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P. T. Barnum - Greatest Showman

Phineas Taylor Barnum was born on July, 5, 1810. He had multiple businesses over time including a general store, real estate speculation, and a statewide lottery. His father died when he was 15 and he started a weekly newspaper in 1829, called The Herald of Freedom in Danbury, Connecticut.[1] He sold his store in 1834, and moved to New York City after lotteries were banned in Connecticut. Barnum became a showman when he was 25 in 1835. When slavery was outlawed Barnum found a loophole that let him lease a slave named Joice Heth, for $1000 a year. Barnum claimed that she was 161 years old and was George Washington's nurse. Joice died in 1836, only 80 years old about half her reported age.[2] When Charles Stratton was four years old, his parents took him to meet P. T. Barnum. Charles’s parents said he had stopped growing when he was six months old. Seeing the boy’s potential Barnum taught him to sing, dance and impersonate historic figures. Barnum named Charles ‘Tom Thumb’ and told everyone that he was 11 years old.[3]

By the 1850’s Barnum was one of the wealthiest men in New York, because of Tom Thumb. Myrtle Corbin had a dipygus twin growing inside her. She had four legs and joined Barnum’s freak show as the ‘four legged woman’ when she was 13 years old. Barnum did not start a circus until he was 60 years old. In 1870 he established "P. T. Barnum's Grand Traveling Museum, Menagerie, Caravan & Hippodrome" in Delavan, Wisconsin with William Cameron Coup. Barnum died from a stroke in 1891, and was buried in Mountain Grove Cemetery, Bridgeport, Connecticut, a cemetery that he had designed.[4]

[1] “P.T. Barnum: American Showman.” (Accessed July 6, 2019)

[2] Flatley, Helen. “The Darker Side of How P.T. Barnum Became ‘The Greatest Showman.’” The Vintage (Accessed July 6, 2019)

[3] “General Tom Thumb.” (Accessed July 6, 2019)

[4] “P.T. Barnum: American Showman.”

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