He said of himself, "If I can display myself publicly as a friend, people will consider me trustworthy, and at that point, upon close inspection, I can point out the quality construction of their purse."
In his 20's, he managed to become owner of a newspaper by chance and charm. The original owner had no relatives - as managing typesetter and editor, he took the paper over but was criticized often for embellishment or sensationalism.
He decided to sell the paper and go on tour with an eclectic troupe of people he had reported on at his former newspaper.
He later took his money and opened a museum ~ displaying curiosities such as mermaids with "documented proof". While history records that he went through bankruptcy and later emerged, this account of his struggles has its only mention in his own autobiography- which in his day - was second only in publication to the Holy Bible. <~ True Story.
The actual reason he faced financial struggle was because of his swindle of cities and their resulting lawsuits throughout the North, the economy and the general morale of time period (The War Between The States), and bad investments, mixed with opulence.
Towards the latter part of his life ~ he moved into politics - claiming to live a life of "profitable philanthropy" - a term he coined. While in office, he raised Connecticut taxes significantly to, in his own words, "do the good that people refuse to do as individuals, but also to make a name for the individual. The individual in my mirror that is."
The areas around Bridgeport, Connecticut now revere Barnum as a legend, a hero, a wonderful human being. In actuality, he was just a bizarre man, with a bizarre, narcissistic view of life.
It's strange how people are remembered.
Here's a little known story about P.T. Barnum to exemplify his philosophies ...
Days before his traveling show would come to a town - he paid a local corner lamppost caller to shout out to passersby about the terrible "Egress" that P.T. Barnum was bringing into town. Barnum would also place ads in the local papers ...
"Come see the terrible Egress!"
Patrons of his traveling sideshow would tour his oddities of science and nature ~ all the while, seeing flyers and news clippings laying on the floor that read such words as ....
"Biggest Egress on record visible at Barnum's show"
"Egress Escape? Barnum not prepared for such tragedy!"
Sometimes, the ushers or even the sideshow bearded lady would show a scar and say, "Be careful at the end ... The Egress did this to me last year."
Finally, patrons, who had paid a hefty 15¢, got to the end of the winding maze of exhibits. A large mouth with a dark inside with the words "This way to the Egress". Occasional screams of terror could be heard. Sometimes, women collapsed and passed out were being drug out on stretchers back into the light while medics fanned them and gave them smelling salt. Sometimes, an usher would be standing by the "entrance" to the Egress with eucalyptus saying, "Smell this, it helps your fear."
The Egress was the exit. Sometimes Barnum himself would be at the end offering each patron a nickel refund to keep the Egress a secret. Others, he'd offer a full refund if they promised to tell a friend how terrifying the Egress was but that it was worth the money to see the rest of the show.
Friends, I told you this story to warn you. Today, P.T. Barnum's are born every minute. There are lots of people trying to take advantage of you - telling you they are doing good - but really - they are out solely for their own personal gain or glory. There are others that may offer you something to cover up a lie - it may be friendship, it may be money, it may be a gift, or even an occasional "hello" that makes you feel special. There are few kind people left ~ if you find a genuinely kind soul ~ cherish and reward that person with your kindness.
Note: P.T. Barnum is credited with one of the most famous quotes in history ...
"There's a sucker born every minute!"
He didn't say this, it was actually about Barnum written by a Boston Newspaper editor David Hannum.