P.T. Barnum-the Greatest show on earth

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With the musical “the Greatest showman”  starring Hugh Jackman,to hit the cinema soon and in some countries it already is in the movie theaters, it is time to have a look what that greatest show actually was.

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Phineas Taylor Barnum (July 5, 1810 – April 7, 1891) was an American showman, politician, and businessman remembered for promoting celebrated hoaxes and for founding the Barnum & Bailey Circus (1871-2017). Although Barnum was also an author, publisher, philanthropist, and for some time a politician, he said of himself, “I am a showman by profession…and all the gilding shall make nothing else of me,”[2] and his personal aim was “to put money in his own coffers.” Barnum is widely, but erroneously, credited with coining the phrase “There’s a sucker born every minute”

When he was 25, he entered the world of showbusiness, starting with a small sideshow. Though most people associate him with the famous Barnum and Bailey circus, he had an almost 40-year career in sideshows before entering the big top.

In 1841, years before the “Greatest Show on Earth,” Barnum purchased a rundown museum in downtown Manhattan and opened Barnum’s American Museum. In the museum, he displayed a variety of “oddities,” which included historical artifacts, foreign curiosities, animals, and human beings, totaling 500,000 displays in all. The museum was also home to America’s first aquarium and wax-figure.

The museum burned down in 1865, the result of a furnace fire in the basement.

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No humans were harmed, though almost all of the museums’ animals died, and the two beluga whales in the aquarium horrifically boiled alive in their tanks.

Not easily deterred, Barnum rebuilt the museum and promised to fully stock it again. However, before he could, another fire destroyed it again three years later.

At this point, Barnum joined up with James Bailey, and together they formed “Barnum and Bailey’s Greatest Show on Earth.” Taking with them the collection of human oddities leftover from the museum, as well as a new trove of animals, Barnum and Bailey traveled the world in the first big top three ring circus.

Below are just some of those human ‘oddities’

The Four Legged Woman

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Myrtle Corbin joined Barnum’s sideshow at 13 years old. She was born with dipygus, a medical condition which resulted in Myrtle being born with two pelvises, and four legs. She performed until she was 19 years old, at which point other sideshow members tried to falsify her condition. None of the attempts at a faux four-legged woman were as popular as Myrtle herself. Circa 1880s.

The Greek Albanian

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George Costentenus was one of Barnum’s oddities who was odd simply for the fact that he was foreign. Originally from Albania, Costentenus was covered from head to toe in tattoos. He claimed to be a descendant of a noble Greek man, who had been kidnapped by Chinese Tartars and tattooed against his will. In reality, they were probably done for show.

Jo-Jo The Dog-Faced Boy

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Fedor Jeftichew signed his contract with Barnum when he was 16 years old. He was born with hypertrichosis, which resulted in his face being almost fully covered in hair. Barnum created a false backstory for him that involved a hunter who tracked and captured him. He claimed that he was an uncivilized savage, and to add to the illusion Fedor would regularly bark and growl like a dog. Circa 1880s

Chang and Eng Bunker

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Chang and Eng Bunker were born outside of Bangkok, in what was then known as Siam. They are the origin of the term “Siamese Twins.” In 1829 the two men joined P.T. Barnum’s circus and were exhibited as an oddity. After they finished their tour, the pair relocated to North Carolina in America and married a pair of sisters. 1865

The Human Skeleton

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Isaac Sprague performed with Barnum at his American Museum, as the “human skeleton.” At the age of 12, Isaac started losing weight despite his healthy appetite, and eventually went down to a weight of 43 pounds. He was often paired with Barnum’s overweight performers, to highlight each of their weights. 1867.

The Bearded Woman

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Annie Jones Elliot toured with Barnum during his circus days. By the age of five, she had a full beard, mustache, and sideburns. She was believed to suffer from hirsutism, a condition that causes excessive body hair growth. Circa 1880s.

Tom Thumb And Lavinia Williams

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Tom Thumb, born Charles Sherwood Stratton, became one of Barnum’s most famous oddities as soon as he joined. By the time he was six years old, he had reached his full height of two feet tall. His fame helped finance the museum’s multiple tours across Europe and brought Queen Victoria to the audience twice. Eventually, he settled down with Barnum’s second “little person” Lavinia Williams. Cira 1860s.

I know in the movie ,P.T Barnum, is portrayed as a great man but I can’t help but feel that in a way he exploited these people.

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Grease,Elvis and Star Wars

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I am not going to apologize for this but it is a fact I am a massive Grease fan, and today happens to be the anniversary of the single “Grease” reaching the #1 position on the Billboard top 100.

However as the title of this blog suggests there is more to the story. Here are some lesser known fact about the most successful musical of all time.

Elvis was Offered a Feature Role

The story goes that the King of Rock was asked to be the Guardian Angel, Frenchy’s hair salon singing mentor, but when he turned it down Frankie Avalon was given the part instead.

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Carrie Fisher Almost Got The Role of Sandy

Yes it’s true. Our Star Wars favorite was considered for the role, but “Grease” director thought she didn’t have the right look for Sandy. Maybe his friend George Lucas talked him out of it.

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This Company Lost Out Big Time

Coca- Cola had initially had a lucrative deal with the film creators, but unfortunately for them their agreement stopped in the later stages of shooting. Because of this, any hints of Coca-Cola branding were blurred out of the last edits of the film.

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Elvis Died on the Same Day as Shooting Look at Me I’m Sandra Dee

To pay respect to the music legend, who almost played a part in “Grease”, the producers added a line to the Sandra Dee song. Next time you watch, try listen out for it, “Elvis Elvis let me be, keep that pelvis far from me”.

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Not A Teenage Heartbreak

Though most of the characters were supposedly high school sweethearts, the real life actors were far from it. Travolta was 23, Jeff Conaway was 26 and Olivia Newton-John was 28. Makes you look at them differently right?

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Danny was Almost Played by Someone Else

Initially, producers offered the main role to Henry Winkler, the Happy Days actor who played Fonzie. We are so glad he turned it down, giving John the limelight he deserved.

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Not having a Ball

Lucille Ball’s daughter was the first to be offered the role of Rizzo. Though after stating that she was better than the role offered, Rizzo became the character we know her as today.

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Barry Pearl AKA Doody, AKA Professor Erasmus Q. Tinkerputt.

Barry Pearl who played Doody in Grease also played , iProfessor Erasmus Q. Tinkerputt in the kids show Barney the dinosaur. In fact he earned more money in Barney then in Grease.

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Donation

I am passionate about my site and I know a you all like reading my blogs. I have been doing this at no cost and will continue to do so. All I ask is for a voluntary donation of $2 ,however if you are not in a position to do so I can fully understand, maybe next time then. Thanks To donate click on the credit/debit card icon of the card you will use. If you want to donate more then $2 just add a higher number in the box left from the paypal link. Many thanks

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