Ever the innovative showman, in February, 1854, Barnum staged “The National Poultry Show” at the American Museum. The unusual exhibition brought the everyday of rural life into the burgeoning city, awarding cash prizes for the finest birds. This newspaper item treated the event with amusement, although it undoubtedly served to draw visitors through the American Museum’s doors and added to Barnum’s reputation for ingenious showmanship.
There will be a marvelous cackling as the sun gets up this morning. The greatest cock of the walk will be at Barnum’s. The Museum will be alive with chickens. The first National Poultry Show commences this morning at that place, and continues during the week. The coops, which filled Van Vechten Hall, at Albany, have been transported in great numbers for this Exhibition, and such additions have been made as will secure, it is believed, a large and very complete representation of the various kinds of Poultry. The Show at Albany purported to be that of the New-York State Society alone; this, is National. Chickens, ducks, geese, and terriers will be awarded premiums according to their merit. The terriers are not exactly poultry, but, in consideration of their protectorate over the realm of Chickendom, are promoted to the dignities of competition. The premiums amount in the whole to $500. The President of the National Society, Mr. Barnum, will undoubtedly crow over a good exhibition; and the Secretary, Mr. McCormick, will present any required number of bills for the inspection of the curious. There can, of course, be no quackery in this enterprise. The judges will meet to-morrow. On Friday, an appropriate address will be delivered, and a conversational meeting be held in the Lecture Room of the Museum.
Source: New York Times, February 13, 1854, p. 8