[September 1, 2020] Showman, huckster, and circus businessman P.T. Barnum is famous for being part of America’s entertainment industry. He is a legend now, more than 150 years after his exploits. Yet, deviating from his traditional methods of entertainment, in 1850, Mr. Barnum brought the greatest opera performer in the world from Europe to the United States. This netted him great fame and money.
P.T. Barnum is still known today as the most extraordinary circus promoter ever. He entertained people with great fanfare: elephant and trapeze acts, human oddities, and rigged games of skill. Most famous among them was ‘Tom Thumb,’ ‘zip the pinhead,’ and the ‘man-monkey.’ He was a businessman at heart and will always be remembered for celebrating hoaxes and founding the Barnum & Bailey Circus.
It was none other than P.T. Barnum, however, who brought Jenny Lind, a great opera singer on an American tour that set astonishing box-office records. This tour fanned the flames of a widespread opera craze in the 1850s; a trend that continues into the 21st Century. The star Jenny Lind – “The Swedish Nightingale” – was a singer of uncommon talent and great renown. She was greeted in America with a mania not unlike that of another foreign musical invasion more than a century later.
While in England with Tom Thumb, Barnum was told about Lind and proceeded to propose a North American tour to her without ever hearing her sing a note. Her “once-in-a-lifetime” voice, it seems, was of interest to Barnum only as she had recently drawn sellout crowds during a recent tour of Britain and Ireland. He proposed a high sum of money for her based solely on her proven box-office pull.
P.T. Barnum used his skills to promote Jenny Lind and helped make her famous. He used his trademark gifts in the area of promotion, including massive advertising and paid-for reviews in regional newspapers. From the moment of her arrival in New York, Lind was a sensation. Barnum had seen to it that this would be the case.
“As a general thing, I have not ‘duped the world’ nor attempted to do so … I have generally given people the worth of their money twice told.’ – P.T. Barnum
Mr. Barnum shows what it takes to have influence. His aggressiveness, extroverted personality, fearlessness, hard work, and intelligence helped propel him to become the most famous entertainer in America. It was on this date exactly 150 years ago today, September 1st, 1850, that P.T. Barnum brought Jenny Lind to America.