Rare Book Monthly

Articles - November - 2008 Issue

Barnum Museum Finds Key to Its Origins on eBay

Fred

Fred Fleischer and Kathleen Maher with the Barnum ledger.


By Carl Burnham

No man of his time was better at promotion and entertaining crowds than P.T. Barnum. Barnum is attributed with the saying "Without promotion something terrible happens... Nothing!" An interesting leather bound ledger discovered on eBay is now in the hands of a museum that bears the promoter's name and contains handwritten documentation detailing artifacts donated from 1892 to 1915. The Barnum Museum in Bridgeport, Connecticut, has been amazed at the items identified in the ledger that document the earliest artifacts given to the museum when founded. Several artifacts were donated by Mrs. Barnum and other family members, including a coat originally owned by Charles Dickens, among an assortment of other Barnum family items.

According to Kathleen Maher, Executive Director/Curator for the Barnum Museum, "We were not, in fact, aware of the existence of the ledger." Credit for finding the online listing and notifying Ms. Maher goes to Frederick Fleischer, Guest Service Manager at the Barnum Museum. The winning bid was $300, purchased from the seller, Nest Egg Auctions of Meriden, Connecticut. Added Ms. Maher, "We really don't have any idea how it made its way up to Meriden...we're just happy it's home!" Given that the museum closed in the 1930s, it was likely sold then.

Besides being a testament to the great showman, the Barnum Museum contains numerous exhibits that detail the early history of Bridgeport, of which Barnum was mayor at one time. Barnum also went on to serve four terms as member of the Connecticut General Assembly. Although his more dubious pursuits were in promoting fake acts that gained him the title of "Prince of Humbugs," he was also a master entrepreneur and promoter of his time, whether it be his circus, museums, theatres, or aquarium (the first one in America). Barnum was also an author of several books, philanthropist, and real estate developer during his life.

His first museum was located in New York back in 1841. After an arsonist burned it in 1865, another was built across town. It too burned in 1868. Following this, he decided, at 61, to pursue his traveling circus to entertain the masses, which would become billed as the "Greatest Show on Earth."

The Barnum Museum opened in February of 1893 under the name the Barnum Institute for the Fairfield County Historical Society, less than two years after P. T. Barnum's death. When Barnum died, his will provided $150,000 for the construction of the museum building, which originally also housed the Bridgeport Scientific Society and the Fairfield County Historical Society. The Barnum Museum exhibits now cover three floors that detail the life of the man and his contribution to the town of Bridgeport, in which he built many of the buildings.

Rare Book Monthly

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    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 30:</b> Initial A on vellum, Cologne around 1300. Est: €25,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 30:</b> J. A. du Cerceau, <i>Les plus excellents bastiments de France,</i> 1607. Est: €12,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 30:</b> E. Cerillo, <i>Dipinti murali di Pompei,</i> 1886. Est: €2,500
    <center><b>Ketterer Rare Books<br>Auction on May 30</b>
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 30:</b> L. de Austria, <i>Compilatio de astrorum scientia,</i> 1489. Est: €9,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 30:</b> B. Besler, <i>Hortus Eystettensis,</i> around 1750. Est: €50,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 30:</b> <i>PAN,</i> 1895-1900. Est: €15,000
    <center><b>Ketterer Rare Books<br>Auction on May 30</b>
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 30:</b> F. Colonna, <i>Hypnerotomachia Poliphili,</i> 1545. Est: €40,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 30:</b> F. Schiller, <i>Die Räuber,</i> 1781. Est: €12,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 30:</b> J. Albers, <i>Formulation : Articulation,</i> 1972. Est: €18,000
    <center><b>Ketterer Rare Books<br>Auction on May 30</b>
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 30:</b> G. B. Ramusio, <i>Delle navigationi e viaggi,</i> 1556-1613. Est: €14,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 30:</b> M. Wied Neuwied, <i>Reise in das Innere Nord-America,</i> 1839-41. Est: €12,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 30:</b> E. Paolozzi, <i>Bunk,</i> 1972. Est: €25,000
  • <b><center>Sotheby’s<br> The Library of Henry Rogers<br>Broughton, 2nd Baron Fairhaven<br>Part I<br>18 May 2022</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, May 18:</b> John James Audubon and James Bachman. <i>The Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America.</i> New York: J.J. Audubon, 1845-1848. £150,000 to £250,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, May 18:</b> Thomas and William Daniell. <i>Oriental Scenery,</i> London, 1795-1807 [but 1841], 6 parts in 3 volumes, folio. £150,000 to £200,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, May 18:</b> Mark Catesby. <i>The natural history of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands...</i> London, 1731-1743, 2 volumes. £100,000 to £150,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, May 18:</b> Gould and Lear. <i>A monograph of the Ramphastidae,</i> 1854; <i>Illustrations of the family of Psittacidae,</i> 1832. £60,000 to £90,000.
  • <center><b>Swann Auction Galleries<br>Graphic Design<br>May 19, 2022</b>
    <b>Swann May 19:</b> Adolphe Mouron Cassandre, <i>Triplex,</i> pencil maquette, 1930. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann May 19:</b> Claude Fayette Brandon, <i>The Chap Book,</i> circa 1895. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann May 19:</b> Various Artists, a complete set of <i>Das Plakat,</i> set of 10 hardcover volumes, 1912-21. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann May 19:</b> Javier Gómez Acebo & Máximo Viejo Santamarta, <i>San Sebastian / XI Circuitto Automovilista,</i> 1935. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann May 19:</b> Ephraim Moses Lilien, <i>Berliner Tageblatt,</i> circa 1899. $12,000 to $18,000.

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