June 2, 1849 (Saturday)

A really foggy, cloudy, disagreeable morning, but the latter portion of the day, clear and warm—beautiful evening.

Was called on by a friend this evening and accompanied him to Barnum’s Museum, where a little of everything was to be seen—crowded.

Phineas Taylor “P. T.” Barnum (1810–1891), flush with the success of his New York museum, built an elaborate one in Swaim’s Building (the southeast corner of Seventh and Chestnut Streets) which opened on May 28. The curiosities included a 16-year-old, 24-inch high boy (likely Charles Stratton, later known as General Tom Thumb), an Albino Lady, the Mammoth Brothers (two boys under the age of 12 who together weighed over 600 pounds), a Mystery Chest, panoramic paintings (including one of Napoleon’s Funeral complete with automaton people, horses, ships, etc), Cosmoramas (a specific type of panorama), a mammoth flag, improvisational singers, statuary, paintings, glass blowing, proto-circus acts like the Martinetti Family, and much, much more.  There was, indeed, a little bit of everything.

In a review of the opening, the Philadelphia Inquirer commented on the massive lantern hanging outside the establishment and building-size sign promoting the venture across the street. “The curiosities inside are really attractive, and the performance varied, agreeable, and interesting. Taste, liberality and enterprise – and his success is sure.” (May 30, 1840, page 2).

The American Antiquarian Society has hundreds of items relating to P.T. Barnum, the American Museum, panaromas, and related amusements.  See the online catalog for more information.

Barnum's American Museum, 1851 broadside. Copyright 2005 by the American Antiquarian Society and NewsBank, inc. All Rights Reserved

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