P. T. Barnum

(1810—1891) American showman

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Connecticut-born impresario, began his career (1835) by exhibiting an aged black woman fraudulently claimed to have been George Washington's childhood nurse. His American Museum (founded 1842) combined sideshows, stage entertainment, and exhibition of curios, attracting crowds by extravagant publicity and advertising. His international reputation began with his first European tour (1844) with his dwarf, “General Tom Thumb,” and was extended when he brought to the U.S. foreign stars, such as the “Swedish nightingale” Jenny Lind, whose tour he managed in 1850–52. In 1871 he organized his circus, advertised as “the greatest show on earth.” Barnum's books include his Life (1855, frequently revised) and The Humbugs of the World (1865).

Subjects: Literature — Theatre.

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