Making a permanent impression since 1994
October 17, 2005
-- Travel --
Brinley's circus a gem
the sudden urge to visit a full-fledged circus but feel that you have seen it
into late circus tycoon P.T Barnum’s final masterpiece: a museum in downtown
Bridgeport, Connecticut and prepare to feel the allure and excitement of the
Barnum Museum houses two miniature circuses carved by the skilled hands of Bill
Brinley over many years.
masterpiece emulates a five-ring historic circus complete with tiny rhinos,
acrobats, sideshows and much more. The immense model even includes an area
showing where vast amounts of fresh bread were baked to keep the elephants
at it carefully teaches tidbits about the circus that otherwise never come to
most visitors’ attention.
creation has proven to be popular and is a must-see at the museum.
of the two miniature circuses will remain at the museum until at least the end
of 2005 and perhaps longer. The other is on display permanently.
the Barnum Museum holds much more than a couple of circus models.
addition to the early circus history on display, there’s also much to learn
about the famed showman P.T. Barnum, who turns out to have been a multi-faceted
fellow who served as politician, developer, promoter and more.
solid old museum, constructed in 1896, has three floors of material to see. Go
along with a tour guide for wide-ranging background stories and information or
just meander through on your own.
generally follows the course of Barnum’s life and also shows off a great deal
about the history of Bridgeport.
exhibit is a model of Barnum’s original workplace, a general store that
employed him in 1828 in Bethel, Conn.
that, there are posters, newspaper advertisements, pictures and objects that
show how Barnum rose to fame with his American Museum just off Broadway in New
York, where the “very first live rhino” brought to the United States once
drew crowds, according to Deb Rose, director education and guest services.
nifty sight is the mermaid that Barnum made from a monkey head and sections of a
fish, one of several practical joke pieces that he conned patrons with
there for the viewing are Tom Thumb’s tiny shoes, carriage and other trinkets.
highlights include seeing replicas of the parlor and gentlemen’s lounge from
different mansions that Barnum owned in Bridgeport. These have beautiful Asian
murals, pottery, antiques, stained glass, sculpture and models of wooden globes
that give a glimpse into what life was like back then if you had plenty of
2,500-year-old Egyptian mummy named Pha Ib, pretty well preserved, greets you on
the third floor.
is a large section about the industrial revolution of Bridgeport.
is unique to this museum is that it shows the impact that Barnum’s circus and
industry in Bridgeport had on the world.
instance, Barnum’s 12,000-pound African elephant that Barnum bought from a
London zoo was named Jumbo – which became a household word for something quite
the display on Bridgeport’s history, the origins of the popular Frisbee become
museum has a couple original pie plates from Frisbie Pies, the now defunct pie
bakery from New Haven, Conn.
story goes that the company would give a couple cents back to customers if they
brought back the metal plate after finishing their pie, Rose said.
at Yale University didn’t much care about the refunds so they kept the pie
tins and began throwing them around on the New Haven Green, Rose said, yelling
“Frisbie!” to warn anyone in the way of the flying plate.
became Frisbees when a game company couldn’t convince the bakery to let it use
the original name, Rose said.
At the end of a tour, visitors will come away with a new knowledge and excitement for the contributions to the globe that both Barnum and Bridgeport made.
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