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This article is based on an A&E program documenting Barnum's life. Unfortunately, the name of the program is long forgotten (it wasn't a Biography episode).






How he changed the English language forever.

That good old swindler P. T. Barnum (1810-91) introduced more terms into our language than any other modern person. 

For example: 

Jumbo - This was the name of  the world's largest elephant. Now we have jumbo shrimp. (Note: Jumbo was already named when Barnum purchased him from the London Zoo in 1882 for $10,000).  However, the fame that Barnum created for the elephant allowed for the term to become part of our language.) 

Throwing your hat in the ring was coined when a local politician actually threw his hat into Barnum's circus ring after declaring his candidacy. 
 
 

Grandstanding referred to prominent people who would sit in the best stands at the circus to be noticed. 

Let's get the show on the road was P. T.'s declaration when it was time to load the animals on the train. 

The Greatest Show on Earth - what else would you call a large circus? 

Siamese Twins - he made his living showing off freaks (clearly not a politically correct term today). He had two called Chang and Eng from (where else?) Siam. 

Rain or Shine - by using the famous big top, the show always went on, no matter how bad the weather was. 

By the way, the only phrase that he is currently famous for is A sucker is born every minute. Strangely enough, he never said this.  It was actually stated by his competitor - a banker named David Hannum, owner of the Cardiff Giant (which later turned out to be a hoax). 

As a side note, Humphrey Bogart never said Play it again, Sam. Woody Allen said it in the movie of the same name. 

The original circus was called simply the P. T. Barnum Circus. He then merged with his competitor and formed the Barnum & Bailey Circus. When Barnum died, Bailey ran the circus. When Bailey died, the Ringling Brothers bought them out. That's how we get the incredibly long Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus

Barnum was also a somewhat successful politician, serving several terms as a Connecticut State legislator. He is credited as casting the deciding factor in the senate vote for the abolition of slavery after the Civil War. 

Useless?  Useful?  I’ll leave that for you to decide.

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