The Barnum Museum’s collection is astonishingly diverse! It contains thousands of artifacts as well as an archive of manuscripts and photographs. It is rich with curious and one-of-a-kind items, many pertaining to P. T. Barnum and his famous associates, including “General Tom Thumb,” Swedish soprano Jenny Lind, and the beloved African elephant, Jumbo. We even have a centaur skeleton—yes, we do–and a replica of Barnum’s FeJee Mermaid!
Our collection of Barnum’s personal and family items includes elaborate furniture, household items, artwork, clothing, and books that reveal his taste, interests, and achievements. Our “Highlights” section features a few of these extraordinary Barnum-related artifacts!
In addition to our P. T. Barnum holdings, many items from early days of The Barnum Institute of Science and History have remained in the collection, including a 4000-year-old Egyptian mummy, early tools and ceremonial items from cultures around the world, American colonial-era and Civil War artifacts, and biological specimens. Bridgeport’s early industries are also represented in the collection.
We are grateful for support from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Grant funding from NEH allowed us to have hundreds of items in our collection professionally photographed so that you, too, can enjoy them!
P. T Barnum’s top hat dates to about 1830, when he was a young man, newly married.
“The Glory That Was Jumbo” from article and video from Tufts University
In bygone eras, virtually every young woman learned to sew, and little person Lavinia Warren, born in Middleborough, Massachusetts, in 1841, was no exception.
This bright red needlework tea cozy with its intricately beaded leaves looks almost new, its color is so rich!
This miniature chair belonged to “General Tom Thumb,” a little person performer who was “discovered” in Bridgeport, Connecticut, by P. T. Barnum in 1842.
Jumbo, depicted here on a Majolicaware pitcher, became the first internationally famous animal celebrity.
Is this really a walnut-shaped carriage? Yes, indeed, and something you won’t see anywhere else!
P. T. Barnum brought Swedish soprano Jenny Lind to America in 1850, and “primed the media pump” by promoting her arrival months in advance.
This Barnum & Bailey poster from the late 1880s or early 1890s features the “Performing Wild Beast Division” of the Greatest Show on Earth.
This is a rare, early daguerreotype image of Charles S. Stratton, whose stage name was “General Tom Thumb.”
This watercolor drawing of Barnum’s first Bridgeport mansion, Iranistan, is a rare view since no photographs are known to exist.
Barnum’s involvement with the circus coincided with the major expansion of the railroad system in America.