I had accompanied a group of short people to see the spectacle and when the elephants marched in, the two very well turned-out children in front of us asked if they could ride the beasts and the woman with them, smartly dressed herself, answered: "No, those elephants aren't for you to ride. Those elephants are for children who have never ridden an elephant."
From JSTOR Daily:
Phineas Taylor (P.T.) Barnum, born July 5, 1810, in Bethel, Connecticut, has been described as “the first great advertising genius and the greatest publicity exploiter the world has ever known.” Barnum is popularly known for the adage that a sucker is born every minute (although the actual origins of the saying are disputed).Phineas had made quite a bit of money before he started the circus (at age 61) but had guaranteed the debts of a failed company, which combined with his own debts, made him a bankrupt.
Barnum is often seen as a rascally rogue, profiting off of exploited celebrities like the singer Jenny Lind and the tiny Tom Thumb, while popularizing the freak show and circus as modern entertainment. “The Greatest Show on Earth” was how, in typical Barnum style, he described his circus. It finally closed this year, beset by high costs, lowered attendance, and animal rights protests, an entertainment for another era. But for many, it was all fun while it lasted.
Conscious of his public image, Barnum wrote numerous versions of his own autobiography, each time exploring his various cons. He portrayed himself as a largely benign figure, providing playful games for a public hungry for entertainment. Richard Herskowitz places Barnum as a transitional figure between the frauds of early American patent medicine boosters and modern advertising, for whom “he is a beloved and embarrassing founder.”
“Barnum’s great discovery was not how easy it was to deceive the public, but rather, how much the public enjoyed being deceived,” noted one historian. In describing his various cons, Barnum would often lay out the deceits in his autobiographies. What set Barnum apart was that he often let the public in on his various cons; in one example, he wrote about how he passed off a fish stitched to a monkey as the famous “Fiji Mermaid.” Knowing how the magician of advertising worked backstage provided even more entertainment for those in the know....MORE
Among the things he did to recover was go on a lecture tour talking about boozing and money.
After he had repaid his debts ($450K ~$12 million in 2017) he wrote a book, the table of contents of which showed just how much the bankruptcy had scarred him.
Here's the copy maintained by John Walker, founder of Autodesk, at his Fourmilab, Switzerland website:
Golden Rules for Making Money
by P. T. Barnum
On top of everything else, in 1857, while still bankrupt, his house burned to the ground:
But that may have been better for him and for the world. At minimum for his neighbors in Bridgeport, CT who didn't have to look at the place any more.