P.T. Barnum papers

Collection Data

Phineas Taylor Barnum (1810-1891) was an American showman. He originated the traveling circus, and in 1881 with his leading rival, James Bailey, formed the Barnum and Bailey Circus. Barnum also was active in Connecticut politics and served as mayor of Bridgeport from 1867 to 1869. Collection consists of letters written by P.T. Barnum to Moses Kimball, Gordon Lester Ford and others, 1846-1890; press clippings and newspapers containing references to Barnum's "Fiji Mermaid" exhibit in the southern United States, 1843; and autograph passes, a calling card and other miscellaneous items.
Barnum, P. T. (Phineas Taylor), 1810-1891 (Creator)
Ford, Gordon Lester, 1823-1891 (Contributor)
Kimball, M. (Moses), 1799-1868 (Contributor)
Dates / Origin
Date Created: 1843 - 1890
Library locations
Manuscripts and Archives Division
Shelf locator: MssCol 215
Circus -- United States
Circus owners
Southern States -- Social life and customs
United States -- Social life and customs -- 19th century
Biographical/historical: P. T. (Phineas Taylor) Barnum (1810-1891), perhaps the greatest showman of the 19th century and the originator of the traveling circus, was born in Bethel, Connecticut in 1810. In the course of his career, he introduced to the American public the dwarf Tom Thumb, the Swedish singer Jenny Lind, and Jumbo the elephant which were only the most notable among numerous sensations. After establishing the Barnum Museum in 1842 which successfully presented a multitude of exotic exhibits and performances by man and beast, he launched the first traveling circus in 1871. Facing increasing competition in this venture, he combined with his leading rival, James Bailey, in 1881 to form the Barnum and Bailey Circus. In addition to his career as a showman, Barnum was also involved in politics. He served in the Connecticut state legislature from 1867 to 1869, was mayor of Bridgeport, and was responsible for much of the economic development of the area in that era. He authored three books: Life of P. T. Barnum (1855), Humbugs of the World (1865), and "Lion Jack", A Story (1876). Married twice, he had three daughters. He died in 1891 at his home in Bridgeport.
Content: The collection consists of correspondence, newspaper clippings, ephemera from the circus and entertainment milieu, and some biographical material on Barnum. The correspondence is outgoing, covering the years 1846 to 1890, and mostly to Moses Kimball of the Boston Museum and Gordon Lester Ford of the New York Tribune. Also included is a sketch of Barnum's career published as the introduction to the two volume biography Struggles and Triumphs (1927) by George S. Bryan; newspaper clippings, mostly from 1843, but also including later advertisements and obituary notices from 1891; and such ephemera as ticket vouchers, name tags, and menus.
Physical Description
Extent: .3 linear foot (1 box)
Type of Resource
Still image
NYPL catalog ID (B-number): b12060495
MSS Unit ID: 215
Archives collections id: archives_collections_215
Universal Unique Identifier (UUID): f4e46cf0-c36c-0137-fd70-0db49073b296
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