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The Life Of P.T. Barnum
Barnum was an extraordinary entrepreneur, an impresario, and a self-made man. He remade himself several times during his long career as a showman. The following is an excerpt from Barnum's first autobiography, published at the height of his antebellum success and fame. Barnum relates how he pulled himself out of financial danger with his purchase of the American Museum and how he achieved his first profits there by exhibiting the Fejee Mermaid and Tom Thumb. Moses Kimball of the Boston Museum was friends with Barnum and helped him obtain the Fejee Mermaid. Barnum was a master of promotion. Notice how he promoted the Fejee Mermaid. When he obtained the services of the five-year-old Charles Stratton, Barnum would use similar approaches in promoting the young man he called "General Tom Thumb."
I took great pains to train my diminutive prodigy, devoting many hours to that purpose, by day and by night, and succeeded, because he had native talent and an intense love of the ludicrous. He became very fond of me. I was, and yet am, sincerely attached to him, and I candidly believe him at this moment to be the most interesting and extraordinary natural curiosity of which the world has any knowledge.
Four weeks expired, and I re-engaged him for a year at seven dollars per week, (and a gratuity of fifty dollars at the end of the agreement,) with privilege of exhibition in any section of the United States. His parents were to accompany him, and I was to pay all travelling expenses. Long before the year was out, I voluntarily increased his weekly salary to $25 -- and he fairly earned it, for he speedily became a public favorite. I frequently exhibited him for successive weeks in my Museum, and when I wished to introduce fresh novelties there, I sent him to numerous cities and towns in many of the States, accompanied by my friend Fordyce Hitchcock.
In the mean time, I had entirely paid for the American Museum, and entered into an agreement with Gen. TOM THUMB for his services another year, at fifty dollars per week and all expenses, with the privilege of exhibition in Europe.CHAPTER X. EUROPEAN TOUR -- TOM THUMB.
Embarkation for England -- Farewell Thoughts -- The Tobacco Trick -- Courtesy for a Foe -- A Yankee Guide -- Gloomy Prospects -- Gleam of Sunshine -- Value of Dwarfs -- The London Manager -- Nobility Excluded -- Mr. Everett -- Visit at Rothschild's -- Golden Showers -- Lessons in Etiquette -- Tom Thumb before the Queen -- Backing Out -- Tom and the Poodle -- The Prince of Wales -- Royalty and Yankee Doodle -- Fashionable Popularity -- The Queen Dowager -- The Iron Duke and Bonaparte -- The Emperor Nicholas -- Review at Windsor -- Louis Philippe -- Royal Industry -- Field of Waterloo -- Deceased Military Friends -- An unexpected Smash -- Custom of the Country -- A Soaker -- Barberous Preceedings -- Brummagem Relics -- Worth makes the Man -- Golden Calves -- A Day with Albert Smith -- Who is Shakspeare? -- Guy of Warwick -- A Flock of Showmen -- A Great Day's Work -- Castle-hunting -- Yankee Curiosity -- A Lucky Pile -- An American Prince -- Suspicious Sausages -- Anecdote of Franklin -- Electric Glory -- Distinguished Americans -- The General at Home -- Twenty-five Cents' Worth -- Tour in the United Slates -- The General in Cuba -- Raising Turkeys.
ON Thursday, January 18, 1844, I stepped on board the new and splendid packet ship Yorkshire, Capt. D. G. Bailey, bound for Liverpool. My party consisted of Gen. Tom Thumb, both his parents, his tutor, Professor Guillaudeu the French naturalist, and myself. The City Brass Band kindly volunteered to escort us to Sandy Hook, and we were accompanied by many of our personal friends.
At half-past one o'clock, the bell of one of the steamers that towed our slip down the bay, announced the hour of separation. There was the usual bustle, the rapidly-spoken yet often-repeated words of farewell, the cordial grip of friendship -- and I acknowledge that I was decidedly in "the melting mood."
My name has so long been used in connection with incidents of the mirthful kind, that many persons, probably, do not suspect that I am susceptible of sorrowful emotion, and possibly the general tenor of these pages may confirm the suspicion. No doubt my natural bias is to merriment, and I have encouraged my inclination to "comedy," because enough of "tragedy" will force itself upon the attention of every one in spite of his efforts to the contrary; yet I should be either more or less than human, were I incapable of serious thought, or did I not frequently indulge in the sober meditation which becomes the solemn realities of life.
I do not now refer only to scenes of parting with friends, or of leaving country and home for a few months, or even years, but I speak of the ordinary occasions of experience. I have had, and hope always to have, my seasons of loneliness and even sadness; and, though many people may not see how my profession of "a showman" can be made to appear consistent with my profession of another kind, I must claim having always revered the Christian Religion. I have been indebted to Christianity for the most serene happiness of my life, and I would not part with its consolations for all things else in the world. In all my journeys as "a showman," the Bible has been my companion, and I have repeatedly read it attentively, from beginning to end. Whether I have or have not been profited by its precepts, is a question not here to be considered; but the scriptural doctrine of the government of God and its happy issue in the life to come, has been my chief solace in affliction and sorrow, and I hope always to cherish it as my greatest treasure.
The "melting mood" was upon me, for the pathway of the ship was toward the wide sea with its deep mysteries, and my heart clung to my family and home. I successively grasped for the last time the hand of each parting friend as he passed to the tow-boat, and I could not restrain my emotion; and when the band struck up "Home, Sweet Home!" my tears flowed thick and fast.