Early in 1842, P. T. Barnum opened the American Museum on Broadway in New York. A modern cabinet of wonders, it displayed real minerals, fossils, and stuffed animals alongside ingenious hoaxes such as the Feejee Mermaid (a mummified monkey joined to the body of a fish). Barnum had a bold talent for publicity, and he happily profited from the public's taste for what he called "Humbug." The American Museum included a stage (called a Lecture Hall to welcome virtuous Sunday visitors, families, and children) where Barnum launched the career of a charming midget, Charles S. Stratton, who became "General Tom Thumb." Tom Thumb dressed in costume (imitating Napoleon and Hercules among others), sang, danced, and told jokes. A few years after Barnum toured with Tom Thumb to Europe, he brought Swedish soprano Jenny Lind to America for a two-year concert tour. Barnum generated such extraordinary excitement over her visit that some critics complained about "Lindomania." Barnum and Brady were almost contemporaries, with a similar ability to catch the public eye. Brady opened his first studio across the street from Barnum's museum in 1844. He photographed Barnum on many occasions and often made portraits of his performers.

See George Washington Morrision

Phineas T. Barnum
1810 - 1891

Mathew Brady Studio
Albumen silver print,
(carte de visite), circa 1860
8.6 x 5.3 cm (3 3/8 x 2 1/8 inches)
National Portrait Gallery,
Smithsonian Institution,
Washington, D.C