The great showman, politician, and flim-flam man Phineas Taylor Barnum was born in Bethel, Connecticut in 1810 and began his career as a store-owner, lottery-runner, and the owner of a weekly paper, The Herald of Freedom, which he used to ridicule conservative politicians whose promulgation of “blue laws”, restricting gambling, threatened the young Barnum’s livelihood. But by 1835, Barnum had outgrown Connecticut—not to mention having been jailed for two months for libel—and came to New York where he would soon open Barnum’s American Museum, located across from St. Paul’s Church on Broadway and Ann Street. The five-story ‘museum’ incorporated a zoo, lecture hall, and wax museum. But most importantly, it housed Barnum’s ‘freak show’, exhibiting human oddities from around the globe.
Barnum became well-known for hiring talents like the so-called ‘Siamese twins’, Chang and Eng Bunker, who would go on to become plantation owners and have a total of twenty-one children with two different women. Barnum also secured the services of the 25-inch General Tomb Thumb, the bearded woman Josephine Boisdechene, and William Henry Johnson, better known as Zip the Pinhead. These were celebrities of a kind, with Tom Thumb receiving congratulations on his wedding from Abraham Lincoln, and Barnum becoming infamous for his outrageous marketing and oddball acquisitions, which included the Feejee Mermaid (actually a mummified monkey joined to a fish’s tail), the trunk of a tree under which the disciple of Christ supposedly sat, and an aquarium—the first of its kind in the U.S.—with a live beluga whale.
The museum received upwards of 15,000 visitors a day, becoming a staple of New York, and eventually accumulating more total visitors in the 24 years it was open than the entire population of the United States. On July 13, 1864, the museum burned to the ground, with the escaped animals being shot by police officers. Still, Barnum was undeterred and went into the circus industry at the age of 60, with “P.T. Barnum’s Grand Traveling Museum, Menagerie, Caravan, & Hippodrome.” Traveling by train, P.T. Barnum’s circus became as big a sensation as his museum had been, with attractions like Jumbo the African elephant.
By the time of his death in 1891, Barnum was publically recognized for his philanthropy, good works, and liberal politics (he’d been such an opponent of slavery that Manhattan Confederates had attempted to burn down his museum in 1863). Married to Charity Hallet since 1829, Barnum had remarried to Nancy Fish following Hallet’s death in 1873. When Barnum himself died of a stroke, his body was interned in the Mountain Grove Cemetery in Bridgeport, Connecticut, a cemetery he had designed himself. By this time, Barnum had more-or-less invented modern show business and made a huge contribution to the American character, a real-life folk hero whose outsized legacy was beyond doubt and who remains one of the greatest (and most profitable) eccentrics in history.
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Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.