P. T. Barnum was the greatest showman the world has ever seen: the co-creator of the Barnum & Bailey Circus and the man who made worldwide sensations of Jumbo the Elephant, General Tom Thumb, and the “Swedish Nightingale,” Jenny Lind. He was, as Barnum argues, one of the most important Americans of the nineteenth century. In Barnum: An American Life, Robert Wilson adeptly makes the case for P. T. Barnum’s place among the icons of American history, as a figure who represented, and indeed created, a distinctly American sense of optimism, industriousness, humor, and relentless energy.
Robert Wilson is the author of Mathew Brady: Portraits of a Nation and The Explorer King, a biography of Clarence King. He is the editor of The American Scholar, a former editor of Preservation, and the founding literary editor of Civilization, a former book editor and columnist for USA Today, and a former editor at The Washington Post Book World. His essays, reviews, and fiction have appeared in numerous publications, including The American Scholar, American Short Fiction, The Atlantic Monthly, The New Republic, Smithsonian, The Washington Post Magazine, and The Wilson Quarterly and on the op-ed, opinion, and book review pages of The Boston Globe, The New York Times, USA Today, and The Washington Post. He lives in Manassas, Virginia.