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Old 05-26-2013, 07:56 AM   #1
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Barnum, P.T.: The Humbugs of the Worlds. V1. 26-May-2013

Phineas Taylor Barnum (July 5, 1810 – April 7, 1891) was an American showman, businessman, scam artist and entertainer, remembered for promoting celebrated hoaxes and for founding the circus that became the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.

Barnum wrote several books, including Life of P.T. Barnum (1854), The Humbugs of the World (1865), Struggles and Triumphs (1869), and The Art of Money-Getting (1880).

One of Barnum's more successful methods of self-promotion was mass publication of his autobiography. Barnum eventually gave up his copyright to allow other printers to sell inexpensive editions. At the end of the 19th century the number of copies printed was second only to the New Testament in North America.

Often referred to as the "Prince of Humbugs," Barnum saw nothing wrong in entertainers or vendors using hype (or "humbug," as he termed it) in promotional material, as long as the public was getting value for money. However, he was contemptuous of those who made money through fraudulent deceptions, especially the spiritualist mediums popular in his day, testifying against noted spirit photographer William H. Mumler in his trial for fraud. Prefiguring illusionists Harry Houdini and James Randi, Barnum exposed "the tricks of the trade" used by mediums to cheat the bereaved. In The Humbugs of the World, he offered $500 to any medium who could prove power to communicate with the dead.


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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.
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