P. T. Barnum Digital Collection

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 - P.T. Barnum Digital Collection
Within the advertisement collection is a range of materials from broadsides, handbills, and posters, to newspaper ads, couriers, and trade cards. Also included are booklets and programs that were mainly intended as promotional material with the informational content having a subsidiary role. (Please find informational booklets and programs in their own sub-collection folders.) Circus posters are also in this collection since their purpose was to advertise. Note that there are two large poster collections in addition to several individual posters. Also see the prints and the photographs collections for several items that are similar to posters, but smaller.
Books and Booklets - P.T. Barnum Digital Collection
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, a songbook, clown joke book, and rare guidebooks to Barnum’s American Museum. Also included are early circus route books, and substantial booklets pertaining to the lavish circus spectacles such as "Nero" and "The Fall of Babylon." Handsomely illustrated children’s books by Barnum are also included. 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 folder.
Clothing - P.T. Barnum Digital Collection
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 - P.T. Barnum Digital Collection
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 - P.T. Barnum Digital Collection
Within the documents and records sub-collection are various financial and legal documents such as bank checks, banknotes, receipts, bills of sale, deeds, a writ form printed by Barnum, and contracts. It also includes petitions, addresses, certificates, a birthday invitation, and Barnum’s marriage notice, as well as a phrenology chart that was completed for M. Lavinia Stratton nee Warren (“Mrs. Gen. Tom Thumb”). Most of the items pertain to P. T. Barnum and his family, while a few relate to Charles S. Stratton (“Gen. Tom Thumb”) and to his wife M. Lavinia Warren, and others.
Equipment - P.T. Barnum Digital Collection
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 - P.T. Barnum Digital Collection
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 - P.T. Barnum Digital Collection
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 - P.T. Barnum Digital Collection
The manuscript sub-collection includes hand-written material as well as items related to it. Correspondence collections, and a 700+-page copy book of Barnum’s letters written while in France in the mid-1840s, form the major portion of this sub-collection. There are also individual manuscript items, and an early ledger as well as an assortment of letters and documents in the Salmagundi Ledger. Examples of Barnum’s memo books from his later years, filled with his to-do lists and reminders contrast with his decorative “blank” journals from an earlier period, filled with fine engravings yet lacking any notes. Barnum’s address book, a stereotype printing plate of a Barnum letter, and examples of blank letterhead stationery are also included.
Newspapers - P.T. Barnum Digital Collection
The newspapers and magazines sub-collection contains illustrated material as well as items that are mainly text. A highlight are the dozen rare Herald of Freedom newspapers published by P. T. Barnum in the early 1830s, along with two competitors’ issues from the same time. Also included are 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, Jumbo the Elephant, 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 - P.T. Barnum Digital Collection
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 - P.T. Barnum Digital Collection
Contained within the photographs heading is an array of formats that range from daguerreotypes to albumen prints, and everything in between including cartes de visite, cabinet cards, stereoviews (stereograph cards), posters, "real photo" postcards, and a unique photo album that belong to M. Lavinia Warren (Lavinia Warren Stratton or Mrs. General Tom Thumb.) That album contains about 200 images, including many performers. The photographs in the sub-collection are mostly portraits (especially family photos), but also include of P. T. Barnum’s Bridgeport homes, and exterior photos of Charles and Lavinia Stratton’s homes. Two sets of interior and exterior views of Barnum’s Waldemere and Marina mansions, many with hand-written descriptions, are notable. Barnum Family photos span the generations from the mothers of P. T. Barnum and his wife Charity down to the great-grandchildren.
Prints - P.T. Barnum Digital Collection
The prints sub-collection includes a variety of subjects and genres, ranging from an 1875 birds-eye view map to decorative prints and portrait engravings. Several of the prints are derived from photographs or daguerreotypes. Most of the images pertain to P. T. Barnum’s famous performers such as Jenny Lind and Charles S. Stratton (General Tom Thumb) and include Currier and Ives prints of popular performers such as the Albino Family, and Chang and Eng Bunker. Portraits of Barnum range in date from the mid-1840s to the late 1880s, and include caricatures. Also in the collection are views of Barnum’s homes in Bridgeport; Charles Stratton’s home in Bridgeport; and several views of the American Museum in New York City. A color lithograph of Barnum’s circus trains is much like a poster, but is more modest in size and lacks location and date information.
Programs - P.T. Barnum Digital Collection
The programs sub-collection includes material from Jenny Lind concerts; Royal Aquarium Entertainments in London; and an English theatrical about Coney Island produced for Barnum and Bailey. Please refer to the advertisements sub-collection and the books and booklets sub-collection for various types of circus entertainment programs such as couriers and booklets that include programs. Other programs in this sub-collection pertain to events in P. T. Barnum’s life, including banquets given in his honor, and memorial programs for his funeral and the subsequent statue unveiling. Also included are early programs for lectures presented at the Barnum Institute of Science and History, now the Barnum Museum.
Sculpture - P.T. Barnum Digital Collection
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 - P.T. Barnum Digital Collection
Within the sheet music sub-collection contains operatic material sung by Swedish soprano Jenny Lind, and popular music designed to market P. T. Barnum and his celebrity associates, Charles S. Stratton (General Tom Thumb) and his bride M. Lavinia Warren, and even Jumbo the Elephant. The popular music includes waltzes, polkas, a quadrille, and a march.
Souvenirs and Toys - P.T. Barnum Digital Collection
Contained within the souvenirs and toys grouping is a wide variety of items, including ephemera (things not meant to last long, like tickets), and previous objects. Many items pertain to P. T. Barnum’s celebrities, especially Charles S. Stratton (General Tom Thumb) and his wife Lavinia Warren, also Jenny Lind, and Jumbo. Among the items are tickets, tokens or game counters, calling cards, paper dolls, a large printed handkerchief, and even a souvenir slice of wedding cake given to a guest at the Fairy Wedding. The medal awarded to P.T. Barnum for his advocacy of temperance is also present, as are pieces of tusks from two famous elephants, Jumbo and Columbia.