The Late Mr. P.T. Barnum

Phineas Taylor Barnum

Obituary 1891


Phineas Taylor Barnum, who died on the 7th inst. At Bridgeport, was born in 1810 at Bethel, Connecticut.  In the course of his long life he had become more widely known, and maintained a firmer hold over the vast public to whom he delighted to appeal, than almost any celebrity past or present. 

The statesman who is the idol of to-day, may be the discredited recluse of tomorrow.  The general, for whom festal cities have blared with peaceful fires, slips out of the public mind, and recovers a temporary fame only when he departs this life at Bath or Cheltenham.  But to Barnum, the braying of Fame's trumpet was a commercial as well as a moral necessity, and he insured the certainty of its sound by blowing it himself.

If in the less pretentious walks of life, such as war, or politics, or letters, hold advertisement were recognized as a legitimate adjutant to genius many a darkness would have leapt into the light and shone in the sudden making of splendid names. if the postulant for popular humor had committed his repetition to the care of P. T. Barnum, The extraordinary energy, and intuition, and practical humor, which made Barnum the greatest of showmen, were, apparently, fitted solely for the end.

For all his experiences and skill failed to secure him success in commerce or speculations, other than those which traded beneficently enough on the willing grubbily of mankind and their faith in what ever is enforced with sufficient emphasis.  It is a strange career to look back upon; a career associated, throughout, with the gaiety of nations.  Barnums Show was a household word when men, who are now more of austere fathers of families, were still at the age when show and circus are a dream of delight, and the smell of orange-peels and sawdust acquire that magic association with a treat which they seldom lose to any but the indisputably superior person.  Barnum was not content to be a benefactor to his fellow-creatures merely by providing the Great Show on Earth for their delectation, and his own profit.  He turned his wealth to many benevolent purposes, and the belief in himself, which was so remarkable and even puzzling  a feature in his character, was at least reposed in a very large-hearted, courageous, and save in the pardonable eccentricities of the show world toughly honest man.


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