SECOND MARRIAGE--THE KING OF HAWAII--ELECTED MAYOR OF
BRIDGEPORT--SUCCESSFUL TOUR OF THE HIPPODROME--BARNUM'S RETIREMENT FROM OFFICE.
In the autumn of 1874 Mr. Barnum married the daughter of his
old English friend, John Fish. The wedding took place in the Church of the Divine
Paternity, Fifth Avenue, New York, and after a brief bridal tour, they returned to
In December, 1874, David Kalakau, King of the Sandwich
Islands, visited New York, and with his suite was invited to attend the Hippodrome.
During the performance Barnum sat beside the King, who kept
up a pleasant conversation with him for two hours. The King expressed himself as highly
delighted with the entertainment, and said he was always fond of horses and racing.
Some twelve thousand spectators were present, and before the
exhibition was finished they began to call loudly "The King! The King!"
Turning to his host, Kalakau inquired the meaning of their
excitement. "Your Majesty," replied Barnum, "this vast audience wishes to
give you an ovation. The building is so large that they cannot distinguish your Majesty
from every part of the house, and are anxious that you should ride around the circle in
order that they may greet you."
At the moment, Barnum's open barouche was driven into the
circle and approached the royal box.
"No doubt your Majesty would greatly gratify my
countrymen, if you would kindly step into this carriage and ride around the circle."
The King immediately arose, and amidst tremendous cheering,
stepped into the carriage. Barnum took a seat by his side, and the King smilingly
remarked, "We are all actors."
The audience rose to their feet, cheered and waved their
handkerchiefs, as the King rode around the circle, raising his hat and bowing. The
excitement was simply tremendous.
In March, 1875, the nomination for Mayor of Bridgeport was
offered Barnum, but he refused it, until assured that the nomination was intended as a
compliment, and that both parties would sustain it. Politically the city is largely
Democratic, but Barnum led the Republican ticket, and was easily elected.
His Inaugural address before the new Common Council, April
12, is given below.
GENTLEMEN OF THE COMMON COUNCIL:--Intrusted as we are, by the
votes of our fellow-citizens, with the care and management of their interests, it behooves
us to endeavor to merit the confidence reposed in us. We are sometimes called the
"fathers of the city." Certainly our duty is, and our pleasure should be, to
administer the municipal government as a good and wise father conducts his household,
caring for all, partial to none. No personal feelings should dictate our official acts. We
are not placed here to gratify personal or party resentment, nor to extend personal or
party favor in any manner that may in the remotest degree conflict with the best interests
of our city. As citizens we enjoy a great common interest. Each individual is a member of
the body corporate, and no member can be unduly favored or unjustly oppressed without
injury to the entire community. No person or party can afford to be dishonest. Honesty is
always the best policy, for "with what measure ye mete it shall be measured to you
A large portion of this honorable body are now serving
officially for the first time, and therefore may not be fully acquainted with the details
of its workings; but we are all acquainted with the great principles of Justice and Right.
If we fail to work according to these eternal principles, we betray the confidence placed
in us, and this our year of administration will be remembered with disapprobation and
Let us bring to our duties careful judgment and comprehensive
views with regard to expenditure, so that we may be neither parsimonious nor extravagant,
but, like a prudent householder, ever careful that expenses shall be less than the income.
Our city is peculiarly adapted for commercial purposes, it
should be our care, therefore, to adopt such measures as tend to promote trade,
manufactures and commerce. Its delightful and healthy locality makes it also a desirable
place of residence. We should strive to enhance its natural beauty, to improve our streets
and, with moderate expenditure, to embellish our parks, by which means we shall attract
refined and wealthy residents.
As conservators of the public peace and morals it is our duty
to prevent, so far as possible, acts which disturb one or the other, and to enforce the
laws in an impartial and parental spirit.
The last report of our Chief of Police says: " 'Tis a
sad and painful duty, yet candor compels us to state that at least ninety per cent. of the
causes of all the arrests during the year are directly traceable to the immoderate use of
intoxicating liquors, not to speak of the poverty and misery it has caused families which
almost daily come under our observation."
In the town of Vineland, N. J., where no intoxicating drinks
are sold, the overseer of the poor stated in his annual report that in a population of
10,000 there was but one indictment in six months, and that the entire police expenses
were but seventy-five dollars per year--the sum paid to him--and the poor expenses a mere
trifle. He further says: "We practically have no debt, and our taxes are only one per
cent. on the valuation. "Similar results are reported in the town of Greeley,
Colorado, where no liquors are sold.
Our laws license the sale of intoxicating drinks under
certain restrictions on week days, but no man can claim the right under such license to
cause mobs, riots, bloodshed or murder. Hence no man has, or can have, any right by
license or otherwise to dispense liquors to intoxicated persons, nor to furnish sufficient
liquor to cause intoxication. Our duty is therefore to see that the police aid in
regulating to the extent of their legal power a traffic which our laws do not wholly
prohibit. Spirituous liquors of the present day are so much adulterated and doubly
poisoned that their use fires the brain and drives their victims to madness, violence and
murder. The money annually expended for intoxicating drinks, and the cost of their evil
results in Bridgeport, or any other American city where liquor selling is licensed, would
pay the entire expenses of the city (if liquors were not drank), including the public
schools, give a good suit of clothes to every poor person of both sexes, a barrel of flour
to every poor family living within its municipal boundaries, and leave a handsome surplus
on hand. Our enormous expenses for the trial and punishment of criminals, as well as for
the support of the poor, are mainly caused by this traffic. Surely, then, it is our duty
to do all we can, legally, to limit and mitigate its evil. As no person ever became a
drunkard who did not sincerely regret that he or she ever tasted intoxicating drinks, it
is a work of mercy, as well as justice, to do all in our power to lessen this leprous
hindrance to happiness. We should strive to exterminate gambling, prostitution and other
crimes which have not yet attained to the dignity of a "license."
The public health demands that we should pay attention to
necessary drainage, and prevent the sale of adulterated food. The invigorating breezes
from Long Island Sound, and the absence of miasmatic marshes serve to make ours one of the
most healthy cities in America. Scientific experiments made daily during the whole of last
year have established the fact that our atmosphere is impregnated with OZONE, or
concentrated oxygen, to an extent not hitherto discovered on this continent. No city of
the same size in America is so extensively known throughout our own land and in Europe as
Bridgeport. It should be our pleasure to strengthen all natural advantages which we
possess as a city by maintaining a government of corresponding excellence.
It is painful to the industrious and moral portions of our
people to see so many loungers about the streets, and such a multitude whose highest
aspirations seem to be to waste their time in idleness, or at base ball, billiards, etc.
No person needs to be unemployed who is not over fastidious
about the kind of occupation. There are too many soft hands (and heads) waiting for light
work and heavy pay. Better work for half a loaf than beg or steal a whole one. Mother
earth is always near by, and ready to respond to reasonable drafts on her never-failing
treasury. A patch of potatoes raised "on shares" is preferable to a poulticed
pate earned in a whisky scrimmage. Some modern Micawbers stand with folded hands waiting
for the panic to pass, as the foolish man waited for the river to run dry and allow him to
The soil is the foundation of American prosperity. When
multitudes of our consumers become producers; when fashion teaches economy, instead of
expending for a gaudy dress what would comfortably clothe the family; when people learn to
walk until they can afford to ride; when the poor man ceases to spend more for tobacco
than for bread; when those who complain of panics learn that "we cannot eat our cake
and keep it," that a sieve will not hold water, that we must rely on our own
exertions and earn before we expend, then will panics cease and prosperity return. While
we should by no means unreasonably restrict healthy recreation, we should remember that
"time is money," that idleness leads to immoral habits, and that the peace,
prosperity and character of a city depend on the intelligence, integrity, industry and
frugality of its inhabitants.
Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper of July 24th, contained
a picture entitled "His Honor, P. T. Barnum, Mayor of Bridgeport, Presiding at a
Meeting of the Common Council of that City." The editor's remarks are as
follows:--"Mayor Barnum's message was a model of brevity and practical thought.
Having at the beginning of his official career declared war against the whisky dealers, he
next proceeded to open the struggle. For twenty years the saloons had been kept open on
Sundays, and it was declared impossible to close them. Mr. Barnum has all his life acted
upon the quaint French aphorism that 'nothing is so possible as the impossible.' He gave
notice that the saloons must be closed. A select committee of citizens volunteered to aid
in collecting testimony in case the sellers should disregard the proclamation, and leave
the latch-string to their back doors displayed on the outside. Although the doors were
open, the keepers refused to sell except to personal friends. The committee-men stood
opposite the saloons, and took the names of a dozen or so who were admitted. The next
morning the saloon-keepers were arrested, and when they found their 'friends' had been
subpoenaed to appear as witnesses, they pleaded guilty and immediately brought out their
pocket-books to pay the judicial 'shot.' This plan effectually broke up Sunday traffic in
liquor, thus insuring a quiet day for the citizens, and greatly accommodating the
saloon-keepers, the best portion of whom really favor a general closing on Sunday.
"By nature an organizer of men and systems, he is his
own best executive officer. No one knows so well as he how men may be best governed, and
no one can so pleasantly polish off the rough sides of mankind. Successful beyond the
usual measure as an intelligent, courteous and considerate showman, he has already proved
himself the most acceptable of Mayors."
In 1875, the Hippodrome was transported by rail throughout
the United States, going as far east as Portland, Maine, and west to Kansas City,
Missouri. Notwithstanding the depressed state of finances generally that year, the season
was a fairly profitable one.
A very painful event in connection with the show, occurred in
July. The aeronaut, Donaldson, made his customary daily ascension from the Hippodrome
grounds at Chicago, and was never heard from afterward. He took with him Mr. N. S.
Grimwood, a reporter of the Chicago Journal, whose body was found a few weeks later in
Lake Michigan. There was a terrible storm the night of the ascension and it was doubtless
then that the men perished.
About the middle of June Barnum visited Niagara Falls with
Mrs. Barnum and a party of English friends. Leaving the party at Niagara, Mr. and Mrs.
Barnum went to Akron, Ohio, where the "Travelling World's Fair" was to exhibit.
The Mayor of Akron called upon them and invited them to a concert, where, in response to
loud calls, Barnum gave a short speech; they were afterward tendered a reception and a
serenade at the hotel. The next day they were escorted to Buchtel College by the founder
of the institution, Mr. J. R. Buchtel, and the Reverend D. C. Tomlinson. The students
received Barnum enthusiastically, and he gave them one of his delightful speeches.
Returning to Buffalo, they rejoined their friends, and also
met the Hippodrome. Early in the morning of the second day of the exhibition Barnum
despatched a special train to Niagara Falls, with some hundreds of the Hippodrome Company,
to whom he wished to give the pleasure of viewing the cataract. The band which accompanied
them crossed Suspension Bridge playing "God Save the Queen," and "Yankee
Doodle," and returned to Buffalo in time for the afternoon performance. In July,
Barnum visited the Hippodrome at St Louis and Chicago, and then returned to Waldemere for
the rest of the summer.
During the autumn of 1875, under the auspices of the Redpath
Lyceum Bureau, in Boston, Mr. Barnum found time to deliver some thirty times, a lecture on
"The World and How to Live in It," going as far east as Thomaston, Maine, and
west to Leavenworth, Kansas. When the tour was finished the Bureau wrote him that "In
parting for the season please allow us to say that none of our best lecturers have
succeeded in delighting our audiences and lecture committees so well as yourself."
The National Jubilee year was celebrated by the Hippodrome
Company in a very patriotic manner. It was said, that they gave the people, a Fourth of
July celebration every day. The establishment traveled in three trains of railroad cars;
they took along a battery of cannon, and every morning fired a salute of thirteen guns.
Groups of persons costumed in the style of Continental troops, and supplemented with the
Goddess of Liberty, a live eagle and some good singers, sang patriotic songs, accompanied
with bands of music, and also with cannon placed outside the tents and fired by means of
electricity. The performance was closed by singing "America," the entire
audience rising and joining in the chorus. At night there were fireworks in which
Revolutionary scenes were brilliantly depicted. The street parade was a gorgeous feature.
It began to move when the salute was fired, and the town bells were always rung to aid the
effect of the National Jubilee.
Barnum's official term as Mayor of Bridgeport, expired April
3, 1876. Preferring to travel part of the time with his Centennial show, he refused a
renomination. The last meeting of the Common Council under his administration, met March
The New York Daily Graphic, of March 30, read:--"Mr. P.
T. Barnum, Mayor of Bridgeport, has uttered his valedictory message. The document is very
much like the man. He disapproves of the reports of the Chief of Police and Clerk of the
Police Commissioners, because they declare that liquor saloons and brothels cannot be
closed, and he even reproves the latter for his 'flippant manner' of dealing with the
subject. Barnum must have his joke or two, withal, and he can no more subsist without his
fun than could a former Mayor of this city. He ventures to allude in this solemn document
to the management of the New York and New Haven Railroad Company, as 'the good bishop and
his directors;' makes a first rate pun on the names of two citizens; and says to the
Aldermen, 'And now we have, like the Arabs, only to 'fold our tents and silently steal
away,' congratulating ourselves that this is the only stealing which has been performed by
this honorable body.' Mr. Barnum's administration in Bridgeport has been mild, but
characterized by firmness and independence. His trouble with the Jews was of short
duration, for he is most respectful toward all theologies. He has not been able to carry
out his extreme temperance views; but he has made a very good Mayor of a city, for whose
prosperity he has labored for half a lifetime."
It can safely be said that Barnum amused and instructed more
persons than any men who ever lived. In the course of his career as manager of public
entertainments, the number of his patrons was enormous. Here is his own estimate, in
1889:--"During the forty years that I have been a manager of public amusements, the
number of my patrons has been almost incredible. From a careful examination of my account
books for the different exhibitions which I have owned and controlled, I find that more
than eighty-two millions of tickets, in the aggregate, were disposed of, and numerous
exhibitions which I have had at various times are not included in this statement."
The traveling exhibitions which I managed during the six
years preceding my purchase of the New York
American Museum, in 1841, were attended by . . . . . 1,500,000 persons.
The American Museum which I managed from 1841 to 1865, when it was destroyed by fire, sold
. . . . 37,560,000 tickets.
My Broadway Museum, in 1865-6-7 and 8, sold . . . . . 3,640,000
My Philadelphia Museum, 1849, 1850 and 1851, sold . . 1,800,000
My Baltimore Museum, sold . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 900,000
My traveling Asiatic Caravan, Museum and Menagerie, in 1851-2-3 and 4, sold . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . .5,824,000
My great traveling World's Fair and Hippodrome, in 1871-2-3-4-5 and 6, sold . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . 7,920,000
Carried forward, 59,144,000
My other traveling exhibitions in America and Europe, sold .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2,200,000 tickets.
General Tom Thumb has exhibited for me 34 years, and sold . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . 20,400,000
Jenny Lind's Concerts, under my management, were attended by . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . 600,000 persons
Catharine Hayes's 60 Concerts in California, under my contract, sold . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . 120,000 tickets.
---------------- Thus, my patrons amount to the enormous number of 82,464,000
In addition to that, he delivered over seven hundred public
lectures which were attended in the aggregate by 1,300,000 persons, and wrote three books
of reminiscences. Is it to be wondered at, that such a well-known character should receive
a letter from New Zealand addressed simply, "Mr. Barnum, America"?
SOME REMINISCENCES OF P. T. BARNUM
My first recollection of Mr. Barnum goes back to the period
of my small-boyhood, when he came to the country village near my home to lecture upon
temperance. I still remember the animation of his discourse on that occasion; its humor
and its anecdote; and, with what absorbing interest the large audience sat out the hour
and a half or more which the speaker so well filled. In describing the drunkard and the
illusions which master him, he showed a keen perception of human nature; and, in every
part of his address there was no end of spirited appeal and analysis, mingled with
unbounded mirth and pathos, as the fluctuating argument went on.
A few years later, when I had grown old enough to visit the
metropolis, I made it one of the chief items of my concern to visit the old museum on the
corner of Ann Street and Broadway, where the Herald Building now stands. There was, even
then, no curiosity there more impressive than its proprietor, who was the very embodiment
of life, kindly feeling, and wholesome joy. I noticed that he was in all parts of the
museum in very rapid succession, and that nothing escaped his attention. Something in his
manner caught every eye. It was said of Daniel Webster that when he walked through the
streets of London, strangers who met him turned around for another look after he passed
by. And, I confess I yielded in Mr. Barnum's presence, as others did, to this same
sight-seeing inclination. It was not merely that he was so well known, and that his name
had gone about the world with the circuit of the sun; it was because the force that made
this thing possible worked also in other ways, and compelled you to give its owner
He had a kind word or an entertaining one for everybody who
came near him, as occasion offered, whether he was an old acquaintance or a stranger. The
occasion did not come to me, though I remember wishing it had, when I left the museum.
Probably I should have deliberately sought it if I had had more assurance and experience
at that time; and if I had known, too, that we were afterward to meet intimately, and that
for more than twenty years the latch-string of his different homes, in Bridgeport and New
York, was to respond so many dozens of times to my touch, for days and weeks of remarkable
My opportunity for knowing Mr. Barnum personally came about
when I was, as a young man, conducting, almost single-handed, a lecture course in a very
small country town in the later sixties, soon after the close of the war. The night for
Mr. Barnum to come to us was a very cold and forbidding one in February. A snow-storm, the
most formidable one of the winter, sprang up to apparently thwart the success of the
performance; and so certain was Mr. Barnum that nobody would appear to hear him, he
offered not only to release me from the contract between us, but, in addition to that,
would pay me the price I was to pay him, or more, to be permitted to return to New York.
"There is nothing on earth I hate to do so much," said he, "as to lecture
to empty benches."
I said to him: "Please trust me for the avoidance of
that. If it had been a pleasant night, instead of this howling storm, I would have filled
the hall and the yard in front to the front gate. But, as it now is, I will still
guarantee to fill the hall." And filled it was, to our equal delight.
Before entering and discovering this fact, I ventured to say
to Mr. Barnum that, owing to the general untowardness and inclemency of the night, I would
introduce him in my own way, and not in the conventional one, if he did not object.
"By all means," said he; "if you can awaken any warmth or hilarity on as
sorrowful an outlook as this, do not spare ME, or hesitate for a moment."
On arriving at our seats on the platform, I arose and said,
in some such words as these:
"LADIES AND GENTLEMEN:--You will bear me out in saying
it has been my usual custom to introduce the speaker of the evening in the briefest way
possible, and not to trouble you with any talk of my own. To-night, in view of the storm,
and while Mr. Barnum is resting for a moment, I will break my rule and tell you a story.
Some years ago a queer fellow from the country went to New York, and, among the sights and
experiences he had planned for, he went to Barnum's Museum. Mr. Greenwood was then its
manager, and noticed with some interest his patron's rusticity when he called for a
ticket. He asked Mr. Greenwood, after having paid for the card of admittance, 'Where is
Barnum?' As Mr. Barnum happened to be in sight on the entrance floor, Mr. Greenwood,
pointing to him said, There he is.'
"At once the querist started in the direction named. He
got very near Mr. Barnum and stood looking intently at him. Then he moved a little segment
in the circle he was describing, and looked again. Several times he repeated these
inspections, until he had from all points viewed the object of his curiosity and had
completed the circle, when he started for the door, Mr. Greenwood watching him all the
time. When he came near enough Mr. Greenwood said to him: 'My friend, you have not seen
the Museum yet. There is a whale downstairs and any number of things up-stairs, a moral
play soon to come off, etc.' 'I know it,' said the rustic, 'and I don't care. I've seen
Barnum, and I've got my money's worth.'
"Now, ladies and gentlemen, I have not been able to
bring to you the American Museum to-night, but I have done what is better--I have brought
to you Mr. Barnum."
Mr. Barnum then arose, not in the least nonplussed, but
greatly pleased with the packed house and the hearty cheers which greeted him:
"MR. PRESIDENT, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN:--I cannot, for the
life of me, see why you should have sent so far as New York for me to come and address
you. I am not really a lyceum lecturer at all. I am only a showman, and it seems you have
a man here who can show up the showman."
The whole story may read very weakly in print; for Mr.
Barnum's tones of voice, and gestures and mobility of feature are not communicable to cold
type. But the playfulness of this unusual preface not only stirred the audience on a
dismal night, but put the lecturer at his very best. Mr. Barnum's lecture was elastic. It
might be shaped for an hour, as it was not fully written, or it might consume more time.
On this occasion it was two hours and over. While the snow was still falling in open
sleighs, that could find no shelter, their owners, not minding this, were enjoying one of
the most delightful evenings of a whole winter--of many winters, perhaps.
And all this leads me to say that Mr. Barnum, while claiming
no part of a professional lecturer's endowment, and only made oratory a casual--if it was
sometimes a frequent--matter, was, nevertheless, admirably equipped to entertain an
audience. He could tell a story inimitably. His mimetic faculty, like Gough's, gave him
something of the quality of an actor, so that he illustrated well what he had to say. No
lectures have proved much more instructive and entertaining than Mr. Barnum's on The Art
of Money Getting; and, wherever he went to address an audience, he was sure to be called
When I met him in Bridgeport for the first time, I found he
was easily the chief man of the place. He was living then at Lindencroft, on Fairfield
Avenue. His Oriental palace, Iranistan, had burned down some years before. But, wherever
he lived, his house gave open welcome to many guests, illustrious and other; and no one
who had the good fortune to enter it, ever went away without connecting with his visit the
happiest of memories. At the table he especially shone. Wit, repartee, and even puns, when
occasion offered, coruscated over the meal, and diffused universal good humor. He had
always at hand innumerable anecdotes, which he made peculiarly his own, and which he told
with inimitable grace and unction. I am sure nobody will ever tell them again as he told
them; for, contrary to the proverb, the prosperity of the jest in his case lay,
nine-tenths, in his way of relating it--though it was never a dull one.
It mattered not what the business of the day might be, or
what obstacles or discouragements had been encountered, his cheerfulness was perennial and
unfailing. Mirth and good cheer were apparently inborn and organic with him. He could no
more suppress them than a fountain could cease bubbling up, or a river turn backward in
its course. And what men and women he has had, first and last, at his table; it is
impossible to exhaust the list or exaggerate its quality. Horace Greeley, Henry Ward
Beecher, E. H. Chapin, Bayard Taylor, Mark Twain, and the Cary sisters, were a few among
Americans; and Thackeray, Matthew Arnold, George Augustus Sala, and I know not how many
others, from abroad. No catalogue of them, but only types can be given here. He was almost
never without people who made no claim to distinction; and to them, too, he was the
genial, urbane, and entertaining host.
There was a depth of warm humanity in Mr. Barnum's inmost
texture that his public fame does not fully disclose. That children liked him has been
already often said; but those in maturer youth--young gentlemen and ladies--felt, somehow,
that he never ceased, at any age, to be their contemporary. No younger and more hopeful
thoughts were offered than his. If, as sometimes happened, when he organized, as he
persistently did, the summer picnic, inland or on the coast, there was a party made for
each direction, the struggle was to see which could capture Mr. Barnum. Which way the rest
of us might go was not of so much consequence; but the party which lost him in behalf of
the other, felt like one trying to enjoy Hamlet with the chief character missing.
At one time he actually kept a seaside caterer at a distant
beach to receive his guests of twenty or more on a place of his own, whenever, on summer
days, he could collect guests enough and give them attention. It was only necessary to
send word in the morning, and the tables were ready, and the party was conveyed to the
shady grounds from Mr. Barnum's door. Swings were not forgotten for the children, nor was
anything forgotten that conduced to rational joy. If some poor sick person was heard of in
the city, one carriage, Mr. Barnum's own, would go somewhat out of the way to stop and
leave delicacies and presents, not without a few words of sympathy and comfort. When, on
one occasion that I remember, he took two or three hundred people from several towns in
the State, and from New York, to Charles Island, a summer place midway between Bridgeport
and New Haven, the hospitality was royal, and even the steamboat tickets were mysteriously
provided for all.
I have never noticed, in the multitude of printed sketches of
Mr. Barnum's doings, any general mention of his lavish hospitality poured out for years,
but there will be hundreds who can testify to and will remember it. It was as if he had
said: "As we go along through life let us make others happy." And he did this
with no niggardliness or stint, in his private life as well as in his public career.
There is a series of stories of Mr. Barnum's humane endeavors
longer than Aesop's or Pilpays' fables combined, and it is impossible to relate them all.
But I have heard one recently that will very well illustrate the beneficial manner of his
charity, and which shows that, by native sagacity, he had early learned the scientific way
of giving--to give so that the gift may be more than its surface expression, and so as not
to produce chronic pauperism.
It seems that a poor widow, some years ago, went to Mr.
Barnum's house and told him she was very poor, and had a large family to support; she
could not, in fact, decently support them. But if Mr. Barnum would only loan her $75 with
which to buy a sewing-machine, she assured him she could do enough better to be able to
save a little, and to pay the money back. Mr. Barnum, thinking her honest and truthful,
said she might have the money on the terms suggested, but told her when she had saved the
requisite amount to bring it to him. After some struggle and privation, in due time she
did this, and laid it before him. "Well," said he, "my good woman, you have
now fairly earned your sewing-machine, and you have done one thing more, YOU HAVE LEARNED
HOW TO SAVE." And thereupon he handed back the money, and told her to put it in safe
Mr. Barnum's deep attachment for Bridgeport grew year by
year, and was most strikingly manifessed. The thousands of trees he had set out there, the
new streets he opened, and the Seaside Park, which was his creation mainly, are but a few
of the evidences of his public enterprise. The Barnum Historical and Scientific Institute,
and the Barnum Gymnasium were among his latest endowments, East Bridgeport he practically
gave existence to, and both that and the city proper are so essentially his monument that
you cannot now divorce the name of Bridgeport from that of Barnum.
Some years ago, when certain experiments were made to test
the presence of ozone in the air, and much was said of its value to health, Mr. Barnum had
the air at Bridgeport put on trial, and proved exultingly that no climate in this country
was so salubrious as that of Bridgeport, especially in the region of the Seaside Park. He
was very enthusiastic on the subject, and wrote to the local papers, to myself, and to
others about it to give the fact publicity and proper emphasis.
It may be said by some that Mr. Barnum, in many of his real
estate enterprises, made money; and so he did, by his foresight, faith, and sagacity
concerning his adopted town. He partly foresaw the future of Bridgeport, and then largely
made it. But if he had not made money--and his example was open for others to follow--he
could have had no money to give. He used to say himself, half jokingly: "I believe in
a profitable philanthropy," which illustrates one of his characteristic traits--his
absolute frankness. In fact, he was so open-hearted about himself that no account he ever
gave of his private doings was ever flattering or exalted. He wore no phylacteries, and
was as far away as possible from Pecksniffian pretensions.
In early life he suffered hardship and deprivations, and no
Mark Tapley ever met them with more composure and, on occasions, with more hilarity. But
he knew well what comfort and convenience are, and when they were at his command he
enjoyed their best gifts. He once told me that it pained him to see Mr. Greeley omit those
little cares for himself in later life to which he was surely entitled, and so, when he
was his guest for many days together, he took care to provide him with a loose morning
coat and comfortable slippers, and would not have him drop in an ordinary chair by
accident, but secured for him the easiest one.
Busy as Mr. Barnum was, he found many hours for social and
other pleasures. He did this by his systematic allotment of his time. All the machinery of
his household and his business ran with a smoothness and punctuality that would have
delighted George Washington. Everything was on time; his meals were regular--not movable
feasts. It was a wonder how he wrote so many letters, foreign and domestic; dispatched so
promptly his household and his city affairs, and his out-of-town business; met all sorts
of callers on all sorts of errands; and yet spared time for rides, a social game or talk,
and an evening out with so much frequency. Absolute idleness was positively painful to
him; occupation of some sort he must have, and to the very end he had and enjoyed it.
I can scarcely realize, even now, that he is really gone--so
clear of mind and active was he to the very last. Nor can it be easily imagined how
Bridgeport in this generation can accustom itself to so great a loss. To hear that the
average man--of distinction even--has died, seems common and credible. But the message
which announced Mr. Barnum's death came like a troubled dream from which we somehow expect
to awaken. That one so full of life as to be its very embodiment, should leave us, it will
take time to fully comprehend. If, in the world, his demise leaves a striking and peculiar
void, to a multitude of friends it comes with a tender sorrow that shall tincture
indelibly many flowing years.
Among letters that have come to hand we select the following
as the tribute of a representative American divine:
BROOKLYN, April 16th, 1891.
Dear Mr. Benton:
There was a Mr. Barnum whom all the world knew, and whose
name is familiar in every civilized land; but there was another Mr. Barnum whom we, his
intimate friends knew, and regarded with a hearty affection. That he was a most courteous
gentleman and the entertaining companion at his table and hospitable fireside, is but a
part of the truth. He had a big warm heart that bound all his friends to him with hooks of
I first met him on the platform of a grand temperance
banquet, in Tripler Hall, New York, thirty-nine years ago--where he and Mr. Beecher, and
Dr. Chapin, Hon. Horace Mann, Gen. Houston, of Texas, and myself were the speakers.
A gold medal was presented that evening to the Hon. Neal Dow,
of Maine, the father of the "Prohibitory Law." Mr. Barnum made a very vivacious
and vigorous address. In after years he delivered several addresses in behalf of Total
Abstinence in my church, and they were admirable specimens of close argument, most
pungently presented. He indulged in but few witticisms or amusing stories; for, as he well
said, "The Temperance Reform was too SERIOUS a matter for trifling jokes and
During the first year of my married life, 1853, Mr. Barnum
visited me at Trenton, N. J., and he often spoke of the happy hour he spent at our table,
and the cozy dinner my young wife prepared for him. In after years he often sat at my
table, and on two occasions he entertained me with princely hospitality at his Bridgeport
mansion. On one occasion he invited the leading clergymen of the town to meet me.
We differed very decidedly in our religious creeds, and never
fell into arguments about them. I honored his conscientious convictions, and his staunch
adherence to what he believed to be the right interpretation of God's Word. With the
scoffing scepticism of the day he had no sympathy, and utterly abhorred it. His kind heart
made him a philanthropist, and in his own peculiar way he loved to do good to his
fellow-men. Surrounded by innumerable temptations, he maintained a clean, chaste, and
honest life, and found his happiest hours in the society of wife and children, under his
own roof-tree. Had Mr. Barnum devoted himself to political life he would have made an
excellent figure; for he had keen sagacity, vast and varied observations of human nature,
and sturdy common sense. In conversation with intellectual men he always held his own with
admirable acumen and vigor of expression. He was altogether one of the most unique
characters that his native State has produced, and when his name ceases to be connected
with shows and zoological exhibitions, he will be lovingly remembered as the genial
friend, the sturdy patriot, the public-spirited and philanthropic neighbor, and the
honest, true-hearted man.
THEODORE L. CUYLER.
April 10th, 1891, was the day set for Mr. Barnum's funeral.
The morning was cold, gray, and dismal. Nature's heart, with the spring joy put back and
deadened, symboled the melancholy that had fallen upon Bridgeport. No town was ever more
transformed than was this city by one earthly event. On the public and private buildings
were hung the habiliments of woe; flags were at half mast, and, in the store windows were
to be seen innumerable portraits and likenesses of the dead citizen, surrounded by dark
drapery, or embedded in flowers.
Nor was this all. The people on the street and in the windows
of their houses seemed to be thinking of but one thing--their common loss. The pedestrian
walked slower; the voices of talkers, even among the rougher classes, were more subdued,
and in their looks was imprinted the unmistakable signal of no common or ordinary
The large church was not only filled, with its lecture-room,
a considerable time before the hour set for the services; but thousands of people crowded
the sidewalks near-by for hours, knowing they could only see the arrival and departure of
the funeral cortege. The private services at the house, "Marina," near the
Seaside Park, which preceded the public services in the church, were simple and were only
witnessed and participated in by the relatives and immediate friends.
DR. COLLYER'S TRIBUTE.
The immense congregation that filled to repletion the South
Congregational Church, while the last services were being held over the remains of Hon. P.
T. Barnum, were deeply impressed with the touching tribute which was paid the great
showman and public benefactor by his old friend, Rev. Robert Collyer, D. D.
It was a pathetic picture which met the eyes of the vast
throng. The aged preacher, with long white hair hanging loosely on his shoulders, and an
expression of keen sorrow on his kindly face, standing in a small pulpit looking down on
the remains of his old and cherished friend. The speaker's voice was strong and steady
throughout his sermon. Each word of that sad panegyric could be distinctly heard in all
parts of the edifice, but in offering up the last prayer, he broke down. The aged preacher
made a strong effort to control himself, but his voice finally became husky, and tears
streamed down his wrinkled cheeks. The audience was deeply touched by this display of
feeling, and many ladies among the congregation joined with the preacher and wept freely.
The immense gathering were unusually quiet when the aged
minister took his place in the pulpit, and his words were strangely clear, and distinct in
all portions of the church, In his feeling tribute, Dr. Collyer said:
"P. T. Barnum was a born fighter for the weak against
the strong, for the oppressed against the oppressor. The good heart, tender as it was
brave, would always spring up at the cry for help and rush on with the sword of
assistance. This was not all that made him loved, for the good cheer of his nature was
like a halo about him. He had always time to right a wrong and always time to be a good
citizen and patriot of the town, State, or republic in which he lived. His good, strong
face, was known almost as well on the other side. You may be proud of him as he was proud
of his town. He helped to strengthen and beautify it, and he did beautify it in many
places. 'It is said that the hand that grasps takes away the strength from the hand that
ought to give,' and that such a man must die without friends or blessings. He was not that
man. He was always the open and generous man, who could not do too much for Bridgeport. He
often told me of his desire to help this place, and he was not content to wait until after
death. What he has done for Bridgeport is the same as he has done for other noble works.
As my brother, Rev. Mr. Fisher, said today, there was never anything proposed in this city
that had any promise of goodness but that he was ready to pour out money and assistance
"Faith in one's self fails in the spring if one has not
faith in God also. He had that faith I know. He had worship, reverence, and love in his
heart, and as he rests from his labors we meet and linger here for a few minutes and pay
respect and honor to the memory of a great and good man. We can forget that we belong to
divers churches, and stand here as children of one faith and one baptism, honoring for the
last time one who has finished his labors here and with a crown of glory for his reward,
has joined in his eternal home the Father he served so well."
When the church services were over, the procession moved to
Mountain Cemetery, a mile or more distant, where, in a beautiful plat, long ago arranged,
with a modest monument above it, rest the remains of Mr. Barnum's first wife. Here, in a
place made beautiful by nature and improved by art, was consigned the mortal part of him
whose story we have tried, weakly, perhaps, to tell. Great masses of flowers, similar to
those displayed in the house and church, were upon the grave and about it, and the people,
who came there in large numbers, did not leave for hours after the religious service had
A book of good size might be made of the notable expressions
called forth by Mr. Barnum's death from leading journals and men known to fame. It is
impossible to give any fair sample of them here, but the London Times' leader of April 8th
may serve, perhaps, as a good specimen:
"Barnum is gone. That fine flower of Western
civilization, that arbiter elegantiarum to Demos, has lived. At the age of eighty, after a
life of restless energy and incessant publicity, the great showman has lain down to rest.
He gave, in the eyes of the seekers after amusement, a lustre to America. * * * He created
the metier of showman on a grandiose scale worthy to be professed by a man of genius. He
early realized that essential feature of a modern democracy, its readiness to be led to
what will amuse and instruct it. He knew that 'the people' means crowds, paying crowds;
that crowds love the fashion and will follow it; and that the business of the great man is
to make and control the fashion. To live on, by, and before the public was his ideal. For
their sake and his own, he loved to bring the public to see, to applaud, and to pay. His
immense activity, covering all those years, marked him out as one of the most typical and
conspicuous of Yankees. From Jenny Lind to Jumbo, no occasion of a public 'sensation' came
amiss to him.
"Phineas Taylor Barnum, born in 1810, at Bethel,
Connecticut--how serious and puritanical it sounds! --would have died with a merely local
reputation unless chance had favored him by putting in his way something to make a hit
with. He stumbled across Charles H. Stratton, the famous, the immortal 'General Tom Thumb'
of our childhood. Together they came to Europe and held 'receptions' everywhere. It was
the moment when the Queen's eldest children were in the nursery, and Barnum saw that a
fortune depended on his bringing them into friendly relations with Tom Thumb. He
succeeded; and the British public flocked to see the amusing little person who had shown
off his mature yet miniature dimensions by the side of the baby Heir Apparent. Then came
the Jenny Lind furore. Then came a publicity of a different sort. Mr. Barnum became a
legislator for his State, and even, in 1875, Mayor of Bridgeport. Why not? The man who can
organize the amusements of the people may very well be trusted to organize a few of their
laws for them.
"When, in 1889, the veteran brought over his shipload of
giants and dwarfs, chariots and waxworks, spangles and circus-riders, to entertain the
people of London, one wanted a Carlyle to come forward with a discourse upon 'the Hero as
Showman.' It was the ne plus ultra of publicity. * * * There was a three-fold show--the
things in the stalls and cages, the showman, and the world itself. And of the three
perhaps Barnum himself was the most interesting. The chariot races and the monstrosities
we can get elsewhere, but the octogenarian showman was unique. His name is a proverb
already, and a proverb it will continue."