- , BARNUMISM"It's the greatest show on Earth." Very possibly. But who said it? Bamum himself, the mastermind of the Barnum & Bailey Circus, which later was merged to form part of Ringling Bros, and Barnum & Bailey Circus. Was Barnum being honest? Perhaps. But he is also reputed to have said, "There's a sucker born every minute." And he never denied getting people moved out of his exhibit to make room for others by shouting, "Here's he way to the egress." Those who followed his suggestion, expecting to see something, found themselves outside the exhibition hall and unable to return. And is it true that he whitewashed an ordinary elephant and paraded it as a white elephant from Siam? To be barnumized is to be classed as a sucker.Phineas Taylor Barnum (1810-1891) was born in Bethel, Connecticut, the son of a farmer. He failed in several undertakings, but in 1835 he took the step that would make him one of the country's greatest impresarios. He began his career as a showman by successfully, but fraudulently, promoting Aunt Joice Heth as the nurse to George Washington. This made her at that time 162 years old, and yet thousands paid to see her. Barnum must have been right; a sucker is born every minute. Barnum was first with many novel and exciting show pieces. He exhibited Tom Thumb, a twenty-five-inch midget. He brought over Jenny Lind, a Swedish soprano, calling her "The Swedish Nightingale." He showcased Jumbo, the biggest elephant on earth, so he said (and gave a new word, Jumbo, to the American language), and his exhibit of the Siamese twins Chang and Eng was a constant source of wonder. Barnum, America's most famous showman, relished fleecing the public (barnumism is a synonym for "humbuggery") and didn't object to his title "The Prince of Humbugs."
Dictionary of eponyms. Morton S. Freeman. 2013.