In today's hustle bustle society people have to find a way to get away from the everyday rigmarole. People go to work everyday and then come home to a spouse, or a dog, or something. Only one thing keeps us going, entertainment. P.T. Barnum's shrewdness and knowledge of what the public wants to see he will go down in the annals of history as one of the greatest entertainers of all time.


In the summer of 1835 Barnum heard a curious story from a New Englander by the name of Coley Bartram. Mr. Bartram told Barnum that he had just heard a story about a slave who was believed to be one hundred and sixty-one years old. The slave's name was Joice Heth. Besides her age, another impossibility was that she claimed to be George Washington's nurse. These two things caught young Barnum's attention very quickly.

Barnum had to see this for himself. He went down to Philadelphia where Joice was being exhibited. "I was favorably struck with the appearance of the old woman," Barnum wrote. "So far as outward indications were concerned, she might almost as well have been called a thousand years old as any other age." Joice was totally blind, toothless and partially paralyzed. Nonetheless, she was very spirited, sometimes lapsing into hymns, and talking about the good old days with "dear little George." R.W. Lindsay, her current exhibitor, offered a bill of sale from Augustine Washington, dated 1727, to a relative in Westmoreland. Lindsay explained that the document had just recently been discovered in a Virginia record office by John Bowling, Heth's owner. When Barnum inquired as to how much Lindsay would sell Joice for Lindsay said three thousand, but Barnum talked him down to one thousand. So Barnum acquired of his first major attraction.

Not having anywhere of his own to exhibit Joice, Barnum used a room in a large New York saloon. Barnum hired a lawyer named Levi Lyman to help in his advertisement. Between the two of them, they made several pamphlets and plastered New York with signs and advertisements. When Joice was asked questions she answered them fluently and without contradicting herself. Barnum used this to prove that she was not a fake.

After a successful tour through most of New England, attendance began to dwindle. When they got to Boston, Barnum wrote an anonymous letter to the local newspaper saying the Joice was just a well-crafted automaton. Because of their popularity in the early nineteenth century everyone wanted to go and see for themselves. With a cleverly planted seed of deception Barnum had almost doubled attendance. This was just one of many such ploys he used throughout his career.

Joice Heth was just the tip of the iceberg. In 1841 Barnum had his sights set on owning a museum, and when Scudder's American Museum in New York went up for sale he jumped on it. Barnum confronted the owner, Francis Olmsted, and asked for credit. With recommendations from friends and some real estate as collateral, Barnum got Olmted's support. When Barnum confronted Olmsted with his offer on the museum he was disappointed to find out that the museum had already been sold to the neighboring Peale's museum. Barnum was disappointed but not discouraged and after some clever legal maneuvers Barnum became owner of Scudder's.

When Barnum looked over his museum he noticed that it had been neglected for quite some time. He knew that to make this museum a success he would have to increase the number of shows and advertise his museum. To do this he would have to get more performers and to do this he would have to call upon friends for help. Most notable of his friends was Moses Kimball manager of the Boston Museum.

One of Barnum's best known attractions was General Tom Thumb. Barnum discovered this five-year-old midget in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Charles S. Stratton (Tom Thumb's real name) was two feet one inch tall and weighed only fifteen pounds when Barnum met him. Since his birth he had gained less than six pounds. Barnum believed he would be popular because he was the embodiment of the inner child, he could sing, dance and mimic other people.

Charles came from a fairly poor family and Barnum took advantage of this. He would pay Charles and