A UNIQUE STORY OF A MARVELLOUS CAREER.

LIFE OF Hon. PHINEAS T. BARNUM. ----

COMPRISING HIS BOYHOOD, YOUTH, ...

 

By JOEL BENTON.

 

 

 

 

CONTENTS.

 

 

CHAPTER I. IN THE BEGINNING.

Family and Birth--School Life--His First Visit to New York

City--A Landed Proprietor--The Ethics of Trade--Farm Work and

Keeping Store--Meeting-house and Sunday-school--"The One Thing

Needful."

 

CHAPTER II. EARLY YEARS AT BETHEL.

Death of his Grandmother and Father--Left Penniless and

Bare-footed--Work in a Store--His First Love--Trying to buy

Russia--Uncle Bibbin's Duel

 

CHAPTER III. BUSINESS LIFE

Removal to Brooklyn--Smallpox--Goes Home to Recover His

Health--Renewed Acquaintance with the Pretty Tailoress--First

Independent Business Venture--Residence in New York--Return to

Bethel--Anecdotes

 

CHAPTER IV. TRYING MANY VENTURES.

Visit to Pittsburg--Successful Lottery Business--Marriage--First

Editorial Venture--Libel Suit--Imprisonment and

Liberation--Removal to New York--Hard Times--Keeping a Boarding

House

 

CHAPTER V. BEGINNING AS A SHOWMAN.

Finding His True Vocation--The Purchase of Joice Heth--Evidence

as to Her Age--Her Death--Signor Vivalla--Visit to

Washington--Joining a Travelling Circus--Controversies with

Ministers--The Victim of a Practical Joke

 

CHAPTER VI. INCIDENTS OF A CIRCUS TOUR.

Beating a Landlord--A Joke on Turner--Barnum as a Preacher and as

a Negro Minstrel--A Bad Man with a Gun--Dealing with a

Sheriff--"Lady Hayes"--An Embarrassed Juggler--Barnum as a

Matrimonial Agent

 

CHAPTER VII. HARD TIMES.

Advertising for a Partner--"Quaker Oats"--Diamond the Dancer--A

Dishonest Manager--Return to New York--From Hand to Mouth--The

American Museum

 

CHAPTER VIII. THE AMERICAN MUSEUM.

Advertising Extraordinary--A Quick-witted Performer--Niagara

Falls with Real Water--Other Attractions--Drummond Light

 

CHAPTER IX. INCREASED POPULARITY OF THE MUSEUM.

The American Flag and St. Paul's--St. Patrick's Day--The Baby

Show--Grand Buffalo Hunt--N. P. Willis--The First Wild West Show

 

CHAPTER X. GIANTS AND DWARFS.

Science for the Public--Mesmerism Extraordinary--Killing off a

Rival--The Two Giants--Discovery of "Tom Thumb"--Seeking Other

Worlds to Conquer--First Visit to England

 

CHAPTER XI. TOM THUMB IN LONDON.

An Aristocratic Visitor--Calling at Buckingham Palace and

Hobnobbing with Royalty--Getting a Puff in the "Court

Circular"--The Iron Duke--A Great Social and Financial Success

 

CHAPTER XII. IN FRANCE.

Arrival in Paris--Visit to the Tuilleries--Longchamps--"Tom

Ponce" all the Rage--Bonaparte and Louis Phillipi--Tour through

France--Barnum's Purchase

 

CHAPTER XIII. IN BELGIUM.

Presented to King Leopold and the Queen--The General's Jewels

stolen--The Field of Waterloo--An Accident--An Expensive

Equipage--The Custom of the Country

 

CHAPTER XIV. IN ENGLAND AGAIN.

Egyptian Hall and the Zoological Garden--The Special

Relics--Purchase of the Happy Family--Return to America

 

CHAPTER XV. AT HOME.

Partnership with Tom Thumb--Visit to Cuba--Iranistan, his Famous

Palace at Bridgeport--Barnum's Game-Keeper and the Great Game

Dinner--Frank Leslie

 

CHAPTER XVI. JENNY LIND.

A Daring Venture--Barnum's Ambassador--Unprecedented Terms

offered--Text of the Contract--Hard Work to Raise the Guarantee

Fund--Educating the American Mind to receive the Famous Singer

 

CHAPTER XVII. ARRIVAL OF JENNY LIND.

First Meeting with Barnum--Reception in New York--Poems in Her

Honor--A Furore of Public Interest--Sale of Tickets for the First

Concert--Barnum's Change in Terms--Ten Thousand Dollars for

Charity--Enormous Success of the First Concert

 

CHAPTER XVIII. CONTINUED TRIUMPH.

Successful Advertising--The Responsibilities of Riches--Visit to

Iranistan--Ovations at Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore and

Washington--Visit to Mt. Vernon--Charleston--Havana--Fredericka

Brerner

 

CHAPTER XIX. HAVANA.

Conquest of the Habaneros--The Italian and his Dog--Mad

Bennett--A Successful Ruse--Return to New Orleans--Ludicrous

Incident--Up the Mississippi--Legerdemain

 

CHAPTER XX. THE TRIALS OF AN IMPRESSARIO.

St Louis--The Secretary's Little Game--Legal Advice--Smooth

Waters Again--Barnum's Efforts Appreciated--An Extravagant

Encomium

 

CHAPTER XXI. CLOSING THE GRAND TOUR.

April Fool Jokes at Nashville--A Trick at Cincinnati--Return to

New York--Jenny Lind Persuaded to Leave Barnum--Financial Results

of the Enterprise

 

CHAPTER XXII. A FEW SIDE ISSUES.

The Expedition to Ceylon--Harnessing an Elephant to a

Plow--Barnum and Vanderbilt--The Talking Machine--A Fire at

Iranistan--Mountain Grove Cemetery

 

CHAPTER XXIII. SOME DOMESTIC ENTERPRISES.

Putting a Pickpocket on Exhibition--Traveling Incognito--The

Pequonnock Bank--The New York Crystal Palace--A Poem on an

Incident at Iranistan

 

CHAPTER XXIV. THE JEROME CLOCK COMPANY.

Founding East Bridgeport--Growth of the City--The Jerome Clock

Bubble--A Ruined Man--Paying Honest Debts--Down in the Depths

 

CHAPTER XXV. THE WHEAT AND THE CHAFF.

False and True Friends--Meeting of Bridgeport Citizens--Barnum's

Letter--Tom Thumb's Offer--Shillaber's Poem--Barnum's Message to

the Creditors of the Jerome Clock Company--Removal to New

York--Beginning Life Anew at Forty-six

 

CHAPTER XXVI. IDLENESS WITHOUT REST.

Annoying Persecutions of Creditors--Summer on Long Island--The

Black Whale Pays the Board Bill--The Wheeler & Wilson Company

Remove to East Bridgeport--Setting Sail for England

 

CHAPTER XXVII. A PROSPEROUS EXILE.

His Successful Pupil--Making Many Friends in London--Acquaintance

with Thackeray--A Comedy of Errors in a German Custom

House--Aristocratic Patronage at Fashionable Resorts--Barnum's

Impressions of Holland and the Dutch

 

CHAPTER XXVIII. HOME AGAIN.

A Jolly Voyage--Mock Trial on Shipboard--Barnum on Trial for His

Life--Discomfited Witnesses and a Triumphant Prisoner--Fair

Weather Friends--The Burning of Iranistan

 

CHAPTER XXIX. THE ART OF MONEY GETTING.

The Lecture Field--Success--Cambridge--Oxford--An Unique

Entertainment--Barnum Equal to the Occasion--Invited to Stay a

Week

 

CHAPTER XXX. AN ENTERPRISING ENGLISHMAN.

A New Friend--Dinner to Tom Thumb and Commodore Nutt--Measuring

the Giant--The Two Engines

 

CHAPTER XXXI. AT HOME AGAIN.

The Clock Debts Paid--The Museum once more under Barnum's

Management--Enthusiastic Reception--His Speech--Two Poems

 

CHAPTER XXXII. THE STORY OF "GRIZZLY ADAMS."

Barnum's Partnership with the Famous Bear Hunter--Fooling Him

with the "Golden Pigeons"--Adams Earns $500 at Desperate

Cost--Tricking Barnum out of a Fine Hunting Suit--Prosperity of

the Museum--Visit of the Prince of Wales

 

CHAPTER XXXIII. BUILDING A CITY.

At Home Once More--Growth of East Bridgeport--Barnum's Offer to

Men Wanting Homes of Their Own--Remarkable Progress of the

Place--How the Streets were Named

 

CHAPTER XXXIV.  A GREAT YEAR AT THE MUSEUM.

Capturing and Exhibiting White Whales--Newspaper Comments--A

Touching Obituary--The Great Behemoth--A Long "Last

Week"--Commodore Nutt--Real Live Indians on Exhibition

 

CHAPTER XXXV. GENERAL AND MRS. TOM THUMB.

Miss Lavinia Warren--The Rivals--Miss Warren's Engagement to Tom

Thumb--The Wedding--Grand Reception--Letter From a Would-be

Guest, and Dr Taylor's Reply

 

CHAPTER XXXVI. POLITICAL NOTES.

Barnum Becomes a Republican--Illuminating the House of a

Democrat--The Peace Meeting--Elected to the Legislature--War on

the Railroads--Speech on the Amendment

 

CHAPTER XXXVII. BURNING OF THE AMERICAN MUSEUM.

How Barnum Received the Tidings--Humorous Description of the

Fire--A Public Calamity--Greeley's Advice--Intention to

Re-establish the Museum--Speech at Employees' Benefit 

 

CHAPTER XXXVIII. POLITICAL LIFE.

In the Connecticut Legislature--The Great Railroad

Fight--Barnum's Effective Stroke--Canvassing for a United States

Senator--Barnum's Congressional Campaign--A Challenge that was

not Accepted

 

CHAPTER XXXIX. FIGHTING A NEWSPAPER.

Disposing of the Lease of the Museum Site--The Bargain with Mr.

Bennett--Barnum's Refusal to Back Out--A Long and Bitter War with

"The Herald"--Action of the Other Managers--The Return of Peace

 

CHAPTER XL. BRIDGEPORT.

The Fight for the Establishment of Seaside Park--Laying out City

Streets--Impatience with "Old Fogies"--Building a Seaside

Home--Waldemere--A Home in New York City

 

CHAPTER XLI. HONORS AND ADULATIONS.

Second Marriage--The King of Hawaii--Elected Mayor of

Bridgeport--Successful Tour of the Hippodrome--Barnum's

Retirement from Office

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER I. IN THE BEGINNING.

 

FAMILY AND BIRTH--SCHOOL LIFE--HIS FIRST VISIT TO NEW YORK CITY

--A LANDED PROPRIETOR--THE ETHICS OF TRADE--FARM WORK AND KEEPING

STORE--MEETING-HOUSE AND SUNDAY SCHOOL--"THE ONE THING NEEDFUL."

 

Among the names of great Americans of the nineteenth century

there is scarcely one more familiar to the world than that of the

subject of this biography. There are those that stand for higher

achievement in literature, science and art, in public life and in

the business world. There is none that stands for more notable

success in his chosen line, none that recalls more memories of

wholesome entertainment, none that is more invested with the

fragrance of kindliness and true humanity. His career was, in a

large sense, typical of genuine Americanism, of its enterprise

and pluck, of its indomitable will and unfailing courage, of its

shrewdness, audacity and unerring instinct for success.

 

Like so many of his famous compatriots, Phineas Taylor Barnum

came of good old New England stock. His ancestors were among the

builders of the colonies of Massachusetts and Connecticut. His

father's father, Ephraim Barnum, was a captain in the War of the

Revolution, and was distinguished for his valor and for his

fervent patriotism. His mother's father, Phineas Taylor, was

locally noted as a wag and practical joker. His father, Philo

Barnum, was in turn a tailor, a farmer, a storekeeper, and a

country tavernkeeper, and was not particularly prosperous in any

of these callings.

 

Philo Barnum and his wife, Irena Taylor, lived at Bethel,

Connecticut, and there, on July 5, 1810, their first child was

born. He was named Phineas Taylor Barnum, after his maternal

grandfather; and the latter, in return for the compliment,

bestowed upon his first grandchild at his christening the

title-deeds of a "landed estate," five acres in extent, known as

Ivy Island, and situated in that part of, Bethel known as the

"Plum Trees." Of this, more anon.

 

In his early years the boy led the life of the average New

England farmer's son of that period. He drove the cows to and

from the pasture, shelled corn, weeded the garden, and "did up

chores." As he grew older he rode the horse in plowing corn,

raked hay, wielded the shovel and the hoe, and chopped wood. At

six years old he began to go to school--the typical district

school. "The first date," he once said, "I remember inscribing

upon my writing-book was 1818." The ferule, or the birch-rod, was

in those days the assistant schoolmaster, and young Barnum made

its acquaintance. He was, however, an apt and ready scholar,

particularly excelling in mathematics. One night, when he was ten

years old, he was called out of bed by his teacher, who had made

a wager with a neighbor that Barnum could calculate the number of

feet in a load of wood in five minutes. Barnum did it in less

than two minutes, to the delight of his teacher and the

astonishment of the neighbor.

 

At an early age he manifested a strong development of the good

old Yankee organ of acquisitiveness. Before he was five years old

he had begun to hoard pennies and "fourpences," and at six years

old he was able to exchange his copper bits for a whole silver

dollar, the possession of which made him feel richer than he ever

felt afterward in all his life. Nor did he lay the dollar away in

a napkin, but used it in business to gain more. He would get ten

cents a day for riding a horse before the plow, and he would add

it to his capital. On holidays other boys spent all their

savings, but not so he. Such days were to him opportunities for

gain, not for squandering. At the fair or training of troops, or

other festivity, he would peddle candy and cakes, home-made, or

sometimes cherry rum, and by the end of the day would be a dollar

or two richer than at its beginning. "By the time I was twelve

years old," he tells us, "I was the owner of a sheep and a calf,

and should soon, no doubt, have become a small Croesus had not my

father kindly permitted me to purchase my own clothing, which

somewhat reduced my little store."

 

At ten years of age, realizing himself to be a "landed

proprietor" through the christening gift of his waggish

grandsire, young Barnum set out to survey his estate, which he

had not yet seen. He had heard much of "Ivy Island." His

grandfather had often, in the presence of the neighbors, spoken

of him as the richest child in the town, since he owned the whole

of Ivy Island, the richest farm in the State. His parents hoped

he would use his wealth wisely, and "do something for the family"

when he entered upon the possession of it; and the neighbors were

fearful lest he should grow too proud to associate with their

children.

 

The boy took all this in good faith, and his eager curiosity to

behold his estate was greatly increased, and he asked his father

to let him go thither. "At last," says Barnum, "he promised I

should do so in a few days, as we should be getting some hay near

'Ivy Island.' The wished-for day arrived, and my father told me

that as we were to mow an adjoining meadow. I might visit my

property in company with the hired man during the 'nooning.' My

grandfather reminded me that it was to his bounty I was indebted

for this wealth, and that had not my name been Phineas I might

never have been proprietor of 'Ivy Island.' To this my mother

added:

 

" 'Now, Taylor, don't become so excited when you see your

property as to let your joy make you sick, for remember, rich as

you are, that it will be eleven years before you can come into

possession of your fortune.'

 

"She added much more good advice, to all of which I promised to

be calm and reasonable, and not to allow my pride to prevent me

from speaking to my brothers and sisters when I returned home.

 

"When we arrived at the meadow, which was in that part of the

'Plum Trees' known as 'East Swamp,' I asked my father where 'Ivy

Island' was.

 

" 'Yonder, at the north end of this meadow, where you see those

beautiful trees rising in the distance.'

 

"All the forenoon I turned grass as fast as two men could cut it,

and after a hasty repast at noon, one of our hired men, a

good-natured Irishman, named Edmund, took an axe on his shoulder

and announced that he was ready to accompany me to 'Ivy Island.'

We started, and as we approached the north end of the meadow we

found the ground swampy and wet and were soon obliged to leap

from bog to bog on our route. A mis-step brought me up to my

middle in water, and to add to the dilemma a swarm of hornets

attacked me. Attaining the altitude of another bog I was cheered

by the assurance that there was only a quarter of a mile of this

kind of travel to the edge of my property. I waded on. In about

fifteen minutes more, after floundering through the morass, I

found myself half-drowned, hornet-stung, mud covered, and out of

breath, on comparatively dry land.

 

" 'Never mind, my boy,' said Edmund, 'we have only to cross this

little creek, and ye'll be upon your own valuable property.'

 

"We were on the margin of a stream, the banks of which were

thickly covered with alders. I now discovered the use of Edmund's

axe, for he felled a small oak to form a temporary bridge to my

'Island' property. Crossing over, I proceeded to the centre of my

domain. I saw nothing but a few stunted ivies and straggling

trees. The truth flashed upon me. I had been the laughing-stock

of the family and neighborhood for years. My valuable 'Ivy

Island' was an almost inaccessible, worthless bit of barren land,

and while I stood deploring my sudden downfall, a huge black

snake (one of my tenants) approached me with upraised head. I

gave one shriek and rushed for the bridge.

 

"This was my first and last visit to 'Ivy Island.' My father

asked me 'how I liked my property?' and I responded that I would

sell it pretty cheap."

 

The year 1822 was a memorable one in his childhood's history. He

was then about twelve years old. One evening, late in January,

Daniel Brown, a cattle-drover, of Southbury, Connecticut, arrived

at Bethel and stopped for the night at Philo Barnum's tavern. He

had with him some fat cattle, which he was driving to the New

York markets; and he wanted both to add to his drove of cattle

and to get a boy to help him drive them. Our juvenile hero heard

him say this, and forthwith made application for the job. His

father and mother gave their consent, and a bargain was quickly

closed with the drover.

 

"At daylight next morning," Barnum himself has related, "I

started on foot in the midst of a heavy snow-storm to help drive

the cattle. Before reaching Ridgefield I was sent on horseback

after a stray ox, and, in galloping, the horse fell and my ankle

was sprained. I suffered severely, but did not complain lest my

employer should send me back. We arrived at New York in three or

four days, and put up at the Bull's Head Tavern, where we were to

stay a week while the drover disposed of his cattle. It was an

eventful week for me. Before I left home my mother had given me a

dollar, which I supposed would supply every want that heart could

wish."

 

His first outlay was for oranges. "I was told," he says, "that

they were four pence apiece, and as four pence in Connecticut was

six cents, I offered ten cents for two oranges, which was of

course readily taken; and thus, instead of saving two cents, as I

thought, I actually paid two cents more than the price demanded.

I then bought two more oranges, reducing my capital to eighty

cents. Thirty-one cents was the charge for a small gun which

would 'go off' and send a stick some little distance, and this

gun I bought. Amusing myself with this toy in the bar-room of the

Bull's Head, the arrow happened to hit the bar-keeper, who

forthwith came from behind the counter and shook me, and soundly

boxed my ears, telling me to put that gun out of the way or he

would put it into the fire. I sneaked to my room, put my treasure

under the pillow, and went out for another visit to the toy shop.

 

"There I invested six cents in 'torpedoes,' with which I intended

to astonish my schoolmates in Bethel. I could not refrain,

however, from experimenting upon the guests of the hotel, which I

did when they were going in to dinner. I threw two of the

torpedoes against the wall of the hall through which the guests

were passing, and the immediate results were as follows: two loud

reports--astonished guests--irate landlord--discovery of the

culprit, and summary punishment--for the landlord immediately

floored me with a single blow with his open hand, and said:

 

" 'There, you little greenhorn, see if that will teach you better

than to explode your infernal fire-crackers in my house again.'

 

"The lesson was sufficient if not entirely satisfactory. I

deposited the balance of the torpedoes with my gun, and as a

solace for my wounded feelings I again visited the toy shop,

where I bought a watch, breastpin and top, leaving but eleven

cents of my original dollar.

 

"The following morning found me again at the fascinating toy

shop, where I saw a beautiful knife with two blades, a gimlet,

and a corkscrew--a whole carpenter shop in miniature, and all for

thirty-one cents. But, alas! I had only eleven cents. Have that

knife I must, however, and so I proposed to the shop-woman to

take back the top and breastpin at a slight deduction, and with

my eleven cents to let me have the knife. The kind creature

consented, and this makes memorable my first 'swap.' Some fine

and nearly white molasses candy then caught my eye, and I

proposed to trade the watch for its equivalent in candy. The

transaction was made, and the candy was so delicious that before

night my gun was absorbed in the same way. The next morning the

torpedoes 'went off' in the same direction, and before night even

my beloved knife was similarly exchanged. My money and my goods

all gone, I traded two pocket-handkerchiefs and an extra pair of

stockings I was sure I should not want for nine more rolls of

molasses candy, and then wandered about the city disconsolate,

sighing because there was no more molasses candy to conquer."

 

During that first visit to the metropolis the boy doubtless many

times passed the corner of Ann street and Broadway, where, in

after years, his famous museum stood. After a week in town he

returned to Bethel, riding with Brown in his sleigh, and found

himself a social lion among his young friends. He was plied with

a thousand questions about the great city which he had visited,

and no doubt told many wondrous tales. But at home his reception

was not altogether glorious. His brothers and sisters were

disappointed because he brought them nothing, and his mother,

discovering that during his journey he had lost two handkerchiefs

and a pair of stockings, gave him a spanking and put him to bed.

 

A settled aversion to manual labor was strongly developed in the

boy as he grew older, which his father considered simple

laziness. Instead of trying to cure him of his laziness, however,

the father decided to give up the farm, and open a store, hoping

that the boy would take more kindly to mercantile duties. So he

put up a building in Bethel, and in partnership with one Hiram

Weed opened a "general store," of dry goods, hardware, groceries,

etc., and installed young Phineas as clerk. They did a "cash,

credit and barter" business, and the boy soon learned to drive

sharp bargains with women who brought butter, eggs, beeswax and

feathers to exchange for dry goods, and with men who wanted to

trade oats, corn, buckwheat, axehelves, hats and other

commodities for ten-penny nails, molasses or New England rum. It

was a drawback upon his dignity that he was obliged to take down

the shutters, sweep the store and make the fire. He received a

small salary for his services and the perquisites of what profit

he could derive from purchasing candies on his own account to

sell to their younger customers, and, as usual, his father

insisted that he should clothe himself.

 

There was much to be learned in a country store, and principally,

as he found, this: that sharp tricks, deception and dishonesty

are by no means confined to the city. More than once, in cutting

open bundles of rags, brought to be exchanged for goods, he found

stones, gravel or other rubbish wrapped up in them, although they

were represented to be "all pure linen or cotton." Often, too,

loads of grain were brought in, warranted to contain so many

bushels, but on measuring them they were found five or six

bushels short.

 

In the evenings and on stormy days the store was a general

meeting place for the idlers of the village, and young Barnum

derived much amusement from the story-telling and joke-playing

that went on among them. After the store was closed at night he

would generally go with some of the village boys to their homes

for an hour or two of sport, and then, as late, perhaps, as

eleven o'clock, would creep slyly home and make his way upstairs

barefooted, so as not to wake the rest of the family end be

detected in his late hours. He slept with his brother, who was

sure to report him if he woke him up on coming in, and who laid

many traps to catch Phineas on his return from the evening's

merry-making. But he generally fell fast asleep and our hero was

able to gain his bed in safety.

 

Like almost every one in Connecticut at that time he was brought

up to go regularly to church on Sunday, and before he could read

he was a prominent member of the Sunday-school. His pious mother

taught him lessons in the New Testament and Catechism, and spared

no efforts to have him win one of those "Rewards of Merit" which

promised "to pay to the bearer One Mill." Ten of them could be

exchanged for one cent, and by securing one hundred of them,

which might be done by faithful attendance and attention every

Sunday for two years, the happy scholar could secure a book worth

ten cents!

 

There was only one church or "meeting-house" in Bethel, and it

was of the Presbyterian faith; but every one in town attended it,

whatever their creed. It was a severely plain edifice, with no

spire and no bell. In summer it was comfortable enough, but in

winter it was awful! There was no arrangement for heating it, and

the congregation had to sit in the cold, shivering, teeth

chattering, noses blue. A stove would have been looked upon as a

sacrilegious innovation. The sermons were often two hours long,

and by the time they were ended the faithful listeners well

deserved the nickname of "blue-skins" which the scoffers gave to

them. A few of the wealthier women carried "foot-stoves" from

their homes to their pews. A "foot-stove" was simply a square tin

box in a wooden frame, with perforations in the sides. In it was

a small square iron dish, which contained a few live coals

covered with ashes. These stoves were usually replenished just

before meeting time at some neighbor's near the meeting-house.

 

After many years of shivering and suffering, one of the brethren

had the temerity to propose that the church should be warmed with

a stove. His impious proposition was voted down by an

overwhelming majority. Another year came around, and in November

the stove question was again brought up. The excitement was

immense. The subject was discussed in the village stores and in

the juvenile debating club; it was prayed over in conference; and

finally in general "society's meeting," in December, the stove

was carried by a majority of one and was introduced into the

meeting-house. On the first Sunday thereafter two ancient maiden

ladies were so oppressed by the dry and heated atmosphere

occasioned by the wicked innovation that they fainted away and

were carried out into the cool air, where they speedily returned

to consciousness, especially when they were informed that owing

to the lack of two lengths of pipe no fire had yet been made in

the stove. The next Sunday was a bitter cold day, and the stove,

filled with well-seasoned hickory, was a great gratification to

the many, and displeased only a few.

 

During the Rev. Mr. Lowe's ministrations at Bethel he formed a

Bible class, of which young Barnum was a member. They used to

draw promiscuously from a hat a text of Scripture and write a

composition on the text, which compositions were read after

service in the afternoon to such of the congregation as remained

to hear the exercises of the class. Once Barnum drew the text,

Luke x. 42: "But one thing is needful; and Mary hath chosen that

good part which shall not be taken away from her." Question,

"What is the one thing needful?" His answer was nearly as

follows:

 

"This question, 'What is the one thing needful?' is capable of

receiving various answers, depending much upon the persons to

whom it is addressed. The merchant might answer that 'the one

thing needful' is plenty of customers, who buy liberally, without

beating down, and pay cash for all their purchases.' The farmer

might reply that 'the one thing needful is large harvests and

high prices.' The physician might answer that 'it is plenty of

patients.' The lawyer might be of opinion that 'it is an unruly

community, always engaging in bickerings and litigations.' The

clergyman might reply, 'It is a fat salary, with multitudes of

sinners seeking salvation and paying large pew rents.' The

bachelor might exclaim, 'It is a pretty wife who loves her

husband, and who knows how to sew on buttons.' The maiden might

answer, 'It is a good husband, who will love, cherish and protect

me while life shall last.' But the most proper answer, and

doubtless that which applied to the case of Mary, would be, 'The

one thing needful is to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, follow

in his footsteps, love God and obey His commandments, love our

fellowman, and embrace every opportunity of administering to his

necessities.' In short, 'the one thing needful' is to live a life

that we can always look back upon with satisfaction, and be

enabled ever to contemplate its termination with trust in Him who

has so kindly vouchsafed it to us, surrounding us with

innumerable blessings, if we have but the heart and wisdom to

receive them in a proper manner."

 

The reading of a portion of this answer occasioned some amusement

in the congregation, in which the clergyman himself joined, and

the name of "Taylor Barnum" was whispered in connection with the

composition; but at the close of the reading Barnum had the

satisfaction of hearing Mr. Lowe say that it was a well-written

answer to the question, "What is the one thing needful?"

 

 

 

CHAPTER II. EARLY YEARS AT BETHEL.

 

DEATH OF HIS GRANDMOTHER AND FATHER--LEFT PENNILESS AND

BAREFOOTED--WORK IN A STORE--HIS FIRST LOVE--TRYING TO BUY

RUSSIA--UNCLE BIBBIN'S DUEL.

 

In August, 1825, the aged grandmother met with an accident in

stepping on the point of a rusty nail, which shortly afterwards

resulted in her death. She was a woman of great piety, and before

she died sent for each of her grandchildren--to whom she was

devoted--and besought them to lead a Christian life. Barnum was

so deeply impressed by that death-bed scene that through his

whole life neither the recollection of it, nor of the dying

woman's words, ever left him.

 

The elder Barnum was a man of many enterprises and few successes.

Besides being the proprietor of a hotel he owned a livery-stable,

ran a sort of an express, and kept a country store. Phineas was

his confidential clerk, and, if he did not reap much financial

benefit from his position, he at least obtained a good business

education.

 

On the 7th of September, 1825, the father, after a six months'

illness, died at the age of forty-eight, leaving a wife and five

children and an insolvent estate. There was literally nothing

left for the family; the creditors seized everything; even the

small sum which Phineas had loaned his father was held to be the

property of a minor, and therefore belonging to the estate. The

boy was obliged to borrow money to buy the shoes he wore to the

funeral. At fifteen he began the world not only penniless but

barefooted.

 

He went at once to Grassy Plain, a few miles northwest of Bethel,

where he managed to obtain a clerkship in the store of James S.

Keeler and Lewis Whitlock, at the magnificent salary of six

dollars a month and his board. He had chosen his uncle, Alanson

Taylor, as his guardian, but made his home with Mrs. Jerusha

Wheeler and her two daughters; Mary and Jerusha. He worked hard

and faithfully, and so gained the esteem of his employers that

they afforded him many opportunities for making money on his own

account. His small speculations proved so successful that before

long he found himself in possession of quite a little sum.

 

"I made," says Barnum, "a very remarkable trade at one time for

my employers by purchasing, in their absence, a whole wagon-load

of green glass bottles of various sizes, for which I paid in

unsalable goods at very profitable prices. How to dispose of the

bottles was then the problem, and as it was also desirable to get

rid of a large quantity of tin-ware which had been in the shop

for years and was con-siderably 'shop worn,' I conceived the idea

of a lottery, in which the highest prize should be twenty-five

dollars, payable in any goods the winner desired, while there

were to be fifty prizes of five dollars each, payable in goods,

to be designated in the scheme. Then there were one hundred

prizes of one dollar each, one hundred prizes of fifty cents

each, and three hundred prizes of twenty-five cents each. It is

unnecessary to state that the minor prizes consisted mainly of

glass and tin-ware; the tickets sold like wildfire, and the worn

tin and glass bottles were speedily turned into cash."

 

Mrs Barnum still continued to keep the village hotel at Bethel,

and Phineas went home every Saturday night, going to church with

his mother on Sunday, and returning to his work Monday morning.

One Saturday evening Miss Mary Wheeler, at whose house the young

man boarded, sent him word that she had a young lady from Bethel

whom she desired him to escort home, as it was raining violently,

and the maiden was afraid to go alone. He assented readily

enough, and went over to "Aunt Rushia's," where he was introduced

to Miss Charity ("Chairy," for short) Hallett. She was a very

pretty girl and a bright talker, and the way home seemed only too

short to her escort. She was a tailoress in the village, and went

to church regularly, but, although Phineas saw her every Sunday

for many weeks, he had no opportunity of the acquaintance that

season.

 

Mrs. Jerusha Wheeler and her daughter Jerusha were familiarly

known, the one as "Aunt Rushia," and the other as "Rushia." Many

of the store customers were hatters, and among the many kinds of

furs sold for the nap of hats was one known to the trade as

"Russia." One day a hatter, Walter Dibble, called to buy some

furs. Barnum sold him several kinds, including "beaver" and

"cony," and he then asked for some "Russia." They had none, and

as Barnum wanted to play a joke upon him, he told him that Mrs.

Wheeler had several hundred pounds of "Rushia."

 

"What on earth is a woman doing with 'Russia?' " said he.

 

Barnum could not answer, but assured him that there were one

hundred and thirty pounds of old Rushia and one hundred and fifty

pounds of young Rushia in Mrs. Wheeler's house, and under her

charge, but whether or not it was for sale he could not say. Off

he started to make the purchase and knocked at the door. Mrs.

Wheeler, the elder, made her appearance.

 

"I want to get your Russia," said the hatter.

 

Mrs. Wheeler asked him to walk in and be seated. She, of course,

supposed that he had come for her daughter "Rushia."

 

"What do you want of Rushia?" asked the old lady.

 

"To make hats," was the reply.

 

"To trim hats, I suppose you mean?" responded Mrs. Wheeler.

 

"No, for the outside of hats," replied the hatter.

 

"Well, I don't know much about hats," said the old lady, "but I

will call my daughter."

 

Passing into another room where "Rushia" the younger was at work,

she informed her that a man wanted her to make hats.

 

"Oh, he means sister Mary, probably. I suppose he wants some

ladies' hats," replied Rushia, as she went into the parlor.

 

"This is my daughter," said the old lady.

 

"I want to get your Russia," said he, addressing the young lady.

 

"I suppose you wish to see my sister Mary; she is our milliner,"

said young Rushia.

 

"I wish to see whoever owns the property," said the hatter.

 

Sister Mary was sent for, and, as she was introduced, the hatter

informed her that he wished to buy her "Russia."

 

"Buy Rushia!" exclaimed Mary, in surprise; I don't understand

you."

 

"Your name is Miss Wheeler, I believe," said the hatter, who was

annoyed by the difficulty he met with in being understood.

 

"It is, sir."

 

"Ah! very well. Is there old and young Russia in the house?"

 

"I believe there is," said Mary, surprised at the familiar manner

in which he spoke of her mother and sister, who were present.

 

"What is the price of old Russia per pound?" asked the hatter.

 

"I believe, sir, that old Rushia is not for sale," replied Mary,

indignantly.

 

"Well, what do you ask for young Russia?" pursued the hatter.

 

"Sir," said Miss Rushia the younger, springing to her feet, "do

you come here to insult defenceless females? If you do, sir, our

brother, who is in the garden, will punish you as you deserve."

 

"Ladies!" exclaimed the hatter, in astonishment, "what on earth

have I done to offend you? I came here on a business matter. I

want to buy some Russia. I was told you had old and young Russia

in the house. Indeed, this young lady just stated such to be the

fact, but she says the old Russia is not for sale. Now, if I can

buy the young Russia I want to do so--but if that can't be done,

please to say so, and I will trouble you no further."

 

"Mother, open the door and let this man go out; he is undoubtedly

crazy," said Miss Mary.

 

"By thunder! I believe I shall be if I remain here long,"

exclaimed the hatter, considerably excited. "I wonder if folks

never do business in these parts, that you think a man is crazy

if he attempts such a thing?"

 

"Business! poor man!" said Mary soothingly, approaching the door.

 

"I am not a poor man, madam," replied the hatter. "My name is

Walter Dibble; I carry on hatting extensively in Danbury; I came

to Grassy Plain to buy fur, and have purchased some 'beaver' and

'cony,' and now it seems I am to be called 'crazy' and a 'poor

man,' because I want to buy a little 'Russia' to make up my

assortment."

 

The ladies began to open their eyes; they saw that Mr. Dibble was

quite in earnest, and his explanation threw considerable light

upon the subject.

 

"Who sent you here?" asked sister Mary.

 

"The clerk at the opposite store," was the reply.

 

"He is a wicked young fellow for making all this trouble," said

the old lady; "he has been doing this for a joke."

 

"A joke!" exclaimed Dibble, in surprise, "have you no Russia,

then?"

 

"My name is Jerusha, and so is my daughter's," said Mrs. Wheeler,

"and that, I suppose, is what he meant by telling you of old and

young Rushia."

 

Mr. Dibble, without more words, left the house and made for the

store. "You young villain!" he cried, as he entered, "what did

you mean by sending me over there to buy Russia?"

 

"I didn't," answered the young villain, with a perfectly solemn

face, "I thought you were a widower or a bachelor who wanted to

marry Rushia."

 

"You lie," said the discomfited Dibble, laughing in spite of

himself; "but never mind, I'll pay you off some day." And

gathering up his furs he departed.

 

On another occasion this sense of humor and love of joking was

turned to very practical account. Among the customers at the

store were a half a dozen old Revolutionary pensioners, who were

permitted to buy on credit, leaving their pension papers as

security. One of these pensioners was a romancing old fellow

named Bevans--more commonly known as "Uncle Bibbins." He was very

fond of his glass, and fonder still of relating anecdotes of the

Revolution, in which his own prowess and daring were always the

conspicuous features. His pension papers were in the possession

of Keeler & Whitlock, but it was three months before the money

was due, and they grew very weary of having him for a customer.

They tried delicately suggesting a visit to his relatives in

Guilford, but Uncle Bibbins steadily refused to take the hint.

Finally young Barnum enlisted the services of a journeyman hatter

named Benton, and together they hit on a plan. The hatter was

inspired to call Uncle Bibbins a coward, and to declare his

belief that if the old gentleman was wounded anywhere it must

have been in the back. Barnum pretended to sympathize with the

veteran's just indignation, and finally fired him up to the pitch

of challenging the hatter to mortal combat. The challenge was

promptly accepted, and the weapons chosen were muskets and ball,

at a distance of twenty feet. Uncle Bibbins took his second

(Barnum, of course) aside, and begged him to see that the guns

were loaded only with blank cartridges. He was assured that it

would be so, and that no one would be injured in the encounter.

 

The ground was measured back of the store, the principals and

seconds took their places, and the word of command was given.

They fired, Uncle Bibbins, of course, being unhurt, but the

hatter, with a fearful yell, fell to the ground as if dead.

Barnum rushed up to the frightened Bevans and begged him to fly,

promising to let him know when it was safe for him to return. The

old fellow started out of town on a run, and for the next three

months remained very quietly at Guilford. At the end of that time

his faithful second sent for him, with the assurance that his

late adversary had not only recovered from his wound but had

freely forgiven all. Uncle Bibbins then returned and paid up his

debts. Meeting Benton on the street some days later, the two foes

shook hands, Benton apologizing for his insult. Uncle Bibbins

accepted the apology, "but," he added, "you must be careful after

this how you insult a dead-shot."

 

 

 

CHAPTER III. BUSINESS LIFE.

 

REMOVAL TO BROOKLYN--SMALLPOX--GOES HOME TO RECOVER HIS

HEALTH--RENEWED ACQUAINTANCE WITH THE PRETTY TAILORESS, FIRST

INDEPENDENT BUSINESS VENTURE--RESIDENCE IN NEW YORK --RETURN TO

BETHEL--ANECDOTES.

 

In the fall of 1826, Oliver Taylor, who had removed from Danbury

to Brooklyn, induced Barnum to leave Grassy Plain, offering him a

clerkship in his grocery store, which offer was accepted, and

before long the young man was intrusted with the purchasing of

all goods for the store. He bought for cash, going into lower New

York in search of the cheapest market, frequenting auction sales

of merchandise, and often entering into combines with other

grocers to bid off large lots, which were afterward divided

between them. Thus they were enabled to buy at a much lower rate

than if the goods had passed through the hands of wholesale

dealers, and Barnum's reputation for business tact and shrewdness

increased.

 

The following summer he was taken ill with smallpox, and during

his long confinement to the house his stock of ready money became

sadly di-minished. As soon as he was able to travel he went home

to recover his strength, and while there had the happiness of

renewing the acquaintance, so pleasantly begun, with the pretty

tailoress, Charity Hallett.

 

His health fully restored he returned to Brooklyn, but not to his

old position. Pleasant as that had been, it no longer contented

the restless, ambitious Barnum. He opened a "porter-home," but

sold out a few months later, at a good profit, and took another

clerkship, this time at 29 Peck Slip, New York, in the store of a

certain David Thorp. He lived in his employer's family, with

which he was a great favorite, and where he had frequent

opportunities of meeting old friends, for Mr. Thorp's place was a

great resort for Bethel and Danbury hatters and combmakers.

 

At this time Barnum formed his first taste for the theatre. He

went to the play regularly and soon set up for a critic. It was

his one dissipation, however. A more moral young fellow never

existed; he read his Bible and went to church as regularly as

ever, and to the day of his death was wont to declare that he

owed all that was good in his character to his early observance

of Sunday.

 

In the winter of 1898 his grandfather offered to him, rent free,

his carriage-house, which was situated on the main street, if he

would come back to Bethel. The young man's capital was one

hundred and twenty dollars; fifty of this was spent in fixing up

his store, and the remainder he invested in a stock of fruit and

confectionery. Having arranged with fruit dealers of his

acquaintance in New York to receive his orders, he opened his

store on the first of May--in those times known as "training

day." The first day was so successful that long before noon the

proprietor was obliged to call in one of his old schoolmates to

assist in waiting on customers. The total receipts were

sixty-three dollars, which sum was promptly invested in a stock

of fancy goods --pocket-books, combs, knives, rings, beads, etc.

Business was good all summer, and in the fall oysters were added

to the list of attractions. The old grandfather was delighted at

the success of the scheme, and after a while induced Barnum to

take an agency for lottery tickets on a commission of ten per

cent. Lotteries in those days were looked upon as thoroughly

respectable, and the profit gained from the sale of the tickets

was regarded as perfectly legitimate by the agent; his views on

the subject changed very materially later on.

 

The store soon became the great village resort, the centre of all

discussions and the scene of many practical jokes.

 

The following scene, related by Barnum himself, makes a chapter

in the history of Connecticut, as the State was when "blue laws"

were something more than a dead letter:

 

"To swear in those days was according to custom, but contrary to

law. A person from New York State, whom I will call Crofut, who

was a frequent visitor at my store, was equally noted for his

self-will and his really terrible profanity. One day he was in my

little establishment engaged in conversation when Nathan Seelye,

Esq., one of our village justices of the peace, and a man of

strict religious principles, came in, and hearing Crofut's

profane language he told him he considered it his duty to fine

him one dollar for swearing.

 

"Crofut responded immediately with an oath, that he did not care

a d----n for the Connecticut blue laws.

 

" 'That will make two dollars,' said Mr. Seelye.

 

"This brought forth another oath.

 

" 'Three dollars,' said the sturdy justice.

 

"Nothing but oaths were given in reply, until Esquire Seelye

declared the damage to the Connecticut laws to amount to fifteen

dollars.

 

"Crofut took out a twenty-dollar bill and handed it to the

justice of the peace, with an oath.

 

" 'Sixteen dollars,' said Mr. Seelye, counting out four dollars

to hand to Mr. Crofut as his change.

 

" 'Oh, keep it, keep it,' said Crofut, 'I don't want any change;

I'll d----n soon swear out the balance.' He did so, after which

he was more circumspect in his conversation, remarking that

twenty dollars a day for swearing was about as much as he could

stand."

 

About this time Barnum appeared, on at least one occasion, in the

role of lawyer. A man charged with assault and battery was

brought before the justice of the peace, Barnum's grandfather,

for trial. A medical student, Newton by name, had volunteered to

defend the prisoner, and Mr. Couch, the grand juryman, in irony,

offered Phineas a dollar to represent the State. The court was

crowded. The guilt of the prisoner was established beyond a

doubt, but Newton, undaunted, rose to make his speech. It

consisted of a flood of invective against the grand juryman,

Couch; the court listened for five minutes, and then interrupted

a magnificent burst of eloquence by informing the speaker that

Mr. Couch was not the plaintiff in the case at all.

 

"Not the plaintiff!" stammered Newton; "well, then, your honor,

who is?"

 

"The State of Connecticut," was the answer.

 

The young man dropped into his seat, speechless, and the

prosecuting attorney arose and in an elaborate speech declared

the guilt of the prisoner shown beyond question, adding that he

was astonished that both the prisoner and his counsel had not

pleaded guilty at once. In the midst of his soarings the

grandfather interrupted with--"Young man, will you have the

kindness to inform the court which side you represent--the

plaintiff or the defendant?"

 

The orator stared helplessly at the justice for a moment, and

then sat down. Amid peals of laughter from the spectators the

prisoner was bound over to the county court for trial.

 

But Phineas did not often come out so ingloriously in encounters

with his grandfather. The old gentleman was always ready to lend

his grandson any of his turnouts except one, and this one Phineas

especially desired one day for a sleighing party, in which he was

to escort the fair Charity Hallett. So he boldly went to the

grandfather and asked if he might take Arabian and the new

sleigh.

 

"Oh, yes," said the old man, jokingly, "if you have twenty

dollars in your pocket."

 

"Really?"

 

"Yes, really."

 

Whereupon Phineas showed the money, and putting it back in his

pocket, remarked, "You see; I am much obliged for the sleigh."

 

Of course, the grandfather had meant to ask an impossible price

for the horse and sleigh; but being caught up so suddenly, there

was nothing to do but to consent, and Phineas and "Chairy" had

the finest turnout of the party.

 

There was a young fellow in the town, Jack Mallett, whose

education was rather deficient, and who had been somewhat

unsuccessfully paying his addresses to a fair but hard-hearted

maiden, named Lucretia. One Sunday evening she cruelly refused to

accept his escort after church, and added insult to injury by

walking off before his very eyes with another man. Accordingly,

he determined to write her a letter of remonstrance, and enlisted

the aid of Phineas and another young blade known as "Bill"

Shepherd. The joint effort of the three resulted in the

following:

 

                              "BETHEL,----, 18--.

 

"MISS LUCRETIA: I write this to ask an explanation of your

conduct in giving me the mitten on Sunday night last. If you

think, madam, that you can trifle with my affections, and turn me

off for every little whipper-snapper that you can pick up, you

will find yourself considerably mistaken. [We read thus far to

Mallett, and it met his approval. He said he liked the idea of

calling her "madam," for he thought it sounded so "distant," it

would hurt her feelings very much. The term "little

whipper-snapper" also delighted him. He said he guessed that

would make her feel cheap. Shepherd and myself were not quite so

sure of its aptitude, since the chap who succeeded in capturing

Lucretia, on the occasion alluded to, was a head and shoulders

taller than Mallett. However, we did not intimate our thoughts to

Mallett, and he desired us to "go ahead and give her another

dose."] You don't know me, madam, if you think you can snap me up

in this way. I wish you to understand that I can have the company

of girls as much above you as the sun is above the earth, and I

won't stand any of your impudent nonsense no how. [This was duly

read and approved. "Now," said Mallett, "try to touch her

feelings. Remind her of the pleasant hours we have spent

together;" and we continued as follows:] My dear Lucretia, when I

think of the many pleasant hours we have spent together--of the

delightful walks which we have had on moonlight evenings to

Fenner's Rocks, Chestnut Ridge, Grassy Plain, Wild Cat and Puppy

Town--of the strolls which we have taken upon Shelter Rocks,

Cedar Hill--the visits we have made to Old Lane, Wolfpits, Toad

Hole and Plum Trees[1]--when all these things come rushing on my

mind, and when; my dear girl, I remember how often you have told

me that you loved me better than anybody else, and I assured you

that my feelings were the same as yours, it almost breaks my

heart to think of last Sunday night. ["Can't you stick in some

affecting poetry here?" said Mallett. Shepherd could not

recollect any to the point, nor could I; but as the exigency of

the case seemed to require it, we concluded to manufacture a

verse or two, which we did, as follows:]

 

[1] These were the euphonious names of localities in the vicinity

of Bethel.

 

 

 Lucretia, dear, what have I done,

That you should use me thus and so,

To take the arm of Tom Beers' son,

And let your dearest true love go?

 

 Miserable fate, to lose you now,

And tear this bleeding heart asunder!

Will you forget your tender vow?

I can't believe it--no, by thunder.

 

[Mallett did not like the word "thunder," but being informed that

no other word could be substituted without destroying both rhyme

and reason, he consented that it should remain, provided we added

two more stanzas of a softer nature; something, he said, that

would make the tears come, if possible, We then ground out the

following:]

 

 Lucretia, dear, do write to Jack,

And say with Beers you are not smitten;

And thus to me in love come back,

And give all other boys the mitten.

 

 Do this, Lucretia, and till death

I'll love you to intense distraction;

I'll spend for you my every breath,

And we will live in satisfaction.

 

["That will do very well," said Mallett. "Now I guess you had

better blow her up a little more." We obeyed orders as follows:]

It makes me mad to think what a fool I was to give you that

finger-ring and bosom-pin, and spend so much time in your

company, just to be flirted and bamboozled as I was on Sunday

night last. If you continue this course of conduct, we part

forever, and I will thank you to send back that jewelry. I would

sooner see it crushed under my feet than worn by a person who

abused me as you have done. I shall despise you forever if you

don't change your conduct towards me, and send me a letter of

apology on Monday next. I shall not go to meeting to-morrow, for

I would scorn to sit in the same meeting-house with you until I

have an explanation of your conduct. If you allow any young man

to go home with you to-morrow night, I shall know it, for you

will be watched, ["There," said Mallett, "that is pretty strong.

Now, I guess, you had better touch her feelings once more, and

wind up the letter." We proceeded as follows:] My sweet girl, if

you only knew the sleepless nights which I have spent during the

present week, the torments and sufferings which I endure on your

account; if you could but realize that I regard the world as less

than nothing without you, I am certain you would pity me. A

homely cot and a crust of bread with my adorable Lucretia would

be a paradise, where a palace without you would be a hades.

["What in thunder is hades?" inquired Jack. We explained. He

considered the figure rather bold, and requested us to close as

soon as possible.] Now, dearest, in bidding you adieu, I implore

you to reflect on our past enjoyments, look forward with pleasure

to our future happy meetings, and rely upon your affectionate

Jack in storm or calm, in sickness, distress or want, for all

these will be powerless to change my love. I hope to hear from

you on Monday next, and, if favorable, I shall be happy to call

on you the same evening, when in ecstatic joy we will laugh at

the past, hope for the future, and draw consolation from the fact

that "the course of true love never did run smooth." This from

your disconsolate but still hoping lover and admirer,            

         "JACK MALLETT.

 

"P. S.--On reflection I have concluded to go to meeting

to-morrow. If all is well, hold your pocket-handkerchief in your

left hand as you stand up to sing with the choir--in which case I

shall expect the pleasure of giving you my arm to-morrow night.  

                                     "J. M."

 

The effect of this letter upon Lucretia was not as favorable as

could have been desired. She declined to remove her handkerchief

from her right hand, and she returned the "ring and bosom-pin" to

her disconsolate admirer, while, not many months after, Mallett's

rival led Lucretia to the altar. As for Mallett's agreement to

pay Shepherd and Barnum five pounds of carpet-rags and twelve

yards of broadcloth "lists" for their services, owing to his ill

success, they compromised for one-half the amount.

 

 

 

CHAPTER IV. TRYING MANY VENTURES.

 

VISIT TO PITTSBURG--SUCCESSFUL LOTTERY BUSINESS--MARRIAGE--FIRST

EDITORIAL VENTURE--LIBEL SUIT, IMPRISONMENT AND

LIBERATION--REMOVAL TO NEW YORK--HARD TIMES--KEEPING A

BOARDING-HOUSE.

 

About this time Barnum, with a Mr. Samuel Sherwood, of

Bridgeport, started for Pittsburg, where they proposed to open a

lottery office. On reaching New York, however, and talking over

the scheme with friends, the venture was abandoned and the two

men took, instead, a pleasure trip to Philadelphia. They stayed a

week, at the end of which time they returned to New York, with

exactly twenty-seven cents between them. Sherwood managed to

borrow two dollars--enough to take him to Newark, where he had a

cousin, who obligingly loaned him fifty dollars. The two friends

remained in New York on the strength of their newly acquired

wealth for several days, and then went home considerably richer

in experience at least.

 

Barnum now went into the lottery business exclusively, taking his

uncle, Alanson Taylor, into partnership. They established a

number of agencies throughout the country, and made good profits

from the sale of tickets. Several of the tickets sold by them

took prizes and their office came to be considered "lucky."

 

The young man was prospering also in another direction. The fair

tailoress smiled on him as sweetly as ever, and in the summer of

1827 they became formally engaged. In the fall Miss Hallett went

"on a visit" to her uncle, Nathan Beers, in New York. A month

later her lover followed, "to buy goods," and on the 8th of

November, 1829, there was a wedding in the comfortable house at

No. 3 Allen street. Having married at the age of nineteen, Barnum

always expressed his disapproval of early marriages, although his

own was a very happy one.

 

Returning to Bethel, Mr. and Mrs. Barnum, after boarding for a

few months, moved into their own house, which was built on a

three acre plat purchased from the grandfather.

 

The lottery business still prospered, but it was mostly in the

hands of agents, in Danbury, Norwalk, Stamford and Middletown,

and Barnum began to look around for some field for his individual

energies. He tried travelling as a book auctioneer, but found it

uncongenial and quit the business. In July, 1831, with his uncle

Alanson Taylor, he opened a grocery and general store, but the

venture was not particularly successful, and in the fall the

partnership was dissolved, Barnum buying his uncle's interest.

 

The next enterprise was an important one, it being the real

beginning of Phineas T. Barnum's public career.

 

In a period of strong political excitement, he wrote several

communications for the Danbury weekly paper, setting forth what

he conceived to be the dangers of a sectarian interference which

was then apparent in political affairs. The publication of these

communications was refused, and he accordingly purchased a press

and types, and October 19, 1831, issued the first number of his

own paper, The Herald of Freedom.

 

"I entered upon the editorship of this journal," says Mr. Barnum,

"with all the vigor and vehemence of youth. The boldness with

which the paper was conducted soon excited widespread attention

and commanded a circulation which extended beyond the immediate

locality into nearly every State in the Union. But lacking that

experience which induces caution, and without the dread of

consequences, I frequently laid myself open to the charge of

libel, and three times in three years I was prosecuted. A Danbury

butcher, a zealous politician, brought a civil suit against me

for accusing him of being a spy in a Democratic caucus. On the

first trial the jury did not agree, but after a second trial I

was fined several hundred dollars. Another libel suit against me

was withdrawn. The third was sufficiently important to warrant

the following detail:

 

"A criminal prosecution was brought against me for stating in my

paper that a man in Bethel, prominent in church, had 'been guilty

of taking USURY of an orphan boy,' and for severely commenting on

the fact in my editorial columns. When the case came to trial the

truth of my statement was substantially proved by several

witnesses and even by the prosecuting party. But 'the greater the

truth, the greater the libel,' and then I had used the term

'usury,' instead of extortion, or note-shaving, or some other

expression which might have softened the verdict. The result was

that I was sentenced to pay a fine of one hundred dollars and to

be imprisoned in the common jail for sixty days.

 

"The most comfortable provision was made for me in Danbury jail.

My room was papered and carpeted; I lived well; I was overwhelmed

with the constant visits of my friends; I edited my paper as

usual and received large accessions to my subscription list; and

at the end of my sixty days' term the event was celebrated by a

large concourse of people from the surrounding country. The court

room in which I was convicted was the scene of the celebration.

An ode, written for the occasion, was sung; an eloquent oration

on the freedom of the press was delivered; and several hundred

gentlemen afterwards partook of a sumptuous dinner followed by

appropriate toasts and speeches. Then came the triumphant part of

the ceremonial, which was reported in my paper of December 12,

1832, as follows:

 

" 'P. T. Barnum and the band of music took their seats in a coach

drawn by six horses, which had been prepared for the occasion.

The coach was preceded by forty horsemen, and a marshal, bearing

the national standard. Immediately in the rear of the coach was

the carriage of the orator and the President of the day, followed

by the committee of arrangements and sixty carriages of citizens,

which joined in escorting the editor to his home in Bethel.

 

" 'When the procession commenced its march amidst the roar of

cannon, three cheers were given by several hundred citizens who

did not join in the procession. The band of music continued to

play a variety of national airs until their arrival in Bethel (a

distance of three miles), when they struck up the beautiful and

appropriate tune of "Home, Sweet Home!" After giving three hearty

cheers, the procession returned to Danbury. The utmost harmony

and unanimity of feeling prevailed throughout the day, and we are

happy to add that no accident occured to mar the festivities of

the occasion.' "

 

The editorial career continued as it had begun. In 1830 The

Herald of Freedom was sold to Mr. George Taylor.

 

The mercantile business was also sold to Horace Fairchild, who

had been associated with it as partner since 1831, and a Mr.

Toucey, who formed a partnership under the name of Fairchild &

Co. Barnum had lost considerable money in this store; he was too

speculative for ordinary trade, too ready, also to give credit,

and his ledger was full of unpaid accounts when he finally gave

up business.

 

In 1835 he removed his family to New York, taking a house in

Hudson street. For a time he tried to get a position in a

mercantile house, not on a fixed salary, but so as to derive a

commission on his sales, trusting to his ability to make more

money in this way than an ordinary clerk could be expected to

receive. Failing in this he acted as a "drummer" for several

stores until spring, when he was fortunate enough to receive

several hundred dollars from his agent at Bethel. In May he

opened a private boarding-house at 52 Frankfort street, which was

well patronized by his Connecticut acquaintances as often as they

visited the metropolis. This business not occupying his entire

time, he bought an interest in a grocery store at 156 South

street.

 

Although the years of manhood brought cares, anxieties, and

struggles for a livelihood, they did not change Barnum's nature,

and the jocose element was still an essential ingredient of his

being. He loved fun, practical fun, for itself and for the

enjoyment which it brought. During the year he occasionally

visited Bridgeport, where he almost always found at the hotel a

noted joker, named Darrow, who spared neither friend nor foe in

his tricks. He was the life of the bar-room, and would always try

to entrap some stranger in a bet and so win a treat for the

company. He made several ineffectual attempts upon Barnum, and at

last, one evening, Darrow, who stuttered, made a final trial, as

follows:

 

"Come, Barnum, I'll make you another proposition; I'll bet you

hadn't got a whole shirt on your back." The catch consists in the

fact that generally only one-half of that convenient garment is

on the back; but Barnum had anticipated the proposition --in fact

he had induced a friend, Mr. Hough, to put Darrow up to the

trick--and had folded a shirt nicely upon his back, securing it

there with his suspenders. The bar-room was crowded with

customers who thought that if Barnum made the bet he would be

nicely caught, and he made presence of playing off and at the

same time stimulated Darrow to press the bet by saying:

 

"That is a foolish bet to make; I am sure my shirt is whole

because it is nearly new; but I don't like to bet on such a

subject."

 

"A good reason why," said Darrow, in great glee; "it's ragged.

Come, I'll bet you a treat for the whole company you hadn't got a

whole shirt on your b-b-b-back!"

 

"I'll bet my shirt is cleaner than yours," Barnum replied.

 

"That's nothing to do w-w-with the case; it's ragged, and y-y-you

know it."

 

"I know it is not," Barnum replied, with pretended anger, which

caused the crowd to laugh heartily.

 

"You poor ragged f-f-fellow, come down here from D-D-Danbury, I'm

sorry for you," said Darrow tantalizingly.

 

"You would not pay if you lost," Barnum remarked.

 

"Here's f-f-five dollars I'll put in Captain Hinman's (the

landlord's) hands. Now b-b-bet if you dare, you ragged

c-c-creature, you."

 

Barnum put five dollars in Captain Hinman's hands, and told him

to treat the company from it if he lost the bet.

 

"Remember," said Darrow, "I b-b-bet you hadn't got a whole shirt

on your bob-back!"

 

"All right," said Barnum, taking off his coat and commencing to

unbutton his vest. The whole company, feeling sure that he was

caught, began to laugh heartily. Old Darrow fairly danced with

delight, and as Barnum laid his coat on a chair he came running

up in front of him, and slapping his hands together, exclaimed:

 

"You needn't t-t-take off any more c-c-clothes, for if it ain't

all on your b-b-back, you've lost it."

 

"If it is, I suppose you have!" Barnum replied, pulling the whole

shirt from off his back!

 

Such a shriek of laughter as burst forth from the crowd was

scarcely ever heard, and certainly such a blank countenance as

old Darrow exhibited it would be hard to conceive. Seeing that he

was most incontinently "done for," and perceiving that his

neighbor Hough had helped to do it, he ran up to him in great

anger, and shaking his fist in his face, exclaimed:

 

"H-H-Hough, you infernal r-r-rascal, to go against your own

neighbor in favor of a D-D-Danbury man. I'll pay you for that

some time, you see if I d-d-don't."

 

All hands went up to the bar and drank with a hearty good will,

for it was seldom that Darrow got taken in, and he was such an

inveterate joker they liked to see him paid in his own coin.

Never till the day of his death did he hear the last of the

"whole shirt."

 

 

 

CHAPTER V. BEGINNING AS A SHOWMAN.

 

FINDING HIS TRUE VOCATION--THE PURCHASE OF JOICE HETH--EVIDENCE

AS TO HER AGE--HER DEATH--SIGNOR VIVALLA--A VISIT TO

WASHINGTON--JOINING A TRAVELLING CIRCUS--CONTROVERSIES WITH

MINISTERS--THE VICTIM OF A PRACTICAL JOKE.

 

Barnum was now satisfied that he had not yet found his proper

level. He had not yet entered the business for which nature had

designed him. There was only a prospect of his going on from this

to that, as his father had done before him, trying many callings

but succeeding in none. He had not yet discovered that love of

amusement is one of the strongest passions of the human heart.

This, however, was a lesson that he was soon to learn; and he was

to achieve both fame and fortune as a caterer to the public

desire for entertainment.

 

Philosophizing on this theme in later years, Mr. Barnum once

said: "The show business has all phases and grades of dignity,

from the exhibition of a monkey to the exposition of that highest

art in music or the drama which entrances empires and secures for

the gifted artist a worldwide fame which princes well might envy.

Men, women and children, who cannot live on gravity alone, need

something to satisfy their gayer, lighter moods and hours, and he

who ministers to this want is in a business established by the

Author of our nature. If he worthily fulfils his mission, and

amuses without corrupting, he need never feel that he has lived

in vain."

 

In the summer of 1835, Mr. Barnum was visited by Mr. Coley

Bartram, of Reading, Connecticut, who told him that he had owned

an interest in a remarkable negro woman, who was confidently

believed to be one hundred and sixty-one years old and to have

been the nurse of Washington. Mr. Bartram showed him a copy of an

advertisement in The Pennsylvania Inquirer for July 15, 1835, as

follows:

 

"CURIOSITY.--The citizens of Philadelphia and its vicinity have

an opportunity of witnessing at the Masonic Hall one of the

greatest natural curiosities ever witnessed, viz.: JOICE HETH, a

negress, aged 161 years, who formerly belonged to the father of

General Washington. She has been a member of the Baptist Church

one hundred and sixteen years, and can rehearse many hymns, and

sing them according to former custom. She was born near the old

Potomac River in Virginia, and has for ninety or one hundred

years lived in Paris, Kentucky, with the Bowling family.

 

"All who have seen this extraordinary woman are satisfied of the

truth of the account of her age. The evidence of the Bowling

family, which is respectable, is strong, but the original bill of

sale of Augustine Washington, in his own handwriting, and other

evidences which the proprietor has in his possession, will

satisfy even the most incredulous.

 

"A lady will attend at the hall during the afternoon and evening

for the accommodation of those ladies who may call."

 

Mr. Bartram told him, moreover, that he had sold out his interest

in the woman to R. W. Lindsay, of Jefferson county, Kentucky, who

was then exhibiting her as a curiosity, but was anxious to sell

her. Mr. Barnum had seen in some of the New York papers an

account of Joice Heth, and was so much interested in her that he

at once proceeded to Philadelphia to see her and Mr. Lindsay. How

he was impressed by her he has himself told. "Joice Heth," he

says, "was certainly a remarkable curiosity, and she looked as if

she might have been far older than her age as advertised. She was

apparently in good health and spirits, but from age or disease,

or both, was unable to change her position; she could move one

arm at will, but her lower limbs could not be straightened; her

left arm lay across her breast and she could not remove it; the

fingers of her left hand were drawn down so as nearly to close

it, and were fixed; the nails on that hand were almost four

inches long and extended above her wrist; the nails on her large

toes had grown to the thickness of a quarter of an inch; her head

was covered with a thick bush of grey hair; but she was toothless

and totally blind, and her eyes had sunk so deeply in the sockets

as to have disappeared altogether.

 

"Nevertheless she was pert and sociable, and would talk as long

as people would converse with her. She was quite garrulous about

her protege, 'dear little George,' at whose birth she declared

she was present, having been at the time a slave of Elizabeth

Atwood, a half-sister of Augustine Washington, the father of

George Washington. As nurse she put the first clothes on the

infant, and she claimed to have 'raised him.' She professed to be

a member of the Baptist Church, talking much in her way on

religious subjects, and she sang a variety of ancient hymns.

 

"In proof of her extraordinary age and pretensions, Mr. Lindsay

exhibited a bill of sale, dated February 5, 1727, from Augustine

Washington, county of Westmoreland, Virginia, to Elizabeth

Atwood, a half-sister and neighbor of Mr. Washington, conveying

'one negro women named Joice Heth, aged fifty-four years, for and

in consideration of the sum of thirty-three pounds lawful money

of Virginia.' It was further claimed that she had long been a

nurse in the Washington family; she was called in at the birth of

George and clothed the newborn infant. The evidence seemed

authentic, and in answer to the inquiry why so remarkable a

discovery had not been made before, a satisfactory explanation

was given in the statement that she had been carried from

Virginia to Kentucky, had been on the plantation of John S.

Bowling so long that no one knew or cared how old she was, and

only recently the accidental discovery by Mr. Bowling's son of

the old bill of sale in the Record Office in Virginia had led to

the identification of this negro woman as 'the nurse of

Washington.' "

 

Everything seemed to Barnum to be entirely straightforward, and

he decided, if possible, to purchase the woman. She was offered

to him at $1,000, although Lindsay at first wanted $3,000. Barnum

had $500 in cash, and was able to borrow $500 more. Thus he

secured Joice Heth, sold out his interest in the grocery business

to his partner, and entered upon his career as a showman. He

afterward declared that the least deserving of all his efforts in

the show line was this one which introduced him to the business;

it was a scheme in no sense of his own devising; but it was one

which had been for some time before the public, and which he

honestly and with good reason believed to be genuine. He entered

upon his new work with characteristic enterprise, resorting to

posters, transparencies, advertisements, newspaper paragraphs,

and everything else calculated to attract the attention of the

public, regardless of expense. He exhibited in New York, Boston,

Philadelphia, Albany, and many other places, where his rooms were

thronged and much money made. But in the following February Joice

Heth died of old age, and was buried at Bethel. A postmortem

examination was made by a surgeon and some medical students, who

were inclined to doubt if she really was as old as Lindsay had

said.

 

Thus ended Barnum's first enterprise as a showman. It had been

profitable to him, and had pointed out to him the path of

success. His next venture was entirely genuine and

straightforward. He engaged an Italian, who called himself Signor

Antonio, and who was a skilful performer on stilts, on the tight

rope and at juggling. Barnum engaged him for a year at $12 a week

and his expenses, and got him to change his stage name to Signor

Vivalla. He then resorted to his former means of advertising, and

started on his tour. For Vivalla's first week of performances

Barnum received $50, and for the second week three times as much.

At the close of the first performance, in response to loud

applause, Barnum appeared upon the stage and made a speech to the

audience, a performance which he repeated thousands of times in

after years. This engagement was at the Franklin Theatre in New

York.

 

The show next appeared in Boston, with great success. Next it

went to Washington and had a most disastrous week, for every

night was stormy. Indeed Barnum found himself literally stranded

there, with not enough money to get away. He was driven to pawn

his watch and chain for $35, and then met a friend who helped him

out of his dilemma.

 

"As this was my first visit to Washington, I was much

interested," says Barnum, "in visiting the capitol and other

public buildings. I also satisfied my curiosity in seeing Clay,

Calhoun, Benton, John Quincy Adams, Richard M. Johnson, Polk, and

other leading statesmen of the time. I was also greatly gratified

in calling upon Anne Royall, author of the Black Book, publisher

of a little paper called 'Paul Pry,' and quite a celebrated

personage in her day. I had exchanged The Herald of Freedom with

her journal, and she strongly sympathized with me in my

persecutions. She was delighted to see me, and although she was

the most garrulous old woman I ever saw, I passed a very amusing

and pleasant time with her. Before leaving her I manifested my

showman propensity by trying to hire her to give a dozen or more

lectures on 'Government' in the Atlantic cities, but I could not

engage her at any price, although I am sure the speculation would

have been a very profitable one. I never saw this eccentric woman

again; she died at a very advanced age, October 1, 1854, at her

residence in Washington."

 

From Washington the show went to Philadelphia and appeared at the

Walnut Street Theatre. The audiences were small and it was

evident that something must be done to arouse public interest.

"And now," says Barnum, "that instinct which can arouse a

community and make it patronize one, provided the article offered

is worthy of patronage, an instinct which served me greatly in

later years, astonishing the public and surprising me, came to my

relief, and the help, curiously enough, appeared in the shape of

an emphatic hiss from the pit!

 

"This hiss, I discovered, came from one Roberts, a circus

performer, and I had an interview with him. He was a professional

balancer and juggler, who boasted that he could do all Vivalla

had done and something more. I at once published a card in

Vivalla's name, offering $1,000 to any one who would publicly

perform Vivalla's feats at such place as should be designated,

and Roberts issued a counter card accepting the offer. I then

contracted with Mr. Warren, treasurer of the Walnut Street

Theatre, for one-third of the proceeds, if I should bring the

receipts up to $400 a night--an agreement he could well afford to

make as his receipts the night before had been but seventy-five

dollars. From him I went to Roberts, who seemed disposed to 'back

down,' but I told him that I should not insist upon the terms of

his published card, and ask him if he was under any engagement?

Learning that he was not I offered him thirty dollars to perform

under my direction one night at the Walnut, and he accepted. A

great trial of skill between Roberts and Vivalla was duly

announced by posters and through the press. Meanwhile, they

rehearsed privately to see what tricks each could perform, and

the 'business' was completely arranged.

 

"Public excitement was at fever heat, and on the night of the

trial the pit and upper boxes were crowded to the full. The

'contest' between the performers was eager, and each had his

party in the house. So far as I could learn, no one complained

that he did not get all he paid for on that occasion. I engaged

Roberts for a month, and his subsequent 'contests' with Vivalla

amused the public and put money in my purse."

 

In the spring of 1836 Barnum joined his show with Aaron Turner's

travelling circus, himself acting as ticket seller, secretary and

treasurer, at thirty dollars a month and one-fifth of the total

profits, while Vivalla was to get fifty dollars a month. Barnum

was himself paying Vivalla eighty dollars a month, so that he

really had left for himself only his one-fifth share of the

profits. The combined show set out from Danbury, Connecticut, for

West Springfield, Massachusetts, on April 26. On the first day,

Barnum relates, instead of stopping for dinner, Turner simply

distributed to the company three loaves of rye bread and a pound

of butter, which he bought at a farmhouse for fifty cents. On

April 28 they began their performances at West Springfield, and

as their band of music had not arrived from Providence, as

expected, Barnum made a speech to the audience in place of it,

which seemed to please everybody. The engagement was successful,

and the tour was continued during the summer through numerous

towns and cities in New England, the Middle States, Maryland,

Virginia and North Carolina.

 

Many incidents, humorous and otherwise, marked their progress. At

Cabotville, Massachusetts, on going to bed one night one of the

company threw a lighted cigar stump into a box of sawdust, and

the result was that, an hour or two later, they all narrowly

escaped suffocation from the smoke. At Lenox, Massachusetts, they

spent Sunday and Barnum went to church as usual. The sermon was

directed against the circus, denouncing it in very abusive terms

as an immoral and degrading institution. "Thereupon," says

Barnum, "when the minister had read the closing hymn, I walked up

the pulpit stairs and handed him a written request, signed 'P. T.

Barnum, connected with the circus, June 5, 1836,' to be permitted

to reply to him. He declined to notice it, and after the

benediction I lectured him for not giving me an opportunity to

vindicate myself and those with whom I was connected. The affair

created considerable excitement, and some of the members of the

church apologized to me for their clergyman's ill behavior. A

similar affair happened afterward at Port Deposit, on the lower

Susquehanna, and in this instance I addressed the audience for

half an hour, defending the circus company against the attacks of

the clergyman, and the people listened, though their pastor

repeatedly implored them to go home. Often have I collected our

company on Sunday and read to them the Bible or a printed sermon,

and one or more of the men frequently accompanied me to church.

We made no pretense of religion, but we were not the worst people

in the world, and we thought ourselves entitled to at least

decent treatment when we went to hear the preaching of the

Gospel."

 

Turner, the proprietor of the circus, was a self-made man. He had

made himself rich through industry, as he believed any other man

with common sense could do, and he was very proud of the fact. He

was also an inveterate practical joker, and once, at Annapolis,

Maryland, he played upon Barnum a trick which came very near

having a serious result. They got there on Saturday night, and

the next morning Barnum went out for a walk, wearing a fine new

suit of black clothes. As he passed through the bar-room and out

of the hotel Turner said to some bystanders, who did not know

Barnum:

 

"I think it very singular that you permit that rascal to march

your streets in open day. It wouldn't be allowed in Rhode Island,

and I suppose that is the reason the scoundrel has come down this

way."

 

"Why, who is he?" they demanded.

 

"Don't you know? Why, that is the Rev. E. K. Avery, the murderer

of Miss Cornell."

 

Instantly there was a rush of the whole crowd to the door, eager

to get another look at Barnum, and uttering threats of vengeance.

This man Avery had only lately been tried in Rhode Island for the

murder of Miss Cornell, whose dead body was discovered in a

stack-yard, and though he was acquitted by the court everybody

believed him guilty. Accordingly, Barnum soon found himself

overtaken and surrounded by a mob of one hundred or more and his

ears saluted with such remarks as "the lecherous old hypocrite,"

"the sanctified murderer," "the black-coated villain," "lynch

him," "tar and feather him," and others still more harsh and

threatening. Then one man seized him by the collar, while others

brought a fence rail and some rope.

 

"Come," said the man who collared him, "old chap, you can't walk

any further; we know you, and as we always make gentlemen ride in

these parts, you may just prepare to straddle that rail!"

 

His surprise may be imagined. "Good heavens!" he exclaimed, as

they all pressed around, "gentlemen, what have I done?"

 

"Oh, we know you," exclaimed half a dozen voices; "you needn't

roll your sanctimonious eyes; that game don't take in this

country. Come, straddle the rail, and REMEMBER THE STACK-YARD!"

 

He grew more and more bewildered; he could not imagine what

possible offence he was to suffer for, and he continued to

exclaim, "Gentlemen, what have I done? Don't kill me, gentlemen,

but tell me what I have done."

 

"Come, make him straddle the rail; we'll show him how to hang

poor factory girls," shouted a man in the crowd.

 

The man who had him by the collar then remarked "Come, MR. AVERY,

it's no use; you see, we know you, and we'll give you a touch of

lynch law, and start you for home again."

 

"My name is NOT Avery, gentlemen; you are mistaken in your man,"

he exclaimed.

 

"Come, come, none of your gammon; straddle the rail, Ephraim."

 

The rail was brought and Barnum was about to be placed on it,

when the truth flashed upon him.

 

"Gentlemen," he exclaimed, "I am not Avery; I despise that

villain as much as you can; my name is Barnum; I belong to the

circus which arrived here last night, and I am sure Old Turner,

my partner, has hoaxed you with this ridiculous story."

 

"If he has we'll lynch him," said one of the mob.

 

"Well, he has, I'll assure you, and if you will walk to the hotel

with me, I'll convince you of the fact."

 

This they reluctantly assented to, keeping, however, a close hand

upon him. As they walked up the main street, the mob received a

re-enforcement of some fifty or sixty, and Barnum was marched

like a malefactor up to the hotel. Old Turner stood on the piazza

ready to explode with laughter. Barnum appealed to him for

heaven's sake to explain this matter, that he might be liberated.

He continued to laugh, but finally told them "he believed there

was some mistake about it. The fact is," said he, "my friend

Barnum has a new suit of black clothes on and he looks so much

like a priest that I thought he must be Avery."

 

The crowd saw the joke and seemed satisfied. Barnum's new coat

had been half-torn from his back, and he had been very roughly

handled. But some of the crowd apologized for the outrage,

declaring that Turner ought to be served in the same way, while

others advised Barnum to "get even with him." Barnum was very

much offended, and when the mob-dispersed he asked Turner what

could have induced him to play such a trick.

 

"My dear Mr. Barnum," he replied, "it was all for our good.

Remember, all we need to insure success is notoriety. You will

see that this will be noised all about town as a trick played by

one of the circus managers upon the other, and our pavilion will

be crammed to-morrow night."

 

It was even so; the trick was told all over town, and every one

came to see the circus managers who were in a habit of playing

practical jokes upon each other. They had fine audiences while

they remained at Annapolis, but it was a long time before Barnum

forgave Turner for his rascally "joke."

 

 

 

CHAPTER VI. INCIDENTS OF A CIRCUS TOUR.

 

BEATING A LANDLORD--A JOKE ON TURNER--BARNUM AS A PREACHER AND AS

A NEGRO MINSTREL--A BAD MAN WITH A GUN--DEALING WITH A

SHERIFF--"LADY HAYES"--AN EMBARASSED JUGGLER--BARNUM AS A

MATRIMONIAL AGENT.

 

At almost every place visited by the travelling company, some

notable incident occurred. At Hanover Court House, Virginia, for

example, it was raining so heavily that they could not give a

performance, and Turner therefore decided to start for Richmond

immediately after dinner. Their landlord, however, said that as

their agent had engaged three meals and lodgings for the whole

troupe, the whole bill must be paid whether they went then or

stayed until next morning. No compromise could be made with the

stubborn fellow, and Turner was equally stubborn in his

determination both to go at once and also to have the worth of

his money. The following programme was accordingly carried out,

Turner insisting upon every detail:

 

Dinner was ordered at twelve o'clock and was duly prepared and

eaten. As soon as the table was cleared, supper was ordered, at

half past twelve. After eating as much of this as their dinner

had left room for, the whole company went to bed at one o'clock

in the afternoon. Each man insisted upon taking a lighted candle

to his room, and the whole thirty-six of them undressed and went

to bed as though they proposed to stay all night. Half an hour

later they arose and dressed again and went down to breakfast,

which Turner had ordered served at two o'clock sharp. They could

eat but little of this meal, of course, but they did the best

they could, and at half past two in the afternoon were on their

way to Richmond. Throughout the whole absurd proceedings the

landlord was furiously angry. Turner was as solemn as a corpse,

and the rest of the company were convulsed with laughter.

 

After the performance one evening at Richmond, Barnum tried to

pay Turner for that practical joke about the Rev. Mr. Avery. A

score of the company were telling stories and singing songs in

the sitting room of the hotel. Presently somebody began

propounding some amusing arithmetical problems. Then Turner

proposed one, which was readily solved. Barnum's turn came next,

and he offered the following, for Turner's especial benefit:

 

"Suppose a man is thirty years of age, and he has a child one

year of age; he is thirty times older than his child. When the

child is thirty years old, the father, being sixty, is only twice

as old as his child. When the child is sixty the father is

ninety, and therefore only one-third older than the child. When

the child is ninety the father is one hundred and twenty, and

therefore only one-fourth older than the child. Thus you see, the

child is gradually but surely gaining on the parent, and as he

certainly continues to come nearer and nearer, in time he must

overtake him. The question therefore is, suppose it was possible

for them to live long enough, how old would the father be when

the child overtook him and became of the same age?"

 

The company generally saw the catch; but Turner was very much

interested in the problem, and although he admitted he knew

nothing about arithmetic, he was convinced that as the son was

gradually gaining on the father he must reach him if there was

time enough--say, a thousand years, or so--for the race. But an

old gentleman gravely remarked that the idea of a son becoming as

old as his father while both were living, was simply nonsense,

and he offered to bet a dozen of champagne that the thing was

impossible, even "in figures." Turner, who was a betting man, and

who thought the problem might be proved, accepted the wager; but

he was soon convinced that however much the boy might relatively

gain upon his father, there would always be thirty years

difference in their ages. The champagne cost him $25, and he

failed to see the fun of Barnum's arithmetic, though at last he

acknowledged that it was a fair offset to the Avery trick.

 

From Richmond they went to Petersburg, and thence to Warrenton,

North Carolina, and there, on October 30, Barnum and Turner

separated, Barnum's engagement having expired with a clear profit

to himself of about $1,200. Barnum took Vivalla, a negro singer

and dancer named James Sandford, several musicians, horses and

wagons, and a small canvas tent. With these he proposed to carry

on a travelling show of his own. His first stop was on Saturday,

November 12, 1836, at Rocky Mount Falls, North Carolina. The next

day, being Sunday, Barnum set out for church. "I noticed," he

says, "a stand and benches in a grove near by, and determined to

speak to the people if I was permitted. The landlord who was with

me said that the congregation, coming from a distance to attend a

single service, would be very glad to hear a stranger, and I

accordingly asked the venerable clergyman to announce that after

service I would speak for half an hour in the grove. Learning

that I was not a clergyman, he declined to give the notice, but

said that he had no objection to my making the announcement,

which I did, and the congregation, numbering about three hundred,

promptly came to hear me.

 

"I told them I was not a preacher, and had very little experience

in public speaking, but I felt a deep interest in matters of

morality and religion, and would attempt in a plain way, to set

before them the duties and privileges of man. I appealed to every

man's experience, observation and reason, to confirm the Bible

doctrine of wretchedness in vice and happiness in virtue. We

cannot violate the laws of God with impunity, and He will not

keep back the wages of well-doing. The outside show of things is

of very small account. We must look to realities and not to

appearances. 'Diamonds may glitter on a vicious breast,' but 'the

soul's calm sunshine and the heart-felt joy is virtue's prize.'

The rogue, the passionate man, the drunkard, are not to be envied

even at the best, and a conscience hardened by sin is the most

sorrowful possession we can think of."

 

Barnum proceeded in this strain with various scriptural

quotations and familiar illustrations, for three-quarters of an

hour. At the end of his address several persons came up to shake

hands with him, saying that they had been greatly pleased and

edified by his remarks and asking to know his name. He went away

feeling that possibly he had done some good by means of his

impromptu preaching.

 

The negro singer and dancer, Sandford, abruptly deserted the show

at Camden, South Carolina, and left Barnum in a bad plight. An

entertainment of negro songs had been advertised, and no one was

able to fill Sandford's place. Barnum was determined, however,

that his audience should not be disappointed, and so he blackened

his own face and went on the stage himself, singing a number of

plantation melodies. His efforts were received with great

applause, and he was recalled several times. This performance was

repeated for several evenings.

 

One night after thus personating a negro, Barnum heard a

disturbance outside the tent. Hastening to the spot he found a

man quarreling with one of his company. He interfered, whereupon

the man drew a pistol and pointing it at Barnum's head,

exclaimed, "you black scoundrel! How dare you use such language

to a white man?" He evidently took Barnum for a real negro, and

in another moment would have blown his brains out. But quick as a

flash the showman exclaim, "I am as white as you!" and at the

same moment rolled up his sleeves showing the white skin of his

arm. The other man dropped his pistol in consternation and humbly

begged Barnum's pardon.

 

"On four different occasions in my life," said Mr. Barnum not

long before his death, "I have had a loaded pistol pointed at my

head and each time I have escaped death by what seemed a miracle.

I have also often been in deadly peril by accidents, and when I

think of these things I realize my indebtedness to an

all-protecting Providence. Reviewing my career, too, and

considering the kind of company I kept for years and the

associations with which I was surrounded and connected, I am

surprised as well as grateful that I was not ruined. I honestly

believe that I owe my preservation from the degradation of living

and dying a loafer and a vagabond, to the single fact that I was

never addicted to strong drink. To be sure, I have in times past

drank liquor, but I have generally wholly abstained from

intoxicating beverages, and for many years, I am glad to say, I

have been a strict 'teetotaller.' "

 

At Camden, Barnum also lost one of his musicians, a Scotchman

named Cochran. This man was arrested and, in spite of Barnum's

efforts to save him, imprisoned for many months for advising a

negro barber who was shaving him to run away to the Free States

or to Canada. To fill up his ranks Barnum now hired Bob White, a

negro singer, and Joe Pentland, a clown, ventriloquist, comic

singer, juggler, and sleight-of-hand performer, and also bought

four horses and two wagons. He called this enlarged show

"Barnum's Grand Scientific and Musical Theatre."

 

At Raleigh, North Carolina, Barnum had sold a half interest in

his show to a man called Henry,--not his real name. The latter

now acted as treasurer and ticket taker. When they reached

Augusta, Georgia, the Sheriff served a writ upon Henry for a debt

of $500. As Henry had $600 of the Company's money in his pockets,

Barnum at once secured a bill of sale of all his property in the

exhibition. Armed with this he met Henry's creditor and his

lawyer, who demanded the key of the stable, so that they might

levy on the horses and wagons. Barnum asked them to wait a little

while until he could see Henry, to which they agreed. Henry was

anxious to cheat his creditor, and accordingly was glad to sign

the bill of sale. Then Barnum returned and told the creditor and

his lawyer that Henry would neither pay nor compromise the claim.

The Sheriff thereupon demanded the stable key, so that he might

attach Henry's share of the property. "Not yet," said Barnum,

pulling out the bill of sale, "I am in possession as entire owner

of this property. I have already purchased it, and you have not

yet levied on it. You will touch my property at your peril."

 

The creditor and the sheriff were thus baffled, but they

immediately arrested Henry and took him to prison. The next day

Barnum learned that Henry really owed $1,300, and that he had

promised his creditor that he would pay him $500 of the company's

money and a bill of sale of his interest in the show at the end

of the Saturday night performance, in consideration of which the

creditor was to allow him to take one of the horses and run away,

leaving Barnum in the lurch. Learning this, Barnum was not

disposed to help Henry any further. Finding that Henry had

intrusted the $500 to Vivalla, to keep it from the sheriff,

Barnum secured it from Vivalla on Henry's order, under pretense

of securing bail for the prisoner. Then he paid the creditor the

full amount obtained from Henry as the price of his half-interest

and received in return an assignment of $500 of the creditor's

claim and a guarantee that he should not be troubled by Henry for

it. Thus his own promptness rescued Barnum from one of the most

unpleasant situations in which he was ever placed.

 

After this they got into one of the most desolate parts of

Georgia. One night their advance agent, finding it impossible to

reach the next town, arranged for the whole show to spend the

night at a miserable and solitary hovel owned by an old woman

named Hayes. The horses were to be picketed in a field, and the

company were to sleep in the tent and the out houses. Posters

were scattered over the country, announcing that a performance

would be given there the next day, the agent thinking that, as a

show was a rarity in that region, a considerable number of small

farmers would be glad to attend.

 

"Meanwhile," says Barnum, "our advertiser, who was quite a wag,

wrote back informing us of the difficulty of reaching a town on

that part of our route, and stating that he had made arrangements

for us to stay over night on the plantation of 'Lady Hayes,' and

that although the country was sparsely settled, we could

doubtless give a profitable performance to a fair audience.

 

"Anticipating a fine time on this noble 'plantation,' we started

at four o'clock in the morning so as to arrive at one o'clock,

thus avoiding the heat of the afternoon. Towards noon we came to

a small river where some men, whom we afterwards discovered to be

down-east Yankees, from Maine, were repairing a bridge. Every

flooring plank had been taken up, and it was impossible for our

teams to cross. 'Could the bridge be fixed so that we could go

over?' I inquired. 'No; it would take half a day, and meantime,

if we must cross, there was a place about sixteen miles down the

river where we could get over. 'But we can't go so far as that;

we are under engagement to perform on Lady Hayes's place

to-night, and we must cross here. Fix the bridge and we will pay

you handsomely.'

 

"They wanted no money, but if we would give them some tickets to

our show they thought they might do something for us. I gladly

consented, and in fifteen minutes we crossed that bridge. The

cunning rascals had seen our posters and knew we were coming; so

they had taken up the planks of the bridge and had hidden them

till they had levied upon us for tickets, when the floor was

re-laid in a quarter of an hour.

 

"Towards dinner-time we began to look out for the grand mansion

of 'Lady Hayes,' and seeing nothing but little huts we quietly

pursued our journey. At one o'clock--the time when we should have

arrived at our destination--I became impatient, and riding up to

a poverty-stricken hovel and seeing a ragged, bare-footed old

woman, with her sleeves rolled up to her shoulders, who was

washing clothes in front of the door, I inquired--" 'Hello! can

you tell me where Lady Hayes lives?'

 

"The old woman raised her head, which was covered with tangled

locks and matted hair, and exclaimed--" 'Hey?'

 

" 'No, Hayes, Lady Hayes; where is her plantation?'

 

" 'This is the place,' she answered; 'I'm Widder Hayes, and you

are all to stay here to-night.'

 

"We could not believe our ears or eyes; but after putting the

dirty old woman through a severe cross-examination she finally

produced a contract, signed by our advertiser, agreeing for board

and lodging for the company, and we found ourselves booked for

the night. It appeared that our advertiser could find no better

quarters in that forlorn section, and he had indulged in a joke

at our expense by exciting our appetites and imaginations in

anticipation of the luxuries we should find in the magnificent

mansion of 'Lady Hayes.'

 

"Joe Pentland grumbled, Bob White indulged in some very strong

language, and Signor Vivalla laughed. He had travelled with his

monkey and organ in Italy and could put up with any fare that

offered. I took the disappointment philosophically, simply

remarking that we must make the best of it and compensate

ourselves when we reached a town next day.

 

"The next forenoon we arrived at Macon, and congratulated

ourselves that we had reached the regions of civilization.

 

"In going from Columbus, Ga., to Montgomery, Ala., we were

obliged to cross a thinly-settled, desolate tract, known as the

'Indian Nation,' and as several persons had been murdered by

hostile Indians in that region, it was deemed dangerous to travel

the road without an escort. Only the day before we started, the

mail stage had been stopped and the passengers murdered, the

driver alone escaping. We were well armed, however, and trusted

that our numbers would present too formidable a force to be

attacked, though we dreaded to incur the risk. Vivalla alone was

fearless and was ready to encounter fifty Indians and drive them

into the swamp.

 

"Accordingly, when we had safely passed over the entire route to

within fourteen miles of Montgomery, and were beyond the reach of

danger, Joe Pentland determined to test Vivalla's bravery. He had

secretly purchased at Mt. Megs, on the way, an old Indian dress

with a fringed hunting shirt and moccasins and these he put on,

after coloring his face with Spanish brown. Then shouldering his

musket he followed Vivalla and the party, and, approaching

stealthily leaped into their midst with a tremendous whoop.

 

"Vivalla's companions were in the secret, and they instantly fled

in all directions. Vivalla himself ran like a deer and Pentland

after him, gun in hand and yelling horribly. After running a full

mile the poor little Italian, out of breath and frightened nearly

to death, dropped on his knees and begged for his life. The

'Indian' leveled his gun at his victim, but soon seemed to

relent, and signified that Vivalla should turn his pockets inside

out--which he did, producing and handing over a purse containing

eleven dollars. The savage then marched Vivalla to an oak, and

with a handkerchief tied him in the most approved Indian manner

to the tree, leaving him half dead with fright.

 

"Pentland then joined us, and washing his face and changing his

dress, we all went to the relief of Vivalla. He was overjoyed to

see us, and when he was released his courage returned; he swore

that after his companions left him, the Indian had been

re-inforced by six more, to whom, in default of a gun or other

means to defend himself, Vivalla had been compelled to surrender.

We pretended to believe his story for a week, and then told him

the joke, which he refused to credit, and also declined to take

the money which Pentland offered to return, as it could not

possibly be his since seven Indians had taken his money. We had a

great deal of fun over Vivalla's courage, but the matter made him

so cross and surly that we were finally obliged to drop it

altogether. From that time forward, however, Vivalla never

boasted of his prowess."

 

At the end of February, 1837, they reached Montgomery, and there

Barnum sold a half interest in his show to Henry Hawley, a

sleight-of-hand performer. He was a very clever fellow and was

never known to be non-plussed or embarrassed in his tricks,

except upon one occasion. This was when he was performing the

well-known egg and bag trick, which he did with great success,

taking egg after egg from the bag and finally breaking one to

show that they were genuine. "Now," said he "I will show you the

old hen that laid them." But it happened that the negro boy to

whom had been intrusted the duty of supplying "properties," had

made a slight mistake. The result was that Hawley triumphantly

produced not "the old hen that laid the eggs," but a most

palpable and evident rooster. The audience roared with laughter,

and Hawley, completely taken aback, fled in confusion to his

dressing room, uttering furious maledictions upon the boy who was

the author of his woe.

 

The show visited various places in Alabama, Tennessee and

Kentucky, and finally disbanded at Nashville in May, 1837.

Vivalla went to New York and gave some performances on his own

account before sailing for Cuba. Hawley remained in Tennessee,

and Barnum went home to his family. Early in July, however, he

formed a new company and went back to rejoin Hawley. But they

were not successful, and in August they parted again, Barnum

forming a new partnership with one Z. Graves. He then went to

Tiffin, Ohio, where he re-engaged Joe Pentland and got together

the nucleus of a new company.

 

During his short stay at Tiffin, Barnum got into a discussion

with various gentlemen on religious subjects, and in response to

their invitation lectured, or preached, in the school-house on

Sunday afternoon and evening. He also went to the neighboring

town of Republic and delivered two lectures.

 

On his way back to Kentucky, just before he reached Cincinnati,

he met a drove of hogs. One of the drivers made an insolent

remark because the circus wagons interfered with the driving of

the hogs, and Barnum responded angrily. Thereupon the fellow

jumped from his horse, pointed a pistol at Barnum's breast and

swore he would shoot him if he did not apologize. Barnum asked

permission to speak first to a friend in the next wagon, after

which, he said, he would give the man full satisfaction. The

"friend" proved to be a loaded double barrelled gun, which Barnum

leveled at the hog-driver's head, saying:

 

"Now, sir, you must apologize, or have your brains blown out. You

drew a weapon upon me for a careless remark. You seem to hold

human life at a cheap price. Now you have the choice between a

load of shot and an apology."

 

The man apologized promptly, a pleasant conversation ensued, and

they parted excellent friends.

 

On this tour they exhibited at Nashville, where Barnum visited

General Jackson at the Hermitage; at Huntsville, Tuscaloosa,

Vicksburg and various other places, generally doing well. At

Vicksburg they bought a steamboat and went down the river,

stopping at every important landing to exhibit. At Natchez their

cook deserted them, and Barnum set out to find another. He found

a white woman who was willing to go, only she expected to marry a

painter in that town, and did not want to leave him. Barnum went

to see the painter and found that he had not fully made up his

mind whether to marry the woman or not. Thereupon the

enterprising showman told the painter that if he would marry the

woman the next morning he would hire him for $25 a month as

painter, and his bride at the same wages as cook, give them both

their board and add a cash bonus of $50. There was a wedding on

the boat the next day, and they had a good cook and a good

dinner.

 

During one evening performance at Francisville, Louisiana, a man

tried to pass Barnum at the door of the tent, claiming that he

had paid for admittance. Barnum refused him entrance; and as he

was slightly intoxicated, he struck Barnum with a slung shot,

mashing his hat and grazing what phrenologists call "the organ of

caution." He went away and soon returned with a gang of armed and

half-drunken companions, who ordered the showmen to pack up their

"traps and plunder" and to get on board their steamboat within an

hour. The big tent speedily came down. No one was permitted to

help, but the company worked with a will, and within five minutes

of the expiration of the hour they were on board and ready to

leave. The scamps who had caused their departure escorted them

and their last load, waving pine torches, and saluted them with a

hurrah as they swung into the stream.

 

The New Orleans papers of March 19th, 1838, announced the arrival

of the "Steamer Ceres, Captain Barnum, with a theatrical

company." After a week's performance, they started for the

Attakapas country. At Opelousas they exchanged the steamer for

sugar and molasses; the company was disbanded, and Barnum started

for home, arriving in New York. June 4th, 1838.

 

 

 

CHAPTER VII. HARD TIMES.

 

ADVERTISING FOR A PARTNER--"QUAKER OATS"--DIAMOND THE DANCER--A

DISHONEST MANAGER--RETURN TO NEW YORK--FROM HAND TO MOUTH--THE

AMERICAN MUSEUM.

 

Looking around now for some permanent business, Barnum at last

resorted to the expedient of advertising for a partner, stating

that he had $2,500 to invest, and was willing to add his entire

personal attention to the business. He was immediately

overwhelmed with answers, the most of them coming from sharpers.

One was a counterfeiter who wanted $2,500 to invest in paper,

ink, and dies.

 

One applicant was a sedate individual dressed in sober drab; he

proposed to buy a horse and wagon and sell oats in bags, trusting

that no one would be particular in measuring after a Quaker.

 

"Do you mean to cheat in measuring your oats?" asked Barnum.

 

"Well," said the Quaker, with a significant leer, "I shall

probably make them hold out."

 

Finally Barnum decided to go into business with a good-looking,

plausible German, named Proler, who was a manufacturer of

paste-blacking, cologne, and bear's grease. They opened a store

at No. 101 1/2 Bowery, where Proler manufactured the goods, and

Barnum kept accounts and attended to sales in the store. The

business prospered, or appeared to, until the capital was

exhausted, and early in 1840 Barnum sold out his interest to

Proler, taking the German's note for $2,600, which was all he

ever got, Proler shortly afterward running away to Rotterdam.

 

Barnum had formed the acquaintance of a very clever young dancer

named John Diamond, and soon after leaving the paste-blacking

enterprise, he gathered together a company of singers, etc.,

which, with the dancer, Diamond, he placed in the hands of an

agent, not caring to have his name appear in the transaction. He

hired the Vauxhall Garden Saloon in New York and gave a variety

of performances. This, however, proved unprofitable, and was

abandoned after a few months.

 

Much as Barnum dreaded resuming the life of an itinerant showman,

there seemed nothing else to be done, so January 2d, 1841, found

him in New Orleans, with a company consisting of C. D. Jenkins,

an excellent Yankee character artist; Diamond, the dancer; a

violinist, and one or two others. His brother-in-law, John

Hallett, acted as advance agent. The venture was fairly

successful, though after the first two weeks in New Orleans, the

manager and proprietor of the show was obliged to pledge his

watch as security for the board-bill. A dancing match between

Diamond and a negro from Kentucky put nearly $500 into Barnum's

pocket, and they continued to prosper until Diamond, after

extorting as much money as possible from his manager, finally ran

away. The other members of the troop caused considerable trouble

later. Jenkins, the Yankee character man, went to St. Louis, and

having enticed Francis Lynch, an orphan protege of Barnum's into

the scheme, proceeded to the Museum, where he exhibited Lynch as

the celebrated dancer, John Diamond. Barnum poured out his wrath

at this swindler in a letter, for which Jenkins threatened suit,

and actually did instigate R. W. Lindsay to bring an action

against Barnum for a pipe of brandy, alleged to have been

included in his contract. Being among strangers, Barnum had some

difficulty in procuring the $500 bond required, and was committed

to jail until late in the afternoon. As soon as he was released,

he had Jenkins arrested for fraud, and then went on his way

rejoicing.

 

After an absence of eight months Barnum found himself back in New

York, resolved never again to be a traveling showman. Contracting

with the publisher, Robert Sears, for five hundred copies of

"Sear's Pictorial Illustrations of the Bible," and accepting the

United States agency for the book, he opened an office at the

corner of Beekman and Nassau Streets. He advertised widely, had

numerous agents, and sold thousands of books, but for all that,

lost money.

 

While engaged in this business the Vauxhall Saloon was re-opened,

under the management of John Hallett, Mrs. Barnum's brother. At

the end of the season they had cleared about $200. This sum was

soon exhausted, and for the rest of the winter Barnum managed to

eke out a living by writing for the Sunday papers, and getting up

unique advertisements for the Bowery Amphitheatre.

 

His ambition received a stimulus at last from a friend in

Danbury, who held a mortgage on a piece of property owned by Mr.

Barnum. Mr. Whittlesey wrote that as he was convinced of Mr.

Barnum's inability to lay up money, he thought he might as well

demand the five hundred dollars then as at any time. Barnum's

flagging energies were aroused, and he began in earnest to look

for some permanent investment.

 

In connection with the Bowery Amphitheatre, the information came

to him that the collection of curiosities comprising Scudder's

American Museum, at the corner of Broadway and Ann Streets, was

for sale. The original proprietor had spent $50,000 on it, and at

his death had left a large fortune as the result of the

speculation. It was now losing money and the heirs offered it for

sale, at the low price of $15,000. Realizing that with tact,

energy, and liberality, the business might be made as profitable

as ever, Barnum resolved to buy it.

 

"You buy the American Museum!" exclaimed a friend to whom he

confided the scheme. "What will you buy it with?"

 

"With brass," answered Barnum, "for silver and gold have I none."

 

And buy it with brass he did, as the story of the transaction

testifies.

 

The Museum building belonged to Mr. Francis W. Olmsted, a retired

merchant, to whom he wrote, stating his desire to buy the

collection, and that although he had no means, if it could be

purchased upon reasonable credit, he was confident that his tact

and experience, added to a determined devotion to business, would

enable him to make the payments when due. Barnum therefore asked

him to purchase the collection in his own name; to give a writing

securing it to Barnum, provided he made the payments punctually,

including the rent of his building; to allow Barnum twelve

dollars and a half a week on which to support his family; and if

at any time he failed to meet the installment due, he would

vacate the premises, and forfeit all that might have been paid to

that date. "In fact, Mr. Olmsted." Barnum continued, earnestly,

"you may bind me in any way, and as tightly as you please--only

give me a chance to dig out, or scratch out, and I will do so or

forfeit all the labor and trouble I may have incurred."

 

In reply to this letter, which Barnum took to his house himself,

Mr. Olmsted named an hour when he could call on him. Barnum was

there at the exact moment, and Olmsted was pleased with his

punctuality. He inquired closely as to Barnum's habits and

antecedents, and the latter frankly narrated his experiences as a

caterer for the public, mentioning his amusement ventures in

Vauxhall Garden, the circus, and in the exhibitions he had

managed at the South and West.

 

"Who are your references?" Olmsted inquired.

 

"Any man in my line," Barnum replied, "from Edmund Simpson,

manager of the Park Theatre, or William Niblo, to Messrs. Welch,

June, Titus, Turner, Angevine, or other circus or menagerie

proprietors; also Moses Y. Beach, of the New York Sun."

 

"Can you get any of them to call on me?"

 

Barnum told him that he could, and the next day Mr. Niblo rode

down and had an interview with Mr. Olmsted, while Mr. Beach and

several other gentlemen also called. The following morning Barnum

waited upon him for his decision.

 

"I don't like your references, Mr. Barnum," said Mr. Olmsted,

abruptly, as soon as he entered the room.

 

Barnum was confused, and said, "he regretted to hear it."

 

"They all speak too well of you," Olmsted added, laughing; "in

fact, they all talk as if they were partners of yours, and

intended to share the profits."

 

"Nothing could have pleased me better," says Barnum. "He then

asked me what security I could offer in case he concluded to make

the purchase for me, and it was finally agreed that, if he should

do so, he should retain the property till it was entirely paid

for, and should also appoint a ticket-taker and accountant (at my

expense), who should render him a weekly statement. I was further

to take an apartment hitherto used as a billiard-room in his

adjoining building, allowing therefor $500 a year, making a total

rental of $3,000 per annum, on a lease of ten years. He then told

me to see the administrator and heirs of the estate, to get their

best terms, and to meet him on his return to town a week from

that time.

 

"I at once saw Mr. John Heath, the administrator, and his price

was $15,000. I offered $10,000, payable in seven annual

installments, with good security. After several interviews, it

was finally agreed that I should have it for $12,000, payable as

above --possession to be given on the 15th of November. Mr.

Olmsted assented to this, and a morning was appointed to draw and

sign the writings. Mr. Heath appeared, but said he must decline

proceeding any further in my case, as he had sold the collection

to the directors of Peale's Museum (an incorporated institution)

for $15,000, and had received $1,000 in advance.

 

"I was shocked, and appealed to Mr. Heath's honor. He said that

he had signed no writing with me; was in no way legally bound,

and that it was his duty to do the best he could for the heirs.

Mr. Olmsted was sorry but could not help me; the new tenants

would not require him to incur any risk, and my matter was at an

end.

 

"Of course I immediately informed myself as to the character of

Peale's Museum Company. It proved to be a band of speculators who

had bought Peale's collection for a few thousand dollars,

expecting to unite the American Museum with it, issue and sell

stock to the amount of $50,000, pocket $30,000 profits, and

permit the stockholders to look out for themselves.

 

"I went immediately to several of the editors, including Major M.

M. Noah, M. Y. Beach, my good friends West, Herrick, and Ropes,

of the Atlas, and others, and stated my grievances. 'Now,' said

I, 'if you will grant me the use of your columns, I'll blow that

speculation sky-high.' They all consented, and I wrote a large

number of squibs, cautioning the public against buying the Museum

stock, ridiculing the idea of a board of broken-down bank

directors engaging in the exhibition of stuffed monkeys and

gander-skins; appealing to the case of the Zoological Institute,

which had failed by adopting such a plan as the one now proposed;

and finally, I told the public that such a speculation would be

infinitely more ridiculous than Dickens's 'Grand United

Metropolitan Hot Muffin and Crumpit-baking and Punctual Delivery

Company.'

 

"The stock was 'as dead as a herring!' I then went to Mr. Heath

and asked him when the directors were to pay the other $14,000.'

On the 26th day of December, or forfeit the $1,000 already paid,'

was the reply. I assured him that they would never pay it, that

they could not raise it, and that he would ultimately find

himself with the Museum collection on his hands, and if once I

started off with an exhibition for the South, I could not touch

the Museum at ANY price. 'Now,' said I, 'if you will agree with

me confidentially, that in case these gentlemen do not pay you on

the 26th of December I may have it on the 27th for $12,000, I

will run the risk, and wait in this city until that date.' He

readily agreed to the proposition, but said he was sure they

would not forfeit their $1,000.

 

" 'Very well,' said I; 'all I ask of you is, that this

arrangement shall not be mentioned.' He assented. 'On the 27th

day of December, at ten o'clock A. M., I wish you to meet me in

Mr. Olmsted's apartments, prepared to sign the writings, provided

this incorporated company do not pay you $14,000 on the 26th. He

agreed to this, and by my request put it in writing.

 

"From that moment I felt that the Museum was mine. I saw Mr.

Olmsted, and told him so. He promised secrecy, and agreed to sign

the document if the other parties did not meet their engagement.

This was about November 15th, and I continued my shower of

newspaper squibs at the new company, which could not sell a

dollar's worth of its stock. Meanwhile, if any one spoke to me

about the Museum, I simply replied that I had lost it."

 

This newspaper war against the Peales was kept up unceasingly

until one morning in December, "I received a letter from the

secretary of that company (now calling itself the 'New York

Museum Company'), requesting me to meet the directors at the

Museum on the following Monday morning. I went, and found the

directors in session. The venerable president of the board, who

was also the ex-president of a broken bank, blandly proposed to

hire me to manage the united museums, and though I saw that he

merely meant to buy my silence, I professed to entertain the

proposition, and in reply to an inquiry as to what salary I

should expect, I specified the sum of $3,000 a year. This was at

once acceded to, the salary to begin January 1st, 1842, and after

complimenting me on my ability, the president remarked: 'Of

course, Mr. Barnum, we shall have no more of your squibs through

the newspapers.' To which I replied that I should 'ever try to

serve the interests of my employers,' and I took my leave.

 

"It was as clear to me as noonday that, after buying my silence

so as to appreciate their stock, these directors meant to sell

out to whom they could, leaving me to look to future stockholders

for my salary. They thought, no doubt, that they had nicely

entrapped me, but I knew I had caught them.

 

"For, supposing me to be out of the way, and having no other

rival purchaser, these directors postponed the advertisement of

their stock to give people time to forget the attacks I had made

on it, and they also took their own time for paying the money

promised to Mr Heath, December 26th--indeed, they did not even

call on him at the appointed time. But on the following morning,

as agreed, I was promptly and hopefully at Mr. Olmsted's

apartments with my legal adviser, at half-past nine o'clock; Mr.

Heath came with his lawyer at ten, and before two o'clock that

day I was in formal possession of the American Museum. My first

managerial act was to write and dispatch the following

complimentary note:

 

 " 'AMERICAN MUSEUM, NEW YORK, Dec. 27th, 1841.

" 'To the President and Directors of the New York Museum:

 

" 'GENTLEMEN: It gives me great pleasure to inform you that you

are placed upon the Free List of this establishment until furthur

notice.                                

                             " 'P. T. BARNUM, Proprietor.'

 

"It is unnecessary to say that the 'President of the New York

Museum' was astounded, and when he called upon Mr. Heath, and

learned that I had bought and was really in possession of the

American Museum, he was indignant. He talked of prosecution, and

demanded the $1,000 paid on his agreement, but he did not

prosecute, and he justly forfeited his deposit money."

 

 

 

CHAPTER VIII. THE AMERICAN MUSEUM.

 

ADVERTISING EXTRAORDINARY--A QUICK-WITTED PERFORMER--NIAGARA

FALLS WITH REAL WATER--OTHER ATTRACTIONS--DRUMMOND LIGHTS.

 

With great hopes for the success of his project, Barnum entered

upon the management of the Museum. It was a new epoch in his

career, he felt that the opportunity of his life had presented

itself--in the show business, to be sure, but in a permanent,

substantial phase of it.

 

He must pay for the establishment within the stipulated time, or

forfeit all he had paid on account. A rigid plan of economy was

determined upon, his wife agreeing to support the family on $600

a year, or even on four hundred if necessary. Barnum himself made

every possible personal retrenchment. One day, some six months

after the purchase had been made, Mr. Olmsted happened into the

ticket office, while the proprietor was eating his lunch of cold

corned beef and bread.

 

"Is that all you eat for dinner?" asked Mr. Olmsted.

 

"I have not eaten a warm dinner, except on Sundays, since I

bought the Museum," was the reply, "and I don't intend to, until

I am out of debt."

 

"That's right," said Mr. Olmsted, heartily, "and you'll pay for

the Museum before the year is out."

 

And he was right.

 

The nucleus of this establishment, Scudder's Museum, was formed

in 1810. It was begun in Chatham Street, and was afterward

transferred to the old City Hall, and from small beginnings, by

purchases, and to a considerable degree by presents, it had grown

to be a large and valuable collection. People in all parts of the

country had sent in relics and rare curiosities. Sea captains for

years had brought and deposited strange things from foreign

lands; and besides all these gifts, the previous proprietor had

actually expended, as was stated, $50,000 in making the

collection, which valuable as it was when Barnum bought it, was

only the beginning of its subsequent greatness. In 1842 the

entire contents of Peale's Museum was purchased, and in 1850 the

Peale collection of Philadelphia was added. In 1865 the space

occupied for museum purposes was more than twice as large as in

1842. The Lecture Room, originally narrow, ill-contrived, and

inconvenient, was so enlarged and improved that it became one of

the most commodious and beautiful amusement halls in the city of

New York. At first the attractions and inducements were merely

the collection of curiosities by day, and an evening

entertainment, consisting of such variety performances as were

current in ordinary shows. Then Saturday afternoons and, soon

afterward, Wednesday afternoons, were devoted to entertainments,

and the popularity of the Museum grew so rapidly that it was

presently found expedient and profitable to open the great

Lecture Room every afternoon, as well as every evening, on every

weekday in the year. The first experiments in this direction more

than justified expectations, for the day exhibitions were always

more thronged than those of the evening.

 

Holidays, of course, were made the most of, and there is a record

of twelve performances, to as many audiences, being given in one

day.

 

By degrees the character of the stage performances were changed.

The transient attractions of the Museum were constantly

diversified, and educated dogs, industrious fleas, automatons,

jugglers, ventriloquists, living statuary, tableaux, gypsies,

Albinoes, fat boys, giants, dwarfs, rope-dancers, live "Yankees,"

pantomime, instrumental music, singing and dancing in great

variety, dioramas, panoramas, models of Niagara, Dublin, Paris,

and Jerusalem; Hannington's dioramas of the Creation, the Deluge,

Fairy Grotto, Storm at Sea; the first English Punch and Judy in

this country, Italian Fantoceini, mechanical figures, fancy

glass-blowing, knitting machines, and other triumphs in the

mechanical arts; dissolving views, American Indians, who enacted

their warlike and religious ceremonies on the stage--these, among

others, were all exceedingly successful.

 

No man ever understood the art of advertising better than Barnum.

Knowing that mammon is ever caught with glare, he took pains that

his posters should be larger, his transparencies more brilliant,

his puffing more persistent than anybody elses. And if he

resorted to hyperbole at times in his advertisements, it was

always his boast that no one ever went away from his Museum,

without having received the worth of his money. It used to amuse

Mr. Barnum later in life, to relate some of the unique

advertising dodges which his inventive genius devised. Here is a

fair sample, as he once told it:

 

"One morning a stout, hearty-looking man came into my

ticket-office and begged some money. I asked him why he did not

work and earn his living? He replied that he could get nothing to

do, and that he would be glad of any job at a dollar a day. I

handed him a quarter of a dollar, told him to go and get his

breakfast and return, and I would employ him, at light labor, at

a dollar and a half a day. When he returned I gave him five

common bricks.

 

" 'Now,' said I, 'go and lay a brick on the sidewalk, at the

corner of Broadway and Ann Street; another close by the Museum; a

third diagonally across the way, at the corner of Broadway and

Vesey Street, by the Astor House; put down the fourth on the

sidewalk, in front of St. Paul's Church opposite; then, with the

fifth brick in hand, take up a rapid march from one point to the

other, making the circuit, exchanging your brick at every point,

and say nothing to any one.'

 

" 'What is the object of this?' inquired the man.

 

" 'No matter,' I replied: 'all you need to know is that it brings

you fifteen cents wages per hour. It is a bit of my fun, and to

assist me properly you must seem to be as deaf as a post; wear a

serious countenance; answer no questions; pay no attention to any

one; but attend faithfully to the work, and at the end of every

hour, by St. Paul's clock, show this ticket at the Museum door;

enter, walking solemnly through every hall in the building; pass

out, and resume your work.' "

 

With the remark that "it was all one to him, so long as he could

earn his living," the man placed his bricks, and began his round.

Half an hour afterward, at least five hundred people were

watching his mysterious movements. He had assumed a military step

and bearing, and, looking as sober as a judge, he made no

response whatever to the constant inquiries as to the object of

his singular conduct. At the end of the first hour, the sidewalks

in the vicinity were packed with people, all anxious to solve the

mystery. The man, as directed, then went into the Museum,

devoting fifteen minutes to a solemn survey of the halls, and

afterward returning to his round. This was repeated every hour

until sundown, and whenever the man went into the Museum a dozen

or more persons would buy tickets and follow him, hoping to

gratify their curiosity in regard to the purpose of his

movements. This was continued for several days--the curious

people who followed the man into the Museum considerably more

than paying his wages--till finally the policeman, to whom Barnum

had imparted his object, complained that the obstruction of the

sidewalk by crowds, had become so serious that he must call in

his "brick man." This trivial incident excited considerable talk

and amusement; it advertised Barnum; and it materially advanced

his purpose of making a lively corner near the Museum.

 

Barnum realized above all that to have people pleased with his

attractions was the best advertisement he could possibly have,

and he tried honestly to keep the Museum supplied with every

novelty. A curiosity which possessed some merit, and considerable

absurdity was the celebrated model of Niagara, "with real water."

 

One day the enterprising proprietor was called before the Board

of Water Commissioners, and informed that he must pay a large

extra compensation for the immense amount of water that supplied

his Niagara. To the astonishment of the Board Mr. Barnum gave his

assurance that a single barrel of water per month served to run

the machine.

 

Apropos of this wonderful model, Barnum used to tell how he got

even with his friend, Louis Gaylord Clark, editor of the

Knickerbocker, an inveterate joker, and who was fond of guying

the Museum. The first time Clark viewed "Niagara" he assumed

great admiration.

 

"Well, Barnum, I declare, this is quite an idea; I never saw the

like of this before in all my life."

 

"No?" inquired Barnum, quite pleased.

 

"No," said Clark, fervently, "and I hope to the Lord, I never

will."

 

Barnum might have forgiven this, but Clark's next joke was too

much to bear. He came in one day and asked Barnum if he had the

club with which Captain Cook was killed. The Museum boasted a

large collection of Indian curiosities, and Barnum showed one

warlike weapon which he assured Clark was the identical club and

he had all the documents to prove it.

 

"Poor Cook! Poor Cook!" said Clark, musingly. "Well, Mr. Barnum,"

he continued, with great gravity, at the same time extending his

hand, "I am really very much obliged to you for your kindness. I

had an irrepressible desire to see the club that killed Captain

Cook, and I felt quite confident you could accommodate me. I have

been in half a dozen smaller museums, and as they all had it, I

was sure a large establishment like yours would not be without

it."

 

But Barnum's turn came. A few weeks afterward, he wrote to Clark

that if he would come to his office he was anxious to consult him

on a matter of great importance. He came, and Barnum said:

 

"Now, I don't want any of your nonsense, but I want your sober

advice."

 

Clark assured him that he would serve him in any way in his

power, and Barnum proceeded to tell him about a wonderful fish

from the Nile, offered for exhibition at $100 a week, the owner

of which was willing to forfeit $5,000, if, within six weeks,

this fish did not pass through a transformation in which the tail

would disappear and the fish would then have legs.

 

"Is it possible!" asked the astonished Clark.

 

Barnum assured him that there was no doubt of it.

 

Thereupon Clark advised Barnum to engage the wonder at any price;

that it would startle the naturalists, wake up the whole

scientific world, draw in the masses, and make $20,000 for the

Museum. Barnum told him that he thought well of the speculation,

only he did not like the name of the fish.

 

"That makes no difference whatever," said Clark; "what is the

name of the fish?"

 

"Tadpole," Barnum replied, with becoming gravity, "but it is

vulgarly called 'pollywog.' "

 

"Sold, by thunder!" exclaimed Clark, and he left.

 

Another story is illustrative of some of the trials incident to

theatrical management.

 

An actor named La Rue presented himself as an imitator of

celebrated histrionic personages, including Macready, Forrest,

Kemble, the elder Booth, Kean, Hamblin, and others. Taking him

into the green-room for a private rehearsal, and finding his

imitations excellent, Barnum engaged him. For three nights he

gave great satisfaction, but early in the fourth evening he

staggered into the Museum so drunk that he could hardly stand,

and in half an hour he must be on the stage! Barnum called an

assistant, and they took La Rue and marched him up Broadway as

far as Chambers Street, and back to the lower end of the Park,

hoping to sober him. At this point they put his head under a pump

and gave him a good ducking, with visible beneficial effect, then

a walk around the Park and another ducking, when he assured them

that he should be able to give his imitations "to a charm."

 

"You drunken brute," said Barnum, "if you fail, and disappoint my

audience, I will throw you out of the window."

 

He declared that he was "all right," and Barnum led him behind

the scenes, where he waited with considerable trepidation to

watch his movements on the stage. La Rue began by saying:

 

"Ladies and gentlemen: I will now give you an imitation of Mr.

Booth, the eminent tragedian."

 

His tongue was thick, his language somewhat incoherent, and

Barnum had great misgivings as he proceeded; but as no token of

disapprobation came from the audience, he began to hope he would

go through with his parts without exciting suspicion of his

condition. But before he had half finished his representation of

Booth, in the soliloquy in the opening act of Richard III, the

house discovered that he was very drunk, and began to hiss. This

only seemed to stimulate him to make an effort to appear sober,

which, as is usual in such cases, only made matters worse, and

the hissing increased. Barnum lost all patience, and, going on

the stage and taking the drunken fellow by the collar, apologized

to the audience, assuring them that he should not appear before

them again. Barnum was about to march him off, when he stepped to

the front, and said:

 

"Ladies and gentlemen: Mr. Booth has often appeared on the stage

in a state of inebriety, and I was simply giving you a truthful

representation of him on such occasions. I beg to be permitted to

proceed with my imitations."

 

The audience at once supposed it was all right, and cried out,

"go on, go on"; which he did, and at every imitation of Booth,

whether as Richard, Shylock, or Sir Giles Overreach, he received

a hearty round of applause. Barnum was quite delighted with his

success; but when he came to imitate Forrest and Hamblin,

necessarily representing them as drunk also, the audience could

be no longer deluded; the hissing was almost deafening, and

Barnum was forced to lead the actor off. It was his last

appearance on that stage.

 

Barnum always denied that the "Feejee Mermaid," which attained

such lasting notoriety, was an invention of his own. It was first

exhibited in London in 1822, where it was purchased by Mr. Moses

Kimball, of the Boston Museum, who sold it to Barnum. The

creature was really most ingeniously constructed, probably by

some Japanese. It drew like magic, and afterward served as a good

advertisement, sent throughout the country for exhibition, the

posters reading, "From Barnum's Great American Museum, New York."

 

Barnum believed in making his place of exhibition as attractive

as possible, and the building was decorated with flags and

banners, the posters were of the most sensational character, and

the first "Drummond Lights" ever seen in New York were placed on

top of the Museum, flooding the streets around with brilliance.

 

 

 

CHAPTER IX. INCREASED POPULARITY OF THE MUSEUM.

 

THE AMERICAN FLAG AND ST. PAUL'S--ST, PATRICK'S DAY--THE BABY

SHOW--GRAND BUFFALO HUNT--N. P. WILLIS--THE FIRST WILD-WEST SHOW.

 

The fame of the American Museum rose higher and higher. It is

doubtful if any place of entertainment ever attracted such

enthusiastic crowds. It was the first place visited by strangers

in the city.

 

The small Lecture Room had been converted into a large and

beautiful theatre, and in it many afterward celebrated actors and

actresses made their first appearance; Sothern, Barney Williams,

and the charming Mary Garmon. On holidays there were lecture

performances every hour. The actors kept on their stage clothes

from eleven o'clock in the morning until ten at night, their

meals were served in the green-room, and the company received

extra pay.

 

The 4th of July, 1842, was a great day in the history of the

Museum. Barnum had planned a magnificent display of American

flags, as one of the outside attractions, and applied to the

vestrymen of St. Paul's Church, opposite the Museum, for

permission to attach his flag-rope to a tree in the church-yard.

Their reply was an indignant refusal. Returning to the Museum,

Barnum directed that his original order concerning the

disposition of the flags be carried out to the letter.

 

The morning dawned, and the crowds on Broadway were admiring the

display, when two representatives of the baffled vestry rushed

into the office and demanded that the ropes be taken down. "The

Church of St. Paul's, where Washington worshiped, attached to a

Museum! Sacrilege!"

 

Barnum assumed a conciliatory tone, reminding them that he always

stopped his band playing during their week-day services, and

suggesting the fairness of the obligation being made mutual.

 

"If those flags are not down in ten minutes," cried one of the

vestrymen, "I will cut them down."

 

Then Barnum sprang to his feet and exclaimed loudly enough for

the crowd to hear:

 

"Well, Mister, I should just like to see you dare to cut down the

American flag on the Fourth of July; you must be a 'Britisher' to

make such a threat as that; but I'll show you a thousand pairs of

Yankee hands in two minutes, if you dare to attempt to take down

the Stars and Stripes on this great birthday of American

freedom!"

 

"What's that John Bull a-saying?" asked a brawny fellow, placing

himself in front of the irate vestryman. "Look here, old fellow,"

he continued, "if you want to save a whole bone in your body, you

had better slope, and never dare to talk again about hauling down

the American flag in the city of New York."

 

Throngs of excited, exasperated men crowded around, and the

vestryman, seeing the effect of the ruse, smiled faintly and

said, "Oh, of course it is all right," and he and his companion

quietly edged out of the crowd.

 

By one o'clock that day, the Museum was so densely packed that no

more visitors could be admitted, and the proprietor saw with

despair the crowds being turned away from the door. Rushing

down-stairs, he directed the carpenter to cut down the partition

and floor in the rear and to put in a temporary flight of stairs.

The egress was ready by three o'clock, and people poured out into

Ann Street, while the crowd from Broadway poured in. After that,

the egress was always ready on holidays. One of Barnum's most

amusing reminiscences related to this egress.

 

"Early in the following March I received notice from some of the

Irish population that they meant to visit me in great numbers on

'St. Patrick's day in the morning.' 'All right,' said I to my

carpenter, 'get your egress ready for March 17th;' and I added,

to my assistant manager: 'If there is much of a crowd, don't let

a single person pass out at the front, even if it were St.

Patrick himself; put every man out through the egress in the

rear.' The day came, and before noon we were caught in the same

dilemma as we were on the Fourth of July; the Museum was jammed,

and the sale of tickets was stopped. I went to the egress and

asked the sentinel how many hundreds had passed out?

 

" 'Hundreds,' he replied, 'why only three persons have gone out

by this way, and they came back, saying that it was a mistake and

begging to be let in again.'

 

" 'What does this mean?' I inquired; 'surely thousands of people

have been all over the Museum since they came in.'

 

" 'Certainly,' was the reply; 'but after they have gone from one

saloon to another, and have been on every floor, even to the

roof, they come down and travel the same route over again.'

 

"At this time I espied a tall Irish woman with two good-sized

children whom I had happened to notice when they came in early in

the morning.

 

" 'Step this way, madam,' said I, politely; 'you will never be

able to get into the street by the front door without crushing

these dear children. We have opened a large egress here, and you

can thus pass by these rear stairs into Ann Street, and thus

avoid all danger.'

 

" 'Sure,' replied the woman, indignantly, 'an' I'm not going out

at all, at all, nor the children either, for we've brought our

dinners and we are going to stay all day.'

 

"Further investigation showed that pretty much all of the

visitors had brought their dinners with the evident intention of

literally 'making a day of it.' No one expected to go home till

night; the building was overcrowded, and hundreds were waiting at

the front entrance to get in when they could. In despair, I

sauntered upon the stage behind the scenes, biting my lips with

vexation, when I happened to see the scene-painter at work, and a

happy thought struck me. 'Here,' I exclaimed, 'take a piece of

canvas four feet square and paint on it, as soon as you can, in

large letters,

 

                {pointing finger} TO THE EGRESS.'

 

"Seizing his brush, he finished the sign in fifteen minutes, and

I directed the carpenter to nail it over the door leading to the

back stairs. He did so, and as the crowd, after making the entire

tour of the establishment, came pouring down the main stairs from

the third-story, they stopped and looked at the new sign, while

some of them read audibly: 'To the Aigress.'

 

" 'The Aigress,' said others, 'sure that's an animal we haven't

seen,' and the throng began to pour down the back-stairs only to

find that the 'Aigress ' was the elephant, and that the elephant

was all out o' doors, or so much of it as began with Ann Street.

Meanwhile, I began to accommodate those who had long been waiting

with their money at the Broadway entrance."

 

Barnum had planned to expend the entire profits of the first year

in advertising, but so fast did the money pour in, that he was

often embarrassed to devise means to get rid of it, according to

his first idea. One of the most expensive advertisements

consisted of a large number of oil paintings of every animal in

zoology. These paintings were prepared secretly, and were put

between the windows of the building at night. The town was

paralyzed with astonishment, and the daily receipts took an

upward jump of nearly a hundred dollars.

 

Flower shows, dog shows, poultry and bird shows, with prizes to

the best specimens, had long been features of the Museum, and at

last Barnum rashly decided on a baby show. There was a prize of

one hundred dollars attached, and a committee of ladies were

appointed to decide on the best baby. The unsuspecting Barnum

stepped into the circle and announced the prize winner, but to

his astonishment the verdict did not suit anybody but the mother

of one baby. The other ninety-nine indignant mothers "jumped on"

to Mr Barnum and the committee, and denounced the whole

proceeding as impartial and unjust. Barnum offered to let them

select a new committee, and even agreed to give another hundred

dollar prize, but the storm raged with unabating fury. There were

baby shows after that, but the verdict was delivered in writing,

and Mr. Barnum never gave the prize in person.

 

In June, 1843, a herd of yearling buffaloes was on exhibition in

Boston. Barnum bought the lot, brought them to New Jersey, hired

the race-course at Hoboken, chartered the ferry-boats for one

day, and advertised that a hunter had arrived with a herd of

buffaloes, and that august 31st there would be a "Grand Buffalo

Hunt" on the Hoboken race-course--all persons to be admitted free

of charge.

 

The appointed day was warm and delightful, and no less than

twenty-four thousand people crossed the North River in the

ferry-boats to enjoy the cooling breeze and to see the "Grand

Buffalo Hunt." The hunter was dressed as an Indian, and mounted

on horseback; he proceeded to show how the wild buffalo is

captured with a lasso, but unfortunately the yearlings would not

run till the crowd gave a great shout, expressive at once of

derision and delight at the harmless humbug. This shout started

the young animals into a weak gallop and the lasso was duly

thrown over the head of the largest calf. The crowd roared with

laughter, listened to the balcony band, which was also furnished

"free," and then started for New York, little dreaming who was

the author of this sensation, or what was its object.

 

Mr. N. P. Willis, then editor of the Home Journal, wrote an

article illustrating the perfect good nature with which the

American public submit to a clever humbug. He said that he went

to Hoboken to witness the buffalo hunt. It was nearly four

o'clock when the boat left the foot of Barclay Street, and it was

so densely crowded that many persons were obliged to stand on the

railings and hold on to the awning-posts. When they reached the

Hoboken side a boat equally crowded was coming out of the slip.

The passengers just arriving cried out to those who were coming

away, "Is the buffalo hunt over?" To which came the reply, "Yes,

and it was the biggest humbug you ever heard of!" Willis added

that passengers on the boat with him instantly gave three cheers

for the author of the humbug, whoever he might be.

 

After the public had enjoyed their laugh over the Buffalo hunt,

Barnum let it become known that he was the author of the joke. Of

course, their cry of "charlatan," "humbug," and "swindler" was

louder than ever from that time, but Barnum never objected to

being celled names. The more advertising the better.

 

About this time Barnum engaged a band of Indians from Iowa.

 

The party comprised large and noble specimens of the untutored

savage, as well as several very beautiful squaws, with two or

three interesting "papooses." They lived and lodged in a large

room on the top floor of the Museum, and cooked their own

victuals in their own way. They gave their war-dances on the

stage in the Lecture Room with great vigor and enthusiasm, much

to the satisfaction of the audiences. But these wild Indians

seemed to consider their dances as realities. Hence, when they

gave a real war-dance, it was dangerous for any parties, except

their manager and interpreter to be on the stage, for the moment

they had finished their war-dance, they began to leap and peer

about behind the scenes in search of victims for their tomahawks

and scalping knives! Indeed, lest in these frenzied moments they

might make a dash at the orchestra or the audience, Barnum had a

high rope barrier placed between them and the savages on the

front of the stage.

 

Barnum counted one incident in connection with his Indian show as

notable, being one of the few occasions when he played the losing

card.

 

"After they had been a week in the Museum," he said, "I proposed

a change of performance for the week following by introducing new

dances. Among these was the Indian wedding dance. At that time I

printed but one set of posters (large bills) per week, so that

whatever was announced for Monday was repeated every day and

evening during that week. Before the wedding dance came off on

Monday afternoon, I was informed that I was to provide a large,

new, red woolen blanket, at a cost of ten dollars, for the

bridegroom to present to the father of the bride. I ordered the

purchase to be made, but was considerably taken aback when I was

informed that I must have another new blanket for the evening,

inasmuch as the savage old Indian chief, father-in-law to the

bridegroom, would not consent to his daughter's being approached

with the wedding dance unless he had his blanket present,

 

"I undertook to explain to the chief, through the interpreter,

that this was only a 'make believe' wedding; but the old savage

shrugged his shoulders, and gave such a terrific 'Ugh!' that I

was glad to make my peace by ordering another blanket. As we gave

two performances per day, I was out of pocket $120 for twelve

'wedding blankets' that week."

 

One of the beautiful squaws named Do-humme died in the Museum.

She had been a great favorite with many ladies. Do-humme was

buried on the border of Sylvan Water, at Greenwood Cemetery,

where a small monument erected by her friends, designates her

last resting-place. The poor Indians were very sorrowful for many

days, and desired to get back again to their Western wilds. The

father and the betrothed of Do-humme cooked various dishes of

food and placed them upon the roof of the Museum, where they

believed the spirit of their departed friend came daily for its

supply; and these dishes were renewed every morning during the

stay of the Indians at the Museum.

 

 

 

CHAPTER X. GIANTS AND DWARFS.

 

SCIENCE FOR THE PUBLIC--MESMERISM EXTRAORDINARY--KILLING OF A

RIVAL--THE TWO GIANTS--DISCOVERY OF "TOM THUMB"--SEEKING OTHER

WORLDS TO CONQUER--FIRST VISIT TO ENGLAND.

 

Barnum would never submit to being outdone by a rival. In "poker"

parlance, he would "see him and go one better." His chief

competitor now was Peale, who was running Peale's Museum, and

proudly proclaiming it to be a more scientific institution than

Barnum's. Thus, he said, he was catering to a higher class of

patrons.

 

"Science, indeed!" said Barnum. "I'll give him science to his

heart's content!"

 

Mesmerism was then a great novelty, and Peale was given

exhibitions of it. He had one subject on whom he operated daily,

with most surprising results; though at times she was

unimpressionable, and the people who had paid to come in and see

her performances complained loudly that they were being swindled.

Barnum saw here a great opportunity to squelch a rival and

increase his own fame at a single stroke. He engaged a bright

little girl who was exceedingly susceptible to such mesmeric

influences as he could induce. That is, she learned her lesson

thoroughly, and when he had apparently put her to sleep with a

few passes and stood behind her, she seemed to be duly

"impressed," as he desired; raised her hands as he willed, fell

from her chair to the floor; and if he put candy or tobacco into

his own mouth, she was duly delighted or disgusted. She never

failed in these routine performances. Strange to say, believers

in mesmerism used to witness her performances with the greatest

pleasure, and adduce them as positive proofs that there was

something in mesmerism, and they applauded tremendously--up to a

certain point.

 

That point was reached when, leaving the girl "asleep," Barnum

called up some one in the audience, promising to put him "in the

same state" within five minutes, or forfeit fifty dollars. Of

course, all his "passes" would not put a man in the mesmeric

state; at the end of three minutes he was as wide awake as ever.

 

"Never mind," Barnum would say, "looking at his watch; "I have

two minutes more, and meantime, to show that a person in this

state is utterly insensible to pain, I propose to cut off one of

the fingers of the little girl who is still asleep." He would

then take out a knife and feel of the edge, and when he turned

around to the girl whom he left on the chair, she had fled behind

the scenes, to the intense amusement of the greater part of the

audience, and to the amazement of the mesmerists who were

present.

 

"Why! where's my little girl?" he asked, with feigned

astonishment.

 

"Oh! she ran away when you began to talk about cutting off

fingers."

 

"Then she was wide awake, was she?"

 

"Of course she was, all the time."

 

"I suppose so; and, my dear sir, I promised that you should be

'in the same state' at the end of five minutes, and as I believe

you are so, I do not forfeit fifty dollars."

 

Barnum kept up this performance for several weeks, till he quite

killed Peale's "genuine" mesmerism in the rival establishment. At

the end of six months he bought Peale's Museum, and the whole,

including the splendid gallery of American portraits, was removed

to the American Museum, and he immediately advertised the great

card of a "Double Attraction," and "Two Museums in One," without

extra charge.

 

Barnum was now devoting all his attention and energy to this

enterprise, and was achieving great success. He made everything

contribute to its popularity. When a politician asked him for

what candidate he was going to vote, he would answer, "For the

American Museum;" and this was an index of his whole demeanor.

 

Among the genuine and literally "great" features of his show were

several giants. They often gave both the showman and his patrons

food for much amusement as well as wonder. The Quaker giant,

Hales, was quite a wag in his way. He went once to see the new

house of an acquaintance who had suddenly become rich, but who

was a very ignorant man. When he came back he described the

wonders of the mansion, and said that the proud proprietor showed

him everything from basement to attic; parlors, bed-rooms,

dining-room, and, said Hales, "what he calls his

'study'--meaning, I suppose, the place where he intends to study

his spelling-book!"

 

He had at one time two famous men, the French giant, M. Bihin, a

very slim man, and the Arabian giant, Colonel Goshen. These men

generally got on together very well, though, of course, each was

jealous of the other, and of the attention the rival received, or

the notice he attracted. One day they quarreled, and a lively

interchange of compliments ensued, the Arabian calling the

Frenchman a "Shanghai," and receiving in return the epithet of

"Nigger." From words both were eager to proceed to blows, and

both ran to the collection of arms, one seizing the club with

which Captain Cook, or any other man, might have been killed, if

it were judiciously wielded, and the other laying hands on a

sword of the terrific size which is supposed to have been

conventional in the days of the Crusades.

 

The preparations for a deadly encounter, and the high words of

the contending parties, brought a dozen of the Museum attaches to

the spot, and these men threw themselves between the gigantic

combatants. Hearing the disturbance, Barnum ran from his private

office to the dueling ground, and said:

 

"Look here! This is all right; if you want to fight each other,

maiming and perhaps killing one or both of you, that is your

affair; but my interest lies here: you are both under engagement

to me, and if this duel is to come off, I and the public have a

right to participate. It must be duly advertised, and must take

place on the stage of the Lecture Room. No performance of yours

would be a greater attraction, and if you kill each other, our

engagement can end with your duel."

 

This proposition, made in apparent earnest, so delighted the

giants that they at once burst into a laugh, shook hands, and

quarreled no more.

 

From giants to dwarfs. None of Barnum's attractions has been more

famous than "Tom Thumb." The story of his discovery and

engagement is dated in November, 1842. Barnum was then at

Bridgeport, Conn. One day he heard that there belonged in one of

the families of the place a phenomenally small child, and he got

his brother, Philo F. Barnum, to bring the little fellow to his

hotel. "He was," Barnum afterward said, "not two feet high; he

weighed less than sixteen pounds, and was the smallest child I

ever saw that could walk alone; he was a perfectly formed

bright-eyed little fellow, with light hair and ruddy cheeks, and

he enjoyed the best of health. He was exceedingly bashful, but

after some coaxing, he was induced to talk with me, and he told

me that he was the son of Sherwood E. Stratton, and that his own

name was Charles S. Stratton. After seeing him and talking with

him, I at once determined to secure his services from his parents

and to exhibit him in public. I engaged him for four weeks, at

three dollars a week, with all traveling and boarding charges for

himself and his mother at my expense. They came to New York

Thanksgiving day, December 8th, 1842, and I announced the dwarf

on my Museum bills as 'General Tom Thumb.' "

 

Barnum took the greatest pains to educate and train the

diminutive prodigy, devoting many hours to the task by day and by

night, and he was very successful, for the boy was an apt pupil,

with a great deal of native talent, and a keen sense of the

ludicrous. Barnum afterward re-engaged him for one year, at seven

dollars a week with a gratuity of fifty dollars at the end of the

engagement, and the privilege of exhibiting him anywhere in the

United States, in which event his parents were to accompany him

and Barnum was to pay all traveling expenses. He speedily became

a public favorite, and long before the year was out, Barnum

voluntarily increased his weekly salary to twenty-five dollars,

and he fairly earned it.

 

For two years Barnum had been the owner of the Museum. He had

enjoyed great prosperity. Long ago he had paid every dollar of

the purchase-money out of the profits of the place. All rivals

had been driven from the field. He was out of debt, and had a

handsome balance in the bank. The experimental stage was passed,

and the enterprise was an established success. It was, indeed, in

such perfect order that Barnum felt safe in leaving it to his

lieutenants, while he went forth to seek new realms of conquest.

Accordingly he made an agreement for General Tom Thumb's services

for another year, at fifty dollars a week and all expenses, with

the privilege of exhibiting him in Europe. He proposed to test

the curiosity of men and women on the other side of the Atlantic.

 

After arranging his business affairs for a long absence, and

making every preparation for an extended foreign tour, on

Thursday, January 18th, 1844, he went on board the new and fine

sailing ship "Yorkshire," Captain D. G. Bailey, bound for

Liverpool. The party included General Tom Thumb, his parents, his

tutor, and Professor Guillaudeu, a French naturalist. They were

accompanied by several personal friends, and the City Brass Band

kindly volunteered to escort them to Sandy Hook.

 

They were met at Liverpool by a large crowd of sight-seers, who

had been attracted thither by the fame of "Tom Thumb." The

curiosity of the populace was not gratified, however, for Barnum

had the child smuggled ashore unseen, under his mother's shawl.

 

"My letters of introduction," said the showman,  many excellent

families, and I was induced to hire a hall and present the

General to the public, for a short season in Liverpool. I had

intended to proceed directly to London, and begin operations at

'headquarters,' that is, in Buckingham Palace, if possible; but I

had been advised that the royal family was in mourning for the

death of Prince Albert's father, and would not permit the

approach of any entertainments. Meanwhile, confidential letters

from London informed me that Mr. Maddox, Manager of Princess's

Theatre, was coming down to witness my exhibition, with a view to

making an engagement. He came privately, but I was fully informed

as to his presence and object. A friend pointed him out to me in

the hall, and when I stepped up to him, and called him by name,

he was 'taken all aback,' and avowed his purpose in visiting

Liverpool. An interview resulted in an engagement of the General

for three nights at Princess's Theatre. I was unwilling to

contract for a longer period, and even this short engagement,

though on liberal terms, was acceded to only as a means of

advertisement. So soon, therefore, as I could bring my short, but

highly successful, season in Liverpool to a close, we went to

London."

 

 

 

CHAPTER XI. TOM THUMB IN LONDON.

 

AN ARISTOCRATIC VISITOR--CALLING AT BUCKINGHAM PALACE AND

HOB-NOBBING WITH ROYALTY--GETTING A PUFF IN THE "COURT CIRCULAR"

--THE IRON DUKE--A GREAT SOCIAL AND FINANCIAL SUCCESS.

 

The first public appearance of Tom Thumb in London occurred soon

after the arrival of the party there, at the Princess's Theatre.

A short engagement only had been made, but it was exceedingly

successful. The spectators were delighted, the manager overjoyed,

and Barnum himself pleased beyond measure. This brief engagement

answered his purpose, in arousing public interest and curiosity.

That was all the shrewd showman wanted for the present.

Accordingly, when the manager of the theatre urged a renewal of

the engagement, at a much higher price, Barnum positively

declined it. He had secured the desired advertising; now he would

exhibit on his own account and in his own way.

 

He therefore took a splendid mansion in Grafton Street, Bond

Street, in the fashionable and aristocratic West End of London.

Lord Talbot had lived in it, and Lord Brougham lived close by. It

was an audacious stroke for the Yankee showman to invade this

select and exclusive region, but it was successful. In response

to his invitations members of the nobility came eagerly flocking

to the house to see the wonderful child. Barnum showed himself as

exclusive as any of them, for he gave orders to his servants that

no callers were to be received who did not present cards of

invitation. This procedure he afterward explained, was entirely

proper. He had not yet announced himself as a public showman. He

was simply an American citizen visiting London, and it was

incumbent upon him to maintain the dignity of his position! His

servants, of course, exercised proper tact, and no offense was

given, although many of the nobility and gentry, who drove to his

door in carriages adorned with crests and coats of arms, were

thus turned away.

 

Among the early callers was the Hon. Edward Everett, the American

minister to England. He was much pleased with Mr. Barnum and his

tiny ward, and had them dine with him the next day. He also

promised that they should, if possible, be received by the Queen

at Buckingham Palace.

 

A few evenings afterward the Baroness Rothschild sent her

carriage for them. They were received by a half a dozen servants,

and were ushered up a broad flight of marble stairs to the

drawing-room, where they met the Baroness and a party of twenty

or more ladies and gentlemen. In this sumptuous mansion of the

richest banker in the world, they spent about two hours, and when

they took their leave a well-filled purse was quietly slipped

into Mr. Barnum's hand. The golden shower had begun to fall.

 

Mr. Barnum now thought the time ripe for beginning his public

exhibitions. He engaged Egyptian Hall, Piccadilly, and announced

that Tom Thumb was to be seen there. The rush of visitors was

tremendous. The aristocracy of London thronged the hall night

after night, and a phenomenal success was assured. Barnum did not

look beyond such work. True, Everett had spoken of an audience

with the Queen, but Barnum had no idea that it would ever be

granted. One day, however, he met Mr. Murray, Master of the

Queen's Household, at Everett's at breakfast, and that gentleman

asked him what were his plans for the future. Barnum replied that

he expected presently to go to the Continent, but he would most

gladly stay in London if he could get the favor of an audience

with Her Majesty.

 

Mr. Murray kindly offered his good offices in the case, and the

next day one of the Life Guards, a tall, noble-looking fellow,

bedecked as became his station, brought a note, conveying the

Queen's invitation to General Tom Thumb and his guardian Mr.

Barnum, to appear at Buckingham Palace on an evening specified.

Special instructions were the same day orally given by Mr.

Murray, by Her Majesty's command, to suffer the General to appear

before her, as he would appear anywhere else, without any

training in the use of the titles of royalty, as the Queen

desired to see him act naturally and without restraint.

 

Determined to make the most of the occasion, Mr. Barnum put a

placard on the door of the Egyptian Hall: "Closed this evening,

General Tom Thumb being at Buckingham Palace by command of Her

Majesty."

 

When they arrived at the palace, a Lord-in-Waiting met them, and

began "coaching" them on points of court etiquette. Mr. Barnum,

especially, was told that he must in no event speak directly to

Her Majesty, but through the medium of the aforesaid Lord. He

must also keep his face constantly turned toward the Queen, and

so, in retiring from the royal presence, must walk backward.

Having thus been instructed in the ways of royalty, Mr. Barnum

and the diminutive General were led to the presence of the Queen.

 

They passed through a long corridor to a broad flight of marble

steps, which led to the picture gallery, and there the Queen and

Prince Albert, the Duchess of Kent, the Duke of Wellington, and

others were awaiting their arrival. They were standing at the

further end of the room when the doors were thrown open, and the

General walked in, looking like a wax doll gifted with the power

of locomotion. Surprise and pleasure were depicted on the

countenances of the royal circle at beholding this remarkable

specimen of humanity so much smaller than they had evidently

expected to find him.

 

The General advanced with a firm step, and, as he came within

hailing distance, made a very graceful bow, and exclaimed, "Good

evening, ladies and gentlemen."

 

A burst of laughter followed this salutation. The Queen then took

him by the hand, led him about the gallery, and asked him many

questions, the answers to which kept the party in an

uninterrupted strain of merriment. The General familiarly

informed the Queen that her picture gallery was "first-rate," and

told her he should like to see the Prince of Wales. The Queen

replied that the Prince had retired to rest, but that he should

see him on some future occasion. The General then gave his songs,

dances, and imitations, and after a conversation with Prince

Albert, and all present, which continued for more than an hour,

they were permitted to depart.

 

But before this Mr. Barnum had broken the instructions in

etiquette which had been so carefully impressed upon him by the

Lord-in-Waiting. When the Queen began asking him questions, he

answered her, as she addressed him, through the lordly medium, as

he had been told. That was inconvenient and irksome, however, and

presently Barnum addressed his reply directly to her. The

Lord-in-Waiting was horror-struck, but the Queen did not appear

to be displeased, for she instantly followed her guest's example,

and spoke thereafter directly to him. In a few minutes Her

Majesty and the Yankee showman were talking together with the

greatest ease and freedom.

 

"I felt," said Mr. Barnum afterward, "entirely at ease in her

presence, and could not avoid contrasting her sensible and

amiable manners with the stiffness and formality of upstart

gentility at home or abroad.

 

"The Queen was modestly attired in plain black, and wore no

ornaments. Indeed, surrounded as she was by ladies arrayed in the

highest style of magnificence, their dresses sparkling with

diamonds, she was the last person whom a stranger would have

pointed out in that circle as the Queen of England.

 

"The Lord-in-Waiting was perhaps mollified toward me when he saw

me following his illustrious example in retiring from the royal

presence. He was accustomed to the process, and therefore was

able to keep somewhat ahead (or rather aback) of me, but even _I_

stepped rather fast for the other member of the retiring party.

We had a considerable distance to travel in that long gallery

before reaching the door, and whenever the General found he was

losing ground, he turned around and ran a few steps, then resumed

his position of backing out, then turned around and ran, and so

continued to alternate his methods of getting to the door, until

the gallery fairly rang with the merriment of the royal

spectators. It was really one of the richest scenes I ever saw;

running, under the circumstances, was an offense sufficiently

heinous to excite the indignation of the Queen's favorite poodle

dog, and he vented his displeasure by barking so sharply as to

startle the General from his propriety. He, however, recovered

immediately, and with his little cane, commenced an attack on the

poodle, and a funny fight ensued, which renewed and increased the

merriment of the royal party.

 

"This was near the door of exit. We had scarcely passed into the

ante-room, when one of the Queen's attendants came to us with the

expressed hope of her Majesty that the General had sustained no

damage, to which the Lord-in-Waiting playfully added, that in

case of injury to so renowned a personage, he should fear a

declaration of war by the United States!"

 

The visitors were then escorted about the Palace, and treated to

refreshments. Before leaving Mr. Barnum bethought him of the

"Court Circular," in which the doings of the Royal Family were

chronicled to the world. Would his reception by the Queen be

mentioned in it? Certainly. Well, then, would it not be possible

to secure something more than mere mention; some words of special

commendation; a "free advertisement" in fact? He would try it! So

he inquired where he could find the gentleman who prepared the

circular, and was informed that that functionary was in the

Palace at that very moment.

 

"He was sent for," related Mr. Barnum, "by my solicitation, and

promptly acceded to my request for such a notice as would attract

attention. He even generously desired me to give him an outline

of what I sought, and I was pleased to see afterward, that he had

inserted my notice verbatim.

 

"This notice of my visit to the Queen wonderfully increased the

attraction of 'Gen. Tom Thumb,' and compelled me to obtain a more

commodious hall for my exhibition. I accordingly moved to a

larger room in the same building."

 

On their second visit to the Queen, they were received in what is

called the Yellow Drawing Room, a magnificent apartment. It is on

the north side of the gallery, and is entered from that

apartment. It was hung with drapery of rich yellow satin damask,

the couches, sofas, and chairs being covered with the same

material. The vases, urns, and ornaments were all of the most

exquisite workmanship. The room was panelled in gold, and the

heavy cornices beautifully carved and gilt. The tables, pianos,

etc., were mounted with gold, inlaid with pearl of various hues,

and of the most elegant designs.

 

They were ushered into this gorgeous drawing-room before the

Queen and royal circle had left the dining-room, and, as they

approached, the General bowed respectfully, and remarked to Her

Majesty, "that he had seen her before," adding, "I think this is

a prettier room than the picture gallery; that chandelier is very

fine."

 

The Queen smilingly took him by the hand, and said she hoped he

was very well.

 

"Yes, ma'am," he replied, "I am first-rate."

 

"General," continued the Queen, "this is the Prince of Wales."

 

"How are you, Prince?" said the General, shaking him by the hand,

and then standing beside the Prince, he remarked, "the prince is

taller than I am, but I feel as big as anybody," upon which he

strutted up and down the room as proud as a peacock, amid shouts

of laughter from all present.

 

The Queen then introduced the Princess Royal, and the General

immediately led her to his elegant little sofa, which he took

with him, and with much politeness sat down beside her. Then,

rising from his seat, he went through his various performances,

and the Queen handed him an elegant and costly souvenir, which

had been expressly made for him by her order, for which, he told

her, "he was very much obliged, and would keep it as long as he

lived." The Queen of the Belgians (daughter of Louis Philippe)

was present on this occasion. She asked the General where he was

going when he left London.

 

"To Paris," he replied.

 

"Whom do you expect to see there?" she continued.

 

Of course all expected he would answer, "the King of the French,"

but the little fellow replied.

 

"Monsieur Guillaudeu."

 

The two queens looked inquiringly, and when Mr. Barnum informed

them that M. Guillaudeu was his French naturalist, they laughed

most heartily.

 

On their third visit to Buckingham Palace, Leopold, King of the

Belgians, was also present. He was highly pleased, and asked a

multitude of questions. Queen Victoria desired the General to

sing a song, and asked him what song he preferred to sing.

 

"Yankee Doodle," was the prompt reply.

 

This answer was as unexpected to Mr. Barnum as it was to the

royal party. When the merriment it occasioned had somewhat

subsided, the Queen good-humoredly remarked, "that is a very

pretty song, General, sing it, if you please." The General

complied, and soon afterward retired.

 

The Queen sent to Barnum a handsome fee for each of his visits,

but that was only a small part of the benefits which his

acquaintance with her brought to him. Such was the force of Court

example that it was now deemed unfashionable, almost disloyal,

not to have seen Tom Thumb. Carriages of the nobility, fifty or

sixty at a time, were to be seen at Barnum's door in Piccadilly.

Egyptian Hall was crowded at every exhibition, and the net

profits there were on the average more than $500 per day from

March 20th to July 20th. Portraits of the tiny General were for

sale everywhere, and were eagerly purchased by thousands. Musical

compositions were dedicated to him, and songs were sung in his

honor. Week after week he was the subject of Punch's wittiest

cartoons; and of course all this was just so much free

advertising. Besides his three public performances per day, the

little General attended three or four private parties per week,

for which they were paid eight to ten guineas each. Frequently he

would visit two parties in the same evening, and the demand in

that line was much greater than the supply. The Queen Dowager

Adelaide requested the General's attendance at Marlborough House

one afternoon. He went in his court dress, consisting of a richly

embroidered brown silk-velvet coat and short breeches, white

satin vest with fancy colored embroidery, white silk stockings

and pumps, wig, bagwig, cocked hat, and dress sword.

 

"Why, General," said the Queen Dowager, "I think you look very

smart to-day."

 

"I guess I do," said the General, complacently.

 

A large party of the nobility were present. The old Duke of

Cambridge offered the little General a pinch of snuff, which he

declined. The General sang his songs, performed his dances, and

cracked his jokes, to the great amusement and delight of the

distinguished circle of visitors.

 

"Dear little General," said the kind-hearted Queen, taking him

upon her lap, "I see you have no watch. Will you permit me to

present you with a watch and chain?"

 

"I would like them very much," replied the General, his eyes

glistening with joy as he spoke.

 

"I will have them made expressly for you," responded the Queen

Dowager; and at the same moment she called a friend and desired

him to see that the proper order was executed. A few weeks

thereafter they were called again to Marlborough House. A number

of the children of the nobility were present, as well as some of

their parents. After passing a few compliments with the General,

Queen Adelaide presented him with a beautiful little gold watch,

placing the chain around his neck with her own hands.

 

This watch, also, served the purpose of an advertisement, and a

good one, too. It was not only duly heralded, but was placed upon

a pedestal in the hall of exhibition, together with the presents

from Queen Victoria, and covered with a glass vase. These

presents, to which were soon added an elegant gold snuff-box

mounted with turquois, presented by his grace the Duke of

Devonshire, and many other costly gifts of the nobility and

gentry, added to the attraction of the exhibition.

 

The Duke of Wellington called frequently to see the little

General at his public levees. The first time he called, the

General was personating Napoleon Bonaparte, marching up and down

the platform, and apparently taking snuff in deep meditation. He

was dressed in the well-known uniform of the Emperor. Barnum

introduced him to the "Iron Duke," who inquired the subject of

his meditations. "I was thinking of the loss of the battle of

Waterloo," was the little General's immediate reply. This display

of wit was chronicled throughout the country, and was of itself

worth thousands of pounds to the exhibition.

 

General Tom Thumb had visited the King of Saxony and also Ibrahim

Pacha, who was then in London. At the different parties he

attended, he met, in the course of the season, nearly all of the

nobility. Scarcely a nobleman in England failed to see General

Tom Thumb at his own house, at the house of a friend, or at the

public levees at Egyptian Hall. The General was a decided pet

with some of the first personages in the land, among whom were

Sir Robert and Lady Peel, the Duke and Duchess of Buckingham,

Duke of Bedford, Duke of Devonshire, Count d'Orsay, Lady

Blessington, Daniel O'Connell, Lord Adolphus Fitzclarence, Lord

Chesterfield, and many other persons of distinction They had the

free entree to all the theatres, public gardens, and places of

entertainment, and frequently met the principal artists, editors,

poets, and authors of the country. Albert Smith wrote a play for

the General, entitled "Hop o' my Thumb," which was presented with

great success at the Lyceum Theatre, London, and in several of

the provincial theatres.

 

Thus the London visit and the tour of England were successful

beyond all anticipation, and it was with an overflowing purse

that Barnum set out with his charge for the French capital.

 

 

 

CHAPTER XII. IN FRANCE.

 

ARRIVAL IN PARIS--VISIT TO THE TUILERIES--LONGCHAMPS--"TOM PONCE"

ALL THE RAGE--BONAPARTE AND LOUIS PHILIPPE--TOUR THROUGH

FRANCE--BARNUM'S PURCHASE.

 

Barnum having returned from a preliminary trip to France, in

which all arrangements, even to starting the first paragraphs in

the Paris papers were made, now went back accompanied by Tom

Thumb. They reached Paris some days before the exhibition was

opened, but on the day following their arrival, a special command

reached them to appear at the Tuileries on the next Sunday

evening.

 

At the appointed hour the General and his manager were ushered

into the presence of the King, the Queen, the Count de Paris,

Prince de Joinville, the Duchess d'Orleans, and a dozen more

distinguished persons, among whom was the editor of the Journal

des Debats.

 

At the close of the General's performances, which he went through

with to the evident delight of all present, the King gave him a

large emerald and diamond brooch, at the same time saying to Mr.

Barnum: "You may put it on the General, if you please." Which

command was obeyed, to the gratification of the King and the

immense delight of the General.

 

The King was so condescending and affable that Mr. Barnum at

length ventured to ask a favor of him. The Longchamps celebration

was close at hand--a day once devoted to religious ceremony, but

now conspicuous for the display of court and fashionable

equipages in the various drives and parks--and after the King had

conversed with Mr. Barnum on various topics in a familiar manner,

the diplomatic showman remarked that he had hastened his arrival

in Paris for the express purpose of taking part in the Longchamps

celebration. The General's carriage, he explained, with its

ponies and little coachman and footman, was so small that it

would be in great danger in the crowd unless the King would

graciously permit it to appear in the avenue reserved for the

court and the diplomatic corps

 

The King smiled, and after a few minutes' consultation with one

of the officers of his household. said: "Call on the Prefect of

Police to-morrow afternoon and you will find a permit ready for

you."

 

After a two hours' visit they retired, the General loaded with

presents.

 

The next morning all the newspapers chronicled the royal

audience, the Journal des Debats giving a full account of the

interview and of the General's performances.

 

Thus all Paris knew that Tom Thumb, in all his glory, was in the

city.

 

Longchamps day arrived, and conspicuous among the splendid

equipages on the grand avenue, Tom Thumb's beautiful little

carriage, with four ponies and liveried and powdered coachman and

footman, rode along in the line of carriages bearing the

ambassadors to the Court of France. The air was fairly rent with

cheers for "le General Tom Ponce."

 

The first day's receipts were 5,500 francs--over three hundred

dollars, and this sum might have been doubled had there been room

for more visitors. The elite of Paris flocked to the exhibition.

There were afternoon and evening performances, and seats were

reserved in advance at an extra price for the entire two months.

 

The papers were full of praises for the performance; Figaro gave

a picture of an immense mastiff running away with the General's

horse and carriage in his mouth.

 

Statuettes and pictures of "Tom Ponce" appeared everywhere; a

cafe on one of the boulevards took the name of "Tom Ponce," with

a life-size statue of the General for a sign. Eminent painters

here, as in London, asked to paint his portrait, but the

General's engagements were so pressing that he had little time to

sit to artists. All the leading actors and actresses came to see

him, and he received many fine presents from them. The daily

receipts continued to increase, and the manager had to take a cab

to carry home the silver at night.

 

Twice more was the General summoned to appear before the royal

family at the Tuileries, and on the King's birthday a special

invitation was sent him to view the display of fireworks in honor

of the anniversary.

 

The last visit to the Court was made at St. Cloud. The papers, in

speaking of the General's characterizations, mentioned that there

was one costume which Tom Thumb wisely kept at the bottom of his

trunk. This was the uniform of Napoleon Bonaparte, and by special

request of the King, it was worn at St. Cloud. The affair was

quite sub rosa, however, none of the papers mentioning it.

 

At the end of the visit each of the royal company gave the

General a magnificent present, overwhelmed him with kisses,

wishing him a safe journey through France, and a long and happy

life. After making their adieux they retired to another part of

the palace to permit the General to change his costume and to

partake of a collation which was served them. As they were

leaving the palace they passed the sitting-room where the royal

family were spending the evening. The door was open, and some one

spying the General there was a call for him to come in and shake

hands once more. They went in, finding the Queen and her ladies

engaged in embroidering, while one young lady read aloud. They

all kissed and petted the General many times around before

finally permitting him to depart.

 

After leaving Paris they made a most profitable tour, including

the cities of Rouen, Orleans, Brest, and Bordeaux, where they

were invited to witness a review of 20,000 soldiers by the Dukes

de Nemours and d'Aumale. Thence to Toulon, Montpelier, Nismes,

Marseilles, and many other less important places. At Nantes,

Bordeaux, and Marseilles the General appeared in the theatres in

a part written for him in a French play called "Petit Poncet."

 

During their stay in Paris, Barnum made a characteristically

profitable investment. A Russian Prince, who had lived in great

splendor in Paris, died suddenly, and his household effects were

sold at auction. There was a magnificent gold tea-set, a dinner

service of silver, and some rare specimens of Sevres china, the

value of which were impaired by the Prince's initials being on

them. The initials were "P. T ," and Mr. Barnum bought them, and

adding "B." to the other letters, had a very fine table service

appropriately marked.

 

 

 

CHAPTER XIII. IN BELGIUM.

 

PRESENTED TO KING LEOPOLD AND THE QUEEN--THE GENERAL'S JEWELS

STOLEN--THE FIELD OF WATERLOO--AN ACCIDENT--AN EXPENSIVE

EQUIPAGE--"THE CUSTOM OF THE COUNTRY."

 

The day after the arrival of the party in Brussels they were

summoned to the palace. The king and queen had seen the General

in London, but they wished their children and the distinguished

people of the court to have the same pleasure.

 

After a delightful visit they came away, the General, as usual,

laden with gifts.

 

The following day the exhibition opened, and from the first was

crowded by throngs of the best people in the city. One day, in

the midst of the exhibition, it was discovered that the case

containing all the valuable presents Tom Thumb had received from

royalty' etc., was missing.

 

The alarm was instantly given, and the police notified. A reward

was offered of 2,000 francs, and, after a day or two, the thief

was captured and the jewels returned. After that the case of

presents was more carefully guarded.

 

Everyone who goes to Brussels is supposed to visit the field of

Waterloo; so, before they left, the entire party--Tom Thumb,

Barnum, Prof. Pinte (tutor), and Mr. Stratton (father of the

General), and Mr. H. G. Sherman, went together.

 

After visiting the church in the village of Waterloo and viewing

the memorial tablets there, they passed to the house where Lord

Uxbridge--Marquis of Anglesey--had had his leg amputated. There

is a little monument in the garden over the shattered limb, and a

part of the boot that covered it was seen in the house. Barnum

procured a three-inch bit of the boot for his Museum, at the same

time remarking, that if the lady in charge was as liberal to all

visitors, that boot had held out wonderfully since 1815.

 

On approaching the ground they were beset by a dozen or more

guides, each one professing to know the exact spot where every

man had stood, and each claiming to have himself taken part in

the struggle, although most of them were less than twenty-five,

and the battle had been fought some thirty years before. They

finally accepted one old man, who at first declared that he had

been killed in the front ranks, but afterward acknowledged that

he had only been wounded and left on the field for dead three

days.

 

After having the location of Napoleon's Guard, the Duke of

Wellington, the portion of the field where Blucher entered with

the Prussian army, pointed out to them, and the spots where fell

Sir Alexander Gordon and other celebrities, they asked the guide

if he knew where Captain Tippitiwichet, of Connecticut, was

killed? "Oh, oui, Monsieur," replied the guide confidently. After

pointing out the precise spots where fictitious friends from

Coney Island, New Jersey, Cape Cod and Saratoga had received

their death-wounds, they paid the old humbug and dismissed him.

 

Upon leaving the field they were met by another crowd of peasants

with relics of the battle for sale. Barnum bought a large number

of pistols, bullets, brass French eagles, buttons, etc., for the

Museum, and the others were equally liberal in their purchases.

They bought also maps, guide-books and pictures, until Mr.

Stratton expressed his belief that the "darned old battle of

Waterloo" had cost more since it was fought than it ever did

before.

 

Some months afterwards, while they were in Birmingham, they made

the acquaintance of a firm who manufactured and sent to Waterloo

barrels of these "relics" every year.

 

Four or five miles on the road home they had the misfortune to

break the axle-tree of the carriage. It was past one o'clock, and

the exhibition was advertised to commence in Brussels at two. Of

course, they could not expect to walk the distance in less than

three hours, and Barnum was disposed to give up the afternoon

performance altogether. But Mr. Stratton could not bear the idea

of losing six or eight hundred francs, so, accompanied by the

interpreter, Prof. Pinte, he rushed down the road to a

farm-house, followed leisurely by the rest of the party.

 

Mr. Stratton asked the old farmer if he had a carriage. He had

not. "Have you no vehicle?" he inquired.

 

"Yes, I have that vehicle," he replied, pointing to an old cart

filled with manure, and standing in his barnyard.

 

"Thunder! is that all the conveyance you have got?" asked

Stratton. Being assured that it was, Stratton concluded that it

was better to ride in a manure-cart than not to get to Brussels

in time.

 

"What will you ask to drive us to Brussels in three-quarters of

an hour?" demanded Stratton.

 

"It is impossible," replied the farmer; "I should want two hours

for my horse to do it in."

 

"But ours is a very pressing case, and if we are not there in

time we lose more than five hundred francs," said Stratton.

 

The old farmer pricked up his ears at this, and agreed to get

them to Brussels in an hour for eighty francs. Stratton tried to

beat him down, but it was of no use.

 

"Oh, go it, Stratton," said Sherman; "eighty francs you know is

only sixteen dollars, and you will probably save a hundred by it,

for I expect a full house at our afternoon exhibition to-day."

 

"But I have already spent about ten dollars for nonsense," said

Stratton, "and we shall have to pay for the broken carriage

besides."

 

"But what can you do better?" chimed in Professor Pinte.

 

"It is an outrageous extortion to charge sixteen dollars for an

old horse and cart to go ten miles. Why, in old Bridgeport, I

could get it done for three dollars," replied Stratton, in a tone

of vexation

 

"It is the custom of the country," said Professor Pinte, "and we

must submit to it."

 

"Well, it's a thundering mean custom, anyhow," said Stratton,

"and I won't stand such imposition."

 

"But what shall we do?" earnestly inquired Mr. Pinte. "It may be

a high price, but it is better to pay that than to lose our

afternoon performance and five or six hundred francs."

 

This appeal to the pocket touched Stratton's feelings; so,

submitting to the extortion, he replied to our interpreter,

"Well, tell the old robber to dump his dung-cart as soon as

possible, or we shall lose half an hour in starting."

 

The cart was "dumped" and a large, lazy-looking Flemish horse was

attached to it with a rope harness. Some boards were laid across

the cart for seats, the party tumbled into the rustic vehicle, a

red-haired boy, son of the old farmer, mounted the horse, and

Stratton gave orders to "get along." "Wait a moment," said the

farmer, "you have not paid me yet." "I'll pay your boy when we

get to Brussels, provided he gets there within the hour," replied

Stratton.

 

"Oh, he is sure to get there in an hour," said the farmer, "but I

can't let him go unless you pay in advance." The minutes were

flying rapidly, the anticipated loss of the day exhibition of

General Tom Thumb flitted before his eyes, and Stratton, in very

desperation, thrust his hand into his pocket and drew forth

sixteen five-franc pieces, which he dropped, one at a time, into

the hand, of the farmer, and then called out to the boy, "There

now, do try to see if you can go ahead."

 

The boy did go ahead, but it was with such a snail's pace that it

would have puzzled a man of tolerable eyesight to have determined

whether the horse was moving or standing still. To make it still

more interesting, it commenced raining furiously. As they had

left Brussels in a coach, and the morning had promised a pleasant

day, they had omitted umbrellas. They were soon soaked to the

skin, but they "grinned and bore it" a while without grumbling.

At length Stratton, who was almost too angry to speak, desired

Mr. Pinte to ask the red haired boy if he expected to walk his

horse all the way to Brussels.

 

"Certainly," replied the boy; "he is too big and fat to do

anything but walk. We never trot him."

 

Stratton was terrified as he thought of the loss of the day

exhibition; and he cursed the boy, the cart, the rain, the luck,

and even the battle of Waterloo itself. But it was all of no use;

the horse would not run, but the rain did--down their backs.

 

At two o'clock, the time appointed for the exhibition, they were

yet some seven miles from Brussels. The horse walked slowly and

philosophically through the pitiless storm, the steam

majestically rising from the old manure-cart, to the no small

disturbance of their unfortunate olfactories. "It will take two

hours to get to Brussels at this rate," growled Stratton. "Oh,

no," replied the boy; "it will only take about two hours from the

time we started."

 

"But your father agreed to get us there in an hour," answered

Stratton.

 

"I know it," responded the boy, "but he knew it would take more

than two."

 

"I'll sue him for damages, by thunder!" said Stratton.

 

"Oh, there would be no use in that," chimed in Mr. Pinte, "for

you could get no satisfaction in this country."

 

"But I shall lose more than a hundred dollars by being two hours

instead of one," said Stratton.

 

"They care nothing about that; all they care for is your eighty

francs," remarked Pinte.

 

"But they have lied and swindled me," replied Stratton.

 

"Oh, you must not mind that; it is the custom of the country."

 

The party arrived in Brussels precisely two hours and a half from

the time they left the farmer's house. Of course it was too late

for the afternoon performance, and hundreds of people had been

turned away disappointed.

 

 

 

CHAPTER XIV. IN ENGLAND AGAIN.

 

EGYPTIAN HALL AND THE ZOOLOGICAL GARDENS--THE SPECIAL

TRAIN--OXFORD--STRATFORD-ON-AVON--GUY OF WARWICK RELICS--PURCHASE

OF THE "HAPPY FAMILY"--RETURN TO AMERICA.

 

In London the General again opened his levees in Egyptian Hall,

with increased success. His unbounded popularity on the

Continent, and his receptions by King Louis Philippe, of France,

and King Leopold, of Belgium, had added greatly to his prestige

and fame. Those who had seen him when he was in London months

before came to see him again, and new visitors crowded by

thousands to the General's levees.

 

Besides giving these daily entertainments, the General appeared

occasionally for an hour, during the intermissions, at some place

in the suburbs; and for a long time he appeared every day at the

Surrey Zoological Gardens, under the direction of the proprietor,

Mr. W. Tyler. This place subsequently became celebrated for its

great music hall, in which Spurgeon, the sensational preacher,

first attained his notoriety. The place was always crowded, and

when the General had gone through with his performances on the

little stage, in order that all might see him, he was put into a

balloon, which, secured by ropes, was then passed around the

ground, just above the people's heads. Some forty men managed the

ropes and prevented the balloon from rising; but, one day, a

sudden gust of wind took the balloon fairly out of the hands of

half the men who had hold of the ropes, while others were lifted

from the ground, and had not an alarm been instantly given, which

called at least two hundred to the rescue, the little General

would have been lost.

 

In October Barnum made a flying visit to America, remaining long

enough to renew the lease of the Museum building, and to attend

to various other business matters. When he returned he was

accompanied by his wife and daughters. They took a furnished

house, which, during all their three months' residence, was the

scene of constant hospitality, all the distinguished people in

London being entertained there.

 

When the engagement at Egyptian Hall expired they made an

extensive tour through England and Scotland, going as far north

as Aberdeen. The General's Scotch costumes, his national dances

and the "bit of dialect" which he had acquired had long been a

feature of the performance and was especially admired in

Scotland. The party travelled much of the time in Barnum's own

carriage, the General's carriage, ponies and other properties

being conveyed in a huge van. They found this way of travelling

more comfortable than the other, besides enabling them to visit

out of the way places, where often the most successful

exhibitions were given.

 

There was one occasion when their carriage broke down, and, as

they had advertised a performance in Rugby that evening, they

decided to take the cars; but on arriving at the station they

found the last train gone. Barnum immediately looked up the

superintendent and told him that they must have an extra train

for Rugby, without an instant's delay.

 

"Extra train?" said he, with surprise and a half-sneer, "extra

train? why you can't have an extra train to Rugby for less than

sixty pounds."

 

"Is that all? well, get up your train immediately, and here are

your sixty pounds. What in the world are sixty pounds to me, when

I wish to go to Rugby, or elsewhere, in a hurry."

 

The astonished superintendent took the money, bustled about, and

the train was soon ready. He was greatly puzzled to know what

distinguished person--he thought he must be dealing with some

prince, or, at least, a duke--was willing to give so much money

to save a few hours of time, and he hesitatingly asked whom he

had the honor of serving.

 

"General Tom Thumb."

 

The performance at Rugby netted L160, which not only covered

expenses but left a handsome margin.

 

When they were in Oxford, a dozen or more of the students came to

the conclusion that, as the General was a little fellow, the

admission fee to his entertainments should be paid in the

smallest kind of money. They accordingly provided themselves with

farthings, and as each man entered, instead of handing in a

shilling for his ticket, he laid down forty-eight farthings. The

counting of these small coins was a great annoyance to Mr.

Stratton, the General's father, who was ticket-seller, and after

counting two or three handfuls, vexed at the delay which was

preventing a crowd of ladies and gentlemen from buying tickets,

Mr. Stratton lost his temper, and cried out:

 

"Blast your quarter-pennies! I am not going to count them! you

chaps who haven't bigger money can chuck your copper into my hat

and walk in."

 

Mr. Stratton was a genuine Yankee, and thoroughly conversant with

the Yankee vernacular which he used freely. In exhibiting the

General, Barnum often said to visitors that Tom Thumb's parents,

and the rest of the family, were persons of the ordinary size,

and that the gentleman who presided in the ticket-office was the

General's father. This made poor Stratton an object of no little

curiosity, and he was pestered with all sorts of questions; on

one occasion an old dowager said to him:

 

"Are you really the father of General Tom Thumb?"

 

"Wa'al," replied Stratton, "I have to support him!"

 

This evasive answer is common enough in New England, but the

literal dowager had her doubts, and promptly rejoined:

 

"I rather think he supports you!"

 

Although Barnum was in Europe on business, he made the most of

his opportunities for sight-seeing, and in his few leisure hours

managed to visit nearly every place of interest both in England

and on the continent.

 

While in Birmingham, with his friend Albert Smith, then author

and afterwards a successful showman, he visited

Stratford-on-Avon, where lived and wrote the greatest of English

poets--Shakespeare.

 

While breakfasting at the Red House Inn, at Stratford, they

called for a guide-book of the town, and to Barnum's great

delight the volume proved to be Washington Irving's

"Sketch-book." His pleasure was even more increased when he

discovered, on reading the vivid and picturesque description of

Stratford, that Irving had stopped at the very same hotel where

they were awaiting breakfast.

 

After visiting the house as well as the church where is the tomb

of the poet, they took a post-chaise for Warwick Castle, fourteen

miles away.

 

The Earl of Warwick and his family being absent, the visitors

were shown through the apartments. One guide took them over the

Castle, another escorted them to the top of "Guy's Tower,"

another showed them the famous Warwick Vase. They were

congratulating themselves on not being called upon for any more

tips, when the old porter at the lodge informed them that for a

consideration he could show them more interesting things

connected with the Castle than any they had yet seen. They tossed

him his fee, and he produced what purported to be Guy of

Warwick's sword, shield, helmet, breastplate, walking-staff, etc.

The armor must have weighed two hundred pounds and the sword

alone one hundred. Barnum listened, and gazed in silence at the

horse-armor, large enough for an elephant, and a pot called

"Guy's porridge-pot," which could have held seventy gallons, but

when the old man produced the ribs of a mastodon which he

declared had belonged to a huge dun cow, which had done much

injury to many persons before being slain by the dauntless Guy,

he drew a long breath, and feelingly congratulated the old porter

on his ability to concentrate more lies than anyone had ever

before heard in so small a compass.

 

"I suppose," said Barnum, "that you have told these marvellous

tales so often that you almost believe them yourself."

 

"Almost," answered the old man, with a broad grin.

 

"Come now, old fellow," continued Barnum,  "what will you take

for the entire lot of these old traps? I want them for my Museum

in America."

 

"No money would buy these priceless relics of a bygone age,"

replied the porter, leering.

 

"Never mind," exclaimed the showman; "I'll have them duplicated

for my Museum, so that Americans can see them without coming

here, and in that way I'll burst up your old show."

 

The porter was paralyzed with astonishment at this threat, and

Albert Smith was convulsed with laughter. He afterwards told

Barnum that he first derived his idea of becoming a showman from

this day at Warwick, and Barnum's talk about his doings and

adventures in the business.

 

They visited that same day Kenilworth and Coventry, in which

latter place Barnum discovered the exhibition known as the "Happy

Family," about two hundred birds and animals of opposite natures,

dwelling in one cage in perfect harmony. He was so delighted with

it that he bought it on the spot, and hired the manager to

accompany the exhibition to New York, where it became a famous

feature of the Museum.

 

Albert Smith afterwards published a chapter in Bentley's

Magazine, entitled "A Day with Barnum," in which he said they

accomplished business with such rapidity that, when he attempted

to write out the accounts of the day, he found the whole thing so

confused in his brain that he came near locating "Peeping Tom" in

the house of Shakespeare, while Guy of Warwick WOULD stick his

head above the ruins of Kenilworth, and the Warwick Vase appeared

in Coventry.

 

With the exception of two brief trips to America, Barnum had been

abroad with General Tom Thumb three years. The season had been

one of unbroken pleasure and profit. They had visited nearly

every city and town in France, Belgium, England, Scotland, and

the cities of Belfast and Dublin in Ireland. After this truly

triumphant tour, they set sail in February, 1847, for New York.

 

Barnum was a man who never could bear to see injustice done. On

one of his business trips to America he took passage on a Cunard

steamer, commanded by a Captain Judkins. Among the passengers was

the celebrated preacher, Robert Baird. One Sunday after dinner

Barnum asked Mr. Baird if he would be willing to preach to the

passengers in the forward cabin. The captain had read the

Episcopal service that morning, but it was done as a mere matter

of form, without the slightest suggestion of devotion in its

observance.

 

Mr. Baird consented to preach, and Barnum, after mentioning it to

the other passengers, who were delighted at the prospect, went to

the captain and said: "Captain, the passengers desire to have Dr.

Baird conduct a religious service in the forward cabin. I suppose

there is no objection?" The rest of the story may as well be told

in Barnum's own words. To his inquiry, the captain replied

gruffly:

 

"Decidedly there is, and it will not be permitted."

 

"Why not?"

 

"It is against the rules of the ship."

 

"What! to have religious services on board?"

 

"There have been religious services once to-day, and that is

enough. If the passengers do not think that is good enough, let

them go without," was the captain's hasty and austere reply.

 

"Captain," Barnum replied, "do you pretend to say you will not

allow a respectable and well-known clergyman to offer a prayer

and hold religious services on board your ship at the request of

your passengers?"

 

"That, sir, is exactly what I say. So, now, let me hear no more

about it."

 

By this time a dozen passengers were crowding around his door,

and expressing their surprise at his conduct. Barnum was

indignant, and used sharp language.

 

"Well," said he, "this is the most contemptible thing I ever

heard of on the part of the owners of a public passenger ship.

Their meanness ought to be published far and wide."

 

"You had better 'shut up,' " said Captain Judkins, with great

sternness.

 

"I will not 'shut up,' " he replied; "for this thing is perfectly

outrageous. In that out-of-the-way forward cabin you allow, on

week-days, gambling, swearing, smoking and singing till late at

night; and yet on Sunday you have the impudence to deny the

privilege of a prayer-meeting, conducted by a gray-haired and

respected minister of the gospel. It is simply infamous!"

 

Captain Judkins turned red in the face; and, no doubt feeling

that he was "monarch of all he surveyed," exclaimed in a loud

voice:

 

"If you repeat such language, I will put you in irons."

 

"Do it, if you dare," said Barnum, feeling his indignation rising

rapidly. "I dare and defy you to put your finger on me. I would

like to sail into New York harbor in handcuffs, on board a

British ship, for the terrible crime of asking that religious

worship may be permitted on board. So you may try it as soon as

you please; and, when we get to New York, I'll show you a touch

of Yankee ideas of religious intolerance."

 

Turning on his heel, he walked over to Mr. Baird and told him how

matters stood, adding, with a laugh:

 

"Doctor, it may be dangerous for you to tell of this incident

when you get on shore; for it would be a pretty strong draught

upon the credulity of many of my countrymen if they were told

that my zeal to hear an orthodox minister preach was so great

that it came near getting me into solitary confinement. But I am

not prejudiced, and I like fair play."

 

The old doctor replied: "Well, you have not lost much; and, if

the rules of this ship are so stringent I suppose we must

submit."

 

The captain afterwards came to Barnum and apologized for the rude

manner in which he had carried out the rules of the ship. Barnum

was not at the time a teetotaler, and the two men "washed down"

their differences in a bottle of champagne, and were excellent

friends from that moment.

 

 

 

CHAPTER XV. AT HOME.

 

PARTNERSHIP WITH TOM THUMB--VISIT TO CUBA--IRANISTAN, HIS FAMOUS

PALACE AT BRIDGEPORT--AGRICULTURAL EXPERIENCES--BARNUM'S

GAME-KEEPER AND THE GREAT GAME DINNER--FRANK LESLIE.

 

One of Barnum's principal objects in returning to America at this

time was to insure the permanence of his "American Museum." He

had a lease of the property, which had yet three years to run.

But he wanted to make sure of it after that term had expired. Mr.

Olmsted, the former owner, was now dead, and It was not certain

that the new proprietor would renew the lease. If not, another

home for the great show must be secured, and Barnum decided that

in that event he would buy land on Broadway and erect a building

to suit him. The new owner of the old property was persuaded,

however, to renew the lease for a term of twenty-five years. The

building covered an area of fifty-six by one hundred feet and was

four stories high. Barnum agreed to pay for it a rental of

$10,000 a year in addition to the taxes and all assessments.

Then, as the place was not large enough for his purposes, he

rented and connected with it the upper floors of several adjacent

buildings. The Museum was at this time enormously prosperous, and

was thronged with visitors from morning to late at night.

 

Tom Thumb's European reputation was of course a great

advertisement, and it was "worked for all it was worth." He

appeared at the Museum daily for four weeks, and drew such crowds

of visitors as had never been seen there before. He afterwards

spent a month in Bridgeport with his kindred. To prevent being

annoyed by the curious, who would be sure to throng the houses of

his relatives, he exhibited two days at Bridgeport, and the

receipts, amounting to several hundred dollars, were presented to

the Bridgeport Charitable Society.

 

Barnum's contract with Tom Thumb had expired on January 1, 1845,

while they were in England, and they had then formed a

partnership, dividing equally between them the profits of their

enterprise; excepting during the first four weeks of their return

to New York, during which time the General waived his partnership

rights and exhibited himself for a salary of $50 a week. Mr.

Stratton, Tom Thumb's father, was now a rich man, and he settled

a handsome fortune upon his tiny son.

 

Soon a tour of America was arranged, the party consisting of Mr.

Barnum and Tom Thumb and his parents. They began at Washington,

in April, 1847, where they visited President and Mrs. Polk at the

White House. Thence they went to Richmond, to Baltimore, and to

Philadelphia, where they took in  $5,594.91 in twelve days. Next

they visited Boston and Lowell; Providence, where they received

nearly $1,000 in a day; New Bedford, Fall River, Salem,

Worcester, Springfield, Albany, Troy, Niagara Falls, Buffalo and

various other places. During the whole year's tour their receipts

averaged from $400 to $500 per day, and their expenses only from

$25 to $30. On their way back to New York they stopped at all

large towns along the Hudson river, and then went to New Haven,

Hartford, Portland and some other New England cities.

 

Absence did not make them forgotten in New York, however, but

only increased public interest in them. When he returned to his

Museum Mr. Barnum found that he himself had come to be regarded

as one of its chief curiosities. "If I showed myself about the

Museum, or wherever else I was known, I found eyes peering and

fingers pointing at me, and could frequently overhear the remark,

'There's Barnum.' On one occasion, soon after my return, I was

sitting in the ticket-office, reading a newspaper. A man came and

purchased a ticket of admission. 'Is Mr. Barnum in the Museum?'

he asked. The ticket-seller, pointing to me, answered, 'This is

Mr. Barnum.' Supposing the gentleman had business with me, I

looked up from the paper. 'Is this Mr. Barnum?' he asked. 'It

is,' I replied. He stared at me for a moment, and then, throwing

down his ticket, exclaimed, 'It's all right; I have got the worth

of my money;' and away he went, without going into the Museum at

all."

 

In the fall of 1847 they went South, visiting and giving

exhibitions at Charleston, Columbia, Augusta, Savannah,

Milledgeville, Macon, Columbus, Montgomery, Mobile and New

Orleans. At the last-named place they spent three weeks,

including the Christmas holidays. After New Year's they went to

Cuba, and were received at Havana by the Captain-General and the

aristocracy of the city. For a month they gave exhibitions in

Havana and Matanzas with great success. The only serious drawback

was the hotels, which they did not find good; indeed, it was

difficult for them to get enough to eat. The Washington House, at

Havana, where they lived for some time, was characterized by Mr.

Barnum as "first-rate bad!"

 

From Cuba they returned to New Orleans, and thence to New York by

way of the Mississippi river, St. Louis, Louisville, Cincinnati

and Pittsburg. And then, in May, 1848, it was agreed that Barnum

should travel no more with the little General. "I had," says

Barnum, "competent agents who could exhibit him without my

personal assistance, and I preferred to relinquish a portion of

the profits rather than continue to be a travelling showman. I

had now been a straggler from home most of the time for thirteen

years, and I cannot describe the feelings of gratitude with which

I reflected that, having by the most arduous toil and

deprivations succeeded in securing a satisfactory competence, I

should henceforth spend my days in the bosom of my family."

 

Barnum had selected the city of Bridgeport, Conn., for his home,

and thither he now repaired. He wanted to be near New York, and

he considered the northern shore of Long Island Sound the most

beautiful country he had ever seen. Bridgeport was about the

right distance from New York, and was well situated. It was also

an enterprising place, with the promise of a prosperous future.

Some three or four years before this time Barnum had purchased

seventeen acres of land at the western side of the city, and for

two years had been building a palace upon it, the famous

"Iranistan," which was now nearly ready for him to occupy.

 

In telling how he came to erect this gorgeous and eccentric home,

Barnum once said that in visiting Brighton, England, he had been

greatly pleased with the pavilion built there by George IV. It

was at that time the only specimen of Oriental architecture in

England, and the style had not been introduced into America. "I

concluded to adopt it, and engaged a London architect to furnish

me a set of drawings after the general plan of the pavilion,

differing sufficiently to be adapted to the spot of ground

selected for my homestead. On my second return visit to the

United States, I brought these drawings with me and engaged a

competent architect and builder, giving him instructions to

proceed with the work, not 'by the job' but 'by the day,' and to

spare neither time nor expense in erecting a comfortable,

convenient, and tasteful residence. The work was thus begun and

continued while I was still abroad, and during the time when I

was making my tour with General Tom Thumb through the United

States and Cuba. Elegant and appropriate furniture was made

expressly for every room in the house. I erected expensive

water-works to supply the premises. The stables, conservatories

and out-buildings were perfect in their kind. There was a

profusion of trees set out on the grounds. The whole was built

and established literally 'regardless of expense,' for I had no

desire even to ascertain the entire cost."

 

Into this splendid place he moved on November 14, 1848, nearly a

thousand fellow-citizens of Bridgeport, rich and poor alike,

participating in the "housewarming" as his guests. The estate was

called, in reference to its Oriental appearance, Iranistan, which

being interpreted means "a Persian home." This name was the

subject of many a joke, as the place itself was of much

wonderment and admiration.

 

The next two years were spent by Mr. Barnum chiefly at home with

his family, though he paid frequent visits to his various places

of business and amusement; business for him, amusement for the

world. He had for several years a fine Museum in Baltimore, which

was afterward the property of John E. Owens, the actor. In 1849

he also opened a Museum in Philadelphia, at the corner of

Chestnut and Seventh streets. He spent some time in Philadelphia,

until the Museum was profitably established, and then turned it

over to a manager. Two years later he sold it for a good price.

While he was running it, however, his old rival, Peale, conducted

a strong opposition show in Masonic Hall, near by. The

competition between them proved disastrous to Peale, who failed

and was sold out by the sheriff. Barnum and his friend, Moses

Kimball, purchased most of his effects and divided them between

Barnum's American Museum in New York and Kimball's Museum in

Boston.

 

Barnum took an active interest in the affairs of Bridgeport and

of the State of Connecticut. In 1848, soon after settling in

Iranistan, he was elected President of the Fairfield County

Agricultural Society. He was not much of a practical farmer,

although he had bought a hundred or more acres of farm land near

his residence and felt a deep interest in agricultural affairs.

He had imported a lot of choice livestock, which he had at

Iranistan, and had gone pretty deeply into fancy poultry raising.

So he was considered eligible to the office of President of the

Agricultural Society.

 

In 1849 the Society insisted that he should deliver the annual

address. "I begged to be excused on the ground of incompetency,"

he said, "but my excuses were of no avail, and as I could not

instruct my auditors in farming, I gave them the benefit of

several mistakes which I had committed. Among other things, I

told them that in the fall of 1848 my head-gardener reported that

I had fifty bushels of potatoes to spare. I thereupon directed

him to barrel them up and ship them to New York for sale. He did

so, and received two dollars per barrel, or about sixty-seven

cents per bushel. But, unfortunately, after the potatoes had been

shipped, I found that my gardener had selected all the largest

for market, and left my family nothing but 'small potatoes' to

live on during the winter. But the worst was still to come. My

potatoes were all gone before March, and I was obliged to buy,

during the spring, over fifty bushels of potatoes, at $1.25 per

bushel! I also related my first experiment in the arboricultural

line, when I cut from two thrifty rows of young cherry-trees any

quantity of what I supposed to be 'suckers,' or 'sprouts,' and

was thereafter informed by my gardener that I had cut off all his

grafts!"

 

A friend of Barnum's, Mr. J. D. Johnson, had a fine place near

Iranistan; and Barnum owned a couple of acres just beyond and

adjoining his property. This plot Barnum presently converted into

a deer park, stocking it with fine animals from the Rocky

Mountains. From its location, however, everybody supposed it to

be a part of Johnson's estate, and to confirm this notion--in a

waggish spirit--a member of Johnson's family put up in the park a

conspicuous sign, which every passer-by on the street could read:

 

"All persons are forbid trespassing on these grounds, or

disturbing the deer.

                   --J. D. JOHNSON."

 

Barnum "acknowledged the corn," and was much pleased with the

joke. Johnson was delighted, and bragged considerably of having

got ahead of Barnum, and the sign remained undisturbed for

several days. It happened, at length, that a party of friends

came to visit him from New York, arriving in the evening. Johnson

told them that he had got a capital joke on Barnum; he would not

explain, but said they should see it for themselves the next

morning. Bright and early he led them into the street, and, after

conducting them a proper distance, wheeled them around in front

of the sign. To his dismay he discovered that I had added

directly under his name the words "Game-keeper to P. T. Barnum."

 

Thereafter Mr. Johnson was known among his friends and

acquaintances as "Barnum's gamekeeper."

 

Johnson had his revenge, however. Some time afterward Barnum

became president of the Pequonnock Bank, and gave each year a

grand dinner at Iranistan to the directors. In preparing for

these banquets he would send to the West for some boxes of

prairie chickens and other choice game. So, one day, Johnson saw

a big case at the railroad station, addressed to Barnum, and

marked "Game."

 

"See here," said he to the station-master, "I am Mr. Barnum's

game-keeper, and I'll take charge of that!"

 

And he did so, taking it to his house, and then notifying Barnum

that it could only be redeemed at cost of a new hat. He knew very

well that Barnum would rather give him a dozen hats than lose the

box; and he added that unless he got the hat very soon he would

give a game dinner on his own account! Barnum sent an order for

the hat in a hurry, and recovered his game, enjoying the whole

joke as much as Johnson did.

 

In 1848, Mr. Frank Leslie, afterward famous as a publisher, came

to America, bringing letters of introduction to Barnum from

friends in England, and Barnum gave him a start in business by

employing him to prepare an elaborate illustrated catalogue of

the American Museum. This he did in an admirable manner, and

hundreds of thousands of copies of it were distributed throughout