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date: 18 February 2020

Barnum, P(hineas) T(aylor)locked

  • William Brooks
  • , revised by Deniz Ertan


(b Bethel, CT, July 5, 1810; d Bridgeport, CT, Apr 7, 1891). American impresario, author, publisher, philanthropist, and politician/reformer. He produced theatrical matinées, blackface minstrelsy, melodramas, circus tours (the first to own private trains), farces, baby and beauty contests, and temperance lectures. After an early success exhibiting Joyce Heth (advertised as George Washington’s 160-year-old nurse) in 1835, he capitalized on the enthusiasm for Tyrolean acts by introducing the often parodied “Swiss Bell Ringers” in 1844. His management of such novelties as the celebrated midget Tom Thumb had established him as America’s leading showman, and the lecture hall at the Museum became an early venue for “family” minstrelsy and variety. Barnum’s greatest triumph, however, was a tour by soprano JENNY LIND (1850–51); under his management she gave 95 concerts in 19 cities, attracting unprecedented receipts of $712,161.34 (see also Taylor, Bayard). This was the first major tour in the United States to be managed by a nonperformer, marking the rise of a separate class of agents and promoters. He also sponsored the Irish soprano Catherine Hayes on a tour of California (...

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