This was P.T.'s fist time ever bringing his circus to Canada. There would be daily parades, at least five... if not six showings in the metro area including one in Dartmouth and then off to Amherst and NB for more shows. The advertising for the show was so bold that Barnum himself was quoted in a news article of the day saying that many thought there was no way it could have been so great. So many just did not come out for the first showing. Soon word was out that it could not be missed and the first crowd of some 3,000 swelled to more than double and by one of the the last showings officials had to close the doors to the massive tent set up at the Halifax Common. Between 8 and 9,000 had gained entry and there was just no more room. Hundreds were turned away and so an extra showing was set up for the last day in Halifax. These crowds were claimed by the press to have been the largest ever in the city.
For a whopping 50 cents the onlooker could see 7 larges cages of rare animals and amphibians, schools of half ton sea lions, a $25,000 behemoth, the only live hippopotamus in America, a man with tattoos head to foot over every available inch if skin ACCEPT his ears, as punishment for sins in Europe, a new stupendous marine monster, a great living sea leopard. And much much much more including elephants and kangaroos and of course the snake charmer.
Crowds gathered by the hour and many came from far and wide to see the live performances in the various tents, the massive main events in the large tent, plenty of displays and no doubt refreshments of some sort. These crowds coming to Halifax may have also included some of the citizens or others that visited the USS Plymouth and other American ships in port, and one of these may well have been the person saved by the two above mentioned Ordinary Seamen.
On the last night before leaving town, like probably other shows in the main tent, there was a special little feature that very much pleased the crowds. It was Tom who I told you to watch out for. It would be easy to miss him. Said to be only 11, (he was actually 38 yrs old,) and stood only 2 ft. 11". In Dartmouth Barnum entered the room and was in a mad panic. He cried out that he could not find Tom and that Tom must have abandoned him and was in a heck of a state when all of a sudden the crowd heard a silly little child like-voice... "its me... I'm down here! I fell asleep on the steamer coming across the harbour"... as he stuck his head out of the Barnum's coat pocket. Tom Thumb made a great career out of singing and dancing and playing characters like Napoleon Bonaparte and others and even entertained HRH Queen Victoria twice and a future King at London.
But Tom and Barnum where not the only excitement in town, if you will pardon the pun!
Like anyone else with a pulse that day, they were all out on the street watching the amazing parade. On return they got the shock of their life. They'd been robbed of what was first thought to be a few thousands dollars but upon further searching amounted to a minimum of $22,000. That was a massive amount of money in 1876.
It seems that a fellow was lurking around the bank as the circus passed. He had gone to the back and banged on a basement door until someone came. It was the wife of a clerk. He claimed to have dropped important papers down the grate and needed to get them right away. As she opened the door to discuss the matter he pushed past. She was not concerned because where he was going was little more than a storage area. So she thought. Wrong. Passage ways led to where he needed to go and within minutes he had scooped up the funds from drawers that had no locks on them, reappeared at the door, thanked the woman and was off in a flash.
A New York detective assigned to keep an eye on Barnum's circus, and the local police and others started to ask a ton of questions and soon two and then a third were placed in custody. Charges were laid and court sittings held with one failing to appear, one being found not guilty and the other seems to have been let go mid investigation. In very short order it was determined that monies stolen in Bills from the Windsor Bank, the Halifax Bank and from Newfoundland were turning up in placed like NB and down into the US within days.
But as the story developed it seems that wherever the circus went the cities and towns experienced similar activity. I don't believe, from the research done so far, that anyone was actually convicted or any of the funds returned.
Though it is known that over the next several days there were often humorous second thoughts expressed in the newspapers of the day about the security of any funds the public might have chosen to deposit in banks. There was even one cute story about customers walking into a bank on legit business and staff all pulling guns on them,
Only in Halifax you say!
I want to thank my good friend, fellow historian and author to boot, Mr. AE in Halifax. You know who you are. I am most happy that you had done some research for me on very little notice to dig up dome of the materials that have provided the background for part of this blog.
Tomorrow its back to the medals and some interesting updates.