A Book for Barnum’s Library


This past weekend I found an amazing book at the Westport Library Book Sale that I would have given to P.T. Barnum as a gift if he did not already have it in his library.

With its beautiful decorative cover and handsome print illustrations, this book seems to be part of an annual series called Temperance Offerings, with various stories promoting the cause,  published in 1853.

True to his convictions, Mr. Barnum traveled the United States as one of the nations leading Temperance advocates.  Invited as a guest speaker to champion the Temperance moment while in New Orleans during the Jenny Lind tour in 1850, Mr. Barnum passionately regaled the crowd of men and women on the detriment of alcohol, and the perils that would befall a family torn apart by ‘liquors’. During the lecture a heckler yelled out to ‘the great Barnum’, “will alcohol affect you internally or externally?”  Without a pause Barnum’s immediate response was “ETERNALLY“.  There was thunderous applause!  …and hundreds that night signed the Teetotaler Pledge.

We know that Mr. Barnum had a magnificent library collection which represented the many causes he supported including temperance. Unfortunately, we can only guess what treasures those libraries may have held for only a few books from his personal collection rest in the archives at The Barnum Museum. Should you stumble upon a beautiful historic book at your local library sale, treasure it and know many great men and women before you were inspired by its words.