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P.T Barnum was not the first man with a circus or museum of oddities, but he was certainly the most well-known, and today you're going to learn why.


Without promotion, something terrible happens... nothing!

-P.T. Barnum


P.T. Barnum made a career bringing "oddities" and "weird and wacky" attractions to Americans living in the mid-1800s.

One story that demonstrates his ethic-devoid approach of making money is when a old women came to him and said that she was 161 years old, and was formerly George Washington's nurse maid. Barnum put her on display in his circus, and then leaked to the newspapers, anonymously, that she was a "hoax." Even more mass attention came pouring in as a result.

Whether you had a ticket for P.T. Barnum's circus or not, you couldn't avoid hearing about it.

While his competitors were placing ads in the newspaper, Barnum was parading elephants through the streets, sending clowns to visit sick children in local hospitals and gaining free media in local newspapers by attracting their attention, versus paying for it, through unique acts such as the simonize twins and the midget "Tom Thumb.".

He was famous for saying that he didn't care what the newspapers said about him, as long as they say something. This clearly paved the way for the idea that there is no such thing as bad publicity.

Another stunt Barnum used to promote his show was purchasing a huge house next to a very frequently used span of train tracks.

He would frequently have one of his show-elephants plow his yard so that every time a train passed, people would rush to a window to see this bizarre sight of a man riding an elephant, with a plow attached, through his yard.

In modern times, a scene like this would easily go viral on Social Media the very first time it was spotted.

P.T. Barnum had several famous quotes that highlighted him as a ruthless businessman, with not much faith in human skepticism as was demonstrated best when he said, "there is a sucker born every minute."

However, what is most obvious is he loved attention, and nothing demonstrated this more then when he knew he was slowly dying, he encouraged newspapers to run his obituary before he actually died so he could read what people were saying about him.

I think the best lesson of P.T. Barnum is if you want to be the most well-known in your field, you must crave attention more than oxygen.

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