P.T. Barnum – Detail of an engraving from the Connecticut Historical Society

P.T. (Phineas Taylor) Barnum (1810-1891)

Best known as an entertainer and promoter, Connecticut native Phineas Taylor Barnum was also an author, philanthropist, businessman, and politician. He served in the Connecticut legislature and, as Bridgeport’s mayor, spearheaded numerous city improvement initiatives, including Seaside Park. He also helped found the Bridgeport Hospital in 1878. Barnum, as a showman, was known for promoting hoaxes and human curiosities, such as General Tom Thumb and the “Feejee” mermaid, at his American Museum in New York City. He later founded what became the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. Loved the world over, Barnum died in his sleep and was buried in Bridgeport’s Mountain Grove Cemetery.


The Barnum & Bailey Greatest Show on Earth. Miss Rose Meers, the Greatest living lady rider

P. T. Barnum: An Entertaining Life

Once declared “the most widely known American that ever lived,” this showman's life story is as colorful as the entertainments he provided in the mid-1800s. …[more]

Learn More


“The Lost Museum,” 2017. Link.


1944 Hartford Circus Fire Raw Footage. DVD, 1944. Link.


“The Barnum Museum,” 2017. Link.


Connecticut State Library. “Hartford Circus Fire Archival Records,” 2015. Link.
Connecticut Digital Archive. “P. T. Barnum Collection,” n.d. Link.
The Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress. “Phineas T. Barnum to Abraham Lincoln, Friday, August 30, 1861 (Union Sentiment in Connecticut).” Accessed April 7, 2012. Link.
Brideport Public Library; Bridgeport History Center. “The Circus Poster Collection: Barnum in the Late 1800s,” 2015. Link.


Lehman, Eric D. Becoming Tom Thumb: Charles Stratton, P. T. Barnum, and the Dawn of American Celebrity. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2013.
Saxon, A. H. P. T. Barnum: The Legend and the Man. New York: Columbia University Press, 1989.
Kunhardt, Philip B., and Peter W. Kunhardt. P.T. Barnum: America’s Greatest Showman. New York: Knopf, 1995.
Barnum, P. T., and Sarah J. Burke. P.T. Barnum’s Menagerie. New York; London: White & Allen, 1888. Link.
Barnum, P. T. Struggles and Triumphs, or Forty Years’ Recollections of P.T. Barnum Written by Himself. Buffalo, NY: Warren, Johnson & Co., 1872. Link.
Wallace, Irving. The Fabulous Showman; the Life and Times of P. T. Barnum. New York: Knopf, 1959.
Barnum, P. T. The Life of P.T. Barnum, Written by Himself. New York: Redfield, 1855. Link.


Lewis, Al. “P.T. Barnum Put On A Show That Plays On To This Day.” Investors Business Daily, January 22, 2014. Link.