Welcome to Becoming Barnum: The Journey to Fame and Fortune, a podcast presented by The Barnum Museum in Bridgeport, Connecticut, and based on their award-winning blog series. Support for this project is provided to the Barnum Museum from the City of Bridgeport American Rescue Plan Act funds, People’s United, a division of M&T Bank, and the Connecticut Humanities and National Endowment for the Humanities as part of the federal American Rescue Plan Act.

The Barnum Museum has a special treasure in its collection, a 750-page copybook of letters written by Phineas Taylor Barnum when he was traveling in Europe in the 1840s, introducing his young protege General Tom Thumb to high society and royalty– as well as millions of ordinary people. Barnum’s lively letters to friends, family members, and business associates reveal him more completely as a person, at times struggling mightily to make the three-year tour a success, all the while directing the management of his American Museum from afar. They also offer insights into Barnum as a husband, father, and nephew, and as a mentor to the child actor-entertainer whose popularity resulted in their meteoric rise to fame and fortune. In his mid-thirties at the time, Barnum proved himself a tireless go-getter, calculating risk-taker, and astute entrepreneur decades before his name was attracting crowds to the Greatest Show on Earth. These letters offer a window into a hardscrabble era of “show business,” revealing how Barnum went about acquiring, hiring, and commissioning attractions, and promoting his museum and the General Tom Thumb tour in Europe.

Join us as we travel back in time to learn, through Barnum’s own words, about the real person behind the legendary “P. T. Barnum.”

First Episodes

An Introduction to Becoming Barnum: Interview with Barnum Museum Curator

We're starting the Becoming Barnum journey with an interview with Adrienne Saint-Pierre, the Curator of the Barnum Museum's impressive artifact collection and archive....

A Bit of France in Bridgeport, Connecticut

Barnum’s travels in France had influenced his vision for his beloved Bridgeport; this was clearly revealed by what he chose to tell the Atlas readers. Barnum adopted B...

“A Touch of Yankee” Solves a Problem

Mr. Barnum was infuriated by the demands of the Hospice Commissioners who expected a far larger percentage of the gross receipts than Barnum felt reasonable.

The Beginnings of Iranistan

Barnum’s homesickness coincided with and perhaps fueled his desire to begin building a country home for his family. Barnum writes about a future grand home in Bridgepo...

A Mountain of Worries

In this episode, we delve into a new “batch” of the letters P. T. Barnum wrote while in France and sent back to his family and business associates in America. These l...

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