"Where's Barnum?" : skepticism in Antebellum America
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Antebellum Americans experienced rapid economic, social, political, and religious changes. This report argues that P.T. Barnum's advertisements, traveling exhibits, and American Museum instilled pecuniary skepticism into his audience. More specifically, Jacksonian era Americans were learning to navigate both business and personal relationships that were fraught with potential fraudulence. This report also contends that Barnum made the practice of pecuniary skepticism--that is, unmasking the fraud--a middle class value. In doing so, Barnum inculcated a skeptical worldview into the antebellum middle classes, paving the way for the widespread acceptance of more radical forms of skepticism in the twentieth century.