Phineas T. Barnum, who was born in Connecticut in 1810, proved to be a master of planned events that were solely for attention. Many PR practitioners want to keep P.T. Barnum out of the history of PR, but his acts where one of a kind. Barnum was a man known for wanting to put on a show. He was the creator of the Barnum and Bailey circus, which later became a historical icon. Barnum loved to make extravagant events that had exaggerated proportions.
Barnum used overly exaggerated "flowery language" to promote his shows. Most of the claims Barnum made for his shows turned out to be publicity stunts. Barnum is looked at as the man of many wonders. When it all came down to it, Barnum said that he just wanted to make the children at his shows smile (Wilcox).Barnum had many events that stick out as extreme PR events in history
One of the most recognizable events brought on by Barnum was his show of Tom Thumb. Tom Thumb, who's real name was Thomas S. Stratton, was only a hair over two feet tall and weighed only 15 pounds at age five. Barnum used Stratton's physical qualities to gather thousands of people to his shows. After the hype calmed down, Barnum staged an event of Tom Thumb's marriage to another midget to promote crowds again. Tom Thumb went on to be an ideal character of the 18th century (Wilcox).
Jenny Lind was a popular singer from Europe in the 1800's. Lind, the "Swedish Nightingale", was relatively unknown in America until Barnum helped her out. Barnum conducted a press campaign in order introduce the American Public to her endearing voice. After the press campaign, Barnum filled the house at all of his shows headlining Lind by contributing some of the profits to charity. By donating the profits, Barnum made the show seem like a civil thing to do. This caused numerous people to fill the house each night in order to say they helped. This is one of the earliest examples of PR that is still used to this day (Wilcox).
The "Grand Buffalo Hunt" was another Barnum stunt. Barnum hosted what was called a public buffalo hunt in Hoboken, New Jersey. Barnum purchased a skinny heard of buffalo prior to the hunt and nourished them back to health. He then announced a free buffalo hunt to anyone that wanted to come. The community that came to the event did not know that Barnum was the presenter. They also didn't know that Barnum owned the ferries that transported them to the event. Every time a person got onto one of the ferries to go to the hunt, Barnum acquired income. He also made money from all of the drinks bought at the event. It turned out that the event was a hoax and the buffalo just ran away from the enormous crowds. None of the buffalo got shot and they were rounded up safely. Barnum raked in the profits for nothing (Vitale).
P.T. Barnum is one of the most unique fathers of PR. His outrageous stunts and crazy antics led him to be looked down upon by other PR practitioners. Ignoring Barnum's incredible shows, he produced some of the earliest examples of PR as we know today.