museum,
while others were entirely independent of it. Thus in 1844, in
Paris, besides purchasing Robt. Houdin's ingenius automatic
writer and other costly curiosities for the museum, he had made
at great expense, a huge panorama of the funeral of Napoleon
Bonaparte. This gigantic picture showed every event of that
pageant, beginning with the embarkation of the body at St. Helena
and ending with its final entombment at the Hotel des Invalides.
This exhibition, after having had its day at the American Museum,
was sold, and extensively and profitably exhibited elsewhere.
While Barnum was in London, during the same year, he 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.
After the loss of the bell ringers to the English public Barnum
secured and sent thither a party of sixteen North American
Indians, who were widely exhibited. On his return to America
after his first visit to Europe he engaged an ingenious workman
to construct an automatic orator. This was a life-size and
remarkably life-like figure, and when worked from a key-board
similar to that of a piano it actually uttered words and
sentences with surprising distinctness. It was exhibited for
several months in London and elsewhere in England, but though it
was really a wonderful machine and attracted the earnest
attention of some people, it was not a popular success. The Duke
of Wellington visited it several times, and at first he thought
that the "voice" proceeded from the exhibiter, whom he assumed to
be a skilful 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 exhibiter's
autograph book, and certified that the "Automaton Speaker" was an
extraordinary production of mechanical genius.
Barnum also secured duplicates of the models of machinery
exhibited at the Royal Polytechnic Institution in London and a
great many interesting panoramas and pictures. These were all
exhibited at his museum in New York and afterwards sold to other
travelling showmen who exhibited them throughout the country. In
the summer of 1850 he added to the museum his famous Chinese
collection, including a Chinese family of two men, two "small
footed" women, and two children.
Few of his curiosities attracted more attention than the
performances of the "Scotch Boys." One of these was securely
blindfolded, and then, in answer to questions put by the other,
accurately described any 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.
In 1850, the celebrated Bateman children acted for several weeks
at the American Museum, and in June of that year Barnum 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 head of her profession.
Miss Catharine Hayes and Herr Begnis were engaged by Barnum in
the fall of 1852 to give a series of sixty concerts in
California, and the enterprise proved highly profitable, although
Mr. Barnum intrusted its execution to his agents, not caring
himself to travel so far. Before she set out for California Miss
Hayes, with her mother and sister, spent several days at
Iranistan to attend the marriage of Barnum's eldest daughter,
Caroline, to Mr. David W. Thompson.
The wedding was to take place in the evening, and on the
afternoon of that day Mr. Barnum went to Bridgeport to get shaved
for the occasion. While he was lying in the barber's chair, half
of his face shaved and the other half covered with lather, his
prospective son-in-law, Mr. Thompson, drove up to the door of the
shop and rushed in, exclaiming excitedly, "Mr. Barnum, Iranistan
is in flames!" Barnum jumped up from the chair and, half shaved
and with the lather still on his face, jumped into the wagon and
started for home with the horse on a run. "I was greatly
alarmed," he afterward said, "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 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 coach-house.'
"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
While Miss Hayes was at Bridgeport she gave, at Barnum's request,
a concert for the benefit of "Mountain Grove Cemetery," and the
large proceeds were devoted to the erection of the stone tower
and gateway that now adorn the entrance to that beautiful resting
place of the dead. Barnum had bought the eighty acres of land for
this cemetery a few years before from several farmers. He had
been in the habit of tramping over it, gunning, and while thus
engaged, had observed its admirable fitness for the purposes of a
cemetery. After the title 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 Barnum's own substantial
granite monument, the family monuments of Harral, Bishop,
Hubbell, Lyon, Wood, Loomis, Wordin, Hyde, and others, and
General Tom Thumb 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
Mr. Dion Boucicault also lectured at Bridgeport for the benefit
of this cemetery and Tom Thumb gave an entertainment for the same
object. At Barnum's request and under his management, Tom Thumb
and his wife, and Commodore Nutt and his wife, gave several
exhibitions and entertainments for the benefit of the Bridgeport
Charitable Society, the Bridgeport Library, and other local
CHAPTER XXIII. SOME DOMESTIC ENTERPRISES.
PUTTING A PICKPOCKET ON EXHIBITION--TRAVELLING INCOGNITO--THE
PEQUONNOCK BANK--THE NEW YORK CRYSTAL PALACE--A POEM ON AN
INCIDENT AT IRANISTAN.
In the summer of 1853 Alfred Bunn, formerly manager of Drury Lane
Theatre, London, arrived in Boston. He was then one of the most
notable figures in the theatrical world. It was he who had made
the first engagement with Jenny Lind to appear in London. She had
been induced to break this engagement, however, through the
solicitations of Mr. Lumley, of Her Majesty's Theatre, with the
result that Mr. Lumley had to pay to Mr. Bunn heavy damages for
the breach of contract. Barnum and Bunn had never met, though
they knew each other well by reputation, and indeed Bunn labored
under the delusion that he had met Barnum, for soon after his
arrival he hastened to New York and entered Barnum's private
office at the Museum with the exclamation, "Well, Barnum, do you
Barnum was confident that he had never seen him before, and
indeed did not really know who he was. But, quick as a flash, he
thought that the ex-manager of Drury Lane must be the only living
Englishman with presumption enough to accost him in this way. So
he answered without hesitation, "Why, this is Mr. Bunn, isn't
"Ah, my boy," said Bunn, slapping him familiarly on the back, "I
thought you would remember me. Well, Barnum, how have you been
since I last saw you?"
Barnum replied in a manner that encouraged his impression that
they were old acquaintances, and during the next two hours they
had much gossip about men and affairs in London. Bunn called upon
Barnum several times after that, and probably never realized that
Barnum really had been in London two or three years without
making his acquaintance. When Barnum went to London again in 1858
he renewed his acquaintance with Bunn and they became great
The years 1851, 1852 and 1853 were mostly spent at Bridgeport,
with frequent visits to New York of a day or two each. In the
last-named year he resigned the office of President of the
Fairfield County Agricultural Society, but in accepting his
resignation the society insisted that it should not go into
effect until after the annual fair of 1854 His administration of
the affairs of the society had been very successful, especially
in relation to the fairs and cattle shows.
The manner in which Barnum turned every circumstance to account
in the interest of these fairs is well shown in his dealings with
a pickpocket at the fair of 1853. The man was caught in the act
of taking a pocket-book from a country farmer, and on arrest was
found to be a notorious English thief. He had already victimized
many other visitors to the fair, and there was almost a state of
panic among the visitors. The fair was to close the next day.
Early the next morning the thief was taken before a justice,
legally examined, and was bound over for trial. Barnum then
obtained consent from the Sheriff that the fellow should be put
on the fair grounds, for the purpose of giving those who had been
robbed an opportunity of identifying him. For this purpose he was
handcuffed and placed in a conspicuous position, where of course
he was "the observed of all observers." Then Barnum papered the
country round about with handbills, stating that, for the last
day of the fair, the managers had secured an extraordinary
attraction. They would, he said, exhibit, safely handcuffed, and
without extra charge, a live pickpocket, who had on the day
preceding been caught in the act of robbing an honest farmer.
Crowds of people rushed in to see the show, parents for miles
around brought their children to see the awful example of
iniquity, and great was the profit to the treasury of the fair.
At the close of his presidency in 1854 Barnum was asked to
deliver the opening speech at the County Fair at Stamford. He did
so, delivering simply a portion of his lecture on "The Philosophy
of Humbug." The next morning, as he 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. Here is
Barnum's own account of what followed:
"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
"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
"But it happens he don't know it," replied the ticket-seller, in
"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
chapfallen that I did not pretend to recognize him as the hero of
the joke in the barber's shop.
There were many incidents similar to the foregoing in Barnum's
career. One occurred on board a steamboat, going from New York to
Bridgeport. As they entered the harbor of the latter city a
stranger asked the great showman to point out "Barnum's house"
from the deck. Barnum did so, and then another bystander
remarked, "I know all about that house, for I did a lot of
painting there for several months while Barnum was in Europe." He
went on to say that it was the meanest and worst contrived house
he ever saw, and added, "It will cost old Barnum a mint of money
and not be worth two cents after it is finished." "I suppose from
that that old Barnum didn't pay you very punctually," observed
Barnum himself. "Oh, yes; he pays promptly every Saturday night,"
said the other; "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 thought any great shakes until Barnum took him
and trained him."
Presently one of the other passengers told this man who Barnum
was, and nothing more was seen of him.
On another occasion, says Barnum, 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 Barnum."
"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."
The Pequonnock Bank of Bridgeport was organized in the spring of
1851. Barnum had no interest whatever in it, not holding a single
share of the stock. He was, however, unanimously elected
President of it. He accepted the office, but as he knew he could
not devote much time to it, requested that Mr. Hubbell, then
Mayor of Bridgeport, should be made Vice-President.
Mr. Barnum also invested $20,000, as special partner, in a
company for the publication of an illustrated weekly newspaper in
New York. This was The Illustrated News. The first number was
issued on the 1st of January, 1853, and within a month it had
seventy thousand circulation. Various complications arose, which
greatly annoyed Barnum, and at the end of the first year the
whole concern was sold out without loss.
He was earnestly urged, in February, 1854, to accept the
presidency of the Universal Exposition, which was held in New
York in the famous Crystal Palace. At first he positively
declined. But the matter was persistently urged upon him by many
influential gentlemen, who represented to him that the success of
the enterprise depended upon his acceptance of the position. The
result was that at last he did accept it, and he entered upon its
duties with all the vigor he could command. The concern was
almost bankrupt, and to save it from utter ruin Barnum advanced
large sums of money from his own purse. By this means and by
various other efforts, such as the re-inauguration, the famous
Jullien concerts, etc., here stored a semblance of prosperity.
But it was uphill work, and after a time he resigned the
presidency and abandoned the institution to its fate.
A little incident which occurred at Iranistan, in the winter of
1852, was observed by a lady from Philadelphia who was visiting
there at the time. She afterward made it the subject of a poem,
which Mr. Barnum prized highly. It was as follows:
AN INCIDENT IN THE LIFE OF AN AMERICAN CITIZEN.
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 gray 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 Dower so well!
CHAPTER XXIV. THE JEROME CLOCK COMPANY.
FOUNDING EAST BRIDGEPORT--GROWTH OF THE CITY--THE JEROME CLOCK
BUBBLE--A RUINED MAN--PAYING HONEST DEBTS--DOWN IN THE DEPTHS.
In the year 1851 Mr. Barnum had purchased from William H. Noble,
of Bridgeport, Conn., the undivided half of his late father's
homestead--fifty acres of land on the east side of the river,
opposite the city of Bridgeport. Together they bought the one
hundred and seventy-four acres adjoining, and laid out the entire
property in regular streets, and lined them with trees. A
beautiful grove of eight acres was reserved for a park. This they
intended for a nucleus of a new city, to be known as East
They then commenced selling alternate lots, at the same price as
the land had cost them by the acre, always on condition that a
suitable dwelling-house, store or manufactory should be erected
on the ground within a year; that every building should be placed
at a certain distance from the street; that the style of
architecture should be approved by the sellers; that the grounds
be inclosed with suitable fences, and that in all respects the
locality should be kept desirable for respectable residents.
A new foot-bridge was built across the river, connecting the new
town with the city of Bridgeport, and a public toll-bridge, which
belonged to Barnum and Noble, was thrown open to the public free.
They also erected a covered drawbridge at a cost of $16,000,
which was made free to the public for several years.
They built and leased to a union company of young coach-makers a
large manufactory, which was one of the first buildings erected
in the town, and which went into operation on the first day of
the year 1852.
In addition to the inducements of low prices for the lots, the
owners advanced one-half, two-thirds, and sometimes all the funds
to erect buildings, permitting the purchasers to repay them in
small sums at their own convenience. The town, under such
favorable auspices, began to develop and to grow with great
No one of Barnum's schemes had ever interested him as this one
did. He was willing to listen to any one who thought they had a
project favorable to the advancement of the new city. It was the
man's weak spot, and it was this weak spot which was destined to
be touched once too often.
There was a small clock factory in the town of Litchfield, in
which Barnum was a stockholder. Thinking always of his beloved
enterprise, it occurred to him at length that if the Litchfield
clock company could be transferred to East Bridgeport, it would
necessarily bring with it numerous families to swell the
population. A new stock company was formed, under the name of the
"Terry and Barnum Manufacturing Company," and in 1852 a factory
was built in East Bridgeport.
It will be seen how recklessly the owners of the site were
spending money. They looked for their profits wholly from the
sale of the reserved lots, which they felt sure would bring high
In 1855 Mr. Barnum was visited by the President of the Jerome
Clock Company, Mr. Chauncey Jerome, with a proposition that the
concern, which was reputed to be very wealthy, should be removed
to East Bridgeport. Negotiations were opened, and at last Barnum
was offered a transfer of the great manufactory with its seven
hundred to one thousand employees, if he would lend his name as
security for $110,000 in aid of the company.
He was shown an official report of the directors of the company,
exhibiting a capital of $400,000 with a surplus of $187,000. They
were in need of money to tide over a dull season and a market
glutted with goods. The company also was represented as being
extremely loth to dismiss any of their employees, who would
suffer greatly if their means of livelihood were taken from them.
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,' " as Mr. Barnum said.
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 company. Barnum afterwards
learned that his correspondent represented a bank which was one
of the largest creditors of the concern.
Barnum finally agreed to lend the clock company his notes for a
sum not to exceed $50,000, and to accept drafts to an amount not
to exceed $60,000. He also received the written guarantee of the
President, Chauncey Jerome, that in no event should he lose by
the loan, as he would be personally responsible for the
repayment. Mr. Barnum was willing that his notes should be taken
up and renewed an indefinite number of times just so the maximum
of $110,000 was not exceeded. Upon the representation that it was
impossible to say exactly when it would be necessary to use the
notes, Barnum was induced to put his name to several notes for
$3,000, $5,000 and $10,000, leaving the date of payment blank, it
being stipulated that the blanks should be filled to make the
notes payable in five, ten, or even sixty days from date. On the
other hand, it was agreed that the Jerome Company should exchange
its stock with the Terry and Barnum stockholders, thus absorbing
that concern, and unite the whole business in East Bridgeport.
Three months later Barnum's memoranda showed that the entire
$110,000 had been used. He was then solicited by the New York
agent of the company for five additional notes for $5,000 each.
The request was refused unless they would return an equal amount
of his own cancelled notes, since the agent assured him that they
were cancelling these notes "every week." The cancelled notes
were brought him next day and he renewed them. This he did
afterwards very frequently, until at last his confidence in their
integrity became so firmly established that he ceased to ask to
see the notes that had been taken up, but furnished new paper as
often as it was desired.
But gradually the rumor that the banks were hesitating about
discounting his paper came to Barnum's ears. Wondering at this,
he made a few inquiries, which resulted in the startling
discovery that his notes had never been taken up, as represented
by the Jerome Company, and that some of the blank-date notes had
been made payable in twelve, eighteen and twenty-four months.
Further investigation revealed the fact that he had indorsed for
the company to the amount of over half a million dollars, and
that most of the notes had been exchanged for old Jerome Company
notes due to the banks and other creditors.
Barnum simply went to work, paid every debt he owed in the world,
The Jerome Company also failed, and in addition to absorbing
Barnum's fortune, was able to pay only about fifteen per cent. of
its own obligations. Of course it never removed to East
Bridgeport at all.
The failure was a nine-days' wonder all over the country. Never
had Barnum achieved such notoriety. As he expressed it, he 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
Barnum declared that he could stand the abuse, the cooling of
false friends and even the loss of fortune, but it made him
furious to read and hear the moralizings over the "instability of
ill-gotten gains." His fortune, if made quickly, had been
honestly worked for and honorably acquired, though envious people
pretended not to believe it.
CHAPTER XXV. THE WHEAT AND THE CHAFF.
FALSE AND TRUE FRIENDS--MEETING OF BRIDGEPORT CITIZENS--BARNUM'S
LETTER--TOM THUMB'S OFFER--SHILLABER'S POEM--BARNUM'S MESSAGE TO
THE CREDITORS OF THE JEROME CLOCK COMPANY--REMOVAL TO NEW
YORK--BEGINNING LIFE ANEW AT FORTY-SIX.
But while misfortune reveals a man his foes, it also shows him
his friends. Barnum was overwhelmed with offers of assistance,
funds were declared at his disposal, both for the support of his
family and to re-establish him in business. "Benefits" by the
score were offered him, and there was even a proposition among
leading citizens of New York to give a series of benefits.
Every one of these offers Barnum declined on his unvarying
principle of never accepting a money favor. The following
correspondence is taken from the New York papers of the time, and
will show the stand he took in the matter:
NEW YORK, June 2d, 1856.
MR. P. T. BARNUM:
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 V. Fowler, James Phalen,
Cornelius Vanderbilt, F. B. Cutting, 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 he replied as follows:
LONG ISLAND, Tuesday, June 3d, 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 Union.
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 he 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 equivalent.
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:
JONES HOTEL, PHILADELPHIA, May 12th, 1856.
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
door-keeper 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 a small way, can be useful. Put me into
any "heavy" work, if you like. Perhaps I can not 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,
GEN. TOM THUMB.
All the prominent papers published editorials and paragraphs full
of sympathy for the great man's misfortune, the Saturday Evening
Gazette of Boston breaking out in the following poem.
A WORD FOR BARNUM.
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 latch-string 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.
The editor of the paper was Mr. B. P. Shillaber, better known as
"Mrs. Partington," and to him Barnum years later wrote to find
out the author of this effusion. Mr. Shillaber replied as
CHELSEA, April 25th, 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 th 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
Yours, very truly
B. F. SHILLABER.
The manifestations of sympathy from his fellow-citizens in
Bridgeport gratified Barnum more than all the rest. The Mayor
headed and more than 300 leading citizens signed a call for a
mass meeting of sympathy.
At the hour appointed for the meeting a large assemblage crowded
Washington Hall, the principal hall of the city. Many people
thronged the door, unable to gain entrance.
Mr. Charles B. Hubbell, President of the Pequonnock Bank, was
appointed President; Messrs. Charles Foote, Cashier of the
Connecticut Bank; Stephen Tomlinson, President of the Farmers'
Bank; Samuel F. Hurd, President of the Bridgeport City Bank,
Hanford Lyon, Dwight Morris, E. Ferris Bishop, A. P. Houston, and
Wm. H. Noble, Vice-Presidents, and Messrs. Samuel M. Chesney and
Julius L. Hanover, Secretaries.
Mr. Dwight Morris said that they had met for the purpose of
expressing their sympathy with their former fellow-citizen, P. T.
Barnum, in his pecuniary reverses. It was well known how much Mr.
Barnum had done for Bridgeport. He had expended large sums to
build up their city, had accommodated many of them with the means
of securing themselves homes, and it was principally to him that
they owed their present beautiful resting-place for the dead.
[Applause.] The citizens of Bridgeport hoped that his misfortunes
would soon pass away, and that he would ere long resume his
position in Bridgeport, and among the citizens of Fairfield
County. [Prolonged applause.]
Mr. Wm. H. Noble read the following resolutions.
WHEREAS, Our late neighbor and friend, P. T. Barnum, has become
involved in financial misfortune which seems likely to be
irretrievable, and to prevent his again residing in our
vicinity--Resolved, That we as citizens of Bridgeport deem it an
act of justice no less than a slight return for the many acts of
liberality, philanthropy, and public spirit in our midst, which
have marked his prosperity, to offer him our tribute of respect
and sympathy in this the hour of his trouble.
Resolved, That in his intercourse with us in the private and
social relations of life, Mr. Barnum is remembered as a man of
upright dealings and honorable sentiments--a kind and genial
neighbor, and exemplary character, a beneficent philanthropist,
and a most generous friend.
Resolved, That in his more extended capacity as a citizen he has
enduringly associated his name with numerous objects, which
remain as monuments among us, connected with the institutions of
religion, education, and commercial prosperity--with the
advancement of the mechanical, agricultural, and other useful
arts and sciences--with the spirit of public improvement and
public morals; and that so long as these remain to us matters of
interest, we shall never forget that he has been of them all
among the foremost, most liberal, and most efficient promoters.
Resolved, That we hereby express to him our heartfelt sympathy in
his misfortunes, our unshaken confidence in his integrity, and
our admiration of the dignified fortitude and composure with
which he has met the reverses into which he has been dragged,
through no fault of his own, except a too generous confidence in
pretended friends, and our earnest hope that he may yet return to
that wealth which he has so nobly employed and to the community
he has so signally benefited.
Resolved, That copies of these resolutions, signed by the
President and other officers of this meeting, be transmitted to
Mr. Barnum, and also to the press of this city.
Mr. E. B. Goodsell said that Mr. Barnum had been the friend of
the poor, and his hospitalities had been extended to men of every
State in the Union. The citizens of Bridgeport should be proud to
claim as one of their citizens P. T. Barnum. His name was written
upon every charity in their city, and the temples of God bore its
impress. By a few fell strokes of an ugly pen, he has been drawn
into that whirlpool of destruction to himself and almost
destruction to many in the city. In the midst of his prosperity,
while he was building up a city on the east side of their little
harbor, he had fallen by the hand of traitors. He hoped that he
might survive his misfortunes and come back to live in their
midst. He did not expect that he could ever return with that
"pocketful of rocks" which he used to talk so much about; but, if
he would come, he for one was ready to pledge himself that he
should never starve in the city of Bridgeport. [Loud and
Mr. Oakley was loudly called for. He said that he had deep regard
for Mr. Barnum in his distress. He was one of the very few people
in Bridgeport who had never received any aid from Mr. Barnum, but
he was ready to join in any expression of sympathy, and saw no
reason why it should not assume a material form [loud applause].
He would only allude to Mr. Barnum's unostentatious benevolence.
To one of the churches of the city Mr. Barnum gave $500--to one
of their churches in which he felt no interest beyond his
interest for Bridgeport, and this was but a specimen of his
munificence. Nobody could say that Mr. Barnum had not made the
best and most benevolent use of his money [Applause]. He had been
the means of adding a large number to the population of
Bridgeport. He never yet had found a man who was more eminently
the friend of the poor man than P. T. Barnum [Cheers]. He had
alleviated the sufferings of many a broken heart, and he had
aided many a young man to start in business. If Mr. Barnum had
erred, it was only an error of judgment [Cheers]. He sympathized
with Mr. Barnum. He had talents which would cope with those of
most of the human race. He did not believe that there was a man
in the city who had so little soul as to begrudge a tear to him
in his misfortune [loud applause]. They should at least send him
assurance that there were thousands of hearts in his own city
which appreciated his noble benevolence, and loved and honored
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