P. T. Barnum: The Legend and the Man

A. H. Saxon, Author, Arthur H. Saxon, Author Columbia University Press $58 (512p) ISBN 978-0-231-05686-1
There was more to Barnum than his reputation as a brassy charlatan would have us believe, shows Saxon, a biochemist, who presents here a well-rounded picture of the 19th century's premier showman. Barnum trafficked not only in ``freaks''--such as Joice Heth, ``the 161-year-old nurse of George Washington,'' and the Feejee Mermaid, a creature part monkey, part fish--but introduced many to the marvels of natural history. He also sponsored the American tour of opera star Jenny Lind, at considerable strain to himself. The private Barnum, as revealed in his letters here, was more than a mere purveyor of hype. Deeply religious and ethical, he supported Prohibition and women's rights; and although early on a defender of slavery, he became an abolitionist. Interesting in his complexities, the Barnum on view in these pages rivals the wonders of his roadshows. Photos not seen by PW. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 11/01/1989
Release date: 11/01/1989
Paperback - 454 pages - 978-0-231-05687-8
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