A Unique Story of a Marvellous Career. Life of Hon. Phineas T. Barnum, by Joel Benton.
Part 5 out of 8
Mr. Noble read the following letter from Mr. Barnum:
"NEW YORK, April 25th, 1856.
"DEAR SIR: I have just received a slip containing a call for a
public meeting of the citizens of Bridgeport, to sympathize with
me in my trouble. It is headed by his Honor the Mayor, and is
signed by most of our prominent citizens, as well as by many more
who by hard labor earn their daily bread, and who appreciate a
calamity which at a single blow strips a man of his fortune, his
dear home, and all the worldly comfort which years of diligent
labor has acquired. It is due to truth to say that I knew nothing
of this movement until your letter informed me of it. In
misfortune, the true sympathy of neighbors is more consoling and
precious than anything which money can purchase. This voluntary
offering of my fellow-citizens, though it thrills me with painful
emotions and causes tears of gratitude, yet it imparts renewed
strength and fills my heart with thankfulness to Providence for
raising up to my sight, above all this wreck, kind hearts which
soar above the sordid atmosphere of 'dirty dollars.' I can never
forget this unexpected kindness from my old friends and
neighbors. I trust I am not blind to my many faults and
shortcomings; I, however, do feel great consolation in believing
that I never used money or position to oppress the poor or wrong
my fellowmen, and that I never turned empty away whom I had the
power to assist. My poor sick wife, who needs the bracing air
which our dear home (made beautiful by her willing hand) would
now have afforded her, is driven by the orders of her physician
to a secluded spot on Long Island, where the sea-wind lends its
healthful influence, and where I have also retired for the double
purpose of consoling her and recruiting my own constitution,
which, through the excitement of the last few months, has most
seriously failed me. In our quiet and humble retreat that which I
most sincerely pray for is tranquillity and contentment. I am
sure that the remembrance of the kindness of my Bridgeport
friends will aid me in securing these cherished blessings. No man
who has not passed through similar scenes, can fully comprehend
the misery which has been crowded into the last few months of my
life; but I have endeavored to preserve my integrity, and I
humbly hope and believe that I am being taught humility and
reliance upon Providence, which will yet afford a thousand times
more peace and true happiness than can be acquired in the dire
strife and turmoil, excitements and struggles of this
money-worshiping age. The man who coins his brain and blood into
gold, who wastes all of his time and thought upon the almighty
dollar, who looks no higher than blocks of houses and tracts of
lands, and whose iron chest is crammed with stocks and mortgages,
tied up with his own heart-strings, may console himself with the
idea of safe investments; but he misses a pleasure which I firmly
believe this lesson was intended to secure to me, and which it
will secure, if I can fully bring my mind to realize its wisdom.
I think I hear you say,
When the devil was sick,
The devil a saint would be,
But when the devil got well,
The devil a saint was he.'
"Granted, but after all the man who looks upon the loss of money
as anything compared to the loss of honor, or health, or
self-respect, or friends; a man who can find no source of
happiness except in riches, is to be pitied for his blindness. I
certainly feel that the loss of money, of home and my home
comforts, is dreadful; that to be driven again to find a resting
place away from the friends that I loved, and from where I had
fondly hoped I was to end my days. And when I had lavished time,
money, and everything to make my descent to the grave placid and
pleasant, is indeed a severe lesson; but after all I firmly
believe it is for the best, and though my heart may break I will
not repine. I regret, beyond expression, that any man should be a
loser for having trusted to my name; it would not have been so if
I had not myself been deceived. As it is, I am gratified in
knowing that all my individual obligations will be met. It would
have been much better if clock creditors had accepted the best
offers that it was in my power to make them. But it was not so to
be, it is now too late, and as I willingly give up all I possess,
I can do no more. Wherever my future lot may be cast, I shall
ever fondly cherish the kindness which I have always received
from the citizens of Bridgeport. I am, my dear sir,
"Truly yours, P. T. BARNUM."
The reading of the letter excited much sensation, applause, and
The resolutions were re-read and passed unanimously.
Mr. William Bishop said it was unusual for citizens to meet
together to express sympathy with one who had lost his fortune.
It was very common for the people and the press to eulogize a man
when he was beyond the reach of human sympathy. He thought it was
far better to tender a man the marks of approval while he was yet
alive and could appreciate it. [Applause] For along time in this
city they were accustomed to bury their dead among the living.
Mr. Barnum had done more than any other man to secure to this
city the most beautiful-cemetery in Connecticut. He alone had
secured to the city what it had never had before--a public
square. On the east side of the river he had almost completed a
school-house, a thing which could be said of no other man. [Loud
cheering.] If material aid were needed, he should be proud to
assist in raising it. There was one clause in the resolutions
which he did not believe. He did not believe that "in all
probability he could ever retrieve" his fortune. [Prolonged
Mr. J. E. Dunham made a brief but earnest speech. He hoped this
meeting would put down the sneers which were in circulation in
relation to Mr. Barnum's sincerity, by showing that those
estimated him most who knew him best.
Mr. Nathaniel Greene and Mr. Bowles made short but effective
The meeting was characterized throughout by the greatest
enthusiasm, and adjourned with three loud cheers for Barnum.
Nor was sympathy all his neighbors offered him; shortly after
this meeting a number of gentlemen in Bridgeport offered him a
loan of $50,000, if that sum would meet the exigency.
Little by little the magnitude of the fraud practiced upon
Barnum's too confiding nature dawned upon him. Not only had his
notes been used to five times the amount stipulated, but the
money had been applied, not to relieving the temporary
embarrassment of the company, but almost entirely to the
redemption of the old claims of years gone by. Barnum sent two of
his friends to New Haven to ask for a meeting of the creditors,
authorizing them to say for him in substance:
"GENTLEMEN: This is a capital practical joke! Before I negotiated
with your clock company at all, I was assured by several of you,
and particularly by a representative of the bank which was the
largest creditor of the concern, that the Jerome Company was
eminently responsible, and that the head of the same was
uncommonly pious. On the strength of such representations solely,
I was induced to agree to indorse and accept paper for that
company to the extent of $110,000--no more. That sum I am now
willing to pay for my own verdancy, with an additional sum of
$40,000 for your 'cuteness, making a total of $150,000, which you
can have if you cry 'quits' with the fleeced showman and let him
Many of the old creditors favored this proposition; but it was
found that the indebtedness was so scattered it would be
impracticable to attempt a settlement by an unanimous compromise
of the creditors.
Barnum therefore turned over his Bridgeport property to
Connecticut assignees, moved his family to New York, and made an
assignment there of all his other property, real estate and
About this time he received a letter from Philadelphia proffering
the loan of $500 in case he really was in need. The wording of
the letter made Barnum suspicious that it was a trick to
ascertain whether he really had any property or if he made an
honest settlement to the best of his ability. To this letter
Barnum replied that he did need $500, and as he had expected the
money never came.
But the Philadelphia banks which were holding the Jerome paper
for a higher percentage, at once acceded to the terms which Mr.
Barnum had announced himself able to pay,
Every dollar which he owed on his own account he had already
paid, and for the liabilities incurred by the swindle which had
involved him he offered such a percentage which he thought his
estate, when sold, would eventually pay. Mrs. Barnum also gave up
certain portions of her own property to redeem such notes as
could be secured upon these terms.
They went to live in a hired furnished house in New York, the
landlady and her family boarding with them. At forty-six Barnum
found himself once more at the foot of the ladder--beginning life
"The situation is disheartening," he said, "but I have
experience, energy, health, and hope."
CHAPTER XXVI. IDLENESS WITHOUT REST.
ANNOYING PERSECUTIONS OF CREDITORS--SUMMER ON LONG ISLAND--THE
BLACK WHALE PAYS THE BOARD BILL--THE WHEELER & WILSON COMPANY
REMOVE TO EAST BRIDGEPORT--SETTING SAIL FOR ENGLAND.
In the summer of 1855 Barnum had sold the American Museum to
Messrs. John Greenwood, Jr., and Henry D. Butler. They paid
nearly twice as much for the collection as it had originally
cost, giving notes for nearly the entire amount, securing the
notes by a chattel mortgage, and hiring the premises from Mrs.
Barnum, who owned the Museum property lease, and on which, by
agreement of the lessees, she realized something like $19,000 a
year. The chattel mortgage was, of course, turned over to the New
York assignees with the other property.
Barnum's widespread reputation for shrewdness was, in his present
difficulties, destined to be the cause of considerable annoyance
to him. Certain outside creditors who had bought clock notes at a
tremendous discount, believing that Barnum's means were still
ample, made up their minds that they must be paid at once without
waiting for the sale of the property by assignees.
They, therefore, took what is known as "supplementary
proceedings," by which is meant an examination before a judge,
compelling the debtor to disclose, under oath, everything in
regard to his property, his present means of living, and so on.
"Putting Barnum through a course of sprouts," as they expressed
it, came to be a very frequent occurrence. One creditor after
another hauled him up, and the attorneys would ask the same
questions which had already been answered a dozen times.
This persistent and unnecessary annoyance created a great deal of
sympathy for the man, the papers took his part, and even the
judges before whom he appeared, personally sided with him,
although they were obliged to administer the law. After a while,
the judges ruled that he need not answer any questions propounded
by an attorney, if he had already answered the same question in
any previous examination.
In fact, one of the judges lost all patience on one occasion, and
said sharply to the examining attorney:
"This, sir, has become simply a case of persecution. Mr. Barnum
has many times answered every question that can properly be put
to him, to elicit the desired information; and I think it is time
to stop these examinations. I advise him not to answer one
interrogatory which he has replied to under any previous
One consequential little lawyer commenced his examination in
behalf of a note-shaver, who held a thousand dollar note which he
had bought for seven hundred. After the oath had been
administered, he arranged his pen, ink, and paper, and in a loud
tone of voice asked:
"What is your name, sir?"
The answer was given, and the next question delivered in a
louder, more peremptory tone was:
"What is your business?"
"Attending bar," answered Barnum.
"Attending bar!" exclaimed the lawyer; "attending bar! Why, I
thought you were a teetotaler."
"So I am," declared the witness.
"And yet, sir, you have the audacity to assert that you peddle
rum all day, and drink none yourself?"
"That is not a relevant question," said Barnum.
"I will appeal to his Honor the Judge if you don't answer it
instantly," said the lawyer, gleefully.
"Very well; I do attend bar, and yet never drink intoxicating
"Where do you attend bar, and for whom?" pursued the lawyer.
"I attend the bar of this court nearly every day, for the benefit
of two-penny lawyers and their greedy clients," replied the
On another occasion a young lawyer who had been pushing his
inquiries to a great length, said in a half-laughing tone of
"You see, Mr. Barnum, I am searching after the small thing; I am
willing to take even the crumbs that fall from the rich man's
"Which are you, then, Lazarus or one of the dogs?" asked Barnum,
"I guess a blood-hound would not smell out much on this trial,"
returned the lawyer, good-naturedly, adding that he had no more
questions to ask.
On account of Mrs. Barnum's continued ill-health, the family
spent the summer in a farm-house at Westhampton, Long Island. The
farm lay close to the ocean, and the place was very cool and
delightful. The respite from active life, and the annoyance
attendant to his financial troubles was of the greatest benefit
to Mr. Barnum, who spent the time shooting, fishing, and driving.
One morning they discovered that the waves had thrown up on the
beach a young black whale, nearly twelve feet long. The animal
was dead, but still hard and fresh, and Barnum bought it for a
few dollars from the man who claimed it by right of discovery. He
sent it at once to the Museum, where it was exhibited in a huge
refrigerator for a few days, where crowds came to see it. The
managers very properly gave Barnum a share of the profits, which
amounted to a sum sufficient to pay the board-bill of the family
for the entire season.
"Well," said the amazed landlord, when he heard of it, "you do
beat all for luck. Here you come and board for four months with
your family, and when the time is nearly up and you're getting
ready to leave, out rolls a big black whale on our beach, a thing
never heard of before in this vicinity, and you take that whale
and pay your board-bill with it!"
Shortly after his return to New York an unforeseen event occurred
which Barnum realized was likely to extricate him from his
The new city which had led him into ruin now promised to be his
The now gigantic Wheeler & Wilson Sewing-Machine Company was then
doing a comparatively small yet rapidly growing business at
Watertown, Connecticut. The Terroy & Barnum clock factory was
standing idle, almost worthless, in East Bridgeport, and Wheeler
& Wilson saw in the empty building, the situation, the ease of
communication with New York, and other advantages, precisely what
they wanted, provided they could procure the premises at a rate
which would compensate them for the expense and trouble of
removing their establishment from Watertown. The clock factory
was sold for a trifle and the wheeler & Wilson Company moved into
it and speedily enlarged it.
This important occurrence gave Barnum great hope for the
increased value of the land belonging to his estate. And moreover
Mr. Wheeler offered him a loan of $5,000 without security, which
sum Barnum accepted, and devoted it, together with Mrs. Barnum's
money, to purchasing the East Bridgeport property at the
assignees' sale and also taking up such clock notes as could be
purchased at a reasonable percentage. Though this new plan did
eventually result in putting more money in his pocket than the
Jerome complication had taken out, yet the process was a slow
one. But Barnum concluded to let it work itself out, and
meanwhile, with the idea of doing something to help out the
accumulation and even saving something to add to the amount, he
made up his mind to go to Europe again.
He set sail in 1857, taking with him Tom Thumb and little
Cordelia Howard, who had attained celebrity for her artistic
rendering of juvenile characters,
CHAPTER XXVII. A PROSPEROUS EXILE.
HIS SUCCESSFUL PUPIL--MAKING MANY FRIENDS IN LONDON--ACQUAINTANCE
WITH THACKERAY--A COMEDY OF ERRORS IN A GERMAN CUSTOM
HOUSE--ARISTOCRATIC PATRONAGE AT FASHIONABLE RESORTS--BARNUM'S
IMPRESSIONS OF HOLLAND AND THE DUTCH.
Years ago Barnum had known Albert Smith in London as a dentist,
literary "hack," occasional writer for Punch and various
magazines, etc., not achieving notable success in any of these
undertakings. He now found him the most eminent and successful
showman in the city, occupying Barnum's old quarters in Egyptian
Hall. The chief attraction of his show was a panorama of Mont
Blanc, accompanying which he gave a lecture, descriptive of the
mountain and relating his own experiences in climbing it. When
Barnum called upon him he found him just as unassuming and
cordial as ever; he was forthwith entered on the free list at all
of Smith's entertainments, and the two often dined together at
the Garrick Club.
The first time Barnum attended Smith's exhibition, the latter
gave him a sly wink from the stage at the moment of his
describing a scene in the golden chamber of St. Ursula's church
in Cologne, where the old sexton narrating the story of the ashes
and bones to the eleven thousand innocent virgins, who, according
to tradition, were sacrificed on a certain occasion. One of the
characters whom he pretended to have met several times on his
trip to Mont Blanc, was a Yankee, whom he named "Phineas
Cutecraft." The wink came at the time he introduced Phineas in
the Cologne church, and made him say at the end of the sexton's
story about the virgins' bones:
"Old fellow, what will you take for that hull lot of bones? I
want them for my museum in America!"
When the question had been interpreted to the old German, he
exclaimed in horror, according to Albert Smith:
"Mine Gott! it is impossible! We will never sell the virgins'
"Never mind," replied Phineas Cutecraft, "I'll send another lot
of bones to my museum, swear mine are the real bones of the
Virgins of Cologne, and burst up your show!"
This always excited the heartiest laughter; but Mr. Smith knew
very well that Barnum would at once recognize it as a paraphrase
of the scene wherein they, too, had figured in 1844, at the
porter's lodge of Warwick Castle. "In the course of the
entertainment," says Barnum, "I found he had woven in numerous
anecdotes I had told him at that time, and many incidents of our
excursion were also travestied and made to contribute to the
interest of his description of the ascent of Mont Blanc."
When they dined together at the club that day, Smith introduced
Barnum to several of his acquaintances as his teacher in the show
business. He also remarked to Barnum that he must have recognized
as old friends many of the incidents and jokes in the lecture.
Barnum replied that he did. "Well," said Smith, "of course you as
a showman, know very well that, to win popular success. we have
to appropriate and adapt to our uses everything of the sort that
we can get hold of."
By thus engrafting his various experiences upon this Mont Blanc
entertainment, Albert Smith succeeded in serving up a salmagundi
feast which was relished alike by royal and less distinguished
When William Makepeace Thackeray first visited this country, he
brought a letter of introduction to Barnum, from Albert Smith,
and called on the showman at his New York museum. He spent an
hour or more there, asking much advice of Barnum in regard to the
management of the course of lectures on "The English Humorists of
the Eighteenth Century," which he proposed to deliver, as he did
afterwards, with very great success, in the principal cities of
the Union. Barnum gave him the best advice he could as to
management, and the cities he ought to visit, for which he was
very grateful, and he called on Barnum whenever he was in New
York. Barnum also saw him repeatedly when he came to America the
second time with his lectures on "The Four Georges," which, it
will be remembered, he delivered in the United States in the
season of 1855-56, before he read them to audiences in Great
Britain. Barnum's relations with this great novelist were cordial
and intimate; and now, when he called upon him, in 1857, at his
own house, Thackeray grasped him heartily by the hand, and said:
"Mr. Barnum, I admire you more than ever I have read the accounts
in the papers of the examinations you underwent in New York
courts; and the positive pluck you exhibit under your pecuniary
embarrassments is worthy of all praise. You would never have
received credit for the philosophy you manifest if these
financial misfortunes had not overtaken you."
Barnum thanked him for his compliment, and he continued:
"But tell me, Barnum, are you really in need of present
assistance? For if you are you must be helped."
"Not in the least," the showman replied, laughing "I need more
money in order to get out of bankruptcy, and I intend to earn it;
but so far as daily bread is concerned, I am quite at ease, for
my wife is worth L30,000 or L40,000."
"Is it possible!??" he exclaimed, with evident delight; "well,
now, you have lost all my sympathy; why, that is more than I ever
expect to be worth; I shall be sorry for you no more."
During his stay in London, Barnum met Thackeray several times,
and on one occasion dined with him. He repeatedly expressed his
obligations to Barnum for the advice and assistance he had given
him on the occasion of his first lecturing visit to the United
Soon after Barnum arrived in London he was visited by Mr. Otto
Goldschmidt, who had married Jenny Lind. They were then living in
Dresden, but Madame Goldschmidt had insisted on his hurrying over
to England to see her old manager, and ascertain whether he
really was in want. Barnum assured him that he was getting on
comfortably, though he had to exercise economy, and that his
family would presently come over and live with him in London.
Goldschmidt urged him to come to Dresden to live. "It is much
cheaper living there," he said, "and my wife will be so glad to
find a suitable house for you." But Barnum declined the offer.
His business prospects would be better in London than in Dresden.
Barnum's old friends, Julius Benedict and Signor Belletti, also
called on him frequently, and made him feel much at home. Among
others whom he met in London, some of them quite frequently at
dinners, were Mr. George Augustus Sala, Mr. Edmund Yates, Mr.
Horace Mayhew, Mr. Alfred Bunn, Mr Lumley, of Her Majesty's
Theatre; Mr. Buckstone; of the Haymarket; Mr. Charles Kean, our
princely countryman; Mr. George Peabody, Mr. J. M. Morris, the
manager, Mr. Bates, of Baring Brothers & Co.; Mr. Oxenford,
dramatic critic of the London Times, Dr. Ballard, the American
dentist, and many other eminent persons.
He had numerous offers from professional friends on both sides of
the Atlantic, who supposed him to be in need of employment. Mr.
Barney Williams, who had not then acted in England, proposed, in
the kindest manner, to make him his agent for a tour through
Great Britain, and to give him one-third of the profits which he
and Mrs. Williams might make by their acting. Mr. Pettengill, of
New York, the newspaper advertising agent, offered him the fine
salary of $10,000 a year to transact business for him in Great
Britain. He wrote: "When you failed in consequence of the Jerome
clock notes, I felt that your creditors were dealing hard with
you; that they should have let you up and give you a chance, and
they would have fared better, and I wish I was a creditor, so as
to show what I would do." These offers, both from Mr. Williams
and Mr. Pettengill, Barnum felt obliged to decline.
Mr. Lumley, manager of Her Majesty's Theatre, used to send him an
order for a private box for every opera night, and Barnum
frequently availed himself of his courtesy.
Meanwhile the showman was by no means idle. Cordelia Howard as
"Little Eva," with her mother as the inimitable "Topsy," were
highly successful in London and other large cities, while General
Tom Thumb, returning after so long an absence, drew crowded
houses wherever he went. These were strong spokes in the wheel
that was moving slowly but surely in the effort to get Barnum out
of debt, and, if possible, to save some portion of his real
estate. Of course, it was not generally known that he had any
interest whatever in either of these exhibitions; if it had been,
possibly some of the clock creditors would have annoyed him; but
he busied himself in these and in other ways, working
industriously and making much money, which he constantly remitted
to his trusty agent at home.
Barnum spent some weeks in London and then went to Germany. He
was accompanied by Tom Thumb, and they went by the way of Paris,
Strasburg, and Baden-Baden. At the frontier they had a terrible
time with the thick-headed customs-inspector. This was at Kehl,
near Strasburg. "I knew," said Barnum in telling the story, "that
I had no baggage which was rightfully subject to duty, as I had
nothing but my necessary clothing, and the package of placards
and lithographs, illustrating the General's exhibitions. As the
official was examining my trunks, I assured him in French, that I
had nothing subject to duty; but he made no reply and
deliberately handled every article in my luggage. He then cut the
strings to the large packages of show-bills. I asked him in
French, whether he understood that language. He gave a grunt,
which was the only audible sound I could get out of him, and then
laid my show-bills and lithographs on his scales as if to weigh
them. I was much excited. An English gentleman, who spoke German,
kindly offered to act as my interpreter.
" 'Please to tell him,' said I, 'that those bills and lithographs
are not articles of commerce; that they are simply
"My English friend did as I requested; but it was of no use; the
custom-house officer kept piling them upon his scales. I grew
" 'Please tell him I give them away,' I said. The translation of
my assertion into German did not help me; a double grunt from the
functionary, was the only response. Tom Thumb, meanwhile, jumped
about like a little monkey, for he was fairly delighted at my
worry and perplexity. Finally, I said to my new found English
friend: 'Be good enough to tell the officer to keep the bills if
he wants them, and that I will not pay duty on them, any how.'
"He was duly informed of my determination, but he was immovable.
He lighted his huge Dutch pipe, got the exact weight, and,
marking it down, handed it to a clerk, who copied it on his book,
and solemnly passed it over to another clerk, who copied it on
still another book; a third clerk then took it, and copied it on
to a printed bill, the size of a half letter sheet, which was
duly stamped in red ink with several official devices. By this
time I was in a profuse perspiration; and, as the document passed
from clerk to clerk, I told them they need not trouble themselves
to make out a bill, for I would not pay it; they would get no
duty and they might keep the property.
"To be sure, I could not spare the placards for any length of
time, for they were exceedingly valuable to me as advertisements,
and I could not easily have duplicated them in Germany; but I was
determined that I would not pay duties on articles which were not
merchandise. Every transfer, therefore, of the bill to a new
clerk, gave me a fresh twinge, for I imagined that every clerk
added more charges, and that every charge was a tighter turn to
the vise which held my fingers. Finally, the last clerk defiantly
thrust in my face the terrible official document, on which were
scrawled certain cabalistic characters, signifying the amount of
money I should be forced to pay to the German government before I
could have my property. I would not touch it but resolved I would
really leave my packages until I could communicate with one of
our consuls in Germany, and I said as much to the English
gentleman who had kindly interpreted for me.
"He took the bill, and, examining it, burst into a loud laugh,
'Why, it is but fifteen kreutzers!' he said.
" 'How much is that?' I asked, feeling for the golden sovereigns
in my pocket.
" 'Sixpence!' was the reply.
"I was astonished and delighted, and, as I handed out the money,
I begged him to tell the officials that the custom-house charge
would not pay the cost of the paper on which it was written. But
this was a very fair illustration of sundry red-tape dealings in
other countries as well as in Germany."
Baden-Baden was found to be an uncommonly pleasant place, the
neatest and cleanest little city he had ever seen, Barnum
thought. As soon as they were fairly settled there, Tom Thumb
began driving out on the streets in his tiny carriage, with his
ponies and liveried coachmen and footmen. Public curiosity was
greatly excited. The place was thronged with visitors, it being
one of the most popular resorts in Europe. There were kings and
queens, and minor royalties and members of the nobility without
number. All these soon forgot their other amusements and
entertainments in their interest in the little General. They
crowded his rooms at his reception every day, and Barnum, seeing
the quality of his patrons, put the entrance fee higher than it
ever was at any other place. Their stay at this resort was
Thence they proceeded to the other German watering places, such
as Ems, Weisbaden and Hamburg. They saw that it paid to strike
for high game. No matter how high their fee, the crowned, titled,
rich, aristocratic throng came to their show by thousands. Among
them was the King of Holland, who was particularly interested in
Tom Thumb. So profitable was the tour, that Barnum was able to
send many thousands of dollars to his agents in America, to buy
back his real estate and settle up the remains of the disastrous
Other German cities visited were Frankfort-on-the-Main, Mayence
and Cologne. At the latter place, they remained for some time,
seeing as well as giving shows. Then they went on to Rotterdam
The shrewd and enterprising Yankee was much impressed by the
thrift and industry of Holland. "It gave me," he afterwards said,
"more genuine satisfaction than any other foreign country I have
ever visited, if I except Great Britain. Redeemed as a large
portion of the whole surface of the land has been from the bottom
of the sea, by the wonderful dykes, which are monuments of the
industry of whole generations of human beavers, Holland seems to
me the most curious, as well as interesting country in the world.
The people, too, with their quaint costumes, their extraordinary
cleanliness, their thrift, industry and frugality, pleased me
very much. It is the universal testimony of all travellers, that
the Hollanders are the neatest and most economical people among
all nations. So far as cleanliness is concerned, in Holland it is
evidently not next to, but far ahead of godliness. It is rare,
indeed, to meet a ragged, dirty, or drunken person. The people
are very temperate and economical in their habits; and even the
very rich--and there is a vast amount of wealth in the
country--live with great frugality, though all of the people live
"As for the scenery, I cannot say much for it, since it is only
diversified by thousands of windmills, which are made to do all
kinds of work, from grinding grain to pumping water from the
inside of the dykes back to the sea again. As I exhibited the
General only in Rotterdam and Amsterdam, and to no great profit
in either city, we spent most of our time in rambling about to
see what was to be seen. In the country villages it seemed as if
every house was scrubbed twice and whitewashed once every day in
the week, excepting Sunday. Some places were almost painfully
pure, and I was in one village where horses and cattle were not
allowed to go through the streets and no one was permitted to
wear their boots or shoes in the houses. There is a general and
constant exercise of brooms, pails, floor-brushes and mops all
over Holland, and in some places, even, this kind of thing is
carried so far, I am told, that the only trees set out are
Barnum thought that the reason why his exhibitions were not
better patronized here was that the people were too frugal to
spend much money for mere amusements. "But they and their habits
and ways afforded us so much amusement, that we were quite
willing they should give our entertainment the 'go by,' as they
generally did. We were in Amsterdam at the season of 'Kremis,' or
the annual fair, which is held in all the principal towns, and
where shows of all descriptions are open, at prices for admission
ranging from one to five pennies, and are attended by nearly the
whole population. For the people generally, this one great
holiday seems all-sufficient for the whole year. I went through
scores of booths, where curiosities and monstrosities of all
kinds were exhibited, and was able to make some purchases and
engagements for the American Museum. Among these was the Albino
family, consisting of a man, his wife, and son, who were by far
the most interesting and attractive specimens of their class I
had ever seen.
"We visited the Hague, the capital and the finest city in
Holland. It is handsomely and regularly laid out, and contains a
beautiful theatre, a public picture gallery, which contains some
of the best works of Vandyke, Paul Potter, and other Dutch
masters, while the museum is especially rich in rarities from
China and Japan. When we arrived at the Hague, Mr. August
Belmont, who had been the United States Minister at that court,
had just gone home, but I heard many encomiums passed upon him
and his family, and I was told some pretty good stories of his
familiarity with the king, and of the 'jolly times' these two
personages frequently enjoyed together. I did not miss visiting
the great government museum, as I wished particularly to see the
rich collection of Japan ware and arms, made during the many
years when the Dutch carried on almost exclusively the entire
foreign trade with the Japanese. I spent several days in minutely
examining these curious manufactures of a people who were then
almost as little known to nations generally as are the
inhabitants of the planet Jupiter."
On the first day of his visits to this museum, Barnum stood for
an hour before a large case containing a most unique and
extraordinary collection of fabulous animals, made from paper and
other materials, and looking as natural and genuine as the
stuffed skins of any animals in the American Museum. There were
serpents two yards long, with a head and a pair of feet at each
end; frogs as large as a man, with human hands and feet; turtles
with three heads; monkeys with two heads and six legs; scores of
equally curious monstrosities; and at least two dozen mermaids,
of all sorts and sizes. Looking at these "sirens" he easily
divined from whence the Feejee mermaid originated.
After a delightful visit in Holland, he went back to England; and
proceeding to Manchester, opened his exhibition. For several days
the hall was crowded to overflowing at each of the three, and
sometimes four, entertainments they gave every day. By this time,
his wife and two youngest daughters had come over to London, and
he hired furnished lodgings in the suburbs where they could live
within the strictest limits of economy. It was necessary now for
him to return for a few weeks to America, to assist personally in
forwarding a settlement of the clock difficulties. So leaving the
little General in the hands of trusty and competent agents to
carry on the exhibitions in his absence, he set his face once
more towards home and the west, and took steamer at Liverpool for
CHAPTER XXVIII. HOME AGAIN.
JOLLY VOYAGE--MOCK TRIALS ON SHIPBOARD--BARNUM ON TRIAL FOR HIS
LIFE--DISCOMFITED WITNESSES AND A TRIUMPHANT PRISONER--FAIR
WEATHER FRIENDS--THE BURNING OF IRANISTAN
Barnum made in his life many voyages across the Atlantic, but
none, perhaps, pleasanter than this. On every such trip he got
under rest and relief from his multitudinous business cares and
arduous labors; and he always contrived to organize plenty of
merry-making among his fellow-passengers. On this occasion he
felt in uncommonly good spirits because he was so rapidly
retrieving his well-nigh fallen fortunes. The feature of the
voyage was a series of mock trials, in which a judge was
selected, jurymen drawn, prisoners arraigned, counsel employed,
and all the formalities of a court established. "I have the
vanity to think," said he, afterwards, in telling in his own
inimitable way the story of this voyage, "that if my good fortune
had directed me to that profession, I should have made a very
fair lawyer for I have always had a great fondness for debate and
especially for the cross-examination of witnesses, unless that
witness was P. T. Barnum in examination under supplementary
proceedings at the instance of some note shaver, who had bought a
clock note at a discount of thirty-six per cent. In this mock
court, I was unanimously chosen as prosecuting attorney, and, as
the court was established expressly to convict, I had no
difficulty in carrying the jury and securing the punishment of
the prisoner. A small fine was generally imposed, and the fund
thus collected was given to a poor sailor boy who had fallen from
the mast and broken his leg."
"After several of these trials had been held, a dozen or more of
the passengers secretly put their heads together and resolved to
place the 'showman' on trial for his life. An indictment,
covering twenty pages, was drawn up by several legal gentlemen
among the passengers, charging him with being the Prince of
Humbugs, and enumerating a dozen special counts, containing
charges of the most absurd and ridiculous description. Witnesses
were then brought together, and privately instructed what to say
and do. Two or three days were devoted to arranging this mighty
prosecution, 'When everything was ready, I was arrested, and the
formidable indictment read to me. I saw at a glance that time and
talent had been brought into requisition, and that my trial was
to be more elaborate than any that had preceded it. I asked for
half an hour to prepare for my defense, which was granted.
Meanwhile, seats were arranged to accommodate the court and
spectators, and extra settees were placed for the ladies on the
upper deck, where they could look down, see and hear all that
transpired. Curiosity was on tip-toe, for it was evident that
this was to be a long, exciting and laughable trial. At the end
of half an hour the judge was on the bench the jury had taken
their places; the witnesses were ready; the counsel for the
prosecution, four in number, with pens, ink, and paper in
profusion, were seated, and everything seemed ready. I was
brought in by a special constable, the indictment read, and I was
asked to plead guilty, or not guilty. I rose and In a most solemn
manner, stated that I could not conscientiously plead guilty or
not guilty; that I had, in fact, committed many of the acts
charged in the indictment, but these acts, I was ready to show,
were not criminal, but on the contrary, worthy of praise. My plea
was received and the first witness called.
"He testified to having visited the prisoner's museum, and of
being humbugged by the Feejee mermaid; the nurse of Washington;
and by other curiosities, natural and unnatural. The questions
and answers having been all arranged in advance, everything
worked smoothly. Acting as my own counsel, I cross-examined the
witness by simply asking whether he saw anything else in the
museum besides what he had mentioned.
" 'Oh! yes, I saw thousands of other things.'
" 'Were they curious?'
" 'Certainly; many of them very astonishing.'
" 'Did you ever witness a dramatic representation in the museum?'
" 'Yes, sir, a very good one.'
" 'What did you pay for all this?'
" 'Twenty-five cents.'
" 'That will do, sir; you can step down.'
"A second, third and fourth witness were called, and the
examination was similar to the foregoing. Another witness then
appeared to testify in regard to another count in the indictment.
He stated that for several weeks he was the guest of the
prisoner, at his country residence Iranistan and he gave a most
amusing description of the various schemes and contrivances which
were there originated for the purpose of being carried out at
some future day in the museum.
" 'How did you live there?' asked one of the counsel for the
" 'Very well, indeed, in the daytime,' was the reply; 'plenty of
the best to eat and drink except liquors. In bed, however, it was
impossible to sleep. I rose the first night, struck a light, and
on examination found myself covered with myriads of tattle bugs,
so small as to be almost imperceptible. By using my microscope I
discovered them to be infantile bedbugs. After the first night I
was obliged to sleep in the coach-house in order to escape this
"Of course this elicited much mirth. The first question put on
the cross-examination was this:
" 'Are you a naturalist, sir?'
"The witness hesitated. In all the drilling that had taken place
before the trial, neither the counsel nor witnesses had thought
of what questions might come up in the cross-examination, and
now, not seeing the drift of the question, the witness seemed a
little bewildered, and the counsel for the prosecution looked
"The question was repeated with some emphasis.
" 'No, sir,' replied the witness, hesitatingly, 'I am not a
" 'Then, sir, not being a naturalist, dare you affirm that those
microscopic insects were not humbugs instead of bedbugs'--(here
the prisoner was interrupted by a universal shout of laughter, in
which the solemn judge himself joined)--land if they were
humbugs, I suppose that even the learned counsel opposed to me
will not claim that they were out of place.
" 'They may have been humbugs,' replied the witness.
" 'That will do, sir; you may go,' said I; and at the same time,
turning to the array of counsel, I remarked, with a smile, 'You
had better have a naturalist for your next witness, gentlemen.'
" 'Don't be alarmed, sir, we have got one, and we will now
introduce him,' replied the counsel.
"The next witness testified that he was a planter from Georgia,
that some years since the prisoner visited his plantation with a
show, and that while there he discovered an old worthless donkey
belonging to the planter, and bought him for five dollars. The
next year the witness visited Iranistan, the country seat of the
prisoner, and, while walking about the grounds, his old donkey,
recognizing his former master, brayed; 'whereupon,' continued the
witness, 'I walked up to the animal and found that two men were
engaged in sticking wool upon him, and this animal was afterwards
exhibited by the prisoner as the woolly horse.'
"The whole court--spectators, and even the 'prisoner'
himself--were convulsed with laughter at the gravity with which
the planter gave his very ludicrous testimony.
" 'What evidence have you,' I inquired, 'that this was the same
donkey which you sold to me?'
" 'The fact that the animal recognized me, as was evident from
his braying as soon as he saw me.'
" 'Are you a naturalist, sir?'
" 'Yes, I am,' replied the planter, with firm emphasis, as much
as to say, you can't catch me as you did the other witness.
" 'Oh! you are a naturalist, are you? Then, sir, I ask you, as a
naturalist, do you not know it to be a fact in natural history
that one jackass always brays as soon as he sees another?'
"This question was received with shouts of laughter, in the midst
of which the nonplussed witness backed out of court, and all the
efforts of special constables, and even the high sheriff himself,
were unavailing in getting him again on the witness stand.
"This trial lasted two days, to the great delight of all on
board. After my success with the 'naturalist,' not one-half of
the witnesses would appear against me. In my final argument I
sifted the testimony, analyzed its bearings, ruffled the learned
counsel, disconcerted the witnesses, flattered the judge and
jury, and when the judge had delivered his charge, the jury
acquitted me without leaving their seats. The judge received the
verdict, and then announced that he should fine the naturalist
for the mistake he made, as to the cause of the donkey's braying,
and he should also fine the several witnesses, who, through fear
of the cross-fire, had refused to testify."
The trial afforded a pleasant topic of conversation for the rest
of the voyage; and the morning before arriving in port, a vote of
thanks was passed to Barnum, in consideration of the amusement he
had intentionally and unintentionally furnished to the passengers
during the voyage.
The treatment to which Barnum was subjected on his arrival in New
York, was in strange and discreditable contrast to that which he
had enjoyed abroad. He sometimes spoke of it in later life,
though without any bitterness. He was too much of a philosopher
to take it to heart. "After my arrival," he would say, "often, in
passing up and down Broadway, I saw old and prosperous friends
coming, but before I came anywhere near them, if they espied me,
they would dodge into a store, or across the street, or
opportunely meet some one with whom they had pressing business,
or they would be very much interested in something that was going
on over the way, or on top of the City Hall. I was delighted at
this, for it gave me at once a new sensation and a new
experience. 'Ah, ha!' I said to myself, 'my butterfly friends, I
know you now; and, what is more to the point, if ever I get out
of this bewilderment of broken clock-wheels, I shall not forget
you;' and I heartily thanked the old clock concern for giving me
the opportunity to learn this sad but most needful lesson. I had
a very few of the same sort of experiences in Bridgeport, and
they proved valuable to me."
One of Barnum's assignees was his neighbor and quondam
"gamekeeper," Mr. Johnson, and he it was who had written to
Barnum to return to America, to facilitate the settlement of his
affairs. He now told him that there was no probability of
disposing of Iranistan at present, and that therefore he might as
well move back into his old home. That was August. In September,
Barnum's family followed him to America, and they decided to take
Mr. Johnson's advice and re-occupy Iranistan. They went to
Bridgeport, to superintend arrangements, and there Barnum's
second daughter, Helen, was married to Mr. S. W. Hurd, on October
"Meanwhile, Iranistan, which had been closed and unoccupied for
more than two years, was once more opened to the carpenters and
painters whom Mr. Johnson sent there to put the house in order.
He agreed with Barnum that it was best to keep the property as
long as possible, and in the interval, till a purchaser for the
estate appeared, or till it was forced to auction, to take up the
clock notes, whenever they were offered. The workmen who were
employed in the house were specially instructed not to smoke
there, but nevertheless, it was subsequently discovered that some
of the men were in the habit occasionally of going into the main
dome to eat their dinners which they brought with them, and that
they stayed there awhile after dinner to smoke their pipes. In
all probability, one of these lighted pipes was left on the
cushion which covered the circular seat in the dome and ignited
the tow with which the cushion was stuffed. It may have been days
and even weeks before this smouldering tow fire burst into flame.
Barnum was staying at the Astor House, in New York, when, on the
morning of December 18, 1857, he received a telegram from his
brother, Philo F. Barnum, dated at Bridgeport, and informing him
that Iranistan was burned to the ground that morning. The alarm
was given at eleven o'clock on the night of the 17th, and the
fire burned till one o'clock on the morning of the 18th.
This was, of course, a considerable loss to Barnum's estate, for
the house had cost about $150,000. It was also generally regarded
as a public calamity. This house had been the only building in
its peculiar style of architecture of any pretension in America,
and many persons had visited Bridgeport every year expressly to
see it. The insurance on the mansion had usually been about
$62,000, but Barnum had let some of the policies expire without
renewing them, so that at the time of the fire there was only
$28,000 insurance on the property. Most of the furniture and
pictures were saved, generally in a damaged state.
Subsequently, the assignees sold the grounds and outhouses of
Iranistan to Elias Howe, Jr., the inventor of the sewing-machine.
The property brought $50,000, which, with the $28,000 insurance
went into Barnum's assets to satisfy clock creditors. It was Mr.
Howe's intention to erect a splendid mansion on the estate, but
his untimely and lamented death prevented the fulfilment of the
CHAPTER XXIX. THE ART OF MONEY GETTING.
THE LECTURE FIELD--SUCCESS--CAMBRIDGE--OXFORD--AN UNIQUE
ENTERTAINMENT--BARNUM EQUAL TO THE OCCASION--INVITED TO STAY A
Seeing the necessity of making more money to assist in
extricating his affairs from financial disorder, Barnum went back
to England, taking with him Tom Thumb, whom he exhibited in all
the principal places of England, Scotland and Wales; this was
early in 1858.
The tour was a profitable one, and the money, as fast as it came
in, was remitted to his agents and assignees in America.
At the suggestion of some of his American friends In London,
Barnum next appeared on the lecture platform. The subject chosen
was "The Art of Money Getting," although Barnum told his friends
that in the light of recent events he felt more competent to
speak on the art of money losing. But they assured him that his
name having been associated with the Jenny Lind concerts and
other great money-making enterprises, the lecture would
undoubtedly prove both attractive and profitable.
The lecture was widely advertised, of course, and at the
appointed time the great St. James' Hall, Regent Street,
Piccadilly, was completely filled. It was the evening of December
29, 1858. We subjoin extracts from the lecture, which was closely
listened to and well received by many more audiences than the one
which heard it first at St. James' Hall.
Those who really desire to attain an independence, have only to
set their minds upon it, and adopt the proper means, as they do
in regard to any other object which they wish to accomplish, and
the thing is easily done. But however easy it may be found to
make money, I have no doubt many of my hearers will agree it is
the most difficult thing in the world to keep it. The road to
wealth is, as Dr. Franklin truly says, "as plain as the road to
mill." It consists simply in expending less than we earn; that
seems to be a very simple problem. Mr. Micawber, one of those
happy creations of the genial Dickens, puts the case in a strong
light when he says that to have an income of twenty pounds per
annum, and spend twenty pounds and sixpence, is to be the most
miserable of men; whereas, to have an income of only twenty
pounds, and spend but nineteen pounds and sixpence, is to be the
happiest of mortals. Many of my hearers may say, "we understand
this; this is economy, and we know economy is wealth; we know we
can't eat our cake and keep it also." Yet I beg to say that
perhaps more cases of failure arise from mistakes on this point
than almost any other. The fact is, many people think they
understand economy when they really do not.
True economy is misapprehended, and people go through life
without properly comprehending what that principle is. One says,
"I have an income of so much, and here is my neighbor who has the
same; yet every year he gets something ahead and I fall short;
why is it? I know all about economy." He thinks he does, but he
does not. There are many who think that economy consists in
saving cheese-parings and candle-ends, in cutting off twopence
from the laundress' bill and doing all sorts of little mean,
dirty things. Economy is not meanness. The misfortune is, also,
that this class of persons let their economy apply in only one
direction. They fancy they are so wonderfully economical in
saving a half-penny where they ought to spend twopence, that they
think they can afford to squander in other directions. A few
years ago, before kerosene oil was discovered or thought of, one
might stop over night at almost any farmer's house in the
agricultural districts and get a very good supper, but after
supper he might attempt to read in the sitting-room, and would
find it impossible with the inefficient light of one candle. The
hostess, seeing his dilemma, would say: "It is rather difficult
to read here evenings; the proverb says 'you must have a ship at
sea in order to be able to burn two candles at once;' we never
have an extra candle except on extra occasions." These extra
occasions occur, perhaps, twice a year. In this way the good
woman saves five, six, or ten dollars in that time; but the
information which might be derived from having the extra light
would, of course, far outweigh a ton of candles.
But the trouble does not end here. Feeling that she is so
economical in tallow candles, she thinks she can afford to go
frequently to the village and spend twenty or thirty dollars for
ribbons and furbelows, many of which are not necessary. This
false economy may frequently be seen in men of business, and in
those instances it often runs to writing-paper. You find good
business men who save all the old envelopes and scraps, and would
not tear a new sheet of paper, if they could avoid it, for the
world. This is all very well; they may in this way save five or
ten dollars a year, but being so economical (only in note-paper),
they think they can afford to waste time; to have expensive
parties, and to drive their carriages.
True economy consists in always making the income exceed the
out-go. Wear the old clothes a little longer if necessary;
dispense with the new pair of gloves; mend the old dress; live on
plainer food if need be; so that, under all circumstances, unless
some unforeseen accident occurs, there will be a margin in favor
of the income. A penny here, and a dollar there, placed at
interest, goes on accumulating, and in this way the desired
result is attained. It requires some training, perhaps, to
accomplish this economy, but when once used to it, you will find
there is more satisfaction in rational saving than in irrational
spending. Here is a recipe which I recommend; I have found it to
work an excellent cure for extravagance, and especially for
mistaken economy: When you find that you have no surplus at the
end of the year, and yet have a good income, I advise you to take
a few sheets of paper and form them into a book and mark down
every item of expenditure. Post it every day or week in two
columns, one headed "necessaries" or even "comforts," and the
other headed "luxuries," and you will find that the latter column
will be double, treble, and frequently ten times greater than the
former. The real comforts of life cost but a small portion of
what most of us can earn.
The foundation of success in life is good health; that is the
substratum of fortune; it is also the basis of happiness. A
person cannot accumulate a fortune very well when he is sick. He
has no ambition; no incentive; no force. Of course, there are
those who have bad health and cannot help it; you cannot expect
that such persons can accumulate wealth; but there are a great
many in poor health who need not be so.
If, then, sound health is the foundation of success and happiness
in life, how important it is that we should study the laws of
health, which is but another expression for the laws of nature!
The closer we keep to the laws of nature the nearer we are to
good health, and yet how many persons there are who pay no
attention to natural laws, but absolutely transgress them, even
against their own natural inclination. We ought to know that the
"sin of ignorance" is never winked at in regard to the violation
of nature's laws; their infraction always brings the penalty. A
child may thrust its finger into the flames without knowing it
will burn, and so suffers; repentance, even, will not stop the
smart. Many of our ancestors knew very little about the principle
of ventilation. They did not know much about oxygen, whatever
other "gin" they might have been acquainted with; and
consequently, they built their houses with little seven-by-nine
feet bedrooms, and these good old pious Puritans would lock
themselves up in one of these cells, say their prayers and go to
bed. In the morning they would devoutly return thanks for the
"preservation of their lives" during the night, and nobody had
better reason to be thankful. Probably some big crack in the
window, or in the door, let in a little fresh air, and thus saved
Many persons knowingly violate the laws of nature against their
better impulses, for the sake of fashion. For instance, there is
one thing that nothing living except a vile worm ever naturally
loved, and that is tobacco; yet how many persons there are who
deliberately train an unnatural appetite, and overcome this
implanted aversion for tobacco, to such a degree that they get to
love it. They have got hold of a poisonous, filthy weed, or
rather that takes a firm hold of them. Here are married men who
run about spitting tobacco-juice on the carpet and floors, and
sometimes even upon their wives besides. They do not kick their
wives out-of-doors like drunken men, but their wives, I have no
doubt, often wish they were outside of the house. Another
perilous feature is that this artificial appetite, like jealousy,
"grows by what it feeds on;" when you love that which is
unnatural, a stronger appetite is created for the hurtful thing
than the natural desire for what is harmless. There is an old
proverb which says that "habit is second nature," but an
artificial habit is stronger than nature. Take, for instance, an
old tobacco-chewer; his love for the "quid" is stronger than his
love for any particular kind of food. He can give up roast beef
easier than give up the weed.
These remarks apply with tenfold force to the use of intoxicating
drinks. To make money, requires a clear brain. A man has got to
see that two and two make four; he must lay all his plans with
reflection and forethought, and closely examine all the details
and the ins and outs of business. As no man can succeed in
business unless he has a brain to enable him to lay his plans,
and reason to guide him in their execution, so, no matter how
bountifully a man may be blessed with intelligence, if the brain
is muddled, and his judgment warped by intoxicating drinks, it is
impossible for him to carry on business successfully. How many
good opportunities have passed, never to return, while a man was
sipping a "social glass" with his friend! How many foolish
bargains have been made under the influence of the "nervine,"
which temporarily makes its victim think he is rich. How many
important chances have been put off until to-morrow, and then
forever, because the wine-cup has thrown the system into a state
of lassitude, neutralizing the energies so essential to success
in business. Verily, "wine is a mocker." The use of intoxicating
drinks as a beverage is as much an infatuation as is the smoking
of opium by the Chinese, and the former is quite as destructive
to the success of the business man as the latter. It is an
unmitigated evil, utterly indefensible in the light of
philosophy, religion or good sense. It is the parent of nearly
every other evil in our country.
The safest plan, and the one most sure of success for the young
man starting in life, is to select the vocation which is most
congenial to his tastes. Parents and guardians are often quite
too negligent in regard to this. It is very common for a father
to say, for example: "I have five boys. I will make Billy a
clergyman; John a lawyer; Tom a doctor, and Dick a farmer." He
then goes into town and looks about to see what he will do with
Sammy. He returns home, and says: "Sammy, I see watchmaking is a
nice, genteel business; I think I will make you a goldsmith." He
does this, regardless of Sam's natural inclinations or genius.
We are all, no doubt, born for a wise purpose. There is as much
diversity in our brains as in our countenances. Some are born
natural mechanics, while some have great aversion to machinery.
Let a dozen boys of ten years get together, and you will soon
observe two or three are "whittling" out some ingenious device;
working with locks or complicated machinery. When they were but
five years old their father could find no toy to please them like
a puzzle. They are natural mechanics; but the other eight or nine
boys have different aptitudes I belong to the latter class; I
never had the slightest love for mechanism; on the contrary, I
have a sort of abhorrence for complicated machinery. I never had
ingenuity enough to whittle a cider-tap so it would not leak. I
never could make a pen that I could write with, or understand the
principle of a steam-engine. If a man was to take such a boy as I
was, and attempt to make a watchmaker of him, the boy might,
after an apprenticeship of five or seven years be able to take
apart and put together a watch; but all through life he would be
working uphill and seizing every excuse for leaving his work and
idling away his time. Watchmaking is repulsive to him.
Unless a man enters upon the vocation intended for him by nature,
and best suited to his peculiar genius, he cannot succeed. I am
glad to believe that the majority of persons do find their right
vocation. Yet we see many who have mistaken their calling from
the blacksmith up (or down) to the clergyman. You will see, for
instance, that extraordinary linguist, the "learned blacksmith,"
who ought to have been a teacher of languages; and you may have
seen lawyers, doctors and clergymen who were better fitted by
nature for the anvil or the lapstone.
Avoid debt. Young men starting in life should avoid running into
debt. There is scarcely anything that drags a person down like
debt. It is a slavish position to get in, yet we find many a
young man, hardly out of his "teens," running in debt. He meets a
chum, and says, "Look at this: I have got trusted for a new suit
of clothes." He seems to look upon the clothes as so much given
to him; well, it frequently is so, but, if he succeeds in paying
and then gets trusted again, he is adopting a habit which will
keep him in poverty through life. Debt robs a man of his
self-respect, and makes him almost despise himself. Grunting and
groaning and working for what he has eaten up or worn out, and
now when he is called upon to pay up he has nothing to show for
his money; this is properly termed "working for a dead horse." I
do not speak of merchants buying and selling on credit, or of
those who buy on credit in order to turn the purchase to a
profit. The old Quaker said to his farmer son, "John, never get
trusted; but if thee gets trusted for anything, let it be for
'manure,' because that will help thee pay it back again."
Mr. Beecher advised young men to get in debt if they could to a
small amount in the purchase of land in the country districts.
"If a young man," he says, "will only get in debt for some land
and then get married, these two things will keep him straight, or
nothing will." This may be safe to a limited extent, but getting
in debt for what you eat and drink and wear is to be avoided.
Some families have a foolish habit of getting credit at "the
stores," and thus frequently purchase many things which might
have been dispensed with.
It is all very well to say, "I have got trusted for sixty days,
and if I don't have the money the creditor will think nothing
about it." There is no class of people in the world who have such
good memories as creditors. When the sixty days run out you will
have to pay. If you do not pay, you will break your promise, and
probably resort to a falsehood. You may make some excuse or get
in debt elsewhere to pay it, but that only involves you the
A good-looking, lazy young fellow, was the apprentice boy,
Horatio. His employer said, "Horatio, did you ever see a snail?"
"I--think--I--have," he drawled out. "You must have met him,
then, for I am sure you never overtook one," said the "boss."
Your creditor will meet you or overtake you and say, "Now, my
young friend, you agreed to pay me; you have not done it, you
must give me your note." You give the note on interest and it
commences working against you; "it is a dead horse." The creditor
goes to bed at night and wakes up in the morning better off than
when he retired to bed, because his interest has increased during
the night, but you grow poorer while you are sleeping, for the
interest is accumulating against you.
Among the maxims of the elder Rothschild was one, an apparent
paradox: "Be cautious and bold." This seems to be a contradiction
in terms, but it is not, and there is great wisdom in the maxim.
It is, in fact, a condensed statement of what I have already
said. It is to say, "you must exercise your caution in laying
your plans, but be bold in carrying them out." A man who is all
caution will never dare to take hold and be successful; and a man
who is all boldness is merely reckless, and must eventually fail.
A man may go on "'change" and make fifty or one hundred thousand
dollars in speculating in stocks at a single operation. But if he
has simple boldness without caution, it is mere chance, and what
he gains to-day he will lose to-morrow. You must have both the
caution and the boldness to insure success.
The Rothschilds have another maxim: "Never have anything to do
with an unlucky man or place." That is to say, never have
anything to do with a man or place which never succeeds, because,
although a man may appear to be honest and intelligent, yet if he
tries this or that thing and always fails, it is on account of
some fault or infirmity that you may not be able to discover, but
nevertheless which must exist.
There is no such thing in the world as luck. There never was a
man who could go out in the morning and find a purse full of gold
in the street to-day, and another to-morrow, and so on, day after
day. He may do so once in his life; but so far as mere luck is
concerned, he is as liable to lose it as to find it. "Like causes
produce like effects." If a man adopts the proper methods to be
successful, "luck" will not prevent him. If he does not succeed,
there are reasons for it, although, perhaps, he may not be able
to see them.
We all depend, more or less, upon the public for our support. We
all trade with the public--lawyers, doctors, shoemakers, artists,
blacksmiths, showmen, opera singers, railroad presidents, and
college professors. Those who deal with the public must be
careful that their goods are valuable; that they are genuine, and
will give satisfaction. When you get an article which you know is
going to please your customers, and that when they have tried it
they will feel they have got their money's worth, then let the
fact be known that you have got it. Be careful to advertise it in
some shape or other, because it is evident that if a man has ever
so good an article for sale, and nobody knows it, it will bring
him no return. In a country like this, where nearly everybody
reads, and where newspapers are issued and circulated in editions
of five thousand to two hundred thousand, it would be very unwise
if this channel was not taken advantage of to reach the public in
advertising. A newspaper goes into the family, and is read by
wife and children, as well as the head of the house; hence
hundreds and thousands of people may read your advertisement,
while you are attending to your routine business. Many, perhaps,
read it while you are asleep. The whole philosophy of life is,
first "sow," then "reap." That is the way the farmer does; he
plants his potatoes and corn, and sows his grain, and then goes
about something else, and the time comes when he reaps. But he
never reaps first and sows afterwards. This principle applies to
all kinds of business, and to nothing more eminently than to
advertising. If a man has a genuine article, there is no way in
which he can reap more advantageously than by "sowing" to the
public in this way. He must, of course, have a really good
article, and one which will please his customers; anything
spurious will not succeed permanently, because the public is
wiser than many imagine. Men and women are selfish, and we all
prefer purchasing where we can get the most for our money; and we
try to find out where we can most surely do so.
You may advertise a spurious article, and induce many people to
call and buy it once, but they will denounce you as an impostor
and swindler, and your business will gradually die out and leave
you poor. This is right. Few people can safely depend upon chance
custom. You all need to have your customers return and purchase
again. A man said to me, "I have tried advertising and did not
succeed; yet I have a good article."
I replied, "My friend, there may be exceptions to a general rule.
But how do you advertise?"
"I put it in a weekly newspaper three times, and paid a dollar
and a half for it." I replied: "Sir, advertising is like
learning--'a little is a dangerous thing!' "
A French writer says that "The reader of a newspaper does not see
the first insertion of an ordinary advertisement; the second
insertion he sees, but does not read; the third insertion he
reads; the fourth insertion, he looks at the price; the fifth
insertion, he speaks of it to his wife; the sixth insertion, he
is ready to purchase, and the seventh insertion, he purchases."
Your object in advertising is to make the public understand what
you have got to sell, and if you have not the pluck to keep
advertising, until you have imparted that information, all the
money you have spent is lost.
Work at it, if necessary, early and late, in season and out of
season, not leaving a stone unturned, and never deferring for a
single hour that which can be done just as well now. The old
proverb is full of truth and meaning: "Whatever is worth doing at
all, is worth doing well." Many a man acquires a fortune by doing
his business thoroughly, while his neighbor remains poor for
life, because he only half does it. Ambition, energy, industry,
perseverance, are indispensable requisites for success in
Fortune always favors the brave, and never helps a man who does
not help himself. It won't do to spend your time like Mr.
Micawber, in waiting for something to "turn up." To such men one
of two things usually "turns up:" the poor-house or the jail; for
idleness breeds bad habits, and clothes a man in rags. The poor
spendthrift vagabond said to a rich man:
"I have discovered there is money enough in the world for all of
us, if it was equally divided; this must be done, and we shall
all be happy together."
"But," was the response, "if everybody was like you, it would be
spent in two months, and what would you do then?"
"Oh! divide again; keep dividing, of course!"
I was recently reading in a London paper an account of a like
philosophic pauper, who was kicked out of a cheap boarding-house
because he could not pay his bill, but he had a roll of papers
sticking out of his coat pocket, which, upon examination, proved
to be his plan for paying off the national debt of England
without the aid of a penny. People have got to do as Cromwell
said: "Not only trust in Providence, but keep the powder dry." Do
your part of the work, or you cannot succeed. Mahomet, one night,
while encamping in the desert, overheard one of his fatigued
followers remark: "I will loose my camel, and trust it to God."
"No, no, not so," said the prophet; "tie thy camel, and trust it
to God." Do all you can for yourselves, and then trust to
Providence, or luck, or whatever you please to call it, for the
Some men have a foolish habit of telling their business secrets.
If they make money they like to tell their neighbors how it was
done. Nothing is gained by this, and ofttimes much is lost. Say
nothing about your profits, your hopes, your expectations, your
intentions. And this should apply to letters as well as to
conversation. Goethe makes Mephistophiles say: "Never write a
letter nor destroy one." Business men must write letters, but
they should be careful what they put in them. If you are losing,
money, be specially cautious and not tell of it or you will lose
Preserve your integrity. It is more precious than, diamonds or
rubies. The old miser said to his sons: "Get money; get it
honestly, if you can, but get money." This advice was not only
atrociously wicked, but it was the very essence of stupidity. It
was as much as to say, "if you find it difficult to obtain money
honestly, you can easily get it dishonestly. Get it in that way."
Poor fool! Not to know that the most difficult thing in life is
to make money dishonestly! not to know that our prisons are full
of men who attempted to follow this advice; not to understand
that no man can be dishonest without soon being found out, and
that when his lack of principle is discovered, nearly every
avenue to success is closed against him forever. The public very
properly shun all whose integrity is doubted. No matter how
polite and pleasant and accommodating a man may be, none of us
dare to deal with him if we suspect "false weights and measures."
Strict honesty not only lies at the foundation of all success in
life (financially), but in every other respect. Uncompromising
integrity of character is invaluable. It secures to its possessor
a peace and joy which cannot be attained without it--which no
amount of money, or houses and lands, can purchase. A man who is
known to be strictly honest, may be ever so poor, but he has the
purses of all the community at his disposal--for all know that if
he promises to return what he borrows, he will never disappoint
them. As a mere matter of selfishness, therefore, if a man had no
higher motive for being honest, all will find that the maxim of
Dr. Franklin can never fail to be true--that "honesty is the best
I hold that no man ought ever to indorse a note or become
security for any man, be it his father or brother, to a greater
extent than he can afford to lose and care nothing about, without
taking good security. Here is a man that is worth twenty thousand
dollars; he is doing a thriving manufacturing or mercantile
trade; you are retired and living on your money; he comes to you
"You are aware that I am worth twenty thousand dollars, and don't
owe a dollar: if I had five thousand dollars in cash, I could
purchase a particular lot of goods and double my money in a
couple of months; will you indorse my note for that amount?"
You reflect that he is worth twenty thousand dollars, and you
incur no risk by indorsing his note; you like to accommodate him,
and you lend your name without taking the precaution of getting
security. Shortly after, he shows you the note with your
indorsement cancelled, and tells you, probably truly, "that he
made the profit that he expected by the operation;" you reflect
that you have done a good action, and the thought makes you feel
happy. By and by the same thing occurs again and you do it again;
you have already fixed the impression in your mind that it is
perfectly safe to indorse his notes without security.
But the trouble is, this man is getting money too easily. He has
only to take your note to the bank, get it discounted, and take
the cash. He gets money for the time being without effort;
without inconvenience to himself. Now mark the result. He sees a
chance for speculation outside of his business. A temporary
investment of only $10,000 is required. It is sure to come back
before a note at the bank would be due. He places a note for that
amount before you. You sign it almost mechanically. Being firmly
convinced that your friend is responsible and trustworthy, you
indorse his notes as a "matter of course."
Unfortunately the speculation does not come to a head quite so
soon as was expected, and another $10,000 note must be discounted
to take up the last one when due. Before this note matures the
speculation has proved an utter failure and all the money is
lost. Does the loser tell his friend, the indorser, that he has
lost half of his fortune? Not at all. He don't even mention that
he has speculated at all. But he has got excited; the spirit of
speculation has seized him; he sees others making large sums in
this way (we seldom hear of the loser), and, like other
speculators, he "looks for his money where he loses it." He tries
again. Indorsing notes has become chronic with you, and at every
loss he gets your signature for whatever amount he wants. Finally
you discover your friend has lost all of his property and all of
yours. You are overwhelmed with astonishment and grief, and you
say "it is a hard thing; my friend here has ruined me," but, you
should add, "I have also ruined him." If you had said in the
first place, "I will accommodate you, but I never indorse without
taking ample security," he could not have gone beyond the length
of his tether, and he would never have been tempted away from his
legitimate business. It is a very dangerous thing, therefore, at
any time, to let people get possession of money too easily; it
tempts them to hazardous speculations, if nothing more. Solomon
truly said, "He that hateth suretiship is sure."
We sometimes see men who have obtained fortunes suddenly become
poor. In many cases this arises from intemperance, and often from
gaming and other bad habits. Frequently it occurs because a man
has been engaged in "outside operations" of some sort. When he
gets rich in his legitimate business, he is told of a grand
speculation where he can make a score of thousands. He is
constantly flattered by his friends, who tell him that he is born
lucky, that everything he touches turns into gold. Now if he
forgets that his economical habits, his rectitude of conduct and
a personal attention to a business which he understood, caused
his success in life, he will listen to the siren voices. He says:
"I will put in twenty thousand dollars. I have been lucky, and my
good luck will soon bring me back sixty thousand dollars."
A few days elapse, and it is discovered he must put in ten
thousand dollars more; soon after he is told "it is all right,"
but certain matters not foreseen require an advance of twenty
thousand dollars more, which will bring him a rich harvest; but
before the time comes around to realize the bubble bursts, he
loses all he is possessed of, and then he learns what he ought to
have known at the first, that however successful a man may be in
his own business, if he turns from that and engages in a business
which he don't understand, he is like Samson when shorn of his
locks--his strength has departed, and he becomes like other men.
If a man has plenty of money, he ought to invest something in
everything that appears to promise success, and that will
probably benefit mankind; but let the sums thus invested be
moderate in amount, and never let a man foolishly jeopardize a
fortune that he has earned in a legitimate way by investing it in
things in which he has had no experience.
When a man is in the right path he must persevere. I speak of
this because there are some persons who are "born tired;"
naturally lazy and possessing no self-reliance and no
perseverance. But they can cultivate these qualities, as Davy
"This thing remember, when I am dead,
Be sure you are right, then go ahead."
It is this go-aheaditiveness, this determination not to let the
"horrors" or the "blues" take possession of you, so as to make
you relax your energies in the struggle for independence, which
you must cultivate.
How many have almost reached the goal of their ambition, but,
losing faith in themselves, have relaxed their energies, and the
golden prize has been lost forever.
It is, no doubt, often true, as Shakespeare says:
"There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune."
If you hesitate, some bolder hand will stretch out before you
and get the prize. Remember the proverb of Solomon: "He becometh
poor that dealeth with a slack hand; but the hand of the diligent
Perseverance is sometimes but another word for self-reliance.
Many persons naturally look on the dark side of life, and borrow
trouble. They are born so. Then they ask for advice, and they
will be governed by one wind and blown by another, and cannot
rely upon themselves. Until you can get so that you can rely upon
yourself, you need not expect to succeed. I have known men,
personally, who have met with pecuniary reverses, and absolutely
committed suicide, because they thought they could never overcome
their misfortune. But I have known others who have met more
serious financial difficulties, and have bridged them over by
simple perseverance, aided by a firm belief that they were doing
justly, and that Providence would "overcome evil with good."
Learn something useful. Every man should make his son or daughter
learn some trade or profession, so that in these days of changing
fortunes--of being rich to-day and poor to-morrow--they may have
something tangible to fall back upon. This provision might save
many persons from misery, who by some unexpected turn of fortune
have lost all their means.
Let hope predominate, but be not too visionary. Many persons are
always kept poor because they are too visionary. Every project
looks to them like certain success, and therefore they keep
changing from one business to another, always in hot water,
always "under the harrow." The plan of "counting the chickens
before they are hatched" is an error of ancient date, but it does
not seem to improve by age.
Do not scatter your powers. Engage in one kind of business only,
and stick to it faithfully until you succeed, or until your
experience shows that you should abandon it. A constant hammering
on one nail will generally drive it home at last, so that it can
be clinched. When a man's undivided attention is centred on one
object, his mind will constantly be suggesting improvements of
value, which would escape him if his brain was occupied by a
dozen different subjects at once. Many a fortune has slipped
through a man's fingers because he was engaged in too many
occupations at a time. There is good sense in the old caution
against having too many irons in the fire at once.
Be systematic. Men should be systematic in their business. A
person who does business by rule, having a time and place for
everything, doing his work promptly, will accomplish twice as
much and with half the trouble of him who does it carelessly and
slipshod. By introducing system into all your transactions, doing
one thing at a time, always meeting appointments with
punctuality, you will find leisure for pastime and recreation;
whereas the man who only half does one thing, and then turns to
something else, and half does that, will have his business at
loose ends, and will never know when his day's work is done, for
it never will be done. Of course, there is a limit to all these
rules. We must try to preserve the happy medium, for there is
such a thing as being too systematic. There are men and women,
for instance, who put away things so carefully that they can
never find them again. It is too much like the "red-tape"
formality at Washington, and Mr. Dick-ens' "Circumlocution
Office,"--all theory and no result.
To get rich is not always equivalent to being successful. "there
are many rich poor men," while there are many others, honest and
devout men and women, who have never possessed so much money as
some rich persons squander in a week, but who are nevertheless
really richer and happier than any man can ever be while he is a
transgressor of the higher laws of his being.
The inordinate love of money, no doubt, may be and is "the root
of all evil," but money itself, when properly used, is not only a
"handy thing to have in the house," but affords the gratification
of blessing our race by enabling its possessor to enlarge the
scope of human happiness and human influence. The desire for
wealth is nearly universal, and none can say it is not laudable,
provided the possessor of it accepts its responsibilities, and
uses it as a friend to humanity.
The history of money-getting, which is commerce, is a history of
civilization, and wherever trade has flourished most, there, too,
have art and science produced the noblest fruits. In fact, as a
general thing, money-getters are the benefactors of our race. To
them in a great measure, are we indebted for our institutions of
learning and of art, our academies, colleges and churches. It is
no argument against the desire for, or the possession of, wealth,
to say that there are sometimes misers who hoard money only for
the sake of hoarding, and who have no higher aspiration than to
grasp everything which comes within their reach. As we have
sometimes hypocrites in religion, and demagogues in politics, so
there are occasionally misers among money-getters. These,
however, are only exceptions to the general rule. But when, in
this country, we find such a nuisance and stumbling block as a
miser, we remember with gratitude that in America we have no laws
of primogeniture, and that in the due course of nature the time
will come when the hoarded dust will be scattered for the benefit
of mankind. To all men and women, therefore, do I conscientiously
say, make money honestly, and not otherwise, for Shakespeare has
truly said, "He that wants money, means and content, is without
three good friends."
Money is in some respects like fire; it is a very excellent
servant but a terrible master. When you have it mastering you;
when interest is constantly piling up against you, it will keep
you down in the worst kind of slavery. But let money work for
you, and you have the most devoted servant in the world. It is no
"eye-servant." There is nothing animate or inanimate that will
work so faithfully as money when placed at interest, well
secured. It works night and day, and in wet or dry weather.
Do not let it work against you; if you do, there is no chance for
success in life so far as money is concerned. John Randolph, the
eccentric Virginian, once exclaimed in Congress, "Mr. Speaker, I
have discovered the philosopher's stone: pay as you go." This is,
indeed, nearer to the philosopher's stone than any alchemist has
ever yet arrived.
Barnum and the newspapers had always been on the best of terms,
and in nearly every instance the press praised the lecture in
most unqualified terms. The following extract from the London
Times is a fair sample of many notices which he received:
"We are bound to admit that Mr. Barnum is one of the most
entertaining lecturers that ever addressed an audience on a theme
universally intelligible. The appearance of Mr. Barnum, it should
be added, has nothing of the 'charlatan' about it, but is that of
the thoroughly respectable man of business; and he has at command
a fund of dry humor that convulses everybody with laughter, while
he himself remains perfectly serious. A sonorous voice and an
admirably clear delivery complete his qualifications as a
lecturer, in which capacity he is no 'humbug,' either in a higher
or lower sense of the word."
During the year 1859 he delivered this lecture nearly one hundred
times in London and in different parts of England, always with
Remembering his experiences with Tom Thumb at Oxford and
Cambridge, and knowing the fondness of the college men for
joking, Barnum made up his mind to endure any amount of friendly
chaff when he visited their cities.
He commenced at Cambridge, where he was greeted with a crowded
house, composed largely of under-graduates. Soon after he began
to speak, one of the young men called out: "Where is Joice Heth?"
to which Barnum replied: "Young gentleman, please to restrain
yourself till the close of the lecture, when I shall take great
pleasure in affording you all the information I possess
concerning your deceased relative."
This turned the laugh against the youthful inquirer, and kept the
students quiet for a few moments. Questions of a similar
character were occasionally propounded and as promptly answered,
and on the whole the lecture was interrupted less than Barnum had
anticipated, while the receipts were over one hundred pounds
At Oxford the hall was filled to suffocation half an hour before
the time announced for the lecture to begin, and the sale of
tickets was stopped.
Barnum therefore stepped upon the platform, and said: "Ladies and
gentlemen: as every seat is now occupied and the ticket-office is
closed, I propose to begin my lecture now and not keep you
waiting till the advertised hour."
"Good for you, old Barnum,"--"Time is money,"--"Nothing like
economy," yelled the audience. Holding up his hand for silence,
"Young gentlemen, I have a word or two to say, in order that we
may have a thorough understanding between ourselves at the
outset. I see symptoms of a pretty jolly time here this evening,
and you have paid me liberally for the single hour of my time,
which is at your service. I am an old traveller and an old
showman, and I like to please my patrons. Now, it is quite
immaterial to me; you may furnish the entertainment for the hour,
or I will endeavor to do so, or we will take portions of the time
by turns --you supplying a part of the amusement and I a part--as
we say sometimes in America, 'you pays your money, and you takes
your choice.' "
This frankness pleased the students, who agreed to this unique
The lecture proceeded for fifteen minutes, when a voice called
out: "Come, old chap! you must be tired by this time. Hold up now
till we sing Yankee Doodle." Whereupon they all joined in that
honorable song with lusty good-will, Barnum meanwhile sitting
down comfortably, to show them that he was quite satisfied with
their manner of passing the time. When the song was concluded,
the leader of the party said: "Now, Mr. Barnum, you may go ahead
The lecture went on, or rather A lecture, for Barnum began to
adapt his remarks to the occasion. Every few minutes would come
some interruption, which was always as much enjoyed by Barnum as
by the audience. When the entertainment concluded, the young men
crowded to the platform to shake hands with the speaker,
declaring that they had had a "jolly good time," while the leader
said: "Stay with us a week, Barnum, and we'll dine you, wine you,
and give you full houses every night."
Barnum would have accepted the invitation had he not been
announced to lecture in London the next evening, and he told the
students so. They asked him all sorts of questions about America,
the Museum and other shows, and expressed the hope that he would
come out of his troubles all right.
At least a score of them invited him to breakfast with them the
next morning, but he declined, until one young gentleman insisted
on personal grounds. "My dear sir," said he, "you must breakfast
with me. I have almost split my throat here to-night, and it is
only fair for you to repay me by coming to see me in the
morning." This appeal was irresistible, and Barnum agreed to
The boys were pleased with his nerve and good nature, but they
confided to him that they liked better to get people angry. A few
weeks before Howard Paul had left them in disgust, because they
insisted on smoking when his wife was on the stage. They added
that the entertainment was excellent, and Howard Paul might have
made a thousand pounds if he had kept his temper.
Some time later Barnum was offered L1,200, or $6,000, for the
copyright of his lecture; the offer was, however, refused.
CHAPTER XXX. AN ENTERPRISING ENGLISHMAN.
A NEW FRIEND--DINNER TO TOM THUMB AND COMMODORE NUTT--MEASURING
THE GIANT--THE TWO ENGINES.
The morning after the lecture in Manchester a gentleman named
John Fish called at the hotel where Barnum was staying. He said
that he had attended the lecture the evening before, and added
that he was pretty well acquainted with the lecturer, having read
his autobiography. He went on to say that he was joint proprietor
with another gentleman in a cotton-mill near Manchester,
"although," he said, "a few years ago I was working as a
journeyman, and probably should have been at this time had I not
read your book."
Observing Mr. Barnum's surprise, he continued:
"The fact is, Mr. Barnum, upon reading your autobiography, I
thought I perceived you tried to make yourself out worse than you
really were; for I discovered a pleasant spirit and a good heart
under the rougher exterior in which you chose to present yourself
to the public; but," he added, "after reading your life, I found
myself in possession of renewed strength, and awakened energies
and aspirations, and I said to myself, 'Why can't I go ahead and
make money, as Barnum did? He commenced without money and
succeeded; why may not I?' In this train of thought," he
continued, "I went to a newspaper office and advertised for a
partner with money to join me in establishing a cotton-mill. I
had no applications, and, remembering your experiences when you
had money and wanted a partner, I spent half a crown in a similar
experiment. I advertised for a partner to join a man who had
plenty of capital. Then I had lots of applicants ready to
introduce me into all sorts of occupations, from that of a banker
to that of a horsejockey or gambler, if I would only furnish the
money to start with. After a while, I advertised again for a
partner, and obtained one with money. We have a good mill. I
devote myself closely to business, and have been very successful.
I know every line in your book; so, indeed, do several members of
my family; and I have conducted my business on the principles
laid down in your published 'Rules for Money-making.' I find them
correct principles; and, sir, I have sought this interview in
order to thank you for publishing your autobiography, and to tell
you that to that act of yours I attribute my present position in
"Your statement is certainly flattering," said Mr. Barnum, "and I
am glad if I have been able in any manner, through my
experiences, to aid you in starting in life. But I presume your
genius would have found vent in time if I had not written the
"No, indeed, it would not," he replied, in an earnest tone; "I am
sure I should have worked as a mill-hand all my life if it had
not been for you. Oh, I have made no secret of it," he continued;
"the commercial men with whom I deal know all about it; indeed,
they call me 'Barnum' on 'change here in Manchester."
On one occasion, when General Tom Thumb exhibited in Bury, Mr.
Fish closed his mill, and gave each of his employees a ticket to
the exhibition; out of respect, as he said, to Barnum. On a
subsequent occasion, when the little General visited England the
last time, Mr. Fish invited him, his wife, Commodore Nutt, Minnie
Warren, and the managers of "the show," to a splendid and
sumptuous dinner at his house, which the distinguished little
party enjoyed exceedingly.
Soon after his return to America, Barnum read an account of a
French giant then exhibiting in Paris, and said to be over eight
feet in height. As this was considerably taller than anything
that the showman had ever beheld, he wrote to his friend Fish,
who had expressed a wish to do him any service in his power, and
requested him to go to Paris, and, by actual measurement, find
out the exact height of the giant. He inclosed an offer,
arranging the prices on a sliding scale, commencing at eight
feet, and descending to seven feet two inches, for if he were not
taller than that he was not to be desired.
Mr. Fish put a two-foot rule in his pocket, and started for
Paris, where, after several days' delay and much trouble beside,
he finally succeeded in gaining an interview. The giant was shown
Barnum's letter, and read the tempting offers made for his
services, provided he measured eight feet, or within six inches
of that height.
"Oh, I measure over eight feet," said he.
"Very likely," responded Mr. Fish, "but you see my orders are to
"There's no need of that; you can see for yourself," stretching
himself up a few inches by aid of a peculiar knack which giants
and dwarfs possess to increase or diminish their apparent
"No doubt you are right," persisted Mr. Fish, "but you see I must
obey orders, and if I am not permitted to measure you I shall not
"Well," said the giant, "if you can't take my word for it, look
at that door. You see my head is more than two feet above the top
(giving his neck a severe stretch); just measure the door."
But Mr. Fish refused. The giant was now desperate, and,
stretching himself up to his full height, exclaimed: "Well, be
quick! Put your rule to my feet and measure me; but hurry up,
Mr. Fish regarded him coolly. "Look here!" said he, "this sort of
thing won't do, you know. I don't understand this contrivance
around the soles of your boots, but it seems to me you've got a
set of springs there which aids your height when you desire it.
Now I will not stand any more nonsense. If I engage you at all,
you must first take off your boots, and lie flat upon your back
in the middle of the floor."
The giant protested, but Mr. Fish was firm, and at last he slowly
took off his coat and lay down on the floor. Mr. Fish applied his
rule, and to his own astonishment and the giant's indignation the
latter proved to be barely seven feet one and one-half inches. So
he was not engaged at all.
Some time afterwards Barnum wrote to his friend and asked his
permission to put him into a new book then in course of
preparation. He wrote in return the following characteristic
Had I made a fortune of L100,000 I should have been proud of a
place in your Autobiography; but as I have only been able to make
(here he named a sum which in this country would be considered
almost a fortune), I feel I should be out of place in your pages;
at all events, if you mention me at all, draw it mildly, if you
The American war has made sad havoc in our trade, and it is only
by close attention to business that I have lately been at all
successful. I have built a place for one thousand looms, and
have, as you know, put in a pair of engines, which I have named
"Barnum" and "Charity." Each engine has its name engraved on two
large brass plates at either end of the cylinder, which has often
caused much mirth when I have explained the circumstances to
visitors. I started and christened "Charity" on the 14th of
January last, and she has saved me L12 per month in coals ever
since. The steam from the boiler goes first to "Charity" (she is
high pressure), and "Barnum" only gets the steam after she has
done with it. He has to work at low pressure (a condensing
engine), and the result is a saving. Barnum was extravagant when
he took steam direct, but since I fixed Charity betwixt him and
the boiler, he can only get what she gives him. This reminds me
that you state in your "Life" you could always make money, but
formerly did not save it. Perhaps you never took care of it till
Charity became Chancellor of Exchequer. When I visited you at the
Bull Hotel, in Blackburn, you pointed to General Tom Thumb, and
said: "That is my piece of goods; I have sold it hundreds of
thousands of times, and have never yet delivered it!" That was
ten years ago, in 1858. If I had been doing the same with my
pieces of calico, I must have been wealthy by this time; but I
have been hammering at one (cotton) nail several months, and, as
it did not offer to clinch, I was almost tempted to doubt one of
your "rules," and thought I would drive at some other nail; but,
on reflection, I knew I understood cotton better than anything
else, and so I back up your rule and stick to cotton, not
doubting it will be all right and successful.
Mr. Fish was one of the large class of English manufacturers who
suffered seriously from the effects of the rebellion in the
United States. As an Englishman, he could not have a patriot's
interest in the progress of that terrible struggle; but he made a
practical exhibition of sympathy for the suffering soldiers, in a
pleasant and characteristic manner.
At the great Sanitary Fair in New York, during the war, Mr. Fish
sent two monster "Simuel cakes," covered with miniature forts,
cannon, armies, and all the panoply of war, which attracted great
attention from every one present.
CHAPTER XXXI. AT HOME AGAIN.
THE CLOCK DEBTS PAID--THE MUSEUM ONCE MORE UNDER BARNUM'S
MANAGEMENT--ENTHUSIASTIC RECEPTION--HIS SPEECH--TWO POEMS.
In 1859, Barnum returned to the United States. During his trip
abroad he had secured many novelties for the Museum, the Albino
Family, Thiodon's Mechanical Theatre, and others.
These afforded him a liberal commission, and he had beside made
considerable money from the Tom Thumb exhibitions and his
All this, his wife's income, as well as a large sum derived from
the sale of some of her property, was faithfully devoted to the
one object of their lives--paying off the clock debts.
Mrs. Barnum and her daughter, Pauline, had either boarded in
Bridgeport or lived in a small house in the suburbs during the
entire four years of struggle. The land purchased by Mrs. Barnum
at the assignee's sale in East Bridgeport had increased in value
meanwhile, and they felt justified in borrowing on it, some of
the single lots were sold, and all this money went toward the
discharge of the debts.
At last, in March, 1860, all the clock indebtedness was
extinguished, except $20,000, which Barnum bound himself to take
up within a certain time, his friend James D. Johnson
guaranteeing his bond to that effect.
On the seventeenth day of March, Messrs. Butler and Greenwood
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