Publisher’s Note

One of Mr. Barnum’s secrets of success is his unique methods of advertising, and we can readily understand how he can bear to be denounced as a “Humbug,” because this popular designation though undeserved in the popular acceptation of it, “brought grist to his mill.” He has constantly kept himself before the public⁠—nay, we may say that he has been kept before the public constantly, by the stereotyped word in question; and what right, or what desire, could he have to discard or complain of an epithet which was one of the prospering elements of his business as “a showman?” In a narrow sense of the word he is a “Humbug:” in the larger acceptation he is not.

He has in several chapters of this book elaborated the distinction, and we will only say in this place, what, indeed, no one who knows him will doubt, that, aside from his qualities as a caterer to popular entertainment, he is one of the most remarkable men of the age. As a business man, of far-reaching vision and singular executive force, he has for years been the life of Bridgeport, near which city he has long resided, and last winter he achieved high rank in the Legislature of Connecticut, as both an effective speaker and a patriot, having “no axe to grind,” and seeking only the public welfare. We, indeed, agree with the editor of The New York Independent, who, in an article drawn out by the burning of the American Museum, says: “Mr. Barnum’s rare talent as a speaker has always been exercised in behalf of good morals, and for patriotic objects. No man has done better service in the temperance cause by public lectures during the past ten years, both in America and Great Britain, and during the war he was most efficient in stimulating the spirit which resulted in the preservation of the Union, and the destruction of Slavery.”

We cannot forbear quoting two or three additional paragraphs from that article, especially as they are so strongly expressive of the merits of the case:

Mr. Barnum’s whole career has been a very transparent one. He has never befooled the public to its injury, and, though his name has come to be looked upon as a synonym for humbuggery, there never was a public man who was less of one.

“The hearty good wishes of many good men, and the sympathies of the community in which he has lived, go with him, and the public he has so long amused, but never abused, will be ready to sustain him whenever he makes another appeal to them. Mr. Barnum is a very good sort of representative Yankee. When crowds of English traders and manufacturers in Liverpool, Manchester, and London, flocked to hear his lectures on the art of making money, they expected to hear from him some very smart recipes for knavery; but they were as much astonished as they were edified to learn that the only secret he had to tell them was to be honest, and not to expect something for nothing.”

We could fill many pages with quotations of corresponding tenor from the leading and most influential men and journals in the land, but we will close this publisher’s note with the following from the N.Y. Sun.

“One of the happiest impromptu oratorical efforts that we have heard for some time was that made by Barnum at the benefit performance given for his employees on Friday afternoon. If a stranger wanted to satisfy himself how the great showman had managed so to monopolize the ear and eye of the public during his long career he could not have had a better opportunity of doing so than by listening to this address. Every word, though delivered with apparent carelessness, struck a keynote in the hearts of his listeners. Simple, forcible, and touching, it showed how thoroughly this extraordinary man comprehends the character of his countrymen, and how easily he can play upon their feelings.

“Those who look upon Barnum as a mere charlatan, have really no knowledge of him. It would be easy to demonstrate that the qualities that have placed him in his present position of notoriety and affluence would, in another pursuit, have raised him to far greater eminence. In his breadth of views, his profound knowledge of mankind, his courage under reverses, his indomitable perseverance, his ready eloquence, and his admirable business tact, we recognise the elements that are conducive to success in most other pursuits. More than almost any other living man, Barnum may be said to be a representative type of the American mind.”