Stuff That Happened in “The Greatest Showman” That Didn’t Really Happen

The Greatest Showman is based on the life of a real person. However, considering that movies are movies, it should come as no surprise to learn that it is not exactly a stickler for historical accuracy. Sometimes, the historical inaccuracies are dramatizations of existing events. Other times, the historical inaccuracies have been made up for the sake of telling what the people behind the movie believed to be a better narrative.

What Are Some Examples of Things in The Greatest Showman That Didn’t Happen in Real Life?

For example, the fire that consumed P.T. Barnum’s museum was based on a real event. In fact, it is interesting to note that said building burned not once but twice, which happened in 1865 and 1868. However, the context has seen a fair amount of change. In the movie, the fire was started by a mob, which is less than enthused about what P.T. Barnum is doing, whereas in real life, no one knows what caused the two fires save that chances are good that a mob wasn’t the cause because chances are good that something so dramatic would’ve been mentioned in the records of those times.

Likewise, while P.T. Barnum did feature people playing the roles of Tom Thumb and the Bearded Lady at his museum in real life, the timing for when those people joined up is not accurate. After all, the person who was marketed as Tom Thumb had been with P.T. Barnum since he was at the age of four, whereas the person who was marketed as the Bearded Lady had been with P.T. Barnum at the even younger age of one. However, it is amusing to note that she was marketed as the Infant Esau at the time as a clear reference to the older son of Isaac from the Bible.

Meanwhile, while P.T. Barnum was the one who brought Jenny Lind, the so-called Swedish Nightingale over to the United States for a tour, the exact nature of their relationship is much changed. Simply put, there was no romantic relationship between the two in real life. In fact, there wasn’t even so much as the hint of one, though for whatever reason, The Greatest Showman is not the first project based on the man’s life to speculate about such a relationship between the two. Whatever the case, Jenny Lind parted ways with P.T. Barnum in real life because she found his constant promotional efforts to be irritating, with the result that she went on to complete the tour in a successful manner with someone else serving as the manager.

On a final note, P.T. Barnum’s political views were rather more complicated in real life than as presented in the movie. He was indeed an opponent of slavery, so much so that he became one of the earliest members of the Republican Party, which was formed in opposition to the Kansas-Nebraska Act. Furthermore, P.T. Barnum is known to have made a speech as a politician in which he argued that everyone had an immortal soul deserving of respect, no matter what body it might have inhabited. However, it is important to note that P.T. Barnum was also the same person who once bought an old slave-woman for the purpose of marketing her as George Washington’s 160-year-old nurse before selling tickets to a public autopsy of her body for the purpose of proving her age when she died. As a result, it is no wonder that The Greatest Showman overlooked some things when it made a choice to show P.T. Barnum as someone who stood up for the downtrodden.

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