This month we can celebrate the birthday of Caroline Barnum, P.T.’s oldest daughter, who was born May 27, 1833.
As a teenager, Caroline traveled with her father, and we know more about her than many of the Barnum women from correspondence and from travel journals – including one she kept from July-August 1848 when visiting Canada with Tom Thumb. On one occasion she described the perils of crowd control at the General’s popular performances:
“In the evening we went to the General’s performance. The room was crowded and the General was full of sport and it amused him very much to see father catch the boys that jumped into the windows and take them out. Not long after he had changed his dress for Napoleon he espied a man getting into the window. He called out for father who came and soon caught the man and was dragging him out when he suddenly turned around and seized father by the throat and might have killed him had father not have knocked him on the head twice with his cane.”
Caroline was, among the Barnum girls, particularly game for her father’s sense of humor and adventure, as we can see from one particular episode that took place during Jenny Lind’s blockbuster tour of the United States in 1850.
After a stand in New York and travel around the Northeast U.S., the Lind tour hit the road for points south. President Fillmore attended Lind’s show in Washington, which was a roaring success despite the theater (constructed specifically for her concerts) being only half finished. The tour continued south through Virginia and South Carolina before proceeding on to Havana – in which the press gave an uncharacteristically tepid response. In New Orleans, though, Barnum had a particularly sharp way of getting Jenny Lind away from the crush of her adoring fans, while satisfying his sense of a good joke in the process. Announcements proclaimed that Barnum himself would escort Miss Lind to her carriage – and while Lind ducked into a carriage off to the side, unseen, Caroline pulled a pretty veil over her face and Barnum drew the crowd to gawp at himself as he walked his disguised daughter down the street.
For more about Barnum and Jenny Lind, we hope you will join us on June 10, 2018 for “P.T. Barnum Presents the Divine Jenny Lind,” a riveting presentation of the story, complete with musical interludes.