Hot Air

Perhaps it’s fitting that a museum about P.T. Barnum and his hokum would have been wrecked by a lot of hot air.  Not Hurricane Sandy, but a tornado took out the historic building of the Barnum Museum in Bridgeport, CT.  The building is still standing, and the collections are safe, but a lot of money and work are needed to get the circus doors open again.

I got a private tour by the curator of the “visual storage” of the collections in the adjacent bank building.  What fun this museum is going to be again someday.

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Not only did Barnum call Bridgeport home with his four houses, but so did Tom Thumb and his wife Lavinia, also a little person.  She wanted to look her best and used the House of Worth to design her clothes.  Here’s her tailor made dress form from 1878, which has two corsets underneath (yikes), apparently needed as she grew stouter with age.



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A number of tiny chairs and carriages are also on view.  Tom Thumb used a show carriage to ride the streets and market the circus, different from his everyday conveyance.  My favorite though was the diminutive carriage used by Commodor George Washington Morrison Nutt, another little person.  Doesn’t it look like the pumpkin carriage from Cinderella?


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Apparently, Tom Thumb was a charmer and during the tour with Barnum in London, swept Queen Victoria away.  She gifted him with this bed.  It is really, really small.  Can you tell?

The chairs and such simply appear child-sized.  This bed?  Well, it’s really something to see, as it’s clearly not made for a child.

Not to overlook Barnum, I particularly liked this carved wooden chair rail on a set of upholstered chairs from one of his houses.  Can you make out the circus tent?  Absolutely delightful!2013-09-10 12.26.59

He also patronized artists, with a collection of sculpture busts, including one of Jenny Lind, the Swedish Nightingale.  He didn’t even know her vocal abilities whe2013-09-10 12.29.10n he hired the already famous Lind to work with his circus extravaganza.  You can see her bust in the corner.

The man himself P.T. Barnum carved by Thomas Ball c1888

The man himself
P.T. Barnum
carved by Thomas Ball








The museum is raising a whole lot of $ to get the hot air back into this wonderful collection and its historic home venue.  Wouldn’t you love to see all these objects back in their proper setting?