This episode of the Becoming Barnum podcast discusses an uncomfortable truth about showing human beings as curiosities. A letter from P.T. Barnum in November 1845 concerns the exhibition of people with genetic abnormalities. To be sure, this topic is complex. [Read more…] about PT Barnum & Showing Human Beings As Curiosities
On this week’s episode of the Becoming Barnum podcast, the connection between P. T. Barnum and a lawyer-turned-artist, author, and showman George Catlin is explored. While in Europe, Barnum reached out, looking for new and profitable opportunities, especially since the entourage had made so little money performing in French towns, Paris being the exception.
This proposal, in particular, which Barnum described to Catlin on November 8, 1845, comes across like a middle-of-the-night brainstorm that should never have made it to pen and paper. The idea was abhorrent, and further investigation reveals that this wasn’t a novel and untested idea for Barnum in 1845. Far worse, it points to a disturbing piece of history, exposing a profound injustice that should not be swept out of sight. [Read more…] about PT Barnum, George Catlin & Indigenous Exploitation
This week on the Becoming Barnum podcast, we have the opportunity to learn about an employee in a less glorified, though still significant, position: the ticket-taker and bookkeeper for PT Barnum’s museum, one Frances Clarkson.
The name “Frances” is mentioned in earlier letters about a person leaving the museum, an incident that seemed to upset Barnum. Yet those letters gave no clue as to the role or identity of that individual. [Read more…] about PT Barnum Podcast: Frances Clarkson, Barnum Museum Ticket Taker
Fall is apple season and the title phrase of this week’s Becoming Barnum podcast — plucked from a P. T. Barnum letter — seemed ripe for picking.
Writing from France to his American Museum manager Fordyce Hitchcock on September 12th, 1845, Barnum commented, “No, my dear H, the Museum, like Tom Thumb (2 years ago), is a tree found, tried & shook. There is nothing now to do but pick up the fruit.” [Read more…] about PT Barnum Podcast: A Tree Found, Tried & Shook
This episode of the Becoming Barnum podcast explores circus impresario P.T. Barnum’s relationship with his family. A collection of letters written in 1845-46 during a trip to Europe include relatively few to his wife Charity Hallett Barnum.
Although it’s clear that Barnum missed his wife and their young children, the correspondence suggests a marital relationship that was often out of sync, compounded by Charity’s chronic health problems. [Read more…] about Becoming Barnum: Read & Reflect, Then Do as You Please
Albany’s first museum was started in 1798 in a building on the corner of Green and Beaver streets. In the summer of 1808, two royal tigers were housed at the Thespian Hotel, a circus pitched its tent, and Ralph Letton started the Albany Museum.
The Albany Museum was located in the Old City Hall (Stadt Huys) on the northeastern corner of South Market Street and Hudson Avenue (today’s Broadway and Hudson Avenue). The Old City Hall was built in 1741 and was the site of the 1754 Albany Congress meeting where Benjamin Franklin first proposed the Albany Plan, a plan of union of the colonies that later was a basis for the U.S. Constitution. On its steps, the Declaration of Independence was first read to Albany on July 19, 1776 by the order of the Provincial Congress. With the construction of the new building on Eagle Street in 1808, the Old City Hall was converted into the Albany Museum. [Read more…] about The Albany Museum: Curiosities, Circus & Performing Arts
Equestrian artist Philip Astley was a pioneering entertainment entrepreneur. His demonstrations of trick horse-riding at London’s Royal Amphitheatre in 1768 constitute the origins of modern circus.
Astley performed his routine in a circular arena which would subsequently be referred to as the ring. He interspersed his displays with a variety of additional acts. Both in Europe and America other producers copied and expanded his new style of entertainment. [Read more…] about Circus Artists and the Flying Trapeze Metaphor
The New York City history blog The Bowery Boys has a great post on Barnum’s American Museum that includes a podcast, lots of images and a link to The City University of New York website devoted to Barnum’s, The Lost Museum. Both sites are worth checking out. [Read more…] about P.T. Barnum’s American Museum On The Web