“Orchestmelachor”, P.T. Barnum’s 1873 orchestra band wagon
- Don’t mistake your vocation
- Select the right location
- Avoid debt
- Whatever you do, do it with all your might
- Depend upon your own personal exertions
- Use the best tools
- Don’t get above your business
- Learn something useful
- Let hope predominate, but be not too visionary
- Do not scatter your powers
- Be systematic
- Read the newspapers
- Beware of “outside operations”
- Don’t endorse without security
- Advertise your business
- Be polite and kind to your customers
- Be charitable
- Don’t blab
- Preserve your integrity
Seriously considering making Friday the official day I post Carny Style articles so that there is some consistency, and because Fashion Friday seems to be an obvious promo tool.
Having said that, this week is Style Spotlight, which focuses on the regal role of the showman, discussing notable figures such as P. T. Barnum, Ward Hall, James Taylor and John Robinson.
ca. 1870’s, [portrait of Barnum’s bearded lady, Miss Annie Jones], Eisenmann
Isaac W. Sprague, also known as the Original Living Skeleton, was born on May 21, 1841 in East Bridgewater, Massachusetts. According to one of his early cabinet cards, he was a normal and active child until the age of twelve – when he began to rapidly lose weight. The boy continued to lose weight and his now terrified parents took Isaac to the best doctors they could find. Unfortunately the doctors were also baffled and Isaac continued to wither away despite a healthy appetite.
In 1865, during a visit to a local carnival a promoter spotted Isaac and offered him a job. At first, the young man refused. But he soon realized that he could earn a good living by capitalizing on his looks. He began touring as ‘The Living Skeleton’ and quickly rose in popularity. In less than a year he auditioned for P. T. Barnum and was hired on a salary of $80 a week.
ca. 1860, [Barnum’s circus “fat lady” Phebe Dunn at 17 years old, 407lbs]
From my antique/vintage collection. Yes, I like to collect old stuff and one day I plan to devote a full room to all the treasures I find. This is a curio card of Tom Thumb, his wife, and “child.” In actuality, they never could have children and this was just a gimmick for the P.T. Barnum Circus. Curio cards were the baseball cards of the Victorian era. People collected and traded their favorite circus performers, actors, and actresses and kept them in curio (curiosity) cabinets.
Click on the photo to learn more about Tom.
c. 1860, [Barnum’s circus “fat lady” Phebe Dunn at 17 years old, 407lbs]
Barnum’s Living Curiosities
Obit of the Day (Historical): Phineas Taylor (P.T.) Barnum (1891)
P.T. Barnum, the greatest showman ever, died on this date 120 years ago. Barnum made his name from his promotions, both real and decidely unreal. Starting when he was twenty-five and he toured Joyce Heth, George Washington’s nursemaid who was 161 years old (unreal). Whether it was General Tom Thumb (military title - unreal, tiny man - real), Jenny Lind (“The Swedish Nightingale” - real), the Feegee Mermaid (unreal) and the world’s largest elephant, Jumbo (real - killed by a train, btw).
OOTD’s favorite Barnum story:
When Barnum opened his American Museum in New York he had trouble drawing crowds. So he paid a man to take four bricks and place one at each of the sidewalk corners around the museum. Then the man would, every hour, walk around the museum, pick up a brick, take it to the next corner, place the brick down, and pick up the next brick. After having done it with all four he would walk into the museum. All of this was done in silence with no expression. Crowds started to notice the brick-carrying gentlemen, and follow him. And when he entered the museum they would walk in right behind him paying their one dollar entrance fee. BRILLIANT. (Paraphrased from One Night Stands with American History.)
Second place: The New York Sun printed Barnum’s obit on its front page several weeks before he died…so he could read it.
The song, “The Museum Song,” is from the original Broadway cast recording of Barnum featuring Jim Dale (better known now as the audiobook voice of the Harry Potter books) and Glenn Close (better known for acting). The musical was nominated for about ten Tony awards and won Dale a Best Actor trophy. When the show traveled to England, Barnum was played by Michael “The Phantom of the Opera” Crawford. Greatest American showman…played by two Brits.
Located in Bridgeport, Connecticut, P.T. Barnum’s lavish mansion stood for only nine years before being consumed by one of the five major fires that “burned to the ground all his accomplishments.”
Fiji Mermaid gaff poster