P.T. Barnum: America's Greatest Showman
Knopf, 1995 - Circus owners - 358 pages
With P. T. Barnum: America's Greatest Showman, Philip B. Kunhardt, Jr., Philip B. Kunhardt III, and Peter W. Kunhardt - who were responsible for the best-selling Lincoln: An Illustrated Biography - rediscover the genius and vision of an unmatched impresario and entrepreneur. In vivid words and spellbinding pictures (more than 500 photographs, engravings, and color lithographs from the renowned Meserve Collection and forty other archives), we meet a man of complex motives, a master of merchandise, and inveterate self-promoter often reviled for his opportunism. We meet the man who did not say "There's a sucker born every minute"; whose best friends were clergymen; whose autobiography sold more than a million copies; who took a public leap through a flaming hoop to prove to the ASPCA that his performing horses were in no danger; who (allegedly) plotted with Samuel Clemens to lease a comet's tail to take a million passengers on a guided tour of outer space. We meet the man who built his reputation - and his fortune - largely on the exoticism of others, but whose crowning moment as a member of the Connecticut state legislature came in a speech in favor of the constitutional amendment to abolish slavery: "A human soul is not to be trifled with. It may inhabit the body of a Chinaman, a Turk, an Arab or a Hotentot - it is still an immortal spirit!"
There is no denying Barnum's abiding influence, more than a century after his death, on our popular culture. For better and for worse, we owe America's irrepressible infatuation with show biz largely to him.
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