American showman P.T. Barnum.

P.T. Barnum

(1810 - 1891)

Having started a fruit-and-confectionary store and founded the weekly Herald of Freedom, P.T. Barnum at the age of twenty-five in 1835 purchased for $1,000 a slave named Joice Heth, whom he advertised for exhibition as the 161-year-old former nurse of George Washington. Between 1842 and 1868, he ran the American Museum, attracting 38 million visitors to his various marvels, among them the twenty-five-inch-tall Gen. Tom Thumb and the “Siamese twins” Chang and Eng.

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Voices In Time

1835 | Philadelphia

Setting His Stage

P.T. Barnum discovers there’s no business like show business.More


On April 2, 1877, at London’s Royal Aquarium, a fourteen-year-old girl with the stage name Zazel became the first female to perform the human-cannonball trick in public. She later worked for P. T. Barnum, who, in response to the “Dangerous Performances Bill” under consideration by British Parliament, wrote defensively to the New York Times in 1880 that he paid Zazel $250 a day—“I should never have invested this large sum in any feature, however attractive, had I not known it was placed beyond the chance of accident.”

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