Read Humbugs of the World by P.T. Barnum Online


This work exposes several of the chief humbugs of the world, written in the entertaining and humorous style Barnum is known for. Found within are discussions relative to hoaxes, money manias, adventurers, medicine and quacks, religious humbugs, trade and business impositions, spiritualists, ghosts and witchcrafts, and personal reminiscences....

Title : Humbugs of the World
Author :
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ISBN : 9780766159723
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 320 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Humbugs of the World Reviews

  • Janelle
    2018-09-22 14:38

    DNF. Some sections of the book were interesting but I became bored with the long descriptions of how mediums performed their hoaxes.

  • Bill LaBrie
    2018-09-08 16:40

    An unexpected delight.I delved into Humbugs as research for an upcoming project featuring 19th-century fakirism (is that a word? I guess it is). I was happy to discover that the consummate old-time American showman was not only well-spoken, but also a bit of an ethnologist and historian (taking into account the limitations of research and biases of the times, of course). Barnum takes the reader on a tour of flakes through history, describing the ways in which even the brightest fell for the conmen and hucksters of their times. Man’s need for reassurance goes back to the days of the Delphic oracles and beyond, thus arguing that Barnum’s observations about “a sucker born every minute” hold true universally, and not just in the America of the 1800’s. There have always been those desperately seeking to believe the improbable and impossible, and with them, those willing to provide confirmation -- in exchange for a small consideration:. . . one said to the other gravely, in Latin “mundus vult decipi;” and the other replied, with equal gravity and learning “decipiatur ergo:” that is, “All the world chooses to be be fooled. -- “Let it be fooled, then.”There's always been an endless supply of the willingly deceived, across all social classes. The prose is often soaring in pompous grandiloquence. Barnum breaks things up by adding witty asides and mordant observations:In many cases the answers were ingeniously arranged, so as to mean either a good or evil result, one of which was pretty likely.Those unable to excuse Barnum the cultural viewpoints of his times will not enjoy this book. To Barnum, the notion of a certain reputed form of African justice is drolly amusing:The Wanakas in Eastern Africa, draw a red hot needle through the culprits lips -- a most judicious place to get hold of an African!You don’t read this book in search of any proto-political correctness. You read it to learn just how little changes through the centuries. The Internet would have been Barnum’s playground: speech-code utopianism and trigger warnings be damned. In the later chapters, Barnum’s exposition takes a turn toward denying any of his prior debunkings apply to the dominant forms of Christian worship prevalent at the time. For some readers, the damage might have already been done. Nevertheless, Barnum reasonably succeeds in defending his ethnocentrism and the neutrality of his discourse toward what he considers “true” Christianity. Though much of this reads like market-oriented backpedalling, he’s obviously not as against faith itself as he is against the misuse of faith that leads to cults of personality, self-aggrandizement, victimization, and salvation-on-an-installment-plan. He invokes skepticism like a softer, more jocular AJ Ayer -- putting the credulous on-guard while trying not to piss in the porridge of conventional culture.Highly recommended for the inquisitive -- and tolerant -- reader.

  • George
    2018-08-27 10:22

    HUMBUGGERISH IN PARTS, BUT…“…all the world chooses to be fooled—let it be fooled then.”Who knew P. T. Barnum was such a serious Freethinker? But, of course, he would be.Reading his ‘The Humbugs of the World: An Account of Humbugs, Delusions, Impositions, Quackeries, Deceits and Deceivers Generally, in All Ages’ put me very much in mind of another exhaustive heretical tome I read many years ago called, ‘Extraordinary Popular Delusions & the Madness of Crowds,’ by Charles MacKay. Both suffer from tedium and confusion, in parts, but, overall, they are a skeptic’s delight to read.Recommendation: No serious Freethinker will begrudge the time and effort. “It is to be hoped that, as schools multiply and education increases, the follies and superstitions which underlie a belief in ghosts and hobgoblins will pass away.” “…I should look upon myself as somewhat of a public benefactor, in exposing the humbugs of the world, if I felt competent to do the subject full justice”.Free ePub edition from

  • Chris
    2018-08-31 12:31

    a very interesting book. many of the descriptions of cons, swindles and quacks are as relevant today as in Barnum's time. the chapters on spiritualists and conjurers (and how they accomplished their fake feats) are especially fascinating. that said, the antiquated views on race (the book is from 1865, after all) are squirm-worthy. it is also amusing that Barnum insists that all the "heathen" religions are humbugs and nonsense, but that Christian religions are a unquestionably logical thing to believe in (we all have our blind spots, after all). so take this book with a grain of salt; it is an interesting snapshot of an era that really shows how, though we'd like to believe ourselves so advanced and sophisticated, humanity really hasn't outgrown believing in snake oil salesmen.

  • Apryl Anderson
    2018-09-23 11:18

    If the venerable Mr. Barnum could be a bit of a humbug about humbuggers, then I suppose each of us harbor a hidden humbug, too. Parts of this book were quite a drag, but nowhere else have I encountered such an enormous collection of outrageous hoaxes, strange fads, and ridiculous trends. Everything from the Dutch Tulip Mania, to well...a whole slew that I'll bet you've never heard of, but'll take the time (as I did) to search the web for more information. (And you'll find it!) There's the beauty of reading a Project Gutenberg edition--that you can easily extend your reading from its writing in 1865 to today's storehouse of information.

  • Linda Lou McCall
    2018-09-10 16:37

    Anyone who pays for this audiobook probably believes the biggest P.T. Barnum "humbug" of all times - that he is the man who said "There's a sucker born every minute"! The quote is by David Hannum ABOUT Barnum! But whomever published this mess is at the head of the "sucker" line!This is just a jumble of antiquated nonsense that not only failed to stand the test of time, but likely wasn't that interesting when Barnum originally wrote it down. Or maybe it was interesting to him. Barnum, play your position and stick with what you know - clowns, elephants, and peanuts is your thing! Leave the literary efforts to......well, the literate! Bah, Humbug!

  • Naomi
    2018-09-19 12:25

    P.T. Barnum tells tales of some of the world's greatest deceits, cheats, cons, and delusions, all of which go under the definition of "humbug". Still a fine read, the anecdotes in every chapter will delight and even, at times, surprise.

  • Mandy
    2018-09-02 11:38

    Reading the Project Gutenberg edition (

  • Amanda Lynn
    2018-09-25 14:44

    I really got a kick out of this book. it was a really unique read that gave me a glimpse into the whimsical past as sewn by P.T Barnum

  • Thomas
    2018-09-21 16:42

    Quite dated but you will learn a thing or two. Free from

  • Jason
    2018-09-17 14:17

    Loved it!!! P.T. Barnum exposes the scam artists of the world and proves that a fool and his money are often too swiftly parted.

  • Marty Monahan
    2018-09-24 16:34

    A really good book. It is surprising that something written in 1865 is still relevant today.It would have been much stronger if he had omitted the last 5% or so of the work.

  • Peter Wolfley
    2018-09-08 16:42

    P.T. Barnum is my historical man crush.