A: P. T. Barnum, you say? Pretty close, but no. Although nearly always attributed to Barnum, the aphorism about suckers was actually delivered by Barnum’s rival David Hannum, a grade-A sucker himself. You see, in the 1860s, tobacconist John Hull created an elaborate, money-making hoax in which he had a 10-foot-tall stone statue of a man carved and then buried in Cardiff, New York. The giant stone man was then dug up again and Hull was now able to sell it as an archaeological oddity. In 1869, Hannum and four business partners took the bait and paid $37,500 for the worthless artifact thinking that they could turn a profit by charging people to get a glimpse of it.
A lot of buzz was generated about the giant (was he a petrified biblical figure? an ancient Native American statue? a distant ancestor of Bill Walton?), and as thousands of people began to pay good money to get a gander, it looked like Hannum’s investment was going to pay off quite nicely. That is, until clever P. T. Barnum entered the picture.
Always the sly one, Barnum built a giant of his own and claimed that it was the true Cardiff Giant – a fake of a fake! When people flocked to see Barnum’s creation, hapless Hannum (who didn’t even know at that point that he himself had paid roughly 40 grand for a fake) mused at the on-lookers, “There’s a sucker born every minute.”
You said it, Hannum.Powered by Sidelines