AN AMAZING FACT: America’s premier showman is famous for saying, “There’s a sucker born every minute.” But in reality, Barnum never made the cynical statement. Here’s the story:
In upstate New York, George Hull and his cousin William Newell plotted to bamboozle the public. They had a sculptor in Chicago carve a fake giant prehistoric man from a three-thousand pound hunk of gypsum. Then they arranged for well drillers to “accidentally” find the fake fossil of this 10-foot-tall man they had buried on their farm. Their Cardiff Giant, as it became known, became a popular attraction. Crowds paid fifty cents to see the supposed petrified remains. The carving looked so authentic that scientists argued whether the Cardiff Giant was a real
petrified man or a prehistoric statue. Newell sold the giant to a banker, David Hannum, who displayed it in Syracuse, now charging a dollar per person to see it, a fantastic amount in 1869.
Meanwhile, P. T. Barnum was looking for a new exhibit for his American Museum in Manhattan. His museum was famous for such oddities as the White Whale, the Fiji Mermaid (which was really just the upper half of a monkey attached to the stuffed lower half of a fish), the famous dwarf “General Tom Thumb,” and the original Siamese twins, Chang and Eng.
Barnum offered Hannum $60,000 for the Cardiff Giant. When Hannum refused, the ever-resourceful Barnum just made a copy, claiming it was the original. Angry, Hannum applied for a court order to stop Barnum. The judge ruled that both men had fake giants, reasoning that a forgery of a fraud was no crime.
It was the disgruntled banker David Hannum who was quoted when he saw the crowds lining up to see Barnum’s copy of his scam: “There’s a sucker born every minute.” That’s how the quote became associated with Barnum.
With all the swindles, scams, and cons in the world today, people everywhere are wondering if there is anywhere they can go for dependable truth. The Bible proclaims, “And the truth of the Lord endures forever” and “The entirety of Your word is truth” (Psalm 117:2; 119:160). Jesus assures us He is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6), and John
testifies that “grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17). God and His Word are the one unfailing Source of truth.
KEY BIBLE TEXTS
For the word of the LORD is right; and all his works are done in truth. Psalms 33:4