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The Colossal P. T. Barnum Reader: NOTHING ELSE LIKE IT IN THE UNIVERSE Paperback – December 14, 2005
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"Barnum - arguably more than any other nineteenth-century impresario - transcended local cultural markets to cultivate a powerful and pro .table presence on the national and global stage under the guise of providing educational entertainment for diverse audiences of all ages. Using fascinating, funny, and informative sources, Cook offers an excellent showcase of the central role that nineteenth-century showman P. T. Barnum played in laying the foundations of the modern culture industry." Janet M..Davis, author of The Circus Age: Culture and Society under the American Big Top
About the Author
James W. Cook is an associate professor of history and American culture at the University of Michigan. He is the author of The Arts of Deception: Playing with Fraud in the Age of Barnum.
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Top Customer Reviews
The book is entirely composed of primary sources- either written by Barnum or his contemporaries. The introductions to each section give some nice background information on the sources and what readers can hope to learn from them. I wish there had been more to the individual introductions before each source. As someone who was unfamiliar with many of his acts, I often found myself searching for background information about the characters/acts online so I could compare what the primary source said with accepted fact. This seems especially pertinent since Barnum was known for "humbug" (aka over-exaggeration and flat out lies). Yet, at the same time, the lack of commentary allows readers to really interact with the material on their own.
The content matter of the book was very thought-provoking. It's easy to draw parallels between the strategies P.T. Barnum used to sell his products and current businessmen and politicians. Personally, I found this book helped me understand the current political climate better. The book also sheds light on the pervasiveness of racism in 19th century America, as well as the adversity faced by those with disabilities.