Phineas Taylor Barnum, an American showman, politician, author and businessman, was born on July 5, 1810.
Also called The Greatest Showman, he is remembered for many things.
In 1841, he purchased Scudder’s American Museum and renamed it to Barnum’s American Museum.
He upgraded the building by adding exhibits of stuffed animals.
He added live acts of dwarfs, jugglers, magicians and exotic women.
Models of cities and famous battles were displayed in the museum.
To attract the visitors he introduced hoaxes.
In 1842, he made live his first major hoax.
It was a creature with the head of a monkey and the tail of a fish, known as ‘Feejee’ mermaid.
Then he introduced a dwarf called ‘General Tom Thumb’ (the smallest person that ever walked alone).
But the person wasn’t a dwarf; he was a four years old boy who was trained to imitate grown-ups. General Tom Thumb imitated people from Hercules to Napoleon with ease.
Barnum justified his hoaxes. To him, the hoaxes were advertisements to draw attention towards the museum.
“I don’t believe in duping the public, but I believe in first attracting and then pleasing them.”
- P.T. Barnum.
And indeed, people were pleased.
His museum was a hit.
People from different corners of the world visited Barnum’s museum.
The visitors would spend their entire day drifting in the museum awing the exhibits.
This frustrated Barnum.
The profits were taking a hit because it became difficult to squeeze in more visitors.
To permit more visitors inside the museum, they have to make space.
Barnum devised a plan.
At every corner, he posted signs that read ‘This way to the Egress’.
The visitors thought that this is another startling attraction.
So they kept following the sign.
And before they knew, they were out of the museum.
If you google Egress, you will find that it means – ‘the action of going out of or leaving a place’.
Or simply, Exit.
Many of the visitors were not aware of what Egress means.
To them, it was just another attraction.
And they couldn’t enter the museum again without paying the entry fees again.
Did Barnum cheat his visitors?
Or it was just a clever trick?