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The Humbugs of the World

P. T. Barnum

Book Overview: 

P. T. Barnum exposes some of the chief humbugs of the world with his usual entertaining style. He looks at medicine and quacks, ghosts, witchcraft, religious humbugs, money manias, adventurers, personal reminiscences, and much more.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .n a constantly increasing demand for “spiritual” wonders, to meet which numerous “mediums” have been “developed.”

Many, who otherwise would not be in the least distinguished, have become “mediums” in order to obtain notoriety, if nothing more.

Communicating by “raps” was a slow process; so some of the mediums took to writing spasmodically; others talked in a “trance”—all under the influence of spirits!

Mediumship has come to be a profession steadily pursued by quite a number of persons, who get their living by it.

There are various classes of “mediums,” the operations of each class being confined to a particular department of “spiritual” humbuggery.

Some call themselves “test mediums;” and, by insisting upon certain formulas, they succeed in astonishing, if they don’t convince most of them who visit them. It i. . . Read More

Community Reviews

If the venerable Mr. Barnum could be a bit of a humbug about humbuggers, then I suppose each of us harbor a hidden humbug, too. Parts of this book were quite a drag, but nowhere else have I encountered such an enormous collection of outrageous hoaxes, strange fads, and ridiculous trends. Everything

If you can slog through the casual racism and self-aggrandizing egotism of its author, you'll be treated to a string of tales that show that we were just as foolish in the mid-19th century as we are now.

This is quite a long read with 50 chapters. And this is a classic book to begin with, so the concept of fast reading was difficult in this book. I read little by little for actually rather bored with the contents here.

The content in this book was actually a compilation of humbugs story from around t

P.T. Barnum did many (profitable) things during his lifetime, including writing books.

In this historically-interesting nonfiction work, the King of Showbusiness describes a series of "Humbugs" (which although anachronistic and Dickensian now, was apparently a common term in the mid 1800's) only one

I really enjoyed the first and last few chapters of this book, but most of the middle is repetitive and boring.

It's ironic, of course, that a person who blatantly tricked people as a way of business criticised others for blatantly tricking people as a way of business. Barnum addressed this at the st

a very interesting book. many of the descriptions of cons, swindles and quacks are as relevant today as in Barnum's time. the chapters on spiritualists and conjurers (and how they accomplished their fake feats) are especially fascinating. that said, the antiquated views on race (the book is from 186

An unexpected delight.

I delved into Humbugs as research for an upcoming project featuring 19th-century fakirism (is that a word? I guess it is). I was happy to discover that the consummate old-time American showman was not only well-spoken, but also a bit of an ethnologist and historian (taking into

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