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P.T. Barnum and the American Freak Show

            The 19th century in the United States of America was essential in its history and its social life and entertainment was crucial. The new middle class sparked the rise of consumer culture as well as more democratic forms of entertainment, or popular culture. As printing became cheaper, newspaper prices were slashed, and department stores grew and spread in the second half of the century, which helped a consumer culture spread and sustained by mass media. Irish Ballads, the spread of parks and museums or the penny press were other mainly things that characterized this period before the Civil War. American popular culture found one of its most well-received forms of expression on the stage; a typical night at the theater included not only a play, but various musical interludes and a comic opera, as well as demonstrations of magic tricks, tightrope walking, fireworks, acrobatics, or pantomime. Oratory was a particularly popular form of entertainment; Americans attended sermons, political speeches, poetry readings, and public lectures with an enthusiasm unmatched in American history. .
             Perhaps one of the most distinctive features of this period was the minstrel show. The first uniquely American entertainment form, the minstrel show provided comedy, music, dance, and novelty acts to audiences hungry for entertainment. Minstrel shows popularized sentimental ballads and love songs relying on blackfaced humor reflecting the racism of the broader society. Science also captured the popular fancy during the decades before the Civil War. During the early 19th century, science was advancing so rapidly that it was difficult to distinguish authentic scientific discoveries from hoaxes. But a freewheeling, irreverent spirit pervaded American popular culture before the Civil War- a spirit typified by P. T. Barnum, 19th century America's most famous entertainer man. In this essay, we are going to see some aspects about the curious life of this enterprising man and his museum of freaks and describe the important impact of his figure on posterity.

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