Historian Says Bethel’s PT Barnum ‘Employed’ Elephants
P.T. Barnum was born in Bethel in 1810, in a home on Greenwood Avenue that still stands today.
Barnum was a world-renowned entertainer and driving force behind the Barnum & Bailey Circus among many accomplishments. Barnum left his mark all over the NY & CT and is one of the most talked about historical figures in the Greater Danbury area.
Bridgeport, CT is home to the Barnum Museum where his life and work are celebrated.
The Museum launched its own Youtube Channel awhile back and they share informative and fun videos about Barnum, one of the most recent was uploaded on December 13, 2021 and features Writer & Historian Betsy Golden Kellem.
In the video, Golden Kellem shares some facts about P.T. Barnum. One example was that he loved elephants so much he "employed" one at his Bridgeport residence. The elephant was responsible for plowing the fields.
People who learned of this would inundate Barnum with questions about the unique practice but Barnum would advise people against elephant farming, citing the cost of feeding the animals among other things.
Some of the most popular articles I write are about Greater Danbury area history, so naturally I keep writing more and the research for these articles has taught me a lot about Barnum in the past few years.
The articles became such a hit, our sister station added a history feature to their radio show with Mike Allen called "The Place You Live." Mike has done several episodes of the segment that feature Barnum so he's taught us a lot about him as well.
The man is fascinating but my favorite factoid is about Bethel, CT. Bethel is proud to be the birthplace of P.T. Barnum and you can see evidence of that everywhere. His name is on road signs.
There is a square named for him.
His birth home at 55 Greenwood Avenue has been preserved and stands today.
Yes, Bethel loves its favorite son Phineas Taylor Barnum. There's just one problem with that, Bethel didn't officially exist as a town when Barnum was born, it was actually part of Danbury at that time. The region was called Bethel but It was more like a borough of Danbury. It wasn't until 1855 that Bethel was incorporated as a town, independent of Danbury.
The gallery below features a jail whose predecessor was home to P.T. Barnum for about a month.