3. P.T. Barnum’s American Museum Predated the Barnum & Bailey Circus

Image by William England via Wikipedia (public domain)

Before establishing the famous Barnum & Bailey Circus, P.T. Barnum built a brick-and-mortar museum on the corner of Broadway and Anne Street, where he exhibited all kinds of oddities. It ran from 1841 – 1865 and received 30 million visitors — the size of the entire population of the United States at the time — before burning down.

One of the most popular acts was a pair of Siamese twins named Eng and Chang, but there were also attractions like the Feejee mermaid and exotic animals, including a small beluga whale. The museum also put on vaudeville shows and performances by ventriloquists and magicians. It even had an oyster bar.