P.T. Barnum.

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Produced by Wayne N. Keyser in honor of his Parents, Clifton
B. and Esther N. Keyser




By P.T. Barnum

In the United States, where we have more land than people, it is not
at all difficult for persons in good health to make money. In this
comparatively new field there are so many avenues of success open, so
many vocations which are not crowded, that any person of either sex who
is willing, at least for the time being, to engage in any respectable
occupation that offers, may find lucrative employment.

Those who really desire to attain an independence, have only to set
their minds upon it, and adopt the proper means, as they do in regard to
any other object which they wish to accomplish, and the thing is easily
done. But however easy it may be found to make money, I have no doubt
many of my hearers will agree it is the most difficult thing in the
world to keep it. The road to wealth is, as Dr. Franklin truly says,
"as plain as the road to the mill." It consists simply in expending less
than we earn; that seems to be a very simple problem. Mr. Micawber,
one of those happy creations of the genial Dickens, puts the case in a
strong light when he says that to have annual income of twenty pounds
per annum, and spend twenty pounds and sixpence, is to be the most
miserable of men; whereas, to have an income of only twenty pounds, and
spend but nineteen pounds and sixpence is to be the happiest of mortals.
Many of my readers may say, "we understand this: this is economy, and we
know economy is wealth; we know we can't eat our cake and keep it also."
Yet I beg to say that perhaps more cases of failure arise from mistakes
on this point than almost any other. The fact is, many people think they
understand economy when they really do not.

True economy is misapprehended, and people go through life without
properly comprehending what that principle is. One says, "I have an
income of so much, and here is my neighbor who has the same; yet every
year he gets something ahead and I fall short; why is it? I know all
about economy." He thinks he does, but he does not. There are men who
think that economy consists in saving cheese-parings and candle-ends,
in cutting off two pence from the laundress' bill and doing all sorts of
little, mean, dirty things. Economy is not meanness. The misfortune is,
also, that this class of persons let their economy apply in only one
direction. They fancy they are so wonderfully economical in saving a
half-penny where they ought to spend twopence, that they think they can
afford to squander in other directions. A few years ago, before kerosene
oil was discovered or thought of, one might stop overnight at almost any
farmer's house in the agricultural districts and get a very good supper,
but after supper he might attempt to read in the sitting-room, and
would find it impossible with the inefficient light of one candle. The
hostess, seeing his dilemma, would say: "It is rather difficult to read
here evenings; the proverb says 'you must have a ship at sea in order
to be able to burn two candles at once;' we never have an extra candle
except on extra occasions." These extra occasions occur, perhaps, twice
a year. In this way the good woman saves five, six, or ten dollars in
that time: but the information which might be derived from having the
extra light would, of course, far outweigh a ton of candles.

But the trouble does not end here. Feeling that she is so economical
in tallow candies, she thinks she can afford to go frequently to the
village and spend twenty or thirty dollars for ribbons and furbelows,
many of which are not necessary. This false connote may frequently
be seen in men of business, and in those instances it often runs to
writing-paper. You find good businessmen who save all the old envelopes
and scraps, and would not tear a new sheet of paper, if they could avoid
it, for the world. This is all very well; they may in this way save five
or ten dollars a year, but being so economical (only in note paper),
they think they can afford to waste time; to have expensive parties,
and to drive their carriages. This is an illustration of Dr. Franklin's
"saving at the spigot and wasting at the bung-hole;" "penny wise and
pound foolish." Punch in speaking of this "one idea" class of people
says "they are like the man who bought a penny herring for his family's
dinner and then hired a coach and four to take it home." I never knew a
man to succeed by practising this kind of economy.

True economy consists in always making the income exceed the out-go.
Wear the old clothes a little longer if necessary; dispense with the new
pair of gloves; mend the old dress: live on plainer food if need be; so
that, under all circumstances, unless some unforeseen accident occurs,
there will be a margin in favor of the income. A penny here, and a
dollar there, placed at interest, goes on accumulating, and in this way
the desired result is attained. It requires some training, perhaps, to
accomplish this economy, but when once used to it, you will find there
is more satisfaction in rational saving than in irrational spending.
Here is a recipe which I recommend: I have found it to work an excellent
cure for extravagance, and especially for mistaken economy: When you
find that you have no surplus at the end of the year, and yet have a
good income, I advise you to take a few sheets of paper and form them
into a book and mark down every item of expenditure. Post it every day
or week in two columns, one headed "necessaries" or even "comforts", and
the other headed "luxuries," and you will find that the latter column
will be double, treble, and frequently ten times greater than the
former. The real comforts of life cost but a small portion of what most
of us can earn. Dr. Franklin says "it is the eyes of others and not
our own eyes which ruin us. If all the world were blind except myself I
should not care for fine clothes or furniture." It is the fear of what
Mrs. Grundy may say that keeps the noses of many worthy families to the
grindstone. In America many persons like to repeat "we are all free and
equal," but it is a great mistake in more senses than one.

That we are born "free and equal" is a glorious truth in one sense, yet
we are not all born equally rich, and we never shall be. One may say;
"there is a man who has an income of fifty thousand dollars per annum,
while I have but one thousand dollars; I knew that fellow when he was
poor like myself; now he is rich and thinks he is better than I am; I
will show him that I am as good as he is; I will go and buy a horse and
buggy; no, I cannot do that, but I will go and hire one and ride this
afternoon on the same road that he does, and thus prove to him that I am
as good as he is."

My friend, you need not take that trouble; you can easily prove that you
are "as good as he is;" you have only to behave as well as he does; but
you cannot make anybody believe that you are rich as he is. Besides, if
you put on these "airs," add waste your time and spend your money, your
poor wife will be obliged to scrub her fingers off at home, and buy her
tea two ounces at a time, and everything else in proportion, in order
that you may keep up "appearances," and, after all, deceive nobody. On
the other hand, Mrs. Smith may say that her next-door neighbor
married Johnson for his money, and "everybody says so." She has a nice
one-thousand dollar camel's hair shawl, and she will make Smith get her
an imitation one, and she will sit in a pew right next to her neighbor
in church, in order to prove that she is her equal.

My good woman, you will not get ahead in the world, if your vanity and
envy thus take the lead. In this country, where we believe the majority
ought to rule, we ignore that principle in regard to fashion, and let
a handful of people, calling themselves the aristocracy, run up a false
standard of perfection, and in endeavoring to rise to that standard, we
constantly keep ourselves poor; all the time digging away for the sake
of outside appearances. How much wiser to be a "law unto ourselves" and
say, "we will regulate our out-go by our income, and lay up something
for a rainy day." People ought to be as sensible on the subject of
money-getting as on any other subject. Like causes produces like
effects. You cannot accumulate a fortune by taking the road that leads
to poverty. It needs no prophet to tell us that those who live fully up
to their means, without any thought of a reverse in this life, can never
attain a pecuniary independence.

Men and women accustomed to gratify every whim and caprice, will find it
hard, at first, to cut down their various unnecessary expenses, and will
feel it a great self-denial to live in a smaller house than they have
been accustomed to, with less expensive furniture, less company, less
costly clothing, fewer servants, a less number of balls, parties,
theater-goings, carriage-ridings, pleasure excursions, cigar-smokings,
liquor-drinkings, and other extravagances; but, after all, if they will
try the plan of laying by a "nest-egg," or, in other words, a small
sum of money, at interest or judiciously invested in land, they will be
surprised at the pleasure to be derived from constantly adding to their
little "pile," as well as from all the economical habits which are
engendered by this course.

The old suit of clothes, and the old bonnet and dress, will answer for
another season; the Croton or spring water taste better than champagne;
a cold bath and a brisk walk will prove more exhilarating than a ride
in the finest coach; a social chat, an evening's reading in the family
circle, or an hour's play of "hunt the slipper" and "blind man's buff"
will be far more pleasant than a fifty or five hundred dollar party,
when the reflection on the difference in cost is indulged in by those
who begin to know the pleasures of saving. Thousands of men are kept
poor, and tens of thousands are made so after they have acquired quite
sufficient to support them well through life, in consequence of laying
their plans of living on too broad a platform. Some families expend
twenty thousand dollars per annum, and some much more, and would
scarcely know how to live on less, while others secure more solid
enjoyment frequently on a twentieth part of that amount. Prosperity is
a more severe ordeal than adversity, especially sudden prosperity.
"Easy come, easy go," is an old and true proverb. A spirit of pride and
vanity, when permitted to have full sway, is the undying canker-worm
which gnaws the very vitals of a man's worldly possessions, let them be
small or great, hundreds, or millions. Many persons, as they begin
to prosper, immediately expand their ideas and commence expending for
luxuries, until in a short time their expenses swallow up their
income, and they become ruined in their ridiculous attempts to keep up
appearances, and make a "sensation."

I know a gentleman of fortune who says, that when he first began to
prosper, his wife would have a new and elegant sofa. "That sofa," he
says, "cost me thirty thousand dollars!" When the sofa reached the
house, it was found necessary to get chairs to match; then side-boards,
carpets and tables "to correspond" with them, and so on through the
entire stock of furniture; when at last it was found that the house
itself was quite too small and old-fashioned for the furniture, and a
new one was built to correspond with the new purchases; "thus," added my
friend, "summing up an outlay of thirty thousand dollars, caused by that
single sofa, and saddling on me, in the shape of servants, equipage, and
the necessary expenses attendant upon keeping up a fine 'establishment,'
a yearly outlay of eleven thousand dollars, and a tight pinch at that:
whereas, ten years ago, we lived with much more real comfort, because
with much less care, on as many hundreds. The truth is," he continued,
"that sofa would have brought me to inevitable bankruptcy, had not a
most unexampled title to prosperity kept me above it, and had I not
checked the natural desire to 'cut a dash'."

The foundation of success in life is good health: that is the substratum
fortune; it is also the basis of happiness. A person cannot accumulate a
fortune very well when he is sick. He has no ambition; no incentive; no
force. Of course, there are those who have bad health and cannot help
it: you cannot expect that such persons can accumulate wealth, but there
are a great many in poor health who need not be so.

If, then, sound health is the foundation of success and happiness in
life, how important it is that we should study the laws of health, which
is but another expression for the laws of nature! The nearer we keep to
the laws of nature, the nearer we are to good health, and yet how many
persons there are who pay no attention to natural laws, but absolutely
transgress them, even against their own natural inclination. We ought
to know that the "sin of ignorance" is never winked at in regard to the
violation of nature's laws; their infraction always brings the penalty.
A child may thrust its finger into the flames without knowing it will
burn, and so suffers, repentance, even, will not stop the smart. Many of
our ancestors knew very little about the principle of ventilation. They
did not know much about oxygen, whatever other "gin" they might have
been acquainted with; and consequently they built their houses with
little seven-by-nine feet bedrooms, and these good old pious Puritans
would lock themselves up in one of these cells, say their prayers and
go to bed. In the morning they would devoutly return thanks for the
"preservation of their lives," during the night, and nobody had better
reason to be thankful. Probably some big crack in the window, or in the
door, let in a little fresh air, and thus saved them.

Many persons knowingly violate the laws of nature against their better
impulses, for the sake of fashion. For instance, there is one thing
that nothing living except a vile worm ever naturally loved, and that
is tobacco; yet how many persons there are who deliberately train an
unnatural appetite, and overcome this implanted aversion for tobacco,
to such a degree that they get to love it. They have got hold of a
poisonous, filthy weed, or rather that takes a firm hold of them. Here
are married men who run about spitting tobacco juice on the carpet and
floors, and sometimes even upon their wives besides. They do not kick
their wives out of doors like drunken men, but their wives, I have
no doubt, often wish they were outside of the house. Another perilous
feature is that this artificial appetite, like jealousy, "grows by what
it feeds on;" when you love that which is unnatural, a stronger appetite
is created for the hurtful thing than the natural desire for what is
harmless. There is an old proverb which says that "habit is second
nature," but an artificial habit is stronger than nature. Take for
instance, an old tobacco-chewer; his love for the "quid" is stronger
than his love for any particular kind of food. He can give up roast beef
easier than give up the weed.

Young lads regret that they are not men; they would like to go to bed
boys and wake up men; and to accomplish this they copy the bad habits of
their seniors. Little Tommy and Johnny see their fathers or uncles smoke
a pipe, and they say, "If I could only do that, I would be a man too;
uncle John has gone out and left his pipe of tobacco, let us try it."
They take a match and light it, and then puff away. "We will learn to
smoke; do you like it Johnny?" That lad dolefully replies: "Not very
much; it tastes bitter;" by and by he grows pale, but he persists and he
soon offers up a sacrifice on the altar of fashion; but the boys stick
to it and persevere until at last they conquer their natural appetites
and become the victims of acquired tastes.

I speak "by the book," for I have noticed its effects on myself, having
gone so far as to smoke ten or fifteen cigars a day; although I have not
used the weed during the last fourteen years, and never shall again.
The more a man smokes, the more he craves smoking; the last cigar smoked
simply excites the desire for another, and so on incessantly.

Take the tobacco-chewer. In the morning, when he gets up, he puts a quid
in his mouth and keeps it there all day, never taking it out except to
exchange it for a fresh one, or when he is going to eat; oh! yes, at
intervals during the day and evening, many a chewer takes out the quid
and holds it in his hand long enough to take a drink, and then pop it
goes back again. This simply proves that the appetite for rum is even
stronger than that for tobacco. When the tobacco-chewer goes to your
country seat and you show him your grapery and fruit house, and the
beauties of your garden, when you offer him some fresh, ripe fruit, and
say, "My friend, I have got here the most delicious apples, and pears,
and peaches, and apricots; I have imported them from Spain, France and
Italy - just see those luscious grapes; there is nothing more delicious
nor more healthy than ripe fruit, so help yourself; I want to see you
delight yourself with these things;" he will roll the dear quid under
his tongue and answer, "No, I thank you, I have got tobacco in my
mouth." His palate has become narcotized by the noxious weed, and he has
lost, in a great measure, the delicate and enviable taste for fruits.
This shows what expensive, useless and injurious habits men will get
into. I speak from experience. I have smoked until I trembled like an
aspen leaf, the blood rushed to my head, and I had a palpitation of the
heart which I thought was heart disease, till I was almost killed
with fright. When I consulted my physician, he said "break off tobacco
using." I was not only injuring my health and spending a great deal of
money, but I was setting a bad example. I obeyed his counsel. No young
man in the world ever looked so beautiful, as he thought he did, behind
a fifteen cent cigar or a meerschaum!

These remarks apply with tenfold force to the use of intoxicating
drinks. To make money, requires a clear brain. A man has got to see that
two and two make four; he must lay all his plans with reflection and
forethought, and closely examine all the details and the ins and outs
of business. As no man can succeed in business unless he has a brain to
enable him to lay his plans, and reason to guide him in their execution,
so, no matter how bountifully a man may be blessed with intelligence, if
the brain is muddled, and his judgment warped by intoxicating drinks, it
is impossible for him to carry on business successfully. How many good
opportunities have passed, never to return, while a man was sipping a
"social glass," with his friend! How many foolish bargains have been
made under the influence of the "nervine," which temporarily makes its
victim think he is rich. How many important chances have been put off
until to-morrow, and then forever, because the wine cup has thrown the
system into a state of lassitude, neutralizing the energies so
essential to success in business. Verily, "wine is a mocker." The use of
intoxicating drinks as a beverage, is as much an infatuation, as is the
smoking of opium by the Chinese, and the former is quite as destructive
to the success of the business man as the latter. It is an unmitigated
evil, utterly indefensible in the light of philosophy; religion or good
sense. It is the parent of nearly every other evil in our country.


The safest plan, and the one most sure of success for the young man
starting in life, is to select the vocation which is most congenial
to his tastes. Parents and guardians are often quite too negligent in
regard to this. It very common for a father to say, for example: "I have
five boys. I will make Billy a clergyman; John a lawyer; Tom a doctor,
and Dick a farmer." He then goes into town and looks about to see
what he will do with Sammy. He returns home and says "Sammy, I see
watch-making is a nice genteel business; I think I will make you a
goldsmith." He does this, regardless of Sam's natural inclinations, or

We are all, no doubt, born for a wise purpose. There is as much
diversity in our brains as in our countenances. Some are born natural
mechanics, while some have great aversion to machinery. Let a dozen boys
of ten years get together, and you will soon observe two or three are
"whittling" out some ingenious device; working with locks or complicated
machinery. When they were but five years old, their father could find
no toy to please them like a puzzle. They are natural mechanics; but
the other eight or nine boys have different aptitudes. I belong to
the latter class; I never had the slightest love for mechanism; on the
contrary, I have a sort of abhorrence for complicated machinery. I never
had ingenuity enough to whittle a cider tap so it would not leak.
I never could make a pen that I could write with, or understand the
principle of a steam engine. If a man was to take such a boy as I
was, and attempt to make a watchmaker of him, the boy might, after an
apprenticeship of five or seven years, be able to take apart and put
together a watch; but all through life he would be working up hill and
seizing every excuse for leaving his work and idling away his time.
Watchmaking is repulsive to him.

Unless a man enters upon the vocation intended for him by nature, and
best suited to his peculiar genius, he cannot succeed. I am glad to
believe that the majority of persons do find their right vocation. Yet
we see many who have mistaken their calling, from the blacksmith up (or
down) to the clergyman. You will see, for instance, that extraordinary
linguist the "learned blacksmith," who ought to have been a teacher of
languages; and you may have seen lawyers, doctors and clergymen who were
better fitted by nature for the anvil or the lapstone.


After securing the right vocation, you must be careful to select the
proper location. You may have been cut out for a hotel keeper, and
they say it requires a genius to "know how to keep a hotel." You might
conduct a hotel like clock-work, and provide satisfactorily for five
hundred guests every day; yet, if you should locate your house in a
small village where there is no railroad communication or public travel,
the location would be your ruin. It is equally important that you do not
commence business where there are already enough to meet all demands in
the same occupation. I remember a case which illustrates this subject.
When I was in London in 1858, I was passing down Holborn with an English
friend and came to the "penny shows." They had immense cartoons outside,
portraying the wonderful curiosities to be seen "all for a penny." Being
a little in the "show line" myself, I said "let us go in here." We
soon found ourselves in the presence of the illustrious showman, and he
proved to be the sharpest man in that line I had ever met. He told
us some extraordinary stories in reference to his bearded ladies, his
Albinos, and his Armadillos, which we could hardly believe, but thought
it "better to believe it than look after the proof'." He finally begged
to call our attention to some wax statuary, and showed us a lot of the
dirtiest and filthiest wax figures imaginable. They looked as if they
had not seen water since the Deluge.

"What is there so wonderful about your statuary?" I asked.

"I beg you not to speak so satirically," he replied, "Sir, these are
not Madam Tussaud's wax figures, all covered with gilt and tinsel and
imitation diamonds, and copied from engravings and photographs. Mine,
sir, were taken from life. Whenever you look upon one of those figures,
you may consider that you are looking upon the living individual."

Glancing casually at them, I saw one labeled "Henry VIII," and feeling a
little curious upon seeing that it looked like Calvin Edson, the living
skeleton, I said: "Do you call that 'Henry the Eighth?'" He replied,
"Certainly; sir; it was taken from life at Hampton Court, by special
order of his majesty; on such a day."

He would have given the hour of the day if I had resisted; I said,
"Everybody knows that 'Henry VIII.' was a great stout old king, and that
figure is lean and lank; what do you say to that?"

"Why," he replied, "you would be lean and lank yourself if you sat there
as long as he has."

There was no resisting such arguments. I said to my English friend, "Let
us go out; do not tell him who I am; I show the white feather; he beats

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Online LibraryP.T. BarnumArt of Money Getting → online text (page 1 of 4)