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P.T. Barnum.

P.T. Barnum Statue

Field review by the editors.

Bethel, Connecticut

Phineas Taylor Barnum might have been the most famous living American when he died in 1891, but he was an obscure nobody during his early years in Bethel. No matter; birthplaces by custom have the right to raise statues of their progeny, hinting that some quality of the local air or water nurtured their future geniuses. To make that point, a plaque on the base of Bethel's Barnum statue features a Barnum quote, praising the "eccentricities of Bethel" that "have made me what I am." So there's that.

For years the only P.T. Barnum statue in Connecticut stood in Bridgeport, where the huckster built multiple mansions and once served as mayor. It was dedicated only two years after his death and depicts him as a respectable, serious statesmen in a chair -- definitely not the crowd-pleasing Barnum we remember today.

Forging a Barnum worthy of the 21st century was left to Bethel, which unveiled its statue in 2010, the 200th anniversary of Barnum's birth. It depicts not the saggy Barnum of Bridgeport; nor the fresh-out-of-Bethel young Barnum who hoodwinked ignorant Americans with his Fiji Mermaid; but the lovable prime-of-life Barnum, owner of his famous circus and Jumbo the elephant. Wearing a frock coat and bowtie, his arms raised like a ringmaster acknowledging a cheering crowd, Barnum waves his top hat as he walks forward. The pose was chosen from among several by the people of Bethel. Sculptor Dave Gesualdi approved the selection, saying that it conveyed the idea that Bethel's citizens, like Barnum, are "positive people."

P.T. Barnum Statue

189 Greenwood Ave., Bethel, CT
In front of the public library. On the north side of Rte 302/Greenwood Ave. opposite the four-sided, freestanding public clock in the heart of downtown.
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