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Collection on P. T. Barnum

Call Number: MS002
Scope and Contents
This collection contains correspondence, manuscripts, inventories, photographs, clippings, and memorabilia documenting aspects of the career of P.T. Barnum and Barnum's relationship with Tufts University. The development and maintenance of Barnum Hall and the Barnum Museum are detailed through the correspondence of Barnum, Professor John P. Marshall, the Smithsonian Institution, and Ward's Natural Science Establishment, dating from the 1870s through the 1890s. Transcriptions of many of these letters exist. Also included are letters authored by Barnum and his contemporaries and collected by, or donated to, Tufts University. Twentieth-century correspondence is mainly authored by Russell L. Carpenter, curator of the Barnum Museum. Carpenter's drafts of manuscripts and lectures about Barnum and Jumbo are present. Inventories outlining some of the artifacts contained in the Museum date from 1856 through the 1930's. Clippings from the 19th and 20th centuries relate to Barnum's career, Jumbo the elephant's career, Jumbo's role as Tufts' mascot, the fire that destroyed Jumbo, and occasionally, circuses in general. Photographs show Barnum Hall, Barnum circus characters, and Jumbo alive, immediately following his death, and on display at Tufts. Memorabilia dates from the 19th and 20th centuries and includes Barnum's scrapbook from his 1889 London circus tour, framed drawings and clippings of Jumbo, copper plates showing an artist's representation of Jumbo's death, an elephant prod, advertising cards featuring jumbo, a "Cut-Up Jumbo" puzzle, and a segment of Jumbo's tail, removed during renovation of the stuffed elephant. Materials in the P. T. Barnum Collection were both generated and collected by Tufts University. Interfiled with Barnum's correspondence with Tufts are letters on unrelated topics, presumably purchased from dealers. Transcriptions of many of the earliest letters appear, both in separate folders and interfiled with the original correspondence. The bulk of the materials are not organized chronologically and it is not uncommon, particularly in folders of clippings and photographs, to find materials that span the 19th and 20th centuries in a single folder. In the 20th-century correspondence, there are interfiled letters in response to reference questions relating to the archival materials themselves. Memorabilia rounds out the collection. Within each material type, documents are frequently grouped by subject. Twentieth-century correspondence and materials relating to the maintenance of the museum and the archival collection appear at random intervals. An item level listing of letters authored by P.T. Barnum exists.
This collection is open for research.
Conditions Governing Use
Some material in this collection may be protected by copyright and other rights. Please see “Reproduction and Use” on the Tufts Archival Research Center website for more information about reproductions and permission to publish. Any intellectual property rights that the donor possesses have not been transferred to Tufts University.
This collection is organized into two series: Correspondence, photographs, and other material; Loose prints.
Creation: 1818 -- 2009
Creation: Majority of material found within 1837 -- 1985
12.55 Linear Feet
1 Artifact(s)
63 Digital Object(s)
Related Names
Barnum, P. T. (Phineas Taylor)
Jumbo (Elephant)
Barnum, P. T. (Phineas Taylor)
Language of Materials