The Colossal P. T. Barnum Reader: Nothing Else Like It in the Universe

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this smart and amusing anthology, historian Cook (The Arts of Deception: Playing with Fraud in the Age of Barnum) returns to 19th-century fakeries and fortunes by following the paper trail that P.T. Barnum left behind over the course of his outrageous, six-decades-long career. Letting these materials speak for themselves, Cook presents five chapters consisting of posters, reviews, lithographs by Barnum associates Currier and Ives, newspaper ads and autobiographical excerpts intended, he says, to track "Barnum's shifting personas, representational choices, and publics across the nineteenth century." Meanwhile, the author briefly remarks upon Barnum's domestic and foreign successes, lies and promotional schemes (Barnum was the first to introduce matinees, reserved seating and celebrity marketing), letting readers savor such celebrated Barnum attractions as the Feejee Mermaid and the diminutive Gen. Tom Thumb. That Barnum, an entrepreneur who once served as mayor of Bridgeport, Conn., laid the foundation for today's global mass entertainment culture is Cook's underlying argument; fortunately, this compendium-dense mostly because of 19th-century diction-should give both enthusiasts and scholars an enjoyable understanding of how Barnum's often surprising moral opinions, enterprises and innovations made and sold pop culture. (Jan.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Editor Cook here assembles the best of master showman Barnum's assorted writings (serialized writings, promotions, etc.), along with numerous photos and illustrations. Great fun. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780252072956
  • Publisher: University of Illinois Press
  • Publication date: 10/28/2005
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 7.00 (w) x 10.00 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Table of Contents

Introduction : the architect of the modern culture industry 1
Gallery 1 Barnum's serialized writings 9
Gallery 2 Barnum's promotions 103
Gallery 3 Barnum's gallery of wonders 155
Gallery 4 Barnum's public reception 181
Gallery 5 Barnum's legacy 233
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