A Unique Story of a Marvellous Career. Life of Hon. Phineas T. Barnum, by Joel Benton.
Joel Benton

Part 8 out of 8

this loss in advertising and job printing was not less than from
$75,000 to $100,000 a year. The Herald's circulation also
suffered terribly, since hundreds of people, at the hotels and
elsewhere, who were accustomed to buy the paper solely for the
sake of seeing what amusements were announced for the evening,
now bought other papers. This was the hardest blow of all, and it
fully accounted for the abuse which the Herald daily poured out
upon the theatres.

"Bennett evidently felt ashamed of the whole transaction. He
would never publish the facts in his columns, though he once
stated in an editorial that it had been reported that he had been
cheated in purchasing the Broadway property; that the case had
gone to court, and the public would soon know all the
particulars. Some persons supposed by this that Bennett had sued
me; but this was far from being the case. The owner of the lots
sued Bennett, to compel him to take the title and pay for the
property as per agreement; and that was all the 'law' there was
about it. He held James Gordon Bennett's bond, that he would pay
him half a million of dollars for the land, as follows: $100,000
cash, and a bond and mortgage upon the premises for the remaining
$400,000. The day before the suit was to come to trial, Bennett
came forward, took the deed, and paid $100,000 cash, and gave a
bond and mortgage of the entire premises for $400,000.

"Had I really taken back the lease, as Bennett desired, he would
have been in a worse scrape than ever; for having been compelled
to take the property, he would have been obliged, as my landlord,
to go on and assist in building a Museum for me, according to the
terms of my lease, and a Museum I should certainly have built on
Bennett's property, even if I had owned a dozen Museums up town.

"In the autumn of 1868, the associated managers came to the
conclusion that the punishment of Bennett for two years was
sufficient, and they consented to restore their advertisements to
the Herald. I was then carrying on my new Museum, and although I
did not immediately resume advertising in the Herald, I have
since done so."

Such is the account Barnum gave, in his own words, of this
extraordinary quarrel. He was, it will be seen, unsparing of
criticism and denunciation. Kindly as was his nature, he was "a
good hater," and never was there a more relentless fighter. In
denouncing Mr. Bennett he was perfectly sincere, and believed
himself to be entirely in the right. At the same time he never
hesitated to give a full meed of appreciative praise to the great
journalist, for his extraordinary enterprise and commanding
talents. Both the men are now dead, after careers of marvellous
success, and the animosity that raged between them is also long
dead; it perished years before they did. It is here rehearsed
merely as an integral and essential part of this biography, to be
regarded in a spirit of philosophic contemplation, entirely
devoid of bitterness or acrimony,



A remarkable feature of Mr. Barnum's life was his loyalty to the
place he had chosen as his home, and his devotion to its
interests. He had great faith in Bridgeport, and worked
unceasingly to justify it. He looked far ahead, saw the
prospective growth of the place, and laid broad plans of
preparation for the future.

Apart from his great services in laying out East Bridgeport, he
was the author of the improvements on the water-front known as
Seaside Park. The idea of such a thing occurred to him first in
1863, when he rode over the ground and observed its fitness for
the purpose. He then began agitating the matter, and urging the
immediate acquirement by the city of land for a park and public
drive-way along the margin of the Sound. It was necessary, he
represented, to do it at once, before the natural increase in the
value of the land made such an undertaking too expensive. That it
would be a profitable venture he felt certain; for such an
improvement would make every bit of real estate in the city more
valuable, and would attract many new residents to the place.

There were, however, many conservatives, "old fogies" he called
them, who opposed him. He then approached the farmers who owned
the land lying immediately upon the shore, and tried to convince
them that, if they would give the city, free, a deep slip next to
the water, to be used as a public park, it would increase in
value the rest of their land so much as to make it a profitable
operation for them. But it was like beating against the wind.
They were "not so stupid as to think that they could become
gainers by giving away their property."

He succeeded, however, in getting the active aid and co-operation
of Messrs. Nathaniel Wheeler, James Loomis, Francis Ives,
Frederick Wood, and some others, who went with him to the
landowners and added their persuasions to his. After much urging,
they finally got the terms upon which the proprietors would give
a portion and sell another portion of their land, which fronted
on the water, provided the land thus disposed of should forever
be appropriated to the purposes of a public park. But,
unfortunately, a part of the land it was desirable to include was
a farm, of some thirty acres, then belonging to an unsettled
estate, and neither the administrator nor the heirs could or
would give away a rod of it. But the whole farm was for
sale--and, to overcome the difficulty in the way of its transfer
for the public benefit, Barnum bought it for about $12,000, and
then presented the required front to the park. He did not want
this land or any portion of it, for his own purposes or profit,
and he offered a thousand dollars to any one who would take his
place in the transaction; but no one accepted, and he was quite
willing to contribute so much of the land as was needed for so
noble an object. Besides this, he gave $1,400 toward purchasing
other land and improving the park, and, after months of
persistent personal effort, he succeeded in raising, by private
subscription, the sum necessary to secure the land needed. This
was duly paid for, deeded to, and accepted by the city, and
Barnum had the pleasure of naming this new and great public
improvement, "Seaside Park."

When Mr. Barnum first selected Bridgeport as his home, as already
stated in a preceding chapter, the place was commended to him by
its nearness to New York, its convenience of access, and the
beauty of its situation. "Nowhere," said he, "in all my travels
in America and abroad had I seen a city whose very position
presented so many and varied attractions. Situated on Long Island
Sound, with that vast water-view in front, and on every other
side a beautiful and fertile country with every variety of inland
scenery, and charming drives which led through valleys rich with
well-cultivated farms, and over hills thick-wooded with
far-stretching forests of primeval growth--all these natural
attractions appeared to me only so many aids to the advancement
the beautiful and busy city might attain, if public spirit,
enterprise, and money grasped and improved the opportunities the
locality itself extended. I saw that what Nature had so freely
lavished must be supplemented by yet more liberal Art."

It was in pursuance of this object that he built the famous
Iranistan; and when he did so he felt confident that this superb
place would so increase the value of surrounding property that
none but first-class residences would be erected in the vicinity.
He, however, went on to improve the surrounding property as much
as possible. He opened numerous fine avenues through land
purchased by himself, and freely gave them to the city. In this
way he opened miles of new streets and planted them with
thousands of shade trees. The planting of trees was almost a
mania with him, in pursuit of the doctrine laid down in Scott's
"Heart of Mid-Lothian": "When ye hae naething else to do, ye may
be aye sticking in a tree; it will be growing when ye're

Barnum was always for enterprise and progress. "Conservatism," he
said, "may be a good thing in the State, or in the Church, but it
is fatal to the growth of cities, and the conservative notions of
old fogies make them indifferent to the requirements which a very
few years in the future will compel, and blind to their own best
interests. Such men never look beyond the length of their noses,
and consider every investment a dead loss unless they can get the
sixpence profit into their pockets before they go to bed. My own
long training and experience as a manager impelled me to carry
into such private enterprises as the purchase of real estate that
best and most essential managerial quality of instantly deciding,
not only whether a venture was worth undertaking, but what, all
things considered, that venture would result in. Almost any man
can see how a thing will begin, but not every man is gifted with
the foresight to see how it will end, or how, with the proper
effort, it may be made to end. In East Bridgeport where we had no
'conservatives' to contend with, we were only a few years in
turning almost tenantless farms into a populous and prosperous
city. On the other side of the river, while the opening of new
avenues, the planting of shade trees, and the building of many
houses, have afforded me the highest pleasures of my life, I
confess that not a few of my greatest annoyance's have been
occasioned by the opposition of those who seem to be content to
simply vegetate through their existence, and who looked upon me
as a restless, reckless innovator, because I was trying to remove
the moss from everything around them, and even from their own

Mrs. Barnum's health continued to decline, and in the summer of
1867 her doctor commended her to live on the seashore.
Accordingly her husband sold Lindencroft, and they removed for
the summer to a small farm-house adjoining Seaside Park. So
delighted were they with life by the water during the hot days of
the summer that they determined thereafter to spend every summer
on the very shore of Long Island Sound. Finding it impossible to
prepare a house of their own in time for the next season, they
spent the summer of 1868 in a new and handsome house which Mr.
Barnum owned but which he had built for sale. In the fall of
1868, however, he purchased a large and beautiful grove of
hickory trees adjoining Seaside Park, and decided to build a
permanent residence there.

But there was a vast deal to do in grading and preparing the
ground, in opening new streets and avenues as approaches to the
property, and in setting out trees near the proposed site of the
house; so that ground was not broken for the foundation till
October. He planned a house which should combine the greatest
convenience with the highest comfort, keeping in mind always that
houses were made to live in as well as to look at, and to be
"homes" rather than mere residences. So the house was made to
include abundant room for guests, with dressing-rooms and baths
to every chamber; water from the city throughout the premises;
gas manufactured on the ground; and that greatest of all
comforts, a semi-detached kitchen, so that the smell as well as
the secrets of the cuisine might be confined to its own locality.
The stables and gardens were located far from the mansion, on the
opposite side of one of the newly-opened avenues, so that in the
immediate vicinity of the house, on either side and before both
fronts, stretched large lawns, broken only by the grove, single
shade-trees, rock-work, walks, flower-beds, and drives. The whole
scheme as planned was faithfully carried out in less than eight
months The first foundation stone was laid in October, 1868; and
they moved into the completed house in June following, in 1869.

On taking possession of this new residence, Barnum formally named
it "Waldemere." Literally this name was "Wald-am-Meer," or
"Woods-by-the Sea," but Barnum preferred the more euphonious
form. On the same estate he built at the same time two beautiful
cottages, called "Petrel's Nest," and "Wavewood," the homes of
his two daughters, Mrs. Thompson and Mrs. Seeley--the latter his
youngest. Here Barnum decided to speed five months of every year,
and for his home during the other seven months he purchased a
splendid mansion on Murray Hill, in New York City, at the corner
of Fifth Avenue and 38th Street.



In the autumn of 1874 Mr. Barnum married the daughter of his old
English friend, John Fish. The wedding took place in the Church
of the Divine Paternity, Fifth Avenue, New York, and after a
brief bridal tour, they returned to Waldemere.

In December, 1874, David Kalakau, King of the Sandwich Islands,
visited New York, and with his suite was invited to attend the

During the performance Barnum sat beside the King, who kept up a
pleasant conversation with him for two hours. The King expressed
himself as highly delighted with the entertainment, and said he
was always fond of horses and racing.

Some twelve thousand spectators were present, and before the
exhibition was finished they began to call loudly "The King! The

Turning to his host, Kalakau inquired the meaning of their
excitement. "Your Majesty," replied Barnum, "this vast audience
wishes to give you an ovation. The building is so large that they
cannot distinguish your Majesty from every part of the house, and
are anxious that you should ride around the circle in order that
they may greet you."

At the moment, Barnum's open barouche was driven into the circle
and approached the royal box.

"No doubt your Majesty would greatly gratify my countrymen, if
you would kindly step into this carriage and ride around the

The King immediately arose, and amidst tremendous cheering,
stepped into the carriage. Barnum took a seat by his side, and
the King smilingly remarked, "We are all actors."

The audience rose to their feet, cheered and waved their
handkerchiefs, as the King rode around the circle, raising his
hat and bowing. The excitement was simply tremendous.

In March, 1875, the nomination for Mayor of Bridgeport was
offered Barnum, but he refused it, until assured that the
nomination was intended as a compliment, and that both parties
would sustain it. Politically the city is largely Democratic, but
Barnum led the Republican ticket, and was easily elected.

His Inaugural address before the new Common Council, April 12, is
given below.

GENTLEMEN OF THE COMMON COUNCIL:--Intrusted as we are, by the
votes of our fellow-citizens, with the care and management of
their interests, it behooves us to endeavor to merit the
confidence reposed in us. We are sometimes called the "fathers of
the city." Certainly our duty is, and our pleasure should be, to
administer the municipal government as a good and wise father
conducts his household, caring for all, partial to none. No
personal feelings should dictate our official acts. We are not
placed here to gratify personal or party resentment, nor to
extend personal or party favor in any manner that may in the
remotest degree conflict with the best interests of our city. As
citizens we enjoy a great common interest. Each individual is a
member of the body corporate, and no member can be unduly favored
or unjustly oppressed without injury to the entire community. No
person or party can afford to be dishonest. Honesty is always the
best policy, for "with what measure ye mete it shall be measured
to you again."

A large portion of this honorable body are now serving officially
for the first time, and therefore may not be fully acquainted
with the details of its workings; but we are all acquainted with
the great principles of Justice and Right. If we fail to work
according to these eternal principles, we betray the confidence
placed in us, and this our year of administration will be
remembered with disapprobation and contempt.

Let us bring to our duties careful judgment and comprehensive
views with regard to expenditure, so that we may be neither
parsimonious nor extravagant, but, like a prudent householder,
ever careful that expenses shall be less than the income.

Our city is peculiarly adapted for commercial purposes, it should
be our care, therefore, to adopt such measures as tend to promote
trade, manufactures and commerce. Its delightful and healthy
locality makes it also a desirable place of residence. We should
strive to enhance its natural beauty, to improve our streets and,
with moderate expenditure, to embellish our parks, by which means
we shall attract refined and wealthy residents.

As conservators of the public peace and morals it is our duty to
prevent, so far as possible, acts which disturb one or the other,
and to enforce the laws in an impartial and parental spirit.

The last report of our Chief of Police says: " 'Tis a sad and
painful duty, yet candor compels us to state that at least ninety
per cent. of the causes of all the arrests during the year are
directly traceable to the immoderate use of intoxicating liquors,
not to speak of the poverty and misery it has caused families
which almost daily come under our observation."

In the town of Vineland, N. J., where no intoxicating drinks are
sold, the overseer of the poor stated in his annual report that
in a population of 10,000 there was but one indictment in six
months, and that the entire police expenses were but seventy-five
dollars per year--the sum paid to him--and the poor expenses a
mere trifle. He further says: "We practically have no debt, and
our taxes are only one per cent. on the valuation. "Similar
results are reported in the town of Greeley, Colorado, where no
liquors are sold.

Our laws license the sale of intoxicating drinks under certain
restrictions on week days, but no man can claim the right under
such license to cause mobs, riots, bloodshed or murder. Hence no
man has, or can have, any right by license or otherwise to
dispense liquors to intoxicated persons, nor to furnish
sufficient liquor to cause intoxication. Our duty is therefore to
see that the police aid in regulating to the extent of their
legal power a traffic which our laws do not wholly prohibit.
Spirituous liquors of the present day are so much adulterated and
doubly poisoned that their use fires the brain and drives their
victims to madness, violence and murder. The money annually
expended for intoxicating drinks, and the cost of their evil
results in Bridgeport, or any other American city where liquor
selling is licensed, would pay the entire expenses of the city
(if liquors were not drank), including the public schools, give a
good suit of clothes to every poor person of both sexes, a barrel
of flour to every poor family living within its municipal
boundaries, and leave a handsome surplus on hand. Our enormous
expenses for the trial and punishment of criminals, as well as
for the support of the poor, are mainly caused by this traffic.
Surely, then, it is our duty to do all we can, legally, to limit
and mitigate its evil. As no person ever became a drunkard who
did not sincerely regret that he or she ever tasted intoxicating
drinks, it is a work of mercy, as well as justice, to do all in
our power to lessen this leprous hindrance to happiness. We
should strive to exterminate gambling, prostitution and other
crimes which have not yet attained to the dignity of a "license."

The public health demands that we should pay attention to
necessary drainage, and prevent the sale of adulterated food. The
invigorating breezes from Long Island Sound, and the absence of
miasmatic marshes serve to make ours one of the most healthy
cities in America. Scientific experiments made daily during the
whole of last year have established the fact that our atmosphere
is impregnated with OZONE, or concentrated oxygen, to an extent
not hitherto discovered on this continent. No city of the same
size in America is so extensively known throughout our own land
and in Europe as Bridgeport. It should be our pleasure to
strengthen all natural advantages which we possess as a city by
maintaining a government of corresponding excellence.

It is painful to the industrious and moral portions of our people
to see so many loungers about the streets, and such a multitude
whose highest aspirations seem to be to waste their time in
idleness, or at base ball, billiards, etc.

No person needs to be unemployed who is not over fastidious about
the kind of occupation. There are too many soft hands (and heads)
waiting for light work and heavy pay. Better work for half a loaf
than beg or steal a whole one. Mother earth is always near by,
and ready to respond to reasonable drafts on her never-failing
treasury. A patch of potatoes raised "on shares" is preferable to
a poulticed pate earned in a whisky scrimmage. Some modern
Micawbers stand with folded hands waiting for the panic to pass,
as the foolish man waited for the river to run dry and allow him
to walk over.

The soil is the foundation of American prosperity. When
multitudes of our consumers become producers; when fashion
teaches economy, instead of expending for a gaudy dress what
would comfortably clothe the family; when people learn to walk
until they can afford to ride; when the poor man ceases to spend
more for tobacco than for bread; when those who complain of
panics learn that "we cannot eat our cake and keep it," that a
sieve will not hold water, that we must rely on our own exertions
and earn before we expend, then will panics cease and prosperity
return. While we should by no means unreasonably restrict healthy
recreation, we should remember that "time is money," that
idleness leads to immoral habits, and that the peace, prosperity
and character of a city depend on the intelligence, integrity,
industry and frugality of its inhabitants.

Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper of July 24th, contained a
picture entitled "His Honor, P. T. Barnum, Mayor of Bridgeport,
Presiding at a Meeting of the Common Council of that City." The
editor's remarks are as follows:--"Mayor Barnum's message was a
model of brevity and practical thought. Having at the beginning
of his official career declared war against the whisky dealers,
he next proceeded to open the struggle. For twenty years the
saloons had been kept open on Sundays, and it was declared
impossible to close them. Mr. Barnum has all his life acted upon
the quaint French aphorism that 'nothing is so possible as the
impossible.' He gave notice that the saloons must be closed. A
select committee of citizens volunteered to aid in collecting
testimony in case the sellers should disregard the proclamation,
and leave the latch-string to their back doors displayed on the
outside. Although the doors were open, the keepers refused to
sell except to personal friends. The committee-men stood opposite
the saloons, and took the names of a dozen or so who were
admitted. The next morning the saloon-keepers were arrested, and
when they found their 'friends' had been subpoenaed to appear as
witnesses, they pleaded guilty and immediately brought out their
pocket-books to pay the judicial 'shot.' This plan effectually
broke up Sunday traffic in liquor, thus insuring a quiet day for
the citizens, and greatly accommodating the saloon-keepers, the
best portion of whom really favor a general closing on Sunday.

"By nature an organizer of men and systems, he is his own best
executive officer. No one knows so well as he how men may be best
governed, and no one can so pleasantly polish off the rough sides
of mankind. Successful beyond the usual measure as an
intelligent, courteous and considerate showman, he has already
proved himself the most acceptable of Mayors."

In 1875, the Hippodrome was transported by rail throughout the
United States, going as far east as Portland, Maine, and west to
Kansas City, Missouri. Notwithstanding the depressed state of
finances generally that year, the season was a fairly profitable

A very painful event in connection with the show, occurred in
July. The aeronaut, Donaldson, made his customary daily ascension
from the Hippodrome grounds at Chicago, and was never heard from
afterward. He took with him Mr. N. S. Grimwood, a reporter of the
Chicago Journal, whose body was found a few weeks later in Lake
Michigan. There was a terrible storm the night of the ascension
and it was doubtless then that the men perished.

About the middle of June Barnum visited Niagara Falls with Mrs.
Barnum and a party of English friends. Leaving the party at
Niagara, Mr. and Mrs. Barnum went to Akron, Ohio, where the
"Travelling World's Fair" was to exhibit. The Mayor of Akron
called upon them and invited them to a concert, where, in
response to loud calls, Barnum gave a short speech; they were
afterward tendered a reception and a serenade at the hotel. The
next day they were escorted to Buchtel College by the founder of
the institution, Mr. J. R. Buchtel, and the Reverend D. C.
Tomlinson. The students received Barnum enthusiastically, and he
gave them one of his delightful speeches.

Returning to Buffalo, they rejoined their friends, and also met
the Hippodrome. Early in the morning of the second day of the
exhibition Barnum despatched a special train to Niagara Falls,
with some hundreds of the Hippodrome Company, to whom he wished
to give the pleasure of viewing the cataract. The band which
accompanied them crossed Suspension Bridge playing "God Save the
Queen," and "Yankee Doodle," and returned to Buffalo in time for
the afternoon performance. In July, Barnum visited the Hippodrome
at St Louis and Chicago, and then returned to Waldemere for the
rest of the summer.

During the autumn of 1875, under the auspices of the Redpath
Lyceum Bureau, in Boston, Mr. Barnum found time to deliver some
thirty times, a lecture on "The World and How to Live in It,"
going as far east as Thomaston, Maine, and west to Leavenworth,
Kansas. When the tour was finished the Bureau wrote him that "In
parting for the season please allow us to say that none of our
best lecturers have succeeded in delighting our audiences and
lecture committees so well as yourself."

The National Jubilee year was celebrated by the Hippodrome
Company in a very patriotic manner. It was said, that they gave
the people, a Fourth of July celebration every day. The
establishment traveled in three trains of railroad cars; they
took along a battery of cannon, and every morning fired a salute
of thirteen guns. Groups of persons costumed in the style of
Continental troops, and supplemented with the Goddess of Liberty,
a live eagle and some good singers, sang patriotic songs,
accompanied with bands of music, and also with cannon placed
outside the tents and fired by means of electricity. The
performance was closed by singing "America," the entire audience
rising and joining in the chorus. At night there were fireworks
in which Revolutionary scenes were brilliantly depicted. The
street parade was a gorgeous feature. It began to move when the
salute was fired, and the town bells were always rung to aid the
effect of the National Jubilee.

Barnum's official term as Mayor of Bridgeport, expired April 3,
1876. Preferring to travel part of the time with his Centennial
show, he refused a renomination. The last meeting of the Common
Council under his administration, met March 29.

The New York Daily Graphic, of March 30, read:--"Mr. P. T.
Barnum, Mayor of Bridgeport, has uttered his valedictory message.
The document is very much like the man. He disapproves of the
reports of the Chief of Police and Clerk of the Police
Commissioners, because they declare that liquor saloons and
brothels cannot be closed, and he even reproves the latter for
his 'flippant manner' of dealing with the subject. Barnum must
have his joke or two, withal, and he can no more subsist without
his fun than could a former Mayor of this city. He ventures to
allude in this solemn document to the management of the New York
and New Haven Railroad Company, as 'the good bishop and his
directors;' makes a first rate pun on the names of two citizens;
and says to the Aldermen, 'And now we have, like the Arabs, only
to 'fold our tents and silently steal away,' congratulating
ourselves that this is the only stealing which has been performed
by this honorable body.' Mr. Barnum's administration in
Bridgeport has been mild, but characterized by firmness and
independence. His trouble with the Jews was of short duration,
for he is most respectful toward all theologies. He has not been
able to carry out his extreme temperance views; but he has made a
very good Mayor of a city, for whose prosperity he has labored
for half a lifetime."

It can safely be said that Barnum amused and instructed more
persons than any men who ever lived. In the course of his career
as manager of public entertainments, the number of his patrons
was enormous. Here is his own estimate, in 1889:--"During the
forty years that I have been a manager of public amusements, the
number of my patrons has been almost incredible. From a careful
examination of my account books for the different exhibitions
which I have owned and controlled, I find that more than
eighty-two millions of tickets, in the aggregate, were disposed
of, and numerous exhibitions which I have had at various times
are not included in this statement."

The traveling exhibitions which I managed during
the six years preceding my purchase of the New York
American Museum, in 1841, were attended by . . . . . 1,500,000
The American Museum which I managed from 1841
to 1865, when it was destroyed by fire, sold . . . . 37,560,000
My Broadway Museum, in 1865-6-7 and 8, sold . . . . . 3,640,000
My Philadelphia Museum, 1849, 1850 and 1851, sold . . 1,800,000
My Baltimore Museum, sold . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 900,000
My traveling Asiatic Caravan, Museum and Menagerie,
in 1851-2-3 and 4, sold . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .5,824,000
My great traveling World's Fair and Hippodrome, in
1871-2-3-4-5 and 6, sold . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7,920,000
Carried forward, 59,144,000

My other traveling exhibitions in America and Europe,
sold . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2,200,000
General Tom Thumb has exhibited for me 34 years,
and sold . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20,400,000
Jenny Lind's Concerts, under my management, were
attended by . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 600,000
Catharine Hayes's 60 Concerts in California, under my
contract, sold . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 120,000
Thus, my patrons amount to the enormous number of 82,464,000

In addition to that, he delivered over seven hundred public
lectures which were attended in the aggregate by 1,300,000
persons, and wrote three books of reminiscences. Is it to be
wondered at, that such a well-known character should receive a
letter from New Zealand addressed simply, "Mr. Barnum, America"?


My first recollection of Mr. Barnum goes back to the period of
my small-boyhood, when he came to the country village near my
home to lecture upon temperance. I still remember the animation
of his discourse on that occasion; its humor and its anecdote;
and, with what absorbing interest the large audience sat out the
hour and a half or more which the speaker so well filled. In
describing the drunkard and the illusions which master him, he
showed a keen perception of human nature; and, in every part of
his address there was no end of spirited appeal and analysis,
mingled with unbounded mirth and pathos, as the fluctuating
argument went on.

A few years later, when I had grown old enough to visit the
metropolis, I made it one of the chief items of my concern to
visit the old museum on the corner of Ann Street and Broadway,
where the Herald Building now stands. There was, even then, no
curiosity there more impressive than its proprietor, who was the
very embodiment of life, kindly feeling, and wholesome joy. I
noticed that he was in all parts of the museum in very rapid
succession, and that nothing escaped his attention. Something in
his manner caught every eye. It was said of Daniel Webster that
when he walked through the streets of London, strangers who met
him turned around for another look after he passed by. And, I
confess I yielded in Mr. Barnum's presence, as others did, to
this same sight-seeing inclination. It was not merely that he was
so well known, and that his name had gone about the world with
the circuit of the sun; it was because the force that made this
thing possible worked also in other ways, and compelled you to
give its owner attention.

He had a kind word or an entertaining one for everybody who came
near him, as occasion offered, whether he was an old acquaintance
or a stranger. The occasion did not come to me, though I remember
wishing it had, when I left the museum. Probably I should have
deliberately sought it if I had had more assurance and experience
at that time; and if I had known, too, that we were afterward to
meet intimately, and that for more than twenty years the
latch-string of his different homes, in Bridgeport and New York,
was to respond so many dozens of times to my touch, for days and
weeks of remarkable hospitality.

My opportunity for knowing Mr. Barnum personally came about when
I was, as a young man, conducting, almost single-handed, a
lecture course in a very small country town in the later sixties,
soon after the close of the war. The night for Mr. Barnum to come
to us was a very cold and forbidding one in February. A
snow-storm, the most formidable one of the winter, sprang up to
apparently thwart the success of the performance; and so certain
was Mr. Barnum that nobody would appear to hear him, he offered
not only to release me from the contract between us, but, in
addition to that, would pay me the price I was to pay him, or
more, to be permitted to return to New York. "There is nothing on
earth I hate to do so much," said he, "as to lecture to empty

I said to him: "Please trust me for the avoidance of that. If it
had been a pleasant night, instead of this howling storm, I would
have filled the hall and the yard in front to the front gate.
But, as it now is, I will still guarantee to fill the hall." And
filled it was, to our equal delight.

Before entering and discovering this fact, I ventured to say to
Mr. Barnum that, owing to the general untowardness and inclemency
of the night, I would introduce him in my own way, and not in the
conventional one, if he did not object. "By all means," said he;
"if you can awaken any warmth or hilarity on as sorrowful an
outlook as this, do not spare ME, or hesitate for a moment."

On arriving at our seats on the platform, I arose and said, in
some such words as these:

"LADIES AND GENTLEMEN:--You will bear me out in saying it has
been my usual custom to introduce the speaker of the evening in
the briefest way possible, and not to trouble you with any talk
of my own. To-night, in view of the storm, and while Mr. Barnum
is resting for a moment, I will break my rule and tell you a
story. Some years ago a queer fellow from the country went to New
York, and, among the sights and experiences he had planned for,
he went to Barnum's Museum. Mr. Greenwood was then its manager,
and noticed with some interest his patron's rusticity when he
called for a ticket. He asked Mr. Greenwood, after having paid
for the card of admittance, 'Where is Barnum?' As Mr. Barnum
happened to be in sight on the entrance floor, Mr. Greenwood,
pointing to him said, There he is.'

"At once the querist started in the direction named. He got very
near Mr. Barnum and stood looking intently at him. Then he moved
a little segment in the circle he was describing, and looked
again. Several times he repeated these inspections, until he had
from all points viewed the object of his curiosity and had
completed the circle, when he started for the door, Mr. Greenwood
watching him all the time. When he came near enough Mr. Greenwood
said to him: 'My friend, you have not seen the Museum yet. There
is a whale downstairs and any number of things up-stairs, a moral
play soon to come off, etc.' 'I know it,' said the rustic, 'and I
don't care. I've seen Barnum, and I've got my money's worth.'

"Now, ladies and gentlemen, I have not been able to bring to you
the American Museum to-night, but I have done what is better--I
have brought to you Mr. Barnum."

Mr. Barnum then arose, not in the least nonplussed, but greatly
pleased with the packed house and the hearty cheers which greeted

"MR. PRESIDENT, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN:--I cannot, for the life of
me, see why you should have sent so far as New York for me to
come and address you. I am not really a lyceum lecturer at all. I
am only a showman, and it seems you have a man here who can show
up the showman."

The whole story may read very weakly in print; for Mr. Barnum's
tones of voice, and gestures and mobility of feature are not
communicable to cold type. But the playfulness of this unusual
preface not only stirred the audience on a dismal night, but put
the lecturer at his very best. Mr. Barnum's lecture was elastic.
It might be shaped for an hour, as it was not fully written, or
it might consume more time. On this occasion it was two hours and
over. While the snow was still falling in open sleighs, that
could find no shelter, their owners, not minding this, were
enjoying one of the most delightful evenings of a whole
winter--of many winters, perhaps.

And all this leads me to say that Mr. Barnum, while claiming no
part of a professional lecturer's endowment, and only made
oratory a casual--if it was sometimes a frequent--matter, was,
nevertheless, admirably equipped to entertain an audience. He
could tell a story inimitably. His mimetic faculty, like Gough's,
gave him something of the quality of an actor, so that he
illustrated well what he had to say. No lectures have proved much
more instructive and entertaining than Mr. Barnum's on The Art of
Money Getting; and, wherever he went to address an audience, he
was sure to be called again.

When I met him in Bridgeport for the first time, I found he was
easily the chief man of the place. He was living then at
Lindencroft, on Fairfield Avenue. His Oriental palace, Iranistan,
had burned down some years before. But, wherever he lived, his
house gave open welcome to many guests, illustrious and other;
and no one who had the good fortune to enter it, ever went away
without connecting with his visit the happiest of memories. At
the table he especially shone. Wit, repartee, and even puns, when
occasion offered, coruscated over the meal, and diffused
universal good humor. He had always at hand innumerable
anecdotes, which he made peculiarly his own, and which he told
with inimitable grace and unction. I am sure nobody will ever
tell them again as he told them; for, contrary to the proverb,
the prosperity of the jest in his case lay, nine-tenths, in his
way of relating it--though it was never a dull one.

It mattered not what the business of the day might be, or what
obstacles or discouragements had been encountered, his
cheerfulness was perennial and unfailing. Mirth and good cheer
were apparently inborn and organic with him. He could no more
suppress them than a fountain could cease bubbling up, or a river
turn backward in its course. And what men and women he has had,
first and last, at his table; it is impossible to exhaust the
list or exaggerate its quality. Horace Greeley, Henry Ward
Beecher, E. H. Chapin, Bayard Taylor, Mark Twain, and the Cary
sisters, were a few among Americans; and Thackeray, Matthew
Arnold, George Augustus Sala, and I know not how many others,
from abroad. No catalogue of them, but only types can be given
here. He was almost never without people who made no claim to
distinction; and to them, too, he was the genial, urbane, and
entertaining host.

There was a depth of warm humanity in Mr. Barnum's inmost texture
that his public fame does not fully disclose. That children liked
him has been already often said; but those in maturer
youth--young gentlemen and ladies--felt, somehow, that he never
ceased, at any age, to be their contemporary. No younger and more
hopeful thoughts were offered than his. If, as sometimes
happened, when he organized, as he persistently did, the summer
picnic, inland or on the coast, there was a party made for each
direction, the struggle was to see which could capture Mr.
Barnum. Which way the rest of us might go was not of so much
consequence; but the party which lost him in behalf of the other,
felt like one trying to enjoy Hamlet with the chief character

At one time he actually kept a seaside caterer at a distant beach
to receive his guests of twenty or more on a place of his own,
whenever, on summer days, he could collect guests enough and give
them attention. It was only necessary to send word in the
morning, and the tables were ready, and the party was conveyed to
the shady grounds from Mr. Barnum's door. Swings were not
forgotten for the children, nor was anything forgotten that
conduced to rational joy. If some poor sick person was heard of
in the city, one carriage, Mr. Barnum's own, would go somewhat
out of the way to stop and leave delicacies and presents, not
without a few words of sympathy and comfort. When, on one
occasion that I remember, he took two or three hundred people
from several towns in the State, and from New York, to Charles
Island, a summer place midway between Bridgeport and New Haven,
the hospitality was royal, and even the steamboat tickets were
mysteriously provided for all.

I have never noticed, in the multitude of printed sketches of Mr.
Barnum's doings, any general mention of his lavish hospitality
poured out for years, but there will be hundreds who can testify
to and will remember it. It was as if he had said: "As we go
along through life let us make others happy." And he did this
with no niggardliness or stint, in his private life as well as in
his public career.

There is a series of stories of Mr. Barnum's humane endeavors
longer than Aesop's or Pilpays' fables combined, and it is
impossible to relate them all. But I have heard one recently that
will very well illustrate the beneficial manner of his charity,
and which shows that, by native sagacity, he had early learned
the scientific way of giving--to give so that the gift may be
more than its surface expression, and so as not to produce
chronic pauperism.

It seems that a poor widow, some years ago, went to Mr. Barnum's
house and told him she was very poor, and had a large family to
support; she could not, in fact, decently support them. But if
Mr. Barnum would only loan her $75 with which to buy a
sewing-machine, she assured him she could do enough better to be
able to save a little, and to pay the money back. Mr. Barnum,
thinking her honest and truthful, said she might have the money
on the terms suggested, but told her when she had saved the
requisite amount to bring it to him. After some struggle and
privation, in due time she did this, and laid it before him.
"Well," said he, "my good woman, you have now fairly earned your
sewing-machine, and you have done one thing more, YOU HAVE
LEARNED HOW TO SAVE." And thereupon he handed back the money, and
told her to put it in safe keeping.

Mr. Barnum's deep attachment for Bridgeport grew year by year,
and was most strikingly manifessed. The thousands of trees he had
set out there, the new streets he opened, and the Seaside Park,
which was his creation mainly, are but a few of the evidences of
his public enterprise. The Barnum Historical and Scientific
Institute, and the Barnum Gymnasium were among his latest
endowments, East Bridgeport he practically gave existence to, and
both that and the city proper are so essentially his monument
that you cannot now divorce the name of Bridgeport from that of

Some years ago, when certain experiments were made to test the
presence of ozone in the air, and much was said of its value to
health, Mr. Barnum had the air at Bridgeport put on trial, and
proved exultingly that no climate in this country was so
salubrious as that of Bridgeport, especially in the region of the
Seaside Park. He was very enthusiastic on the subject, and wrote
to the local papers, to myself, and to others about it to give
the fact publicity and proper emphasis.

It may be said by some that Mr. Barnum, in many of his real
estate enterprises, made money; and so he did, by his foresight,
faith, and sagacity concerning his adopted town. He partly
foresaw the future of Bridgeport, and then largely made it. But
if he had not made money--and his example was open for others to
follow--he could have had no money to give. He used to say
himself, half jokingly: "I believe in a profitable philanthropy,"
which illustrates one of his characteristic traits--his absolute
frankness. In fact, he was so open-hearted about himself that no
account he ever gave of his private doings was ever flattering or
exalted. He wore no phylacteries, and was as far away as possible
from Pecksniffian pretensions.

In early life he suffered hardship and deprivations, and no Mark
Tapley ever met them with more composure and, on occasions, with
more hilarity. But he knew well what comfort and convenience are,
and when they were at his command he enjoyed their best gifts. He
once told me that it pained him to see Mr. Greeley omit those
little cares for himself in later life to which he was surely
entitled, and so, when he was his guest for many days together,
he took care to provide him with a loose morning coat and
comfortable slippers, and would not have him drop in an ordinary
chair by accident, but secured for him the easiest one.

Busy as Mr. Barnum was, he found many hours for social and other
pleasures. He did this by his systematic allotment of his time.
All the machinery of his household and his business ran with a
smoothness and punctuality that would have delighted George
Washington. Everything was on time; his meals were regular--not
movable feasts. It was a wonder how he wrote so many letters,
foreign and domestic; dispatched so promptly his household and
his city affairs, and his out-of-town business; met all sorts of
callers on all sorts of errands; and yet spared time for rides, a
social game or talk, and an evening out with so much frequency.
Absolute idleness was positively painful to him; occupation of
some sort he must have, and to the very end he had and enjoyed

I can scarcely realize, even now, that he is really gone--so
clear of mind and active was he to the very last. Nor can it be
easily imagined how Bridgeport in this generation can accustom
itself to so great a loss. To hear that the average man--of
distinction even--has died, seems common and credible. But the
message which announced Mr. Barnum's death came like a troubled
dream from which we somehow expect to awaken. That one so full of
life as to be its very embodiment, should leave us, it will take
time to fully comprehend. If, in the world, his demise leaves a
striking and peculiar void, to a multitude of friends it comes
with a tender sorrow that shall tincture indelibly many flowing
years. J. B.


Among letters that have come to hand we select the following as
the tribute of a representative American divine:

BROOKLYN, April 16th, 1891.
Dear Mr. Benton:

There was a Mr. Barnum whom all the world knew, and whose name is
familiar in every civilized land; but there was another Mr.
Barnum whom we, his intimate friends knew, and regarded with a
hearty affection. That he was a most courteous gentleman and the
entertaining companion at his table and hospitable fireside, is
but a part of the truth. He had a big warm heart that bound all
his friends to him with hooks of steel.

I first met him on the platform of a grand temperance banquet, in
Tripler Hall, New York, thirty-nine years ago--where he and Mr.
Beecher, and Dr. Chapin, Hon. Horace Mann, Gen. Houston, of
Texas, and myself were the speakers.

A gold medal was presented that evening to the Hon. Neal Dow, of
Maine, the father of the "Prohibitory Law." Mr. Barnum made a
very vivacious and vigorous address. In after years he delivered
several addresses in behalf of Total Abstinence in my church, and
they were admirable specimens of close argument, most pungently
presented. He indulged in but few witticisms or amusing stories;
for, as he well said, "The Temperance Reform was too SERIOUS a
matter for trifling jokes and buffooneries."

During the first year of my married life, 1853, Mr. Barnum
visited me at Trenton, N. J., and he often spoke of the happy
hour he spent at our table, and the cozy dinner my young wife
prepared for him. In after years he often sat at my table, and on
two occasions he entertained me with princely hospitality at his
Bridgeport mansion. On one occasion he invited the leading
clergymen of the town to meet me.

We differed very decidedly in our religious creeds, and never
fell into arguments about them. I honored his conscientious
convictions, and his staunch adherence to what he believed to be
the right interpretation of God's Word. With the scoffing
scepticism of the day he had no sympathy, and utterly abhorred
it. His kind heart made him a philanthropist, and in his own
peculiar way he loved to do good to his fellow-men. Surrounded by
innumerable temptations, he maintained a clean, chaste, and
honest life, and found his happiest hours in the society of wife
and children, under his own roof-tree. Had Mr. Barnum devoted
himself to political life he would have made an excellent figure;
for he had keen sagacity, vast and varied observations of human
nature, and sturdy common sense. In conversation with
intellectual men he always held his own with admirable acumen and
vigor of expression. He was altogether one of the most unique
characters that his native State has produced, and when his name
ceases to be connected with shows and zoological exhibitions, he
will be lovingly remembered as the genial friend, the sturdy
patriot, the public-spirited and philanthropic neighbor, and the
honest, true-hearted man.
Yours respectfully,


April 10th, 1891, was the day set for Mr. Barnum's funeral. The
morning was cold, gray, and dismal. Nature's heart, with the
spring joy put back and deadened, symboled the melancholy that
had fallen upon Bridgeport. No town was ever more transformed
than was this city by one earthly event. On the public and
private buildings were hung the habiliments of woe; flags were at
half mast, and, in the store windows were to be seen innumerable
portraits and likenesses of the dead citizen, surrounded by dark
drapery, or embedded in flowers.

Nor was this all. The people on the street and in the windows of
their houses seemed to be thinking of but one thing--their common
loss. The pedestrian walked slower; the voices of talkers, even
among the rougher classes, were more subdued, and in their looks
was imprinted the unmistakable signal of no common or ordinary

The large church was not only filled, with its lecture-room, a
considerable time before the hour set for the services; but
thousands of people crowded the sidewalks near-by for hours,
knowing they could only see the arrival and departure of the
funeral cortege. The private services at the house, "Marina,"
near the Seaside Park, which preceded the public services in the
church, were simple and were only witnessed and participated in
by the relatives and immediate friends.



The immense congregation that filled to repletion the South
Congregational Church, while the last services were being held
over the remains of Hon. P. T. Barnum, were deeply impressed with
the touching tribute which was paid the great showman and public
benefactor by his old friend, Rev. Robert Collyer, D. D.

It was a pathetic picture which met the eyes of the vast throng.
The aged preacher, with long white hair hanging loosely on his
shoulders, and an expression of keen sorrow on his kindly face,
standing in a small pulpit looking down on the remains of his old
and cherished friend. The speaker's voice was strong and steady
throughout his sermon. Each word of that sad panegyric could be
distinctly heard in all parts of the edifice, but in offering up
the last prayer, he broke down. The aged preacher made a strong
effort to control himself, but his voice finally became husky,
and tears streamed down his wrinkled cheeks. The audience was
deeply touched by this display of feeling, and many ladies among
the congregation joined with the preacher and wept freely.

The immense gathering were unusually quiet when the aged minister
took his place in the pulpit, and his words were strangely clear,
and distinct in all portions of the church, In his feeling
tribute, Dr. Collyer said:

"P. T. Barnum was a born fighter for the weak against the strong,
for the oppressed against the oppressor. The good heart, tender
as it was brave, would always spring up at the cry for help and
rush on with the sword of assistance. This was not all that made
him loved, for the good cheer of his nature was like a halo about
him. He had always time to right a wrong and always time to be a
good citizen and patriot of the town, State, or republic in which
he lived. His good, strong face, was known almost as well on the
other side. You may be proud of him as he was proud of his town.
He helped to strengthen and beautify it, and he did beautify it
in many places. 'It is said that the hand that grasps takes away
the strength from the hand that ought to give,' and that such a
man must die without friends or blessings. He was not that man.
He was always the open and generous man, who could not do too
much for Bridgeport. He often told me of his desire to help this
place, and he was not content to wait until after death. What he
has done for Bridgeport is the same as he has done for other
noble works. As my brother, Rev. Mr. Fisher, said today, there
was never anything proposed in this city that had any promise of
goodness but that he was ready to pour out money and assistance
for it.

"Faith in one's self fails in the spring if one has not faith in
God also. He had that faith I know. He had worship, reverence,
and love in his heart, and as he rests from his labors we meet
and linger here for a few minutes and pay respect and honor to
the memory of a great and good man. We can forget that we belong
to divers churches, and stand here as children of one faith and
one baptism, honoring for the last time one who has finished his
labors here and with a crown of glory for his reward, has joined
in his eternal home the Father he served so well."

When the church services were over, the procession moved to
Mountain Cemetery, a mile or more distant, where, in a beautiful
plat, long ago arranged, with a modest monument above it, rest
the remains of Mr. Barnum's first wife. Here, in a place made
beautiful by nature and improved by art, was consigned the mortal
part of him whose story we have tried, weakly, perhaps, to tell.
Great masses of flowers, similar to those displayed in the house
and church, were upon the grave and about it, and the people, who
came there in large numbers, did not leave for hours after the
religious service had been read.

A book of good size might be made of the notable expressions
called forth by Mr. Barnum's death from leading journals and men
known to fame. It is impossible to give any fair sample of them
here, but the London Times' leader of April 8th may serve,
perhaps, as a good specimen:

"Barnum is gone. That fine flower of Western civilization, that
arbiter elegantiarum to Demos, has lived. At the age of eighty,
after a life of restless energy and incessant publicity, the
great showman has lain down to rest. He gave, in the eyes of the
seekers after amusement, a lustre to America. * * * He created
the metier of showman on a grandiose scale worthy to be professed
by a man of genius. He early realized that essential feature of a
modern democracy, its readiness to be led to what will amuse and
instruct it. He knew that 'the people' means crowds, paying
crowds; that crowds love the fashion and will follow it; and that
the business of the great man is to make and control the fashion.
To live on, by, and before the public was his ideal. For their
sake and his own, he loved to bring the public to see, to
applaud, and to pay. His immense activity, covering all those
years, marked him out as one of the most typical and conspicuous
of Yankees. From Jenny Lind to Jumbo, no occasion of a public
'sensation' came amiss to him.

"Phineas Taylor Barnum, born in 1810, at Bethel, Connecticut--how
serious and puritanical it sounds! --would have died with a
merely local reputation unless chance had favored him by putting
in his way something to make a hit with. He stumbled across
Charles H. Stratton, the famous, the immortal 'General Tom Thumb'
of our childhood. Together they came to Europe and held
'receptions' everywhere. It was the moment when the Queen's
eldest children were in the nursery, and Barnum saw that a
fortune depended on his bringing them into friendly relations
with Tom Thumb. He succeeded; and the British public flocked to
see the amusing little person who had shown off his mature yet
miniature dimensions by the side of the baby Heir Apparent. Then
came the Jenny Lind furore. Then came a publicity of a different
sort. Mr. Barnum became a legislator for his State, and even, in
1875, Mayor of Bridgeport. Why not? The man who can organize the
amusements of the people may very well be trusted to organize a
few of their laws for them.

"When, in 1889, the veteran brought over his shipload of giants
and dwarfs, chariots and waxworks, spangles and circus-riders, to
entertain the people of London, one wanted a Carlyle to come
forward with a discourse upon 'the Hero as Showman.' It was the
ne plus ultra of publicity. * * * There was a three-fold
show--the things in the stalls and cages, the showman, and the
world itself. And of the three perhaps Barnum himself was the
most interesting. The chariot races and the monstrosities we can
get elsewhere, but the octogenarian showman was unique. His name
is a proverb already, and a proverb it will continue."


Back to Full Books