Taylor Phineas Barnum was born on the 5th of July, 1810, in Connecticut and has always had a knack for entrepreneurship since his early age. He initially sold snacks and homemade cherry rum at local gatherings, and by age 21, he owned a general store, a small lottery, and his newspaper called “Herald of Freedom.”
Barnum acquired John Scudder’s American Museum in New York City in 1842, a five-story marble structure filled with stuffed animals, waxwork figures, and similar conventional exhibits. Barnum renamed it after himself and filled it with items that arouse curiosity that people are willing to pay for, scouring the world for such items, living or dead.
Barnum left the museum in 1868 when a fire had destroyed the museum twice and retired from the museum business.
In 1871, Dan Castello & William Cameron Coup persuaded Barnum to lend his name, financial backing and business expertise to the circus they already created. Barnum obliged and the show was given the title, “P.T. Barnum’s Great Traveling Museum, Menagerie, Caravan, and Hippodrome”.
Earlier in 1860, James Bailey had teamed up with James E. Cooper to create Bailey and Cooper Circus and the circus outperformed Barnum’s circus.
In 1881, Barnum proposed a partnership with James Bailey, and they both created their circus and named it “Barnum & Bailey Circus” making a fortune running “The Greatest Show on Earth.”
The circus ran until 1905 after Bailey’s death (Barnum had died earlier in 1891, and Bailey bought Barnum’s share of the circus from his widow), and was sold to the Ringling Brothers in the same year.
Here are 10 0f P.T. Barnum’s most unusual sideshow attractions.
10 Annie Jones, The Heavy Beard
Annie Jones was born in 1865 with a chin covered in hair in Virginia. She joined Barnum’s exhibition at the early age of nine months and was known as “Infant Esau.”
Although over the next couple of years, she would later change her name as she grew up to “Esau Child” and then to “Esau lady.” At age five, she had already grown full beards, a mustache, and sideburns, and during adulthood, she sported a full length beard and also grew the hair on her head to over six feet in length.
Annie Jones suffered from a condition known as Hirsutism or an unrelated rare genetic condition that affects children of both sexes.
She expanded her talents, and apart from her massive beards being the center of attention, she also became an accomplished musician and exhibited basic etiquette at shows.
Her facial hair didn’t stop her from having a healthy life as she got married to Richard Elliot and this marriage would ogo on for 15 years until he divorced her. She later married another man (William), but the union didn’t last for long as he died shortly after their marriage.
Jones initially left Barnum’s show after her second marriage but went back after her husband died.
She died of Tuberculosis in 1902 at the age of 37.