When he was about 50-years old, Phineas Taylor Barnum from Bethel, Connecticut, managed to turn around his entire life. He was no longer that poor country boy, but a showman. The greatest one on the entire world. Back in 1865, he wrote a book called Humbugs of the World in which he tells the public that he hadn’t become so successful by scamming them. His story became more popular with the new Hollywood movie about his life, starring Hugh Jackman as The Greatest Showman.
The most fascinating thing about Barnum was that he always knew how to attract his audience. His ideas were grand and the marketing strategy around them brilliant. After all, the people of the time (and those living now) were only interested in pure entertainment. It didn’t even matter where it came from or how it was put on display. As for the term “humbug”, which he used in his book, Barnum said that it represented someone who put on a glamorous appearance for the sole purpose of attracting the people’s attention.
Who The Greatest Showman really was
Barnum began tasting from showmanship when he was only 25-years old. Around that time, he obtained the right to “rent” an older black woman called Joice Heth. Living in New York, he didn’t have much success with his other jobs and businesses. So, even if slavery was outlawed, he still leased her for $1,000 per year.
The recent Hollywood movie starring Hugh Jackman as a soft-talking, lovable Barnum doesn’t talk about this. That character doesn’t seem the type to do such a thing. But again, that character is not the real showman who lived in the 1800s. However, what happened in 1836 equally shocked and entertained the public. After the woman passed away, he simply couldn’t let her go in peace. So, he put on a live autopsy to show that she wasn’t really 161-years old, as she was marketed as. In the end, it was all a fraud.
As historian Daniel Boorstin once said, it’s not about how easily you can deceive the public, but about how much the public enjoys being deceived.
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