The Jenny Lind Archive

Jenny Lind MemorabiliaIn September 1850, P. T. Barnum embarked on a nationwide tour with a Swedish opera singer that would bring him a vast fortune and create a new cultural phenomenon: the celebrity. Barnum succeeded in building such great public anticipation about the "Swedish Nightingale" that 40,000 people showed up to greet the arrival of her ship in New York harbor. From her opening concert in New York Citys Castle Garden to subsequent performances in cities and towns across the country, Barnum fueled public fascination with Lind by orchestrating events and negotiating Lind-endorsed products (including Jenny Lind songs, clothes, chairs, and pianos). "Lindomania" lasted until 1852, when the partnership collapsed over logistical and financial issues. Barnum shrewdly promoted Lind’s character--her modesty, benevolence, and selflessness--as much as her artistry. One scholar contends that because of Barnum’s promotion, Lind became "the standard for measuring not just sopranos, or even women artists, but women" throughout the 1850s.

There are 15 matching records. Displaying matches 1 through 15 .


Proceedings of the Woman’s Rights Convention, 1853
Beyond the well-known Seneca Falls Convention in 1848, many smaller women’s rights and abolitionist conventions were held throughout the antebellum era. This 1853 meeting took place in the Broadway Tabernacle, located just a few blocks north of the American Museum. Participants, who included such prominent reformers as William Lloyd Garrison, Lucretia Coffin Mott, and William H. Channing, outlined a number of principles and argued that the existence of equal rights would not force all women to exercise them. Channing’s reference to Jenny Lind, the “Swedish Nightingale” who became famous in the U.S. thanks to P. T. Barnum, suggests the degree to which Barnum’s promotion of her as an “ideal” woman had permeated the popular consciousness.
Exhibit: Jenny Lind.
Document Type: Text.


Jenny Lind Portrait, 1852
This photograph of Jenny Lind, taken by Mathew Brady in 1852, both enhanced her celebrity and encouraged the nascent practice of portrait photography. Brady, now most famous for his Civil War battle photographs, in fact rose to prominence in the 1840s and 1850s as a portrait photographer. His New York City studio was a destination for the rich and famous, who traveled from around the country to sit for photographic portraits. The public visited Brady's gallery (located with his studio on lower Broadway, not far from the American Museum) to view the portraits, created using the "new" technology of daguerrotyping.
Exhibit: Jenny Lind.
Museum Room: Picture Gallery.
Document Type: Image.


A British View of the Lind Craze
This cartoon from the British humor magazine Punch satirizes the American clamor over Jenny Lind, visually suggesting an amusing unruliness and lack of sophistication among Americans.
Exhibit: Jenny Lind.
Museum Room: Picture Gallery.
Document Type: Image.


Panorama of Humbug. No. 1
This illustration parodies Barnum's reputation as a showman who resorted to elaborate fakes, or "humbugs" to promote his attractions. A succession of widely publicized exhibitions made Barnum's name synonymous with "humbug" in the antebellum period. Beginning with his mid-1830s exhibition of Joice Heth (the purported 161-year old slave nursemaid of George Washington), Barnum regularly fooled the public with human, animal, and mechanical exhibits that became famous precisely because they were (or might have been) fakes. This reputation for trickery attended all of Barnum's endeavors.
Exhibit: Jenny Lind.
Museum Room: Picture Gallery.
Document Type: Image.


Correspondence between Barnum and Editor of the Washington Union
Barnum claimed that he was presenting Lind as much for her reputation for "extraordinary benevolence and generosity" as for her artistry, and he promoted her philanthropy in part by announcing, after her first New York City performance, the charities to which she would be donating her share of the night's proceeds. (Barnum had chosen the charities himself with an eye toward gaining publicity, and ticket sales, among particular social groups.) As this letter exchange demonstrates, Barnum's promotional gambit took a controversial turn when it became embroiled in the politics of abolition, a question of growing national importance in 1850.
Exhibit: Jenny Lind.
Museum Room: Picture Gallery.
Document Type: Text.


Barnum, Jenny Lind, and the Press, New York Herald, October 7, 1850
This brief item attempts to refute rumors that Barnum paid for the many articles and items published about Jenny Lind in the New York newspapers. The charge that the Herald, never a friend to Barnum, might be the recipient of payments from him was probably quite amusing to the master publicist.
Exhibit: Jenny Lind.
Museum Room: Picture Gallery.
Document Type: Text.


Jenny Lind and Her Concerts, New York Herald, September 1850
Barnum's promotion of Lind (and indeed of all of his attractions) involved courting journalists and placing items in daily newspapers to keep "the Swedish Nightingale" in the public eye. This media coverage focused as often as not on the singer's personal qualities rather than on her singing abilities. This item portrayed Lind as a thoughtful, selfless, churchgoing young woman and suggested that audiences were clamoring to see her because of her "noble character."
Exhibit: Jenny Lind.
Museum Room: Picture Gallery.
Document Type: Text.


Jenny Lind advertisements, New York Herald, September 1850
These advertisements appeared in the New York Herald in the days surrounding Jenny Lind's concerts in New York City. The ads, which resembled today's classified advertisements, used a variety of approaches (including appeals to class snobbery and music-related puns) to make their pitches to the Lind-crazed public. The Lind frenzy even helped to create newly robust markets for such items as opera glasses and opera fans.
Exhibit: Jenny Lind.
Museum Room: Picture Gallery.
Document Type: Text.


The Jenny Lind Ticket Auction, New York Herald, September 9, 1850
Barnum generated enormous publicity for Jenny Lind's tour by auctioning off the best seats to her first concert in New York City. As this item from the New York Herald relates, the highest bidder was none other than John N. Genin, proprieter of a hat shop next door to the American Museum. While some speculated that Genin and Barnum had a private agreement, this item instead posits that Genin and the other eager bidders hitched their interests to Barnum's public relations scheme and used the auction as a means to advertise their own products and businesses. (Genin subsequently designed a best-selling Jenny Lind Riding Hat, lending credence to the Herald's theory.) The item concludes on a populist note, cheering the notion that the tradesman Genin beat out "the aristocracy" in "a rivalry of dollars."
Exhibit: Jenny Lind.
Museum Room: Picture Gallery.
Document Type: Text.


Jenny Lind--The Secret of Her Popularity--Her Movements Yesterday, New York Herald, September 6, 1850
This newspaper article about Jenny Lind provides readers with new information about the singer's tour almost as an afterthought. Instead it offers a lengthy and breathless tribute to "her high moral character," which, according to the Herald, more than beauty or talent was the source of her fame. With hints of racialist logic, acknowledgement of the essentially commercial enterprise of the sainted Nightingale's tour, and a self-congratulatory aside on the importance of the press in creating Lind's celebrity, this article reflects several of the themes and contradictions that marked the Lind phenomenon.
Exhibit: Jenny Lind.
Museum Room: Picture Gallery.
Document Type: Text.


Jenny Lind, the Northern Light, New York Herald, September 17, 1850
This newspaper article takes Jenny Lind's career as an example of the northerly march of "civilization" from the Italian dominance of the Renaissance-era to the inevitable modern ascension of England, France, Germany, Denmark, Holland, and finally, with Lind and others, Sweden. Casting Lind as a sort of missionary, the article predicts that she will succeed in bringing her cultural refinement to the energetic American democracy, destined itself to eventually take the crown of "civilization" from "the aged, decaying, effete monarchies of Europe." This article, with its careful parsing of multiple white races, reflects a system of racial classification espoused by scientists in the U.S. beginning in the 1840s. While distinctions between white and non-white people were of crucial importance during the 1840s and 1850s, during these decades distinctions among different white "races" also played an important role in U.S. politics, society, and culture. As unprecedented numbers of immigrants from Ireland and Germany began arriving in the United States, scientists and other commentators quickly identified them as inferior to the Anglo-Saxons who preceded them and, because they were deemed "unfit" for self-government, a possible threat to American democratic institutions. Jenny Lind's arrival provided an opportunity for the New York Herald to expound upon this worldview.
Exhibit: Jenny Lind.
Museum Room: Picture Gallery.
Document Type: Text.


Mademoiselle Jenny Lind, New York Herald, September 16, 1850
This newspaper account details the public and commercial frenzy surrounding every movement by the singer Jenny Lind during her stay in New York City. Lind sat for a daguerreotype portrait (located in this archive) by the famed photographer Mathew Brady, whose studio was located on Broadway a few doors away from the American Museum. Demand for tickets to her concerts remained strong as word spread about her talent and Barnum continued his relentless publicity.
Exhibit: Jenny Lind.
Museum Room: Picture Gallery.
Document Type: Text.


Fame and Fortune: The Marketing of Celebrity
David Silberberg.
This activity focuses on the rise of mass popular culture and the creation of celebrity during the 1850s. Designed for high school juniors and seniors, it examines how P. T. Barnum created public enthusiasm for Jenny Lind, a Swedish soprano, and compares Lind’s career to that of her contemporary, African-American singer Elizabeth Greenfield. The activity encompasses such themes as how popular entertainment informs social values; the role of celebrity in American culture; and how responses to Lind and Greenfield reflect antebellum ideas about race, gender, and class.
Exhibit: Jenny Lind.
Document Type: Teaching Activity.


Holden's Dollar Magazine on Jenny Lind
This brief item from a popular magazine of the 1850s reflects and satirizes the growing mania for Jenny Lind's concert tour. The references to selling slaves to raise money for concert tickets points to the national appeal of the Lind phenomenon at a time when tensions between the North and the South over slavery were increasing.
Exhibit: Jenny Lind.
Document Type: Text.


Jenny Lind Memorabilia
P. T. Barnum's unprecedented media campaign to promote Jenny Lind's American tour included extensive press coverage of her moral character as well as her singing abilities, poetry contests, and the sale of a wide range of Lind memorabilia. Designed for middle-class households, these consumer products heralded the singer's modesty, benevolence, and selflessness. The display of Lind objects in the home, such as these decorative pieces, would have communicated the owners' desire to emulate Lind's moral values.
Exhibit: Jenny Lind.
Document Type: Image.