P. T. Barnum Begins to Organize Circus

Barnum & Bailey circus train at Durham, circa 1940. Photo courtesy of J. Marvin Black and the North Carolina Collection, UNC-Chapel Hill.On November 12, 1836, Phineas Taylor “P. T.” Barnum arrived in Rocky Mount after leaving Aaron Turner’s Traveling Circus, for whom he managed the side show acts and took tickets.  Barnum convinced some of the Turner acts to join his own traveling circus.

Their first stop was in Rocky Mount Falls (now Rocky Mount).  Arriving on a Saturday evening, Barnum spent the night at the Stage Coach Inn. In his autobiography, Barnum wrote that, the next morning, he accompanied the landlord to the Baptist church.

Before entering the church, Barnum noticed a grove with a stand and benches. Desiring to speak to the congregation, Barnum was permitted by the preacher to speak for a half an hour after the service.

Approximately 300 people stayed to listen to Barnum preach. While not yet known as the Greatest Showman on Earth— it is reported that the crowd was certainly pleased with his performance.

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