P.T. Barnum’s “Living Curiosities”

Think of them as the cast of a reality show—so real they were actually on display 365 days a year at P.T. Barnum’s American Museum.

One of the most popular tourist attractions on the city, the museum was located on Ann Street and Broadway from 1841 to 1868.

The “curiosities” were a revolving cast. In this undated photo are two albinos, three giants, two little people, and two “circassian beauties”—women from the Northern Caucasus. 

The “beauties” have the blown-out hair on the left. In the 19th century, women from this part of the world were believed to be unusually attractive and widely desired for Middle Eastern harems. Reportedly Barnum claimed that these two had escaped a Turkish harem.

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7 Responses to “P.T. Barnum’s “Living Curiosities””

  1. Ellen Bryson – The Transformation of Bartholomew Fortuno « Fyrefly's Book Blog Says:

    […] – A group photo of the Living Curiosities from P.T. Barnum’s museum – Isaac W. Sprague, the inspiration for Bartholomew Fortuno (lots of other interesting articles at […]

  2. Sleighs and snowball fights on Ann Street « Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] Inside Barnum’s Museum at about this time, it was a very different scene—one featuring these and other “living curiosities.” […]

  3. Mauro Rodriguez Says:

    Great post!
    Im trying to track this image & find out if it’s royalty free or if its own by someone, any chance you could tell me where you got it from?
    Many thanks Mauro Mrm

    • jan van der mast Says:

      Hello Mauro,
      Did you track the picture of P.T. Barnums’ Living Curiosities?

      Thanks, Jan van der Mast (Holland)

  4. A Bowery photographer’s freak show portraits « Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] captured portraits of many of the human attractions exhibited by P.T. Barnum, whose hugely popular museum on Broadway and Ann Street spawned the dime museums near Eisenmann’s […]

  5. The elephants that tested the new Brooklyn Bridge « Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] It was a demonstration to the public that the bridge was safe and a brilliant promotional stunt for Barnum’s Museum and touring show. […]

  6. A little girl’s diary sheds light on the 1849 city | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] kids, she knows all the leading attractions. She visits Vauxhall Gardens, mentions a wax figure at Barnum’s Museum, and remembers how moved her father was when he saw Jenny Lind sing at Castle […]

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