Phineas Taylor Barnum was born
July 5, 1810, in Bethel, CT, the first child of Philo
Barnum and his second wife, Irena Taylor. In 1826,
after his father died, Barnum began a job as a clerk
in a general store in Brooklyn, NY, where he first
became enthralled with the grandeur and excitement
of the city.
He married Charity Hallet in
1829 in Bethel, and soon became engaged in promotion,
press manipulation and show business. After touring
the country with various entertainers, he established
Barnum's American Museum in the center of old New
York. It became one of the most spectacular buildings
in the city.
Barnum's first major success
was the introduction of General Tom Thumb in 1842.
Within two years, they embarked on a tour of Europe.
His ultimate affiliation with the circus did not begin
until 1870, when he was 60 years old. P. T. Barnum's
Grand Traveling Circus, Menagerie, Caravan and Circus
grossed $400,000 in its first year.
Living in Bridgeport with his
second wife, Nancy Fish, Barnum became mayor of the
city in 1875 and served a single one-year term. In
1877 and 1879, he was elected to represent Bridgeport
in the Connecticut General Assembly. He lost a third
term in 1880.
In 1887, Barnum invited James
Bailey to join him as an equal partner in the new
Barnum and Bailey Circus. Two years later, he took
the "Greatest Show on Earth" to England.
P. T. Barnum died in his sleep
at his Bridgeport home April 7, 1891.