In the Autobiography of P. T. Barnum, published in 1855, I partly promised to write a book which should expose some of the chief humbugs of the world. The invitation of my friends Messrs. Cauldwell and Whitney of the Weekly Mercury caused me to furnish for that paper a series of articles in which I very naturally took up the subject in question. This book is a revision and rearrangement of a portion of those articles. If I should find that I have met a popular demand, I shall in due time put forth a second volume. There is not the least danger of a dearth of materials.

I once travelled through the Southern States in company with a magician. The first day in each town, he astonished his auditors with his deceptions. He then announced that on the following day he would show how each trick was performed, and how every man might thus become his own magician. That exposé spoiled the legerdemain market on that particular route, for several years. So, if we could have a full exposure of “the tricks of trade” of all sorts, of humbugs and deceivers of past times, religious, political, financial, scientific, quackish and so forth, we might perhaps look for a somewhat wiser generation to follow us. I shall be well satisfied if I can do something towards so good a purpose.