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P.T. Barnum: Marketing genius, showman and founder of “The Greatest Show on Earth”

Phineas Taylor Barnum, 1810-1891

Phineas Taylor Barnum, 1810-1891

Fun Facts about P.T. Barnum

  • John O'Neill, of the Bethel Land Trust, stands near Ivy Island in Bethel, which was once owned by PT Barnum

    John O'Neill, of the Bethel Land Trust, stands near Ivy Island in Bethel, which was once owned by PT Barnum

    Phineas Taylor Barnum was born in Bethel, Connecticut in 1810.

  • Speaking of his youth, P. T. Barnum said, “I was always ready to concoct fun, or lay plans for moneymaking, but hard work was decidedly not in my line.” Indeed, he succeeded in making a great deal of money by working hard at having fun.
  • When he was born, his grandfather deeded him a parcel of land known as lvy Island. The growing boy was constantly reminded of his property. When he was 10 years old, he went to visit his estate and discovered it to be “a worthless piece of barren land.”
  • When Phineas was 15, his father died, leaving his widow and five children penniless. Phineas immediately became clerk in a country store, where he learned the fine art of Yankee trading. During the next 10 years he was a shop owner, director of lotteries, and newspaper publisher.
  • When he was 19 he eloped with a local seamstress, Charity Hallett (who would remain his wife for 44 years and give him four daughters).
  • At 22, as publisher of the Herald of Freedom, he was jailed for libelously accusing a deacon of usury; upon his release 60 days later, Barnum was met by a band and “a coach drawn by six horses” for a parade back to town.
  • Barnum's Advertisement for Joice Heth

    Barnum's Advertisement for Joice Heth

    He made his first sensation in 1835 when he met Joice Heth, a slave who claimed she was 161 years old (she was about 80) and had been the nurse of George Washington.

  • Seeing Joice Heth’s possibilities as a human curiosity, Barnum purchased the right to exhibit her, along with the documents validating her age, and set her upon her couch in Niblo’s Garden in New York City. She was extremely popular, but when interest began to flag, a newspaper item appeared suggesting that Joice was not human at all but an “automaton” made of whalebone, indian rubber, and springs.
  • Shortly after the article was published, the exhibition hall was full once more, for Barnum always knew how to use the news as well as the advertising sections of newspapers. Finally, upon her death in 1836, when an autopsy proved that Joice had been no more than 80 years old, Barnum was as surprised and indignant as anyone else. He had learned, however, that “the public appears disposed to be amused even when they are conscious of being deceived.”
  • For the next four years Barnum was an itinerant showman in the West and South. By 1840 he was back in New York, poor, weary of travel, and without prospects.
  • The American Museum, New York City

    The American Museum, New York City

    When he heard that the struggling Scudder’s American Museum (with its collection of curiosities) was for sale, Barnum determined to buy it. “With what?” asked a friend. “Brass, ” Barnum replied, “for silver and gold I have none.” He mortgaged himself to the building’s owner, proposing for collateral good references, a determination to succeed, and a “valuable and sentimental” piece of property known as Ivy Island.

  • In 1842 he opened the American Museum in New York City and immediately became famous for his extravagant advertising and his exhibits of freaks.
  • By the end of 1842 the museum was his, and a year later he was out of debt.
  • Barnum’s American Museum was to become the most famous showplace of the century. Here, in constantly changing and elaborately advertised parade, the public could see educated dogs and fleas, automatons, jugglers, ventriloquists, living statuary, albinos, obese men, bearded women, a great variety of singing and dancing acts, models of Paris and Jerusalem, dioramas of the Creation and the Deluge, glassblowing, knitting machines, African Americans performing a war dance, conjoined twins, flower and bird shows, whales, mermaids, virtuous melodramas such as The Drunkard, a menagerie of rare animals, and an aquarium—”all for twenty-five cents, children half price.”
  • The "Feejee Mermaid"

    The "Feejee Mermaid"

    His Great Model of Niagara Falls with Real Water was actually 18 inches high; the Feejee Mermaid was really a monkey’s head and torso fused to a fish’s tail; the Woolly Horse of the Frozen Rockies had in truth been foaled in Indiana.

  • Only half in jest did Barnum seek to buy Shakespeare’s birthplace, hire the Zulu leader who had recently ambushed a British force, and tow an iceberg into New York harbor. Altogether, the museum showed over 600, 000 exhibits during its existence.
  • Among his great attractions were the aforementioned Feejee Mermaid, “General Tom Thumb,” who was viewed by over 20 million people, and the original Siamese Twins, Chang and Eng.
  • Barnum with General Tom Thumb

    Barnum with General Tom Thumb

    General Tom Thumb was Barnum’s greatest attraction. Charles S. Stratton, a native of Bridgeport, Conn., was 25 inches tall and weighed 15 pounds when he entered Barnum’s employ in 1842. When he died in 1883, at the age of 45, he had made millions of dollars and delighted international audiences.

  • In the first of Barnum’s many European junkets the General entertained Queen Victoria, King Louis Philippe, and other royalty with his songs, dances, and impersonations in miniature. Of the 82 million tickets Barnum sold during his lifetime for various attractions, Tom Thumb sold over 20 million.
  • In 1850, Barnum managed the American tour of the Swedish singer Jenny Lind and, with his talent for publicity, made it a huge financial success for her and for himself.
  • "Swedish Nightingale", Jennie Lind

    "Swedish Nightingale", Jennie Lind

    The immensely profitable tour of this gracious “Swedish Nightingale” was prepared with ingenious public relations but conducted with dignity and generosity by Barnum. Its success initiated the vogue of European concert artists visiting the United States.

  • In 1855 he retired from show business; he served as mayor of Bridgeport, Conn., and in the Connecticut legislature.
  • In 1857 his famous house, Iranistan, fashioned after George IV’s Pavilion at Brighton, burned to the ground.
  • The original museum burned in 1865, and new museums burned in 1868 and again in 1872.
  • P.T. BarnumThe showman’s greatest financial catastrophe had nothing to do with show business. For years he had cherished the dream of building a city out of the farmland of East Bridgeport—a benevolent endeavor, he thought. In order to attract business, he signed some notes guaranteeing the debts of the Jerome Clock Company. As a result, he lost all he owned. Thus, in 1855, at the age of 46, the great Barnum was bankrupt.
  • "The Art of Money Getting"

    "The Art of Money Getting"

    He worked his way back from bankruptcy, however, in part from successful lectures on “The Art of Money Getting, ” and by 1860 he was free of debt once more.

  • Throughout his life Barnum was a political liberal, serving in the Connecticut Legislature in the late 1860s, where he diligently fought the railroad interests, and as mayor of Bridgeport in 1875-1876.
  • A year after the death of his first wife, Charity, in 1873, Barnum married Nancy Fish, an English woman 40 years his junior.
  • In April 1874 Barnum opened his Roman Hippodrome in New York; this was to grow into the great circus. While he did not invent the circus, an ancient form of entertainment, he made it a three-ring extravaganza the likes of which had never been seen before.
  • In 1881 he merged with his most successful competitor, James A. Bailey, and under the name Barnum and Bailey the circus continued for a generation after Barnum’s death.
  • Advertisement for Jumbo

    Advertisement for Jumbo

    In what was described as “Barnum’s last great coup” he purchased Jumbo, the 61⁄2-ton African elephant (and largest elephant kept in captivity), from the London Zoo despite the furious protests of English elephant fanciers, including Queen Victoria.

  • Violent objections by the English only made Jumbo and the circus that much more appealing.
  • In 1882 the circus opened its season in Madison Square Garden, where it was to become an American institution; and everywhere the “big top” traveled, a “Barnum Day” was declared. Circling the arena in an open carriage as leader of the parade always brought roars of approval (and great satisfaction) to the aging genius.
  • In 1887, the great circus in its winter quarters, with most of its menagerie, was lost to fire, yet it somehow managed to continue on.
  • By 1891 Barnum’s body began to fail, though not his spirit. His child’s delight in the joke, the curious, and the splendid had set an entire nation to wondering and laughing and buying.
  • A few weeks before his death, Barnum gave permission to the Evening Sun to print his obituary, so that he might have a chance to read it. On April 7 he asked about the box office receipts for the day; a few hours later, he was dead.
  • His autobiography was published in 1855 and went through many editions.
  • He also wrote Humbugs of the World (1865), Struggles and Triumphs (1869), and Money Getting (1883).

 

Special thanks to education.yahoo.com and www.encyclopedia.com

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The Pony Express: First Mail Delivery Across the Untamed West

Pony Express Advertisement

Pony Express Advertisement

Fun Facts About the Pony Express

Purpose:

To provide the fastest mail delivery between St. Joseph, Missouri, and Sacramento, California. To draw public attention to the central route in hope of gaining the million dollar government mail contract for the Central Overland California and Pikes Peak Express Company.

Date:

April 3, 1860 to late October 1861.

Mechanics:

Relay of mail by horses and riders. The Pony Express ran day and night, summer and winter.

Riders:

183 men are known to have ridden for the Pony Express during its operation of just over 18 months.

Rider Qualifications:

Ad in California newspaper read: “Wanted. Young, skinny, wiry fellows. Not over 18. Must be expert riders. Willing to risk death daily. Orphans preferred.” Most riders were around 20. Youngest was 11. Oldest was mid-40s. Not many were orphans. Usually weighed around 120 pounds.

Riders Pay

$100 per month.

First Riders:

Johnny Fry was first westbound rider from St. Joseph. Billy Hamilton was first eastbound driver from Sacramento.

Rider Relay:

New riders took over every 75 to 100 miles.

Horse Relay:

Riders got a fresh horse every 10 to 15 miles.

Speed:

Horses traveled an average of 10 miles per hour.

Horses:

400 horses purchased to stock the Pony Express route. Thoroughbreds, mustangs, pintos, and Morgans were often used.

Stations:

Approximately 165 stations.

Trail Length:

Almost 2,000 miles.

Route:

St. Joseph, Missouri to Sacramento, California. Through the present day states of Kansas, Nebraska, northeast corner of Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, and California.

Departure:

Once a week from April 3 to mid-June 1860. Twice a week from mid-June to late October 1861. Departures were from both the east and the west.

Schedule:

10 days in summer. 12 to 16 days in winter.

Fastest Delivery:

7 days and 17 hours between telegraph lines. Lincoln’s Inaugural Address.

Longest Drive:

Pony Bob Haslam rode 370 miles (Friday’s station to Smith Creek and back. This is in present-day Nevada.)

Cost of Mail:

$5.00 per 1/2 ounce at the beginning. By the end of the Pony Express, the price had dropped to $1.00 per 1/2 ounce.

Founders:

William Russell, Alexander Majors, and William Waddell. The company was the Central Overland California and Pikes Peak Express Company. The Pony Express was a subsidiary of the famous freight and stage company.

Other Mail Routes:

Water route from New York to San Francisco and across Panama by pack mule. Southern or Butterfield route from St. Louis and Memphis to El Paso to Los Angeles to San Francisco.

Telegraph Completed:

October 24, 1861. Official end of the Pony Express.

Failures:

Financially, the owners spent $700,000 on the Pony Express and had a $200,000 deficit. The company failed to get the million dollar government contract because of political pressures and the outbreak of the Civil War.

Successes:

Improved communication between east and west. Proved the central route could be traveled all winter. Supported the central route for the transcontinental railroad. Kept communication open to California at the beginning of the Civil War. Provided the fastest communication between east and west until the telegraph. Captured the hearts and the imagination of people all over the world.

Folklore:

One mochila lost and one rider killed. Location, date and names have not been verified. [Mochila is Spanish for the leather saddlebag with four locked pouches.]

 

Special thanks to AmericanWest.com

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Doonesbury: Garry Trudeau’s Classic Comic and Mainstay of American Newspapers Since 1970

Gary Trudeau, creator of "Doonesbury"

Garry Trudeau, creator of "Doonesbury"

Fun Facts About Garry Trudeau’s “Doonesbury”

Michael James “Mike” Doonesbury is the main character in Garry Trudeau’s comic strip Doonesbury. He started out as a nerdish freshman from Tulsa at the fictional Walden College, and shared a dorm room with B.D. Currently he is married to Kim Rosenthal, and divorced from J.J. Caucus but raising their teenage daughter Alex. He has a widowed mother and a younger brother, Benjamin (who during some time as a punk rocker was known as “Sal Putrid”).

Mike is the everyman of the strip. He is a fairly normal, well-adjusted person who is easy for most readers to relate to, in contrast to the often surreal, crazy and extreme characters that populate the strip. Trudeau based Mike’s personality on his own and for this reason it is usually Mike who speaks the creator’s own viewpoints. Mike’s name was taken from the word “doone”, meaning a person who is not afraid to appear foolish, and Charles Pillsbury, the roommate of Trudeau’s at Yale.

Who played ‘uptight end’ for the Walden College football team when B.D. was the quarterback?
    Zonker Harris. Zonker’s habit of smoking marijuana in the huddle did not endear him to the straightlaced B.D. Zonker later turned up as a war correspondent in Vietnam while B.D. was there.
What is the name of the Justice Department attorney who was romantically involved (unsuccessfully) with a priest and a gay man?
    Joanie Caucus. Joannie got married to investigative reporter Rick Redfern and is the mother of Jeff.
What is the first name of “Uncle” Duke’s long-time assistant? She was a 1974 graduate of Peking University.
    Honey. Among other things, Honey Huan has been the translator for the U.S. Ambassador to China, the Dean and President of the Baby Doc College of Physicians, and the Social Director aboard Donald Trump’s yacht.
The first time Mike Doonesbury met his lab partner Bernie, what did Bernie do?
    Turned himself into a werewolf. Bernie later confided to Mike that he ate an outboard motor at the age of four. Years later he hired Mike’s future wife, Kim, to work for him at Bernie’s Byte Shack of Seattle.
Which ‘Doonesbury’ character once staged a nine hour performance art piece titled ‘Welcome to Artville’?
    J.J. Doonesbury. J.J. married and divorced Mike Doonesbury. She became a sculptor living in Seattle.
Which ‘Doonesbury’ character developed a monthly contribution program, complete with buttons to signify whether or not the person had already given?
    Alice Schwartzman. Alice, a one-time New York debutante,was homeless for many years until Congresswoman Lacey Davenport left her estate to her. She and her husband Elmont had to get used to living indoors.
Who was Sid Kibbitz?
    Boopsie’s agent. Sid was Boopsie’s agent. He also tried to package Ronald Reagan and Tom Cruise together in a ‘buddy’ movie.
Who was the first gay character to appear in ‘Doonesbury’?
    Andy Lippincott. Lippincott first appeared in the strip in the 1970’s. He eventually died from the AIDS virus.
Which ‘Doonesbury’ character revealed that he was gay on the radio?
    Mark Slackmeyer. Slackmeyer, along with his life-partner Chase Talbot III, began to host a radio show on National Public Radio called ‘All Things Being Equal’.
In 1973, one of the Watergate conspirators resigned from office, causing Garry Trudeau to withdraw a weeks worth of ‘Doonesbury’ strips. Which Watergate figure was it?
    John Ehrlichman. Ehrlichman later wrote Trudeau, “I hear that my resignation fouled up your series. Sorry. Next time let me know what you are planning and I’ll try to cooperate”.
Which character in ‘Doonesbury’ won $23 million in a lottery?
    Zonker Harris. Zonker won the lottery, but it didn’t change him one bit. He began working as a nanny, helping raise B.D. and Boopsie’s daughter Sam.
Has ‘Doonesbury’ creator Garry Trudeau ever won a Pulitzer Prize?
    Yes. in 1975 Trudeau became the first comic strip artist to win the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning. The Editorial Cartoonist’s Society promptly passed a resolution condemning the Pulitzer Prize committee. Trudeau supported the resolution.
One of the first characters to appear in the strip was B.D. On whom was the character based?
    Brian Dowling, Yale’s starting quarterback. B.D. was a star quarterback just like the inspiration for his character, Brian Dowling. B.D. became the football coach at his alma mater, Walden College.
When ‘Bull Tales’ became ‘Doonesbury’, in how many newspapers did it first appear?
    28. ‘Doonesbury’ appeared in 28 newspapers when it debuted on October 26, 1970.
‘Doonesbury’ was originally called ‘Bull Tales’ when it appeared in a college newspaper. What college was that?
    Yale. Garry Trudeau is a graduate of Yale University and ‘Bull Tales’ was first seen in the Yale ‘Daily News’ on September 30, 1968.
In the early 90s, Mark came out as being gay. Who is his partner?
    Chase. He’s a Republican, surprisingly.
Who is the embodiement of the tobacco industry?
    Mr. Butts. Mr. Butts, a giant walking cigarette. His friend, Mr. Jay, is a giant joint.
Who did Mike campaign for during the 1980 election?
    John Anderson. Anyone remember him?
Zonker was one of those people who never grew up. Who where his imaginary friends that he always talked to?
    His plants. His plants had names and distinct personalities.
Who was B.D.’s buddy during both Iraq wars?
    Ray Hightower. Ray was wounded in the first war.
Several characters have died in the strip. Who died of a heart attack?
    Dick. Dick died of a heart attack while birdwatching. His wife, Lacey, died about ten years later, of Alzheimers. Andy died of AIDS, Phil of old age.
Joanie once fell for a fellow legal student named Andy. Why didn’t it work out?
    He was gay. Joanie: “Are they sure?” Andy: “Joanie, I’m sure.”
What celebrity neighbor did Duke always fight with near his house in Colorado?
    John Denver. He went after Denver with a gun on more than one occasion.
Everyone’s favorite character is Duke. What football team was he the assistant manager for?
    The Redskins. After a little problem with his liberal distribution of pills to the players, he was forced to look for work elsewhere.
After a serious injury in 2004, we got to see B.D. without his helmet for the first time. Which kind of helmet had he never worn?
    batting. He never played baseball. He played football, both in college and professionally, was a veteran of Vietnam and both Iraqi wars, and was a motorcycle cop for a bit.
Comics can have an effect on real life. The so-called ‘Doonesbury Amendment’ of Palm Springs dealt with what unfair practice?
    The requirement of domestic employees to carry passcards. In the 1980s, domestic employees of Palm Springs were required to carry a passcard. Since many of them were black or Hispanic, it essentially became a crime to be an undocumented minority. After the comic spoofed this law, it was quickly changed.
One trademark of the strip is the use of icons to represent famous people. How was Bill Clinton shown?
    A waffle. Reagan was Max Headroom, Bush, Sr. was a point of light, Bush Junior an asterisks in a cowboy hat, Dan Quayle a feather, Newt Gingrich a bomb, and David Duke a swastika.
Barbara Ann Boopstein, aka Boopsie, sometimes channels the spirit of an ancient warrior. What’s his name?
    Hunk Ra. Boopsie grows fangs and a pointed tongue when she channels the Hunk.
J.J. once created a large mural for Donald Trump. Where was it?
    His big, obnoxious boat. She felt she was selling out, painting a mural in a billionaire’s boat (in the bathroom, no less).
Duke was almost executed by firing squad at the hands of which organization?
    The Iranian Revolutionary Guards. Duke parachuted into revolutionary Iran on behalf of American oil interests, and was captured by Khomeini’s supporters, who tried him and found him guilty of crimes against God. He escaped a roof-top execution by bribing his tormentors, but it was, perhaps, his closest call yet. Right-winger though he is, Duke has historically enjoyed fairly good relations with the communist world, and has never fallen foul of the Stasi or any comparable organization. The Sandinistas, I imagine, would have loved to kill Duke, but they never got the chance. Duke never tangled with the Khmer Rouge, either – if he had, I doubt they would have arranged anything as civilized as a firing squad.
Which political figure did star reporter Roland Hedley eagerly question about his beard?

Yasser Arafat. Roland scored his first interview with Arafat in Beirut, as the PLO Chairman faced Israeli attack. Roland asked Arafat to explain how he managed to grow a beard which always looked like three-day stubble.

Special thanks to  www.absoluteastronomy.com and www.funtrivia.com

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