Barnum: An American Life | Robert Wilson

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2019: Book #25

There’s a very good chance that people sympathetic to the cause of the South burned his museum of oddities to the ground.

He was on a tour in England when his wife, Charity, died. She was back home in the United States. Oddly, he did not immediately jump on a ship and sail back to America. Instead, he continued his tour, handled his business, and only then returned to the States.

When he finally arrived, he wept over her grave…less than a year later he had remarried.

Huckster. Carnival barker. He loved the word “humbug.”

He was generous with money.

He brought famed singer Jenny Lind to America for multiple sold-out performances.

He voted for Lincoln and was a strong supporter of anti-slavery.

He also manipulated and used dwarfs and African Americans for his personal financial gain.

In short, his public values did not match his business ethics.

He went bankrupt and clawed his way back to success.

He and his “troop” performed for queens and presidents.

That person was P.T. Barnum.

Barnum was the central figure in the movie, “The Greatest Showman”, but in reality, he was nothing like the character portrayed in the film.

Let me be honest, I’m not a fan of Barnum. I have no respect for the guy. He just didn’t love people well. He used them as stepping stones to build mansions and fortunes. He also lied and misrepresented his exhibits to draw people to his museum.

Even so, you should read this book–if for no other reason than to learn what not to do…

Don’t lie.

Don’t mistreat people.

Love people well.

Keep your word.

Have integrity.

Robert Wilson’s Barnum: An American Life is a fascinating read, but also a disappointing one.

I give it 3 out of 5 stars.

That’s book #25 for 2019.
27 more to go

Remember, all leaders are readers.
If you want to be a better leader…be a reader.

Interested in purchasing this book?


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