Neil Harris, in his book, "Humbug: The Art of P. Barnum," gives the account of Phineas Taylor Barnum, an American business man whose business ways involved bringing everything onto another level through the art of humbugging. He made individualistic and new republic ideas merge during a time when self-education was at its foundation. Neil Harris gave what P.T. Barnum was doing as "the operational aesthetic, " where people wanted to think outside of the box and figure out how things worked.
P.T Barnum was born on July 5, 1810 in Danbury, Connecticut in a time where "Victimization was a way of life" (Harris 10). Barnum had to find a way to fill the compulsive competitiveness that filled the air during that time. He quickly went from "farm work " to a clerk in a local store where he had to push through hard bargains with his customers, "shrewdness was necessary"" (Harris 11). Learning from an early age that human behavior could be manipulated, he quickly put that to use through the store, where customers attempted to mix their damaged goods with new. Barnum recalled, "The customers cheated us in their fabrics we cheated the customers with our goods. Each party expected to be cheated, if it was possible. Our eyes, and not our ears, had to be our masters. We must believe little that we saw, and less that we heard"" (Harris 13). He was a lucrative businessman with intentions of using his cunning ways in order to succeed. Even though he kept his business tailored to what society wanted, he kept his private life a guarded secret. Barnum said "My private personal affairs I always have kept distinct from business"" (Harris 14). He found a way to give the people what they wanted and to expand their minds to endless possibilities. .
In 1834, Barnum moved his family to New York City where he could fulfill his desires as a showman. Fueled by high ambitions and confidence, Barnum seized the opportunity to entertain through "the Joice Heth affair"" (Harris 20).