Barnum Museum

About This Collection

ABC: A Barnum Companion
A Barnum Companion gathers unique essays, classroom materials, archival information, and additional resources to provide additional information for the P.T. Barnum Digital Collection. All material presented here is meant to act as a guidepost, and assist researchers, teachers, and those who just want to learn more.
Advertisements - Barnum Museum
The advertisements sub-collection includes a wide range of material, from colorful posters to handbills, broadsides, and couriers. While many of the items pertain to Barnum’s circus enterprises, some pre-date that time and relate to the era of his American Museum, including General Tom Thumb’s (Charles S. Stratton) tours.
Books and Booklets - Barnum Museum
The Books and Booklets sub-collection contains a variety of souvenir booklets about Barnum’s performers as well as several editions of his History of Animals, and a rare guidebook to the American Museum. Also included are two early circus route books, and beautifully illustrated children’s books. Material pertaining to Barnum’s life and death includes illustrations from his autobiography, a booklet concerning his religious beliefs, his Will and Codicils, and a biographical piece written by his widow. Where “covers only” are indicated in the record title, a complete example of a similar item can be found in the P. T. Barnum Digital Collection.
Clothing - The Barnum Museum
The Clothing sub-collection contains many garments and accessories Charles S. Stratton (General Tom Thumb), M. Lavinia Warren (Stratton's wife), and Lavinia's sister Minnie Warren, who were all little people. Items in the collection range from jackets and suits to a fur cape, a nightgown, and corset. Clothing worn by P. T. Barnum, including a top hat he purchased in his twenties, is also part of this collection.
Decorative Arts - The Barnum Museum
The Decorative Arts sub-collection includes ceramics, textile items, silver, and mixed medium items such as mantelpiece clocks and candlesticks. Some were mass-produced to satisfy popular crazes, such as the Lind-mania for Jenny Lind items, and later, Jumbo-mania, while others were expensive, custom-made items. Examples from Barnum’s porcelain dinner service, and the gilt tea service he acquired in France are included. A decorative architectural element from his home Iranistan, the only such item saved after the fire, is also in the collection.
Documents and Records - The Barnum Museum
The Documents sub-collection includes various financial and legal documents like bank checks, banknotes, receipts, bill of sale, a deed, and contracts. It also includes a petition, an award, a marriage certificate and marriage notice, and a phrenology chart. Most of the items pertain to P. T. Barnum and his family, while a few relate to Charles S. Stratton (General Tom Thumb), his wife M. Lavinia Warren, and others.
Equipment - The Barnum Museum
The Equipment sub-collection is diverse in content with items ranging in size from carriages down to a thimble. The miniature carriages of Charles S. Stratton (General Tom Thumb) and George Washington Morrison Nutt (Commodore Nutt) are included, as is a nautical compass and spyglass used by Stratton on his yacht, and a riding crop, pony harness that belonged to him. The miniature thimble belonged to Stratton’s wife, M. Lavinia Warren.
Furniture - Barnum Museum
The furniture sub-collection contains a range of examples dating from the early to late 1800s. Among these are miniature beds and chairs that belonged to Charles S. Stratton (Gen. Tom Thumb) and his wife M. Lavinia Warren, and items that belonged to P. T. Barnum and were used in his Bridgeport, Connecticut, homes. Of special note are selected examples from a suite made for P. T. Barnum’s personal library by Julius Dessoir.
Jewelry - The Barnum Museum
The jewelry sub-collection features items worn by little person Charles S. Stratton, better known as “Gen. Tom Thumb,” his wife Lavinia Warren, and by P. T. Barnum. Of special note is the oversized gold ring that belonged to Barnum and shows his first Bridgeport mansion, Iranistan.
Manuscripts - The Barnum Museum
The manuscript collection encompasses hand-written material and other items that relate to hand-written material. Correspondence collections, and a 700+-page copy book of Barnum’s letters from France in the mid-1840s, form the major portion of the sub-collection. There are also individual manuscript items, as well as several decorative “blank” journals that belonged to P. T. Barnum, with sample pages of the fine engravings in them. Also present is a stereotype printing plate used to print a hand-written Barnum letter and examples of letterhead stationery.
Newspapers - The Barnum Museum
The newspapers present in the collection contain newspapers that not only feature text, but are heavily focused on illustrations. Included are a dozen Herald of Freedom newspapers from the 1830s, published by P. T. Barnum, with two competitors’ issues from the same time; and selected news magazines featuring stories that pertain to P. T. Barnum and his famous associates. Subjects include Jenny Lind, Charles Stratton (Gen. Tom Thumb), Barnum’s American Museum, and Barnum’s Hippodrome. Full-page and double-page illustrations from Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, and Harper’s Weekly are among them. A few clippings are also included.
Paintings - The Barnum Museum
The paintings sub-collection includes portraits and landscape views, mainly from the mid-1800s. The portraits include P. T. Barnum’s family members, and Charles S. Stratton, better known as Gen. Tom Thumb. There is also a maritime painting (ship portrait); a house portrait done for a prominent Bridgeport resident; a view of the City Reservoir; and two landscape views of Barnum’s Iranistan property. Known artists include Frederick R. Spencer, R. R. Ramsey, Jurgen Frederick Huge, and L. Huge.
Photographs - The Barnum Museum
The photographs collection offers a wide array of formats that track with the development of photography itself. These formats include daguerreotypes, cartes de visite, cabinet cards, artes de visite, stereoview or stereograph cards, albumen prints, a poster with applied photographs, and “real photo” postcards. Subjects of the images include not only portraits of P.T. Barnum and his associates, but also include large format views of P.T. Barnum's homes Waldemere and Marina. The images of Waldemere feature lengthy hand-written descriptions by Nancy Fish, Barnum's second wife.
Prints - The Barnum Museum
The prints sub-collection includes a variety of subjects and genres, ranging from an 1875 birds-eye view of Bridgeport to decorative prints, and portraits. Several pertain to P. T. Barnum’s famous performers such as Jenny Lind, Charles S. Stratton (General Tom Thumb) and performers at the American Museum. Also included are portraits of P.T. Barnum which range in date from the mid-1840s to the late 1880s. Also in the collection are views of Barnum’s homes in Bridgeport; a busy street scene in front of his American Museum in New York City; and a small, poster-like image of his circus trains.
Programs - The Barnum Museum
The Programs sub-collection includes material from Jenny Lind concerts; Royal Aquarium Entertainments in London; a banquet honoring P. T. Barnum; and Barnum’s funeral and the subsequent statue unveiling.
Sculpture - The Barnum Museum
Sculptures in this sub-collection includes portrait busts in marble and plaster, a cemetery monument, and a replica of Charles S. Stratton's (General Tom Thumb) foot. The busts are of P. T. Barnum and Jenny Lind. The known sculptors are Thomas Ball and H. W. McCarthy.
Sheet Music - The Barnum Museum
The sheet music sub-collection contains material sung by Swedish soprano Jenny Lind, and popular music intended to market celebrities Charles Stratton and his wife M. Lavinia Warren, also billed as “Mr. and Mrs. Gen. Tom Thumb."
Souvenirs - The Barnum Museum
The souvenir sub-collection encompasses a wide variety of items, including ephemera (things not meant to last long, such as tickets) and precious objects. Many items pertain to P. T. Barnum’s celebrities, especially Charles S. Stratton (“Gen. Tom Thumb”) and his wife Lavinia Warren, Jenny Lind, and Jumbo the Elephant. Among the items are tickets, calling cards, paper dolls, a large printed handkerchief, and a souvenir slice of wedding cake. The medal awarded to P.T. Barnum to honor his dedication to the temperance cause is also included.