Happy Birthday, Mr. Barnum

Portrait of P.T. Barnum
Mr. P.T. Barnum

This is truely a reason to celebrate! 200 years ago Mr. P.T. „There’s a sucker born every minute“ Barnum first saw the light of this world. While the „Sucker-Quote“ is easily his most well known, it is not at all certain he actually ever said that. It is just like „I am your father, Luke!“ Everybody knows the quote but the actual words are different.
P.T. Barnum was a rather kind soul. His actual words may have been something like „there’s a customer born every minute“. The latter wording, although unconfirmed just like the first, is regarded to be much more in tune with Barnum’s personality. This view is bolstered by his philanthropy and other, confirmed, quotes such as the following one in opposition to slavery:

„A human soul is not to be trifled with. It may inhabit the body of a Chinaman, a Turk, an Arab or a Hotentot – it is still an immortal spirit!“

Probably far less well known is his opposition to spiritual mediums, whom he sought to debunk on every possible opportunity. This can be viewed as a bit hypocritical, since he deceived his customers to a certain degree himself. Barnum explained his position by stating his customers would at least get to see something. They would get „value for money“ [sic],  while spiritual mediums would just offer humbug and deception.

While later serving as mayor of Bridgeport, CT, USA (which is about an hour’s drive from Rocky Hill, CT, but that’s a very personal note) he worked to improve water supply and introduced gas light (what a Steampunk thing to do…) and he was also appointed to the Board of Trustees of Tufts Universiy.

Quite a multi-faceted man you were, Mr. Barnum.

I guess you agree, he would be right at home in any Steampunk setting, as protagonist or financer of some endevour.