In 1841, Barnum purchased Scudder's American Museum on Broadway in New
York City. He exhibited "500,000 natural and artificial curiosities from
every corner of the globe," and kept traffic moving through the museum
with a sign that read, "This way to the egress" -- "egress" was another
word for exit, and Barnum's patrons would have to pay another quarter to
reenter the Museum!
A year later, he exhibited "The Feejee Mermaid," ostensibly an embalmed mermaid purchased near Calcutta by a Boston seaman. Belief in the mermaid's authenticity was mixed, but nobody doubted Barnum's ability to capture the imagination of the public.
Later in 1842, Barnum hired Charles Stratton, who became world-famous as
General Tom Thumb. The two became close friends, and so successsful
that, in 1844, they had an audience in England with Queen Victoria.
While Barnum's name will forever be connected with the great American circus, it is often said that his greatest success came in 1850, when he presented European opera star Jenny Lind to the American public. "The Swedish Nightingale" sang 95 concerts for Barnum.
In 1854, Barnum wrote and published his autobiography: The Life Of P.T. Barnum, Written By Himself. Sixteen years later, his association with the entertainment form that still bears his name would begin.