P.T. Barnum brings European opera star Jenny Lind to New York

The iconic American huckster, showman and circus entrepreneur P.T. Barnum is most often associated not with refined high culture but of somewhat coarser forms of entertainment—the circus, yes, but also Siamese twins and various human oddities such as “Zip the Pinhead” and the “Man-monkey.” It was none other than P.T. Barnum, however, who brought the greatest opera performer in the world from Europe to the United States in the mid-19th century for a triumphant national tour that set astonishing box-office records and fanned the flames of a widespread opera craze in 1850s America. That star was Jenny Lind—”The Swedish Nightingale”—a singer of uncommon talent and great renown whose arrival in New York City on this day in 1850 was greeted with a mania not unlike that which would greet another foreign musical invasion more than a century later.

READ MORE: 10 Things You May Not Know About P.T. Barnum

Depending on which of two conflicting birthdates one accepts as accurate, Jenny Lind was either 29 or 39 years old in 1849, when she first came to the attention of P.T. Barnum. Barnum was touring Europe at the time with the act that effectively launched his eventual showbiz empire: the two-foot-eleven-inch Tom Thumb, whom Barnum molded into a singer/dancer/comedian after discovering him in Bridgeport, Connecticut. While in England with Thumb, Barnum was told about Lind and proceeded to propose a North American tour to her without ever hearing her sing a note. Her once-in-a-lifetime voice, it seems, was of interest to Barnum only insofar as it helped explain the piece of information that most impressed him: that Lind had recently drawn sellout crowd after sellout crowd during a recent tour of Britain and Ireland. On the basis of her proven box-office pull, Barnum sent an offer to Lind that was unheard of for the time: a 150-date tour of the United States and Canada with a guaranteed payment of $1,000 per performance. After negotiating certain payments by Barnum to charities of her choosing, the philanthropy-minded Lind agree to the tour and disembarked Liverpool for the United States in August 1850.

From the moment of her arrival in New York, Lind was a sensation. By applying his trademark gifts in the area of promotion (including not only a massive advertising campaign but also many bought-and-paid-for reviews in regional newspapers), Barnum had seen to it that this would be the case. But it was Lind’s voice and her genuine connection with audiences that made the tour the smash success that it was—a fact even Barnum acknowledged when he renegotiated her contract upward following her first handful of performances. All told, Jenny Lind’s tour is believed to have netted Barnum close to a half-million dollars, an astonishing sum in 1850. But its most lasting legacy may have been the way in which it helped make opera a democratic sensation in America in the decades that followed.

P. T. Barnum

Phineas Taylor Barnum ( / ˈ b ɑːr n ə m / July 5, 1810 – April 7, 1891) was an American showman, politician, and businessman, remembered for promoting celebrated hoaxes and for founding the Barnum & Bailey Circus (1871–2017). [1] He was also an author, publisher, and philanthropist, though he said of himself: "I am a showman by profession . and all the gilding shall make nothing else of me". [2] According to his critics, his personal aim was "to put money in his own coffers." [2] He is widely credited with coining the adage "There's a sucker born every minute", [3] although no proof can be found of him saying this.

  • Showman
  • entrepreneur (entertainment as founder and promotor)
  • politician
  • author
  • publisher
  • philanthropist

Barnum became a small business owner in his early twenties and founded a weekly newspaper before moving to New York City in 1834. He embarked on an entertainment career, first with a variety troupe called "Barnum's Grand Scientific and Musical Theater", and soon after by purchasing Scudder's American Museum which he renamed after himself. He used the museum as a platform to promote hoaxes and human curiosities such as the Fiji mermaid and General Tom Thumb. [4] In 1850, he promoted the American tour of Swedish opera singer Jenny Lind, paying her an unprecedented $1,000 a night for 150 nights. He suffered economic reversals in the 1850s due to bad investments, as well as years of litigation and public humiliation, but he used a lecture tour as a temperance speaker to emerge from debt. His museum added America's first aquarium and expanded the wax-figure department.

Barnum served two terms in the Connecticut legislature in 1865 as a Republican for Fairfield, Connecticut. He spoke before the legislature concerning the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution which abolished slavery and involuntary servitude: "A human soul, 'that God has created and Christ died for,' is not to be trifled with. It may tenant the body of a Chinaman, a Turk, an Arab, or a Hottentot—it is still an immortal spirit". [5] He was elected in 1875 as mayor of Bridgeport, Connecticut where he worked to improve the water supply, bring gas lighting to streets, and enforce liquor and prostitution laws. He was also instrumental in starting Bridgeport Hospital in 1878 and was its first president. [6] Nevertheless, the circus business, begun when he was 60 years old, was the source of much of his enduring fame. He established "P. T. Barnum's Grand Traveling Museum, Menagerie, Caravan & Hippodrome" in 1870, a traveling circus, menagerie, and museum of "freaks" which adopted many names over the years.

Barnum was married to Charity Hallett from 1829 until her death in 1873, and they had four children. In 1874, a few months after his wife's death, he married Nancy Fish, his friend's daughter who was 40 years his junior. They were married until 1891 when Barnum died of a stroke at his home. He was buried in Mountain Grove Cemetery, Bridgeport, which he designed himself. [7]

This Love Story In ‘The Greatest Showman’ Is Leaving Fans With Questions

Inspired by the life of P.T. Barnum, known for founding the Barnum & Bailey Circus, The Greatest Showman recently debuted in theaters, and one question that people who have seen the film seem to have is whether Barnum and Jenny Lind kissed in real life. Well, odds are they probably didn't, as their real-life relationship was very different than what was depicted in The Greatest Showman. The two weren't known to actually be romantically involved.

Spoilers ahead. In The Greatest Showman, Barnum (played by Hugh Jackman) enlists a number of people as he begins his career in the circus business, including Swedish opera singer Jenny Lind (Rebecca Ferguson), who was known as the Swedish Nightingale, according to the New York Times. In the movie, Lind is portrayed as falling in love with Barnum, who was married to Charity Barnum (Michelle Williams), but after he rejects her advances, she quits the tour, which essentially bankrupts him. Then, Lind kisses Barnum on stage in front of cameras and an audience, which leads to Barnum's wife leaving him. The thing is, none of this ever seems to have happened.

Much to the contrary, Lind was known for being a consummate professional, according to Entertainment Weekly, and for the most part wasn't linked with many well-known men. In 1852, just two years after begun her American tour with Barnum, Vanity Fair reports, Lind married her accompanist, Otto Goldschmidt. "We are put together of precisely the same stuff," Lind once wrote about her husband. Lind and Goldschmidt were together until she passed in 1887.

Unfortunately, in portraying Lind as a scorned lover, The Greatest Showman doesn't exactly do justice to her reputation, and the film also doesn't really give enough attention to the entire reason that Lind was involved with Barnum in the first place — to raise funds for charity. As the Times notes, Barnum was known for being a "hype man," who promoted performers and events. Lind was already a well-known opera singer in Europe, who had studied at the Royal Theatre in Stockholm. According to the Times, Lind retired from the European opera circuit in 1849, when she was 28, and her final performance was attended by Queen Victoria.

In addition to her voice, Lind was also known for her philanthropy. In fact, the reason she agreed to tour the U.S. was to raise funds for Swedish schools, EW reported. In doing a total of 93 concerts in America, Lind earned an estimated $350,000 (or about $10 million in today's dollars), and donated all her earnings to charity.

Unlike what is portrayed in The Greatest Showman, Lind did complete her tour, though not with Barnum. The two reportedly parted ways because of a business disagreement, not because of a romantic rejection, because Lind did not approve of Barnum's marketing of her tour, which EW referred to as "relentless and tacky."

The romantic storyline between Barnum and Lind certainly isn't the only creative liberty the movie adaptation took with Barnum's life. Interestingly, as History vs. Hollywood points out, Barnum didn't begin his circus career until he was around 60 years old, a full five years after his museum burned down. The Greatest Showman definitely depicts Barnum as being a bit younger when he got into the circus game, as Jackman is only 49 years old in real life.

As others have noted, the movie also ignores a few other darker parts of Barnum's life that included reportedly exploiting some of the talents in his circus. He also was behind offensive shows that included blackface minstrel, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Overall it seems as though the filmmakers used quite a bit of creative liberty in telling Barnum's story, especially when it came to his relationship with Lind.

Phineas T. Barnum Heard About, But Had Not Heard, Jenny Lind

The American showman Phineas T. Barnum, who operated an extremely popular museum in New York City and was known for exhibiting the diminutive superstar General Tom Thumb, heard about Jenny Lind and sent a representative to make an offer to bring her to America.

Jenny Lind drove a hard bargain with Barnum, demanding that he deposit the equivalent of nearly $200,000 in a London bank as an advance payment before she would sail to America. Barnum had to borrow the money, but he arranged for her to come to New York and embark on a concert tour of the United States.

Barnum, of course, was taking a considerable risk. In the days before recorded sound, people in America, including Barnum himself, had not even heard Jenny Lind sing. But Barnum knew her reputation for thrilling crowds and set to work making Americans excited.

Lind had acquired a new nickname, “The Swedish Nightingale,” and Barnum made sure that Americans heard about her. Rather than promote her as a serious musical talent, Barnum made it sound like Jenny Lind was some mystical being blessed with a heavenly voice.

16 thoughts on &ldquo P.T. Barnum, Opera, and Fame &rdquo

Thanks for the link on PT Barnum. Read it all. Fascinating.

Thanks in part to the enduring success of his circus, Barnum is celebrated as a brilliant promoter and a man who transformed the nature of commercial entertainment in the 19th century.

Barnum went on to serve multiple terms in the Connecticut legislature and was elected mayor of Bridgeport in 1875.

The Greatest Show on Earth’ Barnum retired from the museum business and teamed up with circus owners Dan Castello and William C. Coup. Together they launched Barnum’s Grand Traveling Museum, Menagerie, Caravan and Hippodrome in 1871. Referring to the traveling spectacle as “The Greatest Show on Earth,” Barnum took full ownership of the successful venture by 1875.

I’d forgotten that later in his life that PT Barnum created what was called ‘the greatest show on earth’ and for that time that was, in fact, probably true.

Strange happenings in the PT Barnum circle of entertainment. Entrepeneurs should be studying Mr. Barnum’s style and techniques.

PT Barnum purchased the right to display William Henry Johnson from the circus and gave him a new look. A furry suit was made to fit him, and his hair was shaped to a tiny point that further accented his sloping brow. Finally, he was given the name, “Zip the Pinhead”, the “What-Is-It?”

It is estimated that during his 67 years in show business, Zip entertained more than one hundred million people

If you give a man a few dollars, he will surly spend it on something that entertains him. My mom told me that. Perhaps it was my dad that inspired her to think such lowly things of men but, hey, there is something to it. Men have a tendency to misspend their money. They earned it, they spend it. Frugal is not necessarily in their vocabulary.

Ha Ha…. Made me laugh this morning. Good one. I figure your mom was pretty good at sarcasm. ?

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

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

Yes, interesting comment Yusaf and one I don’t completely agree with. Thanks for taking the side of your mom, however.

I remember my grandfather telling about “the greatest show on earth.” Wow, powerful entertainment for the times.

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When New Yorkers Fell for a Singer They Had Never Heard

Q. More than 3,000 fans greeted the Beatles at Kennedy Airport in 1964. But wasn’t that small compared with the welcome given an opera star who visited 114 years earlier?

A. It’s true, yes it is. More than 30,000 people were on hand when the steamer carrying the Swedish soprano Jenny Lind arrived at the Canal Street pier on Sept. 1, 1850.

Born in 1820, Lind became an opera sensation at age 18. She befriended Frederic Chopin and Felix Mendelssohn Hans Christian Andersen’s unrequited love for her inspired several fairy tales, including one that led to her nickname, the “Swedish nightingale.”

Lind retired from opera performances in 1849, but agreed to a 150-show tour of America the following year, to be managed by the showman P. T. Barnum. A shrewd negotiator, she secured a fee of $1,000 per performance, equal to about $30,000 today.

The tour was a risky proposition, as most Americans, including Barnum himself, had never heard her voice.

“When Barnum was originally seeking investors, he was shunned by a lot of businessmen who said, ‘This is going to ruin you,’” said Kathy Maher, the executive director of the Barnum Museum in Bridgeport, Conn. Barnum’s instincts were proved right, but not just because of Lind’s vocal talents.

The soprano was well known in Europe for performing free concerts for poor families, and for giving most of her earnings to charity. Barnum publicized this angelic reputation, and as a result, the name Jenny Lind was synonymous with humility and charity in the United States before she ever set foot on these shores.

Lind’s first shows were at Castle Garden, the brick structure in Battery Park now known as Castle Clinton. (Park visitors today will find a plaque that mentions Lind’s performances there.) Barnum sold tickets at auction, with one fetching $225.

Lind dedicated her entire cut from the first two shows to New York groups, mostly to the widows and orphans of fallen firefighters.

The tour’s repertoire was a mix of arias, classical religious tunes and what today we would consider folk songs, said Kristin K. Vogel, a soprano who has performed as Lind in a one-woman show. The variety had a practical purpose: saving Lind’s voice. “It’s not a good idea to do aria after aria,” Ms. Vogel said. “You need a bit of a break.”

Excluding charity concerts, Lind performed 95 times before she and Barnum broke ties in June 1851 receipts exceeded $700,000. She continued to tour on her own, concluding at Castle Garden on May 24, 1852, before returning to Europe.

Reporters called the fervor surrounding her tour “Lind Mania.” Hotel maids sold strands of hair they claimed had been removed from her brush, while vendors hawked unauthorized “Jenny Lind” souvenirs such as gloves, cigars and riding crops. The style of bed in which she supposedly slept remains popular today, as does a similar type of crib.

But furniture aside, why does her name still resonate? For the same reasons baseball fans discuss Honus Wagner and Cy Young, according to the opera expert Fred Plotkin.

“If you’re passionate about a cultural thing, it’s a history, a tradition handed down,” Mr. Plotkin said. “She was a phenomenon unto herself.”

Jenny Lind and Her Concerts, New York Herald, September 1850

Barnum's promotion of Lind (and indeed of all of his attractions) involved courting journalists and placing items in daily newspapers to keep "the Swedish Nightingale" in the public eye. This media coverage focused as often as not on the singer's personal qualities rather than on her singing abilities. This item portrayed Lind as a thoughtful, selfless, churchgoing young woman and suggested that audiences were clamoring to see her because of her "noble character."

Museum room: Picture Gallery.

The Greatest Showman (2017)

No. In researching The Greatest Showman true story, we discovered that Barnum's eager young protégé in the film, Phillip Carlyle (Zac Efron), is a fictional character. Phillip was created in part for the film's fictional interracial love story between himself and trapeze artist Anne Wheeler (Zendaya).

Is Zendaya's character, trapeze artist Anne Wheeler, based on a real person?

This is somewhat true. However, he hadn't been laid off from a desk job. After lotteries were banned in Connecticut, P.T. Barnum sold his general store since the statewide lottery network had been his main source of income. He moved to New York City and began working as a showman, starting a variety troupe. In 1836, his variety troupe, Barnum's Grand Scientific and Musical Theater, had a year of mixed success. Then came the U.S. financial crisis known as the Panic of 1837, which led to three years of hard times for Barnum. He found success again after purchasing and reinventing Scudder's American Museum, which he renamed Barnum's American Museum.

Were there really protests over P.T. Barnum's shows?

This is likely true. Many in the public had long considered theaters dens of sin, and the oddities and performances on display in P.T. Barnum's museum fueled their outrage. Over the years, Barnum tried to change that perception, but when his American Museum burned down in 1865, there were those who mourned its passing and still those who celebrated that it was gone. Learn about the real reason that arsonists likely set fire to his museum by watching the episode The Greatest Showman: History vs. Hollywood below. To follow our latest episodes, subscribe to the History vs. Hollywood YouTube channel.

Did P.T. Barnum almost have a love affair with Swedish opera singer Jenny Lind?

No. In the movie, P.T. Barnum (Hugh Jackman) initially becomes infatuated with Swedish opera singer Jenny Lind (Rebecca Ferguson), who quits the tour in a huff after he rejects her advances. This is complete fiction, as there is no evidence that the two ever had a romantic relationship. The movie does a disservice to Lind by painting her as the jilted lover. In real life, the only reason she agreed to the American tour was because P.T. Barnum promised her a great deal of money. However, she didn't keep a dime of it and had never planned to. She donated the $350,000 in profits to charity, specifically the endowment of free schools in Sweden. The $350,000 would equal roughly $10 million today.

While fact-checking The Greatest Showman, we discovered that the real reason Jenny Lind (also known as the "Swedish Nightingale") quit the tour was because she was uncomfortable with Barnum's relentless marketing of her. After 93 concerts, they broke ties and she completed the tour under new management. In 1852, she married Otto Goldschmidt, a German conductor, composer, and pianist.

Did P.T. Barnum bring the dwarf Charles Stratton into the circus when Stratton was 22-years-old?

No. Charles Sherwood Stratton, who went by the stage name General Tom Thumb, was recruited by P.T. Barnum when he was only 4-years-old, not 22 like in the movie. In real life, Stratton and Barnum were actually distant cousins. As seen to some degree in the film, Stratton's performances helped to change the public's perception of freak shows, which had been thought of as unpleasant and disreputable.

Did P.T. Barnum's museum really burn down?

Yes. The Greatest Showman true story confirms that Barnum's American Museum burned to the ground in a fire on July 13, 1865. The origin of the fire was never discovered. However, his addition of pro-Unionist lectures, exhibits and dramas had incited a Confederate arsonist to start a fire there the year prior. If the 1865 fire was arson, it's likely it was spurned on by Barnum's Unionist sympathies, not due to outrage over the sideshows at his museum. After the fire, he quickly reopened the American Museum at another location, but that too burned down in 1868, leading him to enter the circus business.

How old was P.T. Barnum when he started his circus?

The real P.T. Barnum didn't start his circus until he was 60 years old, five years after his museum burned to the ground. The Greatest Showman depicts Barnum as being younger when he gets into the circus business. Like in the movie, losing the museum forced him to reinvent himself as a showman. In 1870, he partnered with circus owners William Cameron Coup and Dan Castello to start P.T. Barnum's Grand Traveling Museum, Menagerie, Caravan, and Hippodrome, which eventually came to be known as the "greatest traveling show on earth." Barnum took full control of the circus in 1875. His most well-known partnership came six years later when he teamed up with James A. Bailey and James L. Hutchinson, securing acts like Jumbo, the six-and-a-half ton elephant. In 1887, the circus was rebranded with the more familiar name Barnum and Bailey Brothers Greatest Show on Earth. Barnum died in 1891.

Was P.T. Barnum really a champion of acceptance and tolerance?

Many would argue against this. The Greatest Showman would have you believe that P.T. Barnum was a champion of acceptance and tolerance, celebrating those who 1800s society considered outcasts and "freaks". Things aren't nearly as black and white when it comes to the real P.T. Barnum. Many see his profiting from putting people with abnormalities and disabilities on public display as being exploitation. And even though Barnum possessed anti-slavery convictions, both his actions as a showman and his "freak shows" themselves could at times certainly be considered racist.

For example, Barnum is believed to have gotten his start as a showman in 1835 when he purchased and exhibited an elderly African American slave woman named Joice Heth, who was blind and almost entirely paralyzed. He claimed that Heth was 161 years old and had been George Washington's nurse. Heth died the following year. Her true age was approximately 80 years old, roughly half the age Barnum advertised her to be.

Did P.T. Barnum's wife Charity leave him?

No. Barnum never had a romance with Swedish opera singer Jenny Lind. There was no picture of them kissing in the newspaper, prompting Barnum's wife Charity to temporarily leave him when he returned from the tour with Lind. In his autobiographies, Barnum conveys deep love for Charity, writing that on the day he married her, he "became the husband of one of the best women in the world." She was his bedrock throughout the marriage until her death in 1873.

Was Charity the only wife of P.T. Barnum?

No. P.T. Barnum and his wife Charity (nicknamed Chairy) were married for 44 years. She passed away on November 19, 1873. The following year Barnum married Nancy Fish, who he remained with until his death in 1891.

Is the Barnum & Bailey Circus still in business?

No. Dwindling attendance and high operating costs forced the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus to close on May 21, 2017 after 146 years of uninterrupted operation. The circus shut down just seven months prior to the movie's release. It had been plagued with controversy in the years prior due to criticisms of animal abuse and exploitation, which had forced the circus to retire its elephant acts in 2016.

Watch The Greatest Showman History vs. Hollywood episode below, and check out the movie trailer to get a preview of the film, the characters, and the music.

The Greatest Showman: The True Story of P.T. Barnum and Jenny Lind

Left, P.T. Barnum right, Hugh Jackman in The Greatest Showman. Left, from Hulton Archive/Getty Images Right, by Niko Tavernise.

On September 1, 1850, 30,000 onlookers packed the waterfront around Canal Street in New York City, clamoring to catch a glimpse of the Swedish opera singer Jenny Lind as she disembarked from the steamship Atlantic to begin an American tour. Lind’s American promoter, the visionary entertainer and entrepreneur P.T. Barnum, greeted the singer with a bouquet and waved her into a private carriage as police pushed the teeming crowds apart, Hard Day’s Night-style.

The Jenny Lind tour was a barnstormer, taking in the modern equivalent of $21 million over a nine-month engagement and spawning an American mania for all things Lind: concert tickets, women’s hats, opera glasses, paper dolls, sheet music, even Lind-branded chewing tobacco. (The craze persists in today's children’s furnture stores, where you can still purchase a spindled “Jenny Lind crib.”)

But more than Lind’s fame or Barnum’s marketing success, the story that has persisted most through the decades is the did-they-or-didn’t-they frisson of a suspected romance between the entertainer and his star attraction. Certainly the new Hugh Jackman film The Greatest Showman, a highly fictionalized musical biopic starring Rebecca Ferguson as Lind, subscribes to the idea of an infatuation between the showman and the singer. Nor is this the first such suggestion: fictionalized versions of Barnum’s life, including the eponymous 1980 Broadway musical, have often relied on the tension of a man torn between his steady, Puritan wife and an exotic European songstress. The love triangle is, however attractive, a fiction.

So how did Jenny Lind become part of P.T. Barnum’s world, and why wasn’t romance a factor?

From unassuming origins, Jenny Lind became the darling of European opera. Born out of wedlock and into a dismal childhood, she was admitted to the Royal Theatre in Stockholm as a voice student at the age of nine, and by her tween years was a renowned professional singer. Lind’s angelic voice and devotion to philanthropy charmed anyone with ears to hear, and when she retired from the opera circuit in 1849 at the age of 28, her final performance was attended by no less than Queen Victoria.

P.T. Barnum, then riding high on the fame of his American Museum in New York City, longed to elevate his public profile—which, while profitable, mainly associated him with dime-museum fare. In a bid for respectability, he lured Lind from retirement to tour America, promising an unprecedented $1,000 per night for up to 150 nights of performances—with expenses and musical assistants of Lind’s choice included. Not only that, Barnum offered to put salaries on deposit up-front, which required him to either sell or mortgage everything he owned.

It was a huge bet, without a safety net. But to Barnum, the chance to establish himself as an American tastemaker was worth the risk.

And a risk it was: despite her considerable European fame, Barnum had never heard Lind sing a note, and most Americans had no idea that the “Swedish Nightingale” was not, in fact, a bird. Barnum had six months to get Lind’s name out to the American public and create demand.

The public-relations blitz, which included constant newspaper coverage, a song contest, and competitive ticket auctions, worked a treat: from her first show on September 11, 1850, at the Castle Garden in New York, Jenny Lind was a sensation. The New York Tribune plainly summarized the collective rapture, writing: “Jenny Lind’s first concert is over and all doubts are at an end. She is the greatest singer we have ever heard.”

Her Greatest Showman portrayal notwithstanding, Lind was not the red-lipstick type. The singer favored simple white dresses, didn’t subscribe to the fashion for tight corseting, and rarely did more with her mousy brown hair than tie it in a gentle braided up-do. She made grown men cry solely through the purity of her voice, and impressed Americans particularly with her lack of pretension, donating thousands of dollars to local charities along her tour itinerary. (The New York Fire Department was so enchanted with Lind and her generous bequests that they presented her with a gold box with the department insignia as a token.) Crowds loved that Jenny Lind did not seem to be performing a fiction so much as telegraphing herself, truly, in all her innocence and grace.

And while this arrangement was good for their respective bank accounts, neither Lind nor Barnum was interested in mixing business with pleasure.

Lind was the first to admit that she was not renowned as a great beauty—she would, matter-of-factly, tell people that she had a “potato nose”—and was generally impervious to gentlemen’s advances. She kept even suitors like Frederic Chopin and Hans Christian Andersen firmly at arm’s length while she focused on music and charity work, hoping to achieve her goal of establishing a girls’ music academy in Stockholm. (Andersen, stung by rejection, pined for Lind in his story The Nightingale, in which a grand emperor is enthralled with a jeweled automaton in the shape of a bird—but can only be saved from death by the singing of a plain brown nightingale.)

And if Barnum’s story about Jenny Lind visiting his home in Bridgeport, Connecticut, is any indication, she was not inclined to find the entertainer and his coarse Yankee wit even halfway amusing. At his mansion, Iranistan, Barnum kept a pet cow who liked to graze below his office window. A house staffer typically kept Bessie’s grass free of pedestrian traffic not knowing who Lind was, he shooed her off the lawn. Shocked at the rough instructions, Lind sniffed: “Do you know who I am?” The gardener flatly replied, “No, but I do know you ain’t P.T. Barnum’s cow.”

The interaction did not improve from there. Barnum, hearing the ruckus, leaned from his window and from his vantage point could see the agitated cow but not Lind. “Does she want to be milked?” he asked. Thoroughly steamed, Lind stepped into view and roared at the suddenly mortified showman: “I don’t want to be milked, but I do want to go back to England—and today, too!”

Where Lind would have found a relationship untoward, Barnum would simply have considered it a distraction. Intently focused on his many entrepreneurial ventures, Barnum thrived on ego and constant public activity. He trusted his wife, Charity, to run house and home, propping her up from a distance with assuring letters and the fruits of his fame. Far from the breezy, contented spouse portrayed by Michelle Williams in the film, Charity Barnum was more beleaguered than buoyant understandable, given she was married to a perpetual motion machine for 44 years and raised three girls largely on her own, all while dealing with indeterminate chronic illness and the untimely death of the Barnums’ fourth daughter.

Road life wore on the ensemble, and after nine solid months of performances, Lind invoked a contractual right to end the tour early. She later attempted to tour again, though her popularity was by then diminished without Barnum by her side to suck up even the suggestion of negative press, Lind’s evident fatigue—and her 1852 marriage to accompanist Otto Goldschmidt—sat poorly with the public.

Goldschmidt was in many ways an unattractive match from a 19th-century public relations perspective he was significantly younger than Lind, Jewish, and his name had an unpleasantly Teutonic bite to American audiences, who preferred Lind both lilting and single. But he offered Lind something neither stage nor showman could: emotional stability. Lind admired Goldschmidt as a pianist, found him not only secure but creatively inspiring at a time when she was worn out from touring, and, most of all, finally found in him the consistency and comfort she so earnestly craved.

“We are put together of precisely the same stuff,” she wrote with evident satisfaction, “and one of us only needs to begin a sentence before the other know the end of it.” The couple remained happily married until Lind’s death in 1887.

About The Jenny Lind House

This building was nick-named after the nineteenth-century opera star, Jenny Lind, also known as "The Swedish Nightingale". History has it that she stayed in Yellow Springs during the Philadelphia portion of her P. T. Barnum-sponsored concert tour in 1850. The tour began when she sailed into New York Harbor and was greeted by a crowd of more than 30,000 New Yorkers. The astounding thing about her reception is that no one in America had ever heard her voice. Thanks to the showmanship of P. T. Barnum, her tour was a remarkable success. The first ticket to a Jenny Lind concert in America was sold for $225, an expensive concert ticket by today's standards and a simply staggering amount in 1850. Most of the tickets to Jenny Lind's first concert sold for about six dollars, but the publicity surrounding someone paying more than $200 for a ticket served its purpose. People across America read about it, and it seemed the whole country was curious to hear Jenny Lind sing. She continued performing in America until she returned to Europe in 1852.

About the village of Yellow Springs

During the colonial period, the mineral springs in the village attracted hundreds of bathers a day and it remained a spa until 1865, except for four years (1777-1781) during the Revolutionary War. The first Inn (our previous location) dated from the 1760's and served as General George Washington's headquarters during the Battle of Brandywine. For four years Yellow Springs was the site of the only hospital officially authorized by the Continental Congress. That building later served from 1869 to 1912 as a Soldiers Orphans School for the children of Civil War veterans.

When the number of Civil War orphans declined to the vanishing point, the School was put up for sale and was eventually purchased by The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. Thousands of students from the United States and abroad attended the school, which by the 1930's also offered teacher certification in the fine arts for the Pennsylvania Department of Public Instruction. Although regular classes were only conducted in the summer, instructors from the PAFA visited throughout the year to offer students criticism of their work. A newspaper wrote in 1925 that "the rare charm of the old Revolutionary place and its delectable countryside have made possible the only summer school of art in the United States of this sort, a school where students live together for four months and not only learn from their instructors but from the give-and-take of constant daily foregathering."

Art students sketched and studied in the Portico which connected the Lincoln building (currently the Library) and the Inn. They also worked in the Chester Springs Studio, which was originally built as a stable. The East Meadows was the site of the spa's bath houses, a gazebo, and a pool house dating to the 1830's the West Meadows contain the restored "Oriental Bog Gardens" originally built in the 1920's for the art students to sketch. Four other houses, including this one, became residences for students.

Across the old tennis court behind the Studio is a path that leads to the "Oriental Bog Gardens" originally installed in the 1920's to provide inspiration and subject matter for students at the Country School. There are also two historic springhouses, one of which was also named after Jenny Lind. Legend has it that she was lowered into the pool on a swing during a private bathing session.

The Crystal Diamond Springhouse, c. 1840, houses a magnesium spring whose waters are crystal clear and sparkle like diamonds. It has a unique diamond shaped pool as well as a diamond shaped opening in the roof. The interior of both springhouses can be viewed through openwork iron doors. A wood chip path leads you through the lush gardens.

"Of the various watering places and rural retreats which invite the languid, the listless, or the laborious citizen to invigorate his system, to relax from the fatigues of business, or to restore his declining health, none certainly combines so many advantages as this delightful spot. Its proximity to the city, the salubrity of the air, the purity of the water, the coldness and clearness of the bath, the fertility of the soil, and the variegated scenery which surrounds it, all conspire to charm the senses, and to sooth, and exhilarate the mind."
(From a series on American Scenery in The Port Folio, 1810).

We hope you enjoy your visit to our restaurant and the charming village that surrounds it.

Yellow Springs Inn
1657 Art School Road
Chester Springs, PA 19425
Phone: (610) 827-7477

Wednesday Through Saturday
5:00pm - 9:30pm

Our hours have recently changed.
Please call us for more information.

© 2021 Catering by Yellow Springs. | Site By: Northlight Advertising


In the movie, The Greatest Showman, the showman in the title, P.T. Barnum, brings a relatively unknown Swedish born singer named Jenny Lind to America. In a dramatic and impressively moving scene, Lind proceeds to captivate an unassuming audience with her soaring voice. Barnum looks on in wonder. A star is born, it seems, even if it is an overtly dramatic depiction.

In reality, Jenny Lind was an opera singer, a soprano, popular in her native Europe, mostly polite and a modest dresser as well. As one article described, she was not the “red lipstick type” portrayed in the movie. Nor did Barnum and Lind have a hint of a romantic relationship as the movie subtly applies.

Jenny Lind

Regardless of the portrayal in the film, one thing was clear, in 1850, Barnum made Lind an international superstar which reverberated in many ways, including Lind’s indirect role in the US Civil War.

Specifically, two war ships named in her honor.

Why name a ship after the popular singer? That was clearer in 1851 before the war when several clipper chips were named “Jenny Lind” or “The Swedish Nightingale,” a Barnum nickname for Lind during the American Tour.

The sailing vessels were notorious for their carved figureheads adorning the bow of the ship. Instead of a menacing cast, something more refined, like that of a proper lady, was the subject of many figureheads.

Jenny Lind figurehead

In the Civil War, Lind represented both sides. According to Naval Heritage and Command website, the service of the USS Jenny Lind steamer used by the Union Army reads this way : “In February 1863 reference is made to a steamer of this name being used as a troop transport at New Orleans.”

While the Confederate schooner, also named Jenny Lind is “listed among five captured by USS Lockwood, Acting Volunteer Lt. G. W. Graves commanding, on 16 June 1864 at Mount Pleasant, Hyde County, N.C”.

The Union ship suffered a similar fate as its southern counterpart.

According to records: “The [Lind] steamer was captured by the Confederates at the Passes in the Mississippi in June 1863.”

While the ships themselves are quickly forgotten, Lind’s legacy is not. Thanks to Barnum, Lind made a fortune on the American tour and donated much of it to charities and schools.

Her name adorns many of these endowments.

P.T. Barnum & Jenny Lind