October 08, 2001
The Barnum Museum is housed in a gorgeous vintage building that was once the home to The Barnum Institute of Science and History. The museum does a fairly good job showcasing Barnum's life and work, focusing on his life in Bridgeport and his career exhibition highlights, with the most attention paid to Jenny Lind ("The Swedish Nightingale") and Tom Thumb, along with a nice large-scale model of a three-ring circus. The Jenny Lind room was the most detailed and engaging, with a fine assortment of memorabilia and historical documents about this interesting figure. (Perhaps I'm too prejudiced towards the modern, but I'm rather amazed that a singer could have achieved such worldwide renown in an era before mass communications or sound recordings.)
Though normally a museum like this will try to cover up the darker aspects of its subject's personal life, I imagine there's more leeway when you're dealing with a figure like Barnum. Plus, if you're going to mention his family history, I'm not sure how you would work around this:
"Charity Barnum's chronic illnesses and complaints lingered for several years until, in 1873, after 44 years of marriage, she died of heart disease.
At the time of his wife's death, the 63-year-old Barnum was in Europe, ostensibly on business, but also meeting with an old friend, John Fish, and Fish's 22-year-old daughter, Nancy, with whom Barnum had been corresponding for more than two years.
Rather than return home for Charity's funeral, Barnum remained in England to be consoled by Nancy.
P. T. Barnum and Nancy Fish were secretly married Feb. 14, 1874, in London, just 13 weeks and two days after Charity's death. He returned to the United States in April and soon sent for Nancy to join him. They were married at a public ceremony in New York City in September 1874."
"…remained in England to be consoled by Nancy." I suppose that's about as delicate as you could put the situation.
Anyway, I spent about an hour-and-a-half in the museum, and I would recommend it in an "if you're interested in the subject and happen to be in the Bridgeport area anyway" sort of way, which I understand is not much of a rave.
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