Here I am mugging in front of P.T. Barnum during a recent excursion to Bethel, Connecticut. I was there to visit friends, but how I could not pay my respects to America’s king of flim-flam?
“The sayings and doings of the wags and eccentricities of Bethel…partly explain the causes which have made me what I am,” the statue’s plaque quotes Barnum saying of his upbringing. So if you hate the circus, I guess you have this cozy New England hamlet to blame. Yet the stout showman behind the Feejee Mermaid had a serious side; Barnum spent two terms in the Connecticut legislature where he fought slavery, once stating, “A human soul…is not to be trifled with. It may tenant the body of a Chinaman, a Turk, an Arab, or a Hottentot [but] it is still an immortal spirit.”
P.T. Barnum was born and raised in Bethel but the old dog actually is buried in neighboring Bridgeport (he served as that city’s mayor in 1875). I would have gone over there, but after a heavy lunch of pulled pork and coleslaw I got wrapped up in this episode of “The Rockford Files” and time just got away from me. Next time, I suppose.
Oh, and before I forget, I checked with town hall, and Bethel currently has no plans to erect a statue or monument of any kind to honor its other hometown hero, Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore. Sorry, no wavers.