The Lost Museum Archive

"The Mermaid, and Other Wonderful Specimens of the Animal Creation," 1842

This advertisement reflects some of the ways that Barnum presented the FeJee Mermaid (supposedly discovered by Japanese fishermen) as a wonder of the natural world. From invoking "scientific gentlemen" and a prestigious natural history museum to listing the other zoological wonders that would be exhibited alongside it, Barnum effectively wrapped his fraudulent exhibit in the mantle of science.

The public are respectfully informed that, in accordance with numerous and urgent solicitations from scientific gentlemen in this city, Mr. J. Griffin, proprieter of the Mermaid, recently arrived from Penambuco, S. A., has consented to exhibit it to the public, positively for one week only! For this purpose he has procured the spacious saloon known as Concert Hall, 404 Broadway, which will open on Monday, August 8, 1842, and will positively close on Saturday the 13th inst.

This animal was taken near the Fejee Islands, and purchased for a large sum by the present proprietor, for the Lyceum of Natural History in London, and is exhibited for this short period more for the gratification of the public than for gain. The proprietor having been engaged for several years in various parts of the world in collecting wonderful specimens in Natural History, THE ORNITHORHINCHUS, from New-Holland, being the connection link between the Seal and the Duck. THE FLYING FISH, two distinct species, one from the Gulf Stream, and the other from the West Indies. This animal evidently connects the Bird with the Fish. THE PADDLE-TAIL SNAKE from the Reptile and the Fish. THE PROTEUS SANGUIHUS, a subterraneous animal from a grotto in Australia--with other animals forming connecting links in the great chain of Animated Nature.

Tickets of admission 25 cents each.

Source: P. T. Barnum, The Life of P. T. Barnum, Written by Himself, 1855, p. 234.