PT Barnum Net Worth At Death – How Did He Get Rich? Exposed!

P.T. Barnum Net Worth At Death

P.T. Barnum had an estimated net worth of $4 million (about $124.7 million after adjusting for inflation) at death. He was a successful American promoter who founded what became the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus in 1871. He earned the majority of his income from businesses.

P.T. Barnum was born on July 5, 1810 in Bethel, Connecticut, and became a successful promoter after moving to New York City. He ran the Barnum American Museum from 1841 to 1868, which featured the “Feejee Mermaid,” “General Tom Thumb,” and other oddities.

In 1871, he began the traveling circus that would become the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. Barnum died on April 7, 1891, in Bridgeport, Connecticut, after an illustrious career.

To calculate the net worth of P.T. Barnum, subtract all his liabilities from his total assets. Investments, savings, cash deposits, and any equity he has in a house, car, or other similar asset are included in the total assets. All debts, such as loans and personal debt, are included in total liabilities.

Here’s the breakdown of his net worth:

Name: P.T. Barnum
Net Worth: $4 million
Monthly Salary: $20 Thousand+
Annual Income: $300 Thousand+
Source of Wealth: Promoter, Businessperson

Early Life and Family

Barnum was born Phineas Taylor Barnum in Bethel, Connecticut, on July 5, 1810. He was a natural salesman, peddling snacks and cherry rum to soldiers by the age of 12.

As a young man, Barnum moved to New York City and tried his hand at a variety of businesses, including newspaper publishing and running a boarding house.

Barnum’s talent for promotion was revealed in 1835, when he paid $1,000 for an elderly slave named Joice Heth. Barnum exhibited her throughout the Northeast, claiming she was 161 years old and a former nurse for George Washington, earning an estimated $1,500 per week.

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Barnum’s American Museum

In 1841, Barnum purchased Scudder’s American Museum in lower Manhattan and renamed it Barnum’s American Museum. He displayed the “Feejee Mermaid” and other oddities of dubious authenticity there, among an eventual collection of 850,000 exhibits.

Barnum met Charles Sherwood Stratton, a 4-year-old boy who stood 25 inches tall and weighed 15 pounds, in 1842. Barnum, sensing another potential windfall, taught the boy to sing and dance and introduced him to the public as “General Tom Thumb.” The exhibit’s enormous popularity resulted in a European tour, which included an audience with British monarch Queen Victoria.

P.T. Barnum’s Relationship with Jenny Lind

Despite his reputation for championing the strange and wacky, Barnum’s most successful venture was the promotion of Swedish opera singer Jenny Lind in the early 1850s.

Barnum made the “Swedish Nightingale” an offer of $1,000 per performance for 150 shows in the United States and Canada after hearing about Lind’s sold-out concerts in Europe. He reportedly hoped to boost his public image as the proprietor of a dime-store museum. Barnum had never actually heard Lind sing, so it was a risk. He began a public relations campaign that included newspaper coverage and competitions. His wager paid off, netting Barnum a profit of over $500,000.

Lind and Barnum were suspected of having a romantic relationship over the years. Their alleged romantic relationship was depicted on the big screen in 2017 in The Greatest Showman, a film starring Hugh Jackman as Barnum and Rebecca Ferguson as Lind. According to reports, Lind and Barnum’s relationship was strictly business. Lind married pianist and accompanist Otto Goldschmidt in 1852, and the couple remained together until her death in 1887. Barnum stayed focused on his business.

P.T. Barnum’s Wife and Daughters

Barnum married his childhood friend Charity Hallett in 1829, when they were both 21 years old. They were married for 44 years and had four daughters, the youngest of whom died when she was a child.

Barnum’s Museum Fires

Barnum’s American Museum was destroyed in a massive fire in July 1865. The promoter quickly opened another museum in a nearby location, but it was also destroyed by fire in March 1868.

‘The Greatest Show on Earth’

Barnum left the museum business to form a partnership with circus owners Dan Castello and William C. Coup. In 1871, they co-founded Barnum’s Grand Traveling Museum, Menagerie, Caravan, and Hippodrome. Barnum took full ownership of the successful traveling show, dubbed “The Greatest Show on Earth,” by 1875.

Barnum teamed up with fellow circus owners James A. Bailey and James L. Hutchinson in 1881. The following year, they brought in “Jumbo,” a massive 11 1/2-foot, 6 1/2-ton elephant from the Zoological Society of London. Jumbo, like many of Barnum’s previous exhibits, was a big hit with the public until his death in 1885.

In 1887, an elderly Barnum agreed to relinquish day-to-day control of the circus, which was renamed the Barnum & Bailey Greatest Show on Earth.

Following Barnum’s death in 1891, the rival Ringling brothers purchased his Barnum & Bailey show in 1907. The two were merged into the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Combined Shows in 1919. The circus he founded gave its final performance in May 2017.

Politician and Philanthropist in Bridgeport, Connecticut

Aside from his show business career, Barnum worked to make his adopted hometown of Bridgeport, Connecticut, a thriving metropolis.

In the 1850s, he went bankrupt after attempting to lure the doomed Jerome Clock Company to Bridgeport, but he recovered his finances through public speaking engagements and additional touring with General Tom Thumb.

Barnum later served in the Connecticut legislature and was elected mayor of Bridgeport in 1875. Soon after, he helped establish the Bridgeport Hospital and was named its first president.


Barnum died on April 7, 1891, after being confined to his Bridgeport home following a stroke in 1890. With his final words, he allegedly inquired about the previous night’s gate receipts at the circus.

Barnum’s Legacy and Museums

Barnum is remembered as a brilliant promoter and a man who changed the nature of commercial entertainment in the nineteenth century, thanks in part to the enduring success of his circus.

The Lost Museum, an online version of Barnum’s defunct American Museum, reopened in 2000. He is also remembered at the Barnum Museum in Bridgeport, which features exhibits about his life, philanthropic contributions, and the curiosities he brought to the public.

Favorite PT Barnum Quotes

Without promotion, something terrible happens… nothing! 

PT. Barnum


Literature is one of the most interesting and significant expressions of humanity. 

PT. Barnum


Whatever you do, do it with all your might. Work at it, early and late, in season and out of season, not leaving a stone unturned, and never deferring for a single hour that which can be done just as well now. 

PT. Barnum


Clowns are the pegs on which the circus is hung. 

PT. Barnum


Fortune always favors the brave, and never helps a man who does not help himself. 

PT. Barnum

View our larger collection of the best PT Barnum quotes.

Further Reading

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