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14 Incredible Facts About P.T. Barnum

14 Incredible Facts About P.T. Barnum

14 Incredible Facts About American Showman P.T. Barnum

Noelle Talmon
190k views 14 items
Who was P.T. Barnum? Phineas Taylor Barnum was the brilliant and bizarre mind behind a number of famous hoaxes and the Barnum & Bailey Circus. However, his biography is full of interesting stories that go above and beyond those well-known attributes – like, for instance, the fact that he didn't establish a circus until later in life. Rather, Barnum started in the journalism world, founding a weekly newspaper in Bethel, CT. In 1842, he established Barnum's American Museum, where he displayed various human curiosities, such as the Feejee Mermaid and General Tom Thumb.
Barnum did not establish a circus until 1870 when he was 60 years old. It was known as "P. T. Barnum's Grand Traveling Museum, Menagerie, Caravan & Hippodrome," and it included funny and creepy circus acts as well as a museum of "freaks." In the late 1880s, it became the "Barnum & Bailey Greatest Show On Earth," and later the "Barnum & Bailey Circus."
Before he died in 1891, Barnum asked a local newspaper to print his obituary so he could read it in advance. He was buried in a cemetery that he designed: the Mountain Grove Cemetery, in Bridgeport, CT. And, really, those are just the beginning of P.T. Barnum's quirks.

Photo: P. T. Barnum & Co./Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

He Bought A Slave And Claimed She Was George Washington's Nurse

He Bought A Slave And Claimed ... is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list 14 Incredible Facts About American Showman P.T. Barnum
Photo: J. Booth & Son, 147 Fulton St NY/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

Barnum bought an elderly slave, Joice Heth, in 1835 for $1,000, and claimed she was 161 years old and George Washington's former nurse. She quickly earned back her purchase price: Barnum made up to $1,000 weekly by exhibiting her throughout the Northeast.
When the act began losing the public's interest, Barnum started a rumor that Heth wasn't human but an automaton. Heth died in 1836, and Barnum staged a public autopsy, which people paid 50 cents in admission to attend. The autopsy revealed Heth was only around 80 years old.

He Marched 21 Elephants And 17 Camels Across The Brooklyn Bridge

He Marched 21 Elephants And 17... is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list 14 Incredible Facts About American Showman P.T. Barnum
Photo: E. Bierstadt/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

Just after the Brooklyn Bridge opened in 1883, there was a stampede that resulted in the deaths of 12 people. Prior to the incident, the bridge's owners had refused Barnum's offer to parade his elephants across the bridge to prove its strength. But following the tragedy, they took Barnum up on his offer.
On May 17, 1884, Barnum walked 21 elephants (including the famous Jumbo) and 17 camels across the bridge from Manhattan to Brooklyn. It was a win-win for both parties. It was great advertising for Barnum's circus, and the weight of the animals proved that the bridge was indeed strong and safe enough to carry cars and pedestrians.

His Feejee Mermaid Was Actually Half Orangutan, Half Fish

His Feejee Mermaid Was Actuall... is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list 14 Incredible Facts About American Showman P.T. Barnum
Photo: P. T. Barnums/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

Barnum exhibited the Feejee Mermaid during the 1840s, and it quickly became the most famous fake mermaid on display (they were a popular curiousity during the era). At the time, hoax mermaids usually had the upper bodies of apes, which were sewn onto fish tails. It's believed the Feejee Mermaid was half orangutan and half salmon.
Barnum described the specimen in his autobiography as "an ugly dried-up, black-looking diminutive specimen, about 3 feet long. Its mouth was open, its tail turned over, and its arms thrown up, giving it the appearance of having died in great agony."
The current whereabouts of the Feejee Mermaid are unknown; it was supposedly rescued from a museum fire, and donated to the Peabody Museum at Harvard University. However, it's unclear whether that specimen is the original mermaid.

He Introduced The World To General Tom Thumb

He Introduced The World To Gen... is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list 14 Incredible Facts About American Showman P.T. Barnum
Photo: Samuel Root or Marcus Aurelius Root/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

Barnum met a tiny four-year-old boy named Charles Sherwood Stratton in 1842. Charles weighed just 15 pounds and was only 25 inches tall. Barnum specialized in finding "freaks," and immediately knew the boy would be a sensation on the sideshow circuit. He taught Charles how to sing and dance and renamed him General Tom Thumb.
Tom Thumb became so popular that he traveled with Barnum around Europe, and even met Queen Victoria in England.

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Most Amazing Vintage Photos

Most Amazing Vintage Photos

100 Incredible Vintage Photos

100 Incredible Vintage Photos
Photo: via Tumblr

These powerful photos will transport you back in time! Roads? Where we're going, there probably aren't any roads. Ok, so maybe there are. While time travel hasn't been invented yet, you can still journey into the past with this amazing, historic pictures that provide small glimpses into the past. No TARDIS or fancy teleportation devices are needed to visit not-too-ancient cultures or see cities come to life. 
These photos span across the 19th and 20th centuries, ranging from the late 1870s to the 1980s and were taken from all around the world. The vintage shots bring the past back to life. Like a time machine built by Kodak! Ever since the invention of the very first camera, cultures everywhere have been obsessed with documenting their lives through film. And thank goodness! Because looking through these amazing vintage photos makes learning about history way more fun than reading a textbook.
Which decade was your favorite? Which one looks the most glamorous to live in? Take a look through these vintage photographs and relive history.
Photo: via Tumblr

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Observations of the Early Universe Reaffirm the Existence of Dark Matter and Dark Energy

Observations of the Early Universe Reaffirm the Existence of Dark Matter and Dark Energy

Observations of the Early Universe Reaffirm the Existence of Dark Matter and Dark Energy

Observations of the Early Universe Reaffirm the Existence of Dark Matter and Dark Energy
The cosmic microwave background, as seen by Europe's Planck satellite.
Credit: ESA/Planck Collaboration

Dark matter and dark energy may be weird and (as of now) inexplicable, but they do seem to exist.
The final data release from Europe's Planck mission, which mapped the universe's oldest light in unprecedented detail from 2009 through 2013, reaffirms the "standard model of cosmology," European Space Agency (ESA) officials announced Tuesday (July 17). And dark matter and dark energy are key features of the standard model.
"This is the most important legacy of Planck," Jan Tauber, ESA's Planck project scientist, said in a statement. "So far, the standard model of cosmology has survived all the tests, and Planck has made the measurements that show it." [The Universe: Big Bang to Now in 10 Easy Steps]

Mapping ancient light

Like two NASA space missions before it — the Cosmic Background Explorer and the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe — Planck studied the cosmic microwave background (CMB). 
The CMB began streaming through the universe about 380,000 years after the Big Bang — long before the first stars began to shine. Tiny fluctuations observable in the CMB are evidence of seeds that grew into the cosmos' larger structure, so scrutinizing this light can reveal key insights about the universe's very early days.
And this work has indeed been productive. For example, Planck's first data release, in March 2013, showed that the universe is 13.82 billion years old — about 100 million years older than previously thought. The observations also provided strong support for cosmic inflation, the idea that the universe expanded much faster than the speed of light in the first few tiny fractions of a second after the Big Bang. 
The 2013 release was based solely on Planck's measurements of CMB temperature, and used data from just the mission's first two (out of a total of eight) sky surveys. A second release, in 2015, combined temperature measurements with observations of CMB polarization — basically, a characterization of the light's oscillation — and featured all of Planck's data.
The 2015 results were consistent with those of two years earlier, and extended them further into the big-picture cosmology realm. But the mission team stressed at the time that its cosmology results remained preliminary and in need of confirmation. 
"We felt the quality of some of the polarization data was not good enough to be used for cosmology," Tauber said.
But that view has changed with the new release, which represents a new processing of mission data. (The release consists of nine papers, all of which have been submitted to the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics. You can find them, and the papers that constitute the 2013 and 2015 Planck releases, at ESA's Planck publication page.) 
"Now we really are confident that we can retrieve a cosmological model based solely on temperature, solely on polarization, and based on both temperature and polarization. And they all match," Reno Mandolesi, of the University of Ferrara in Italy, said in the same statement. Mandolesi is principal investigator of the Low Frequency Instrument (LFI), one of Planck's two science instruments. (The other one is the High Frequency Instrument.)
And the model they retrieved is the standard one, which holds (among other things) that the universe is composed of "normal" matter that we can see and touch; cold dark matter, which neither absorbs nor reflects light and therefore is impossible to detect directly; and dark energy, a mysterious force that seems to be driving the universe's accelerating expansion. Normal matter is by far the least abundant of the three, making up less than 5 percent of the universe's mass-energy budget.
It's unclear what, exactly, dark matter and dark energy are; they continue to puzzle astronomers. For example, physicists have proposed dozens of particles as the primary constituent of dark matter, but all remain in the hypothetical realm. [Gallery: Dark Matter Throughout the Universe]

Measurements of the Hubble constant.
Measurements of the Hubble constant.
Credit: ESA/Planck Collaboration

An expanding mystery

Planck's data have also helped astronomers nail down the rate of the universe's expansion, a value known as the Hubble constant. According to Planck's observations of the distant early universe, the Hubble constant is 67 kilometers per second for every 1 million parsecs of separation in space (67 km/s/Mpc). (One parsec is about 3.26 light-years.)
But that number is far from definitive. In fact, it differs from the figure derived using observations of relatively nearby phenomena using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope and ESA's Gaia spacecraft — 73.5 km/s/Mpc.
That difference may seem small, but it's significant, researchers said.
"There is no single, satisfactory astrophysical solution that can explain the discrepancy," LFI deputy principal investigator Marco Bersanelli, of the University of Milan in Italy, said in the same statement. "So, perhaps there is some new physics to be found."
Or perhaps not.
"For the moment, we shouldn't get too excited about finding new physics; it could well be that the relatively small discrepancy can be explained by a combination of small errors and local effects," Tauber said. "But we need to keep improving our measurements and thinking about better ways to explain it."
Follow Mike Wall on Twitter @michaeldwall and Google+. Follow us @SpacedotcomFacebook or Google+. Originally published on

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