Esteemed thinker: P.T. Barnum

P.T. Barnum

There are very few things that everyone likes however if I had to make a guess, I would have to surmise that a bit of “civility and politeness” would be such a pair we all yearn for. For who does not enjoy receiving a simple “please and thank you,” which are delivered without monetary cost. And knowing that all persons like these bits of politeness added to a conversation one would think that they would be scattered about like ants at a picnic. Yet, to our dismay, civility is not the norm everywhere, but rather present in some places and vacant in others. Like climate, we find that some folks are generally pleasant, spreading their politeness about like a summer breeze, while in other regions we find the population lacking in their pleasantries like a late winter storm.

But let us look at civility not as a luxury but as something that can be freely expressed; and so if we give it away, let us hope that the recipient will forgo their miserly disposition and reciprocate with an equally pleasant bit of civility. It is curious to see that though it is free, it can reap benefits beyond its original façade.

PT Barmun portrait

Today’s post introduces the esteemed thinker: P.T. Barnum (1810-1891) a man whose life encompassed the entire nineteenth century, a man who employed and some say exploited the culture and technology of his era. Barnum was an author, showman, and visionary that often scandalized his contemporaries.

Born in Connecticut, Barnum was both a brilliant and shameless promoter often accused of fraud as well as believing there was no such thing as bad press. Barnum’s success will always be connected with the great American circus, although it is believed that his greatest success arrived when he presented European opera star Jenny Lind to the American public (1850). “The Swedish Nightingale” sang 95 concerts for Barnum.

1881, Barnum joined promotional forces with James A. Bailey and James L. Hutchinson creating “Barnum & London Circus.” In 1885, Barnum and Bailey went their separate ways, but revamped their business relationship again in 1888. That year, the “Barnum & Bailey Greatest Show on Earth” first toured America.

And so, I bring to you the advice from a successful but often scandalous showman; from his book, The Art of Money Getting or Golden Rules for Making Money here is a snippet from “Be Polite and Kind to your Customers,” Mr. Barnum! (For the curious… P.T. stands for Phineas Taylor)

And though we may not agree with his methods, we all must agree that he obtained success.

“Politeness and civility are the best capital ever invested in business. Large stores, gilt signs, flaming advertisements, will all prove unavailing if you or your employees treat your patrons abruptly. The truth is, the more kind and liberal a man is, the more generous will be the patronage bestowed upon him. “Like begets like.” The man who gives the greatest amount of goods of a corresponding quality for the least sum (still reserving for himself a profit) will generally succeed best in the long run. This brings us to the golden rule, “As ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them” and they will do better by you than if you always treated them as if you wanted to get the most you could out of them for the least return. Men who drive sharp bargains with their customers, acting as if they never expected to see them again, will not be mistaken. They will never see them again as customers. People don’t like to pay and get kicked also…”

Second image: Charles D. Fredricks & Co., photographer, between 1860 and 1864, 1 photographic print on carte de visite mount: albumen; 10.1 x 6.0

Esteemed thinker: George Washington

washington Today’s blog is in honor of Father’s Day whereby we give tribute to one of the great American Founding Fathers, George Washington (1732-1799). Among his noted accolades, the first president of the United States is also known or maybe not so known for the 110 Rules of Civility. According to historian Richard Brookhiser, these writings were based on a 16th-century set of precepts compiled for young gentlemen by French Jesuit instructors; the Rules of Civility were one of the earliest and most influential maxims and principals that shaped Washington. “The rules address moral issues, but they address them indirectly,” Brookhiser writes. “They seek to form the inner man (or boy) by shaping the outer.”

So we will take pause today and become acquainted with the first ten from President Washington’s “Rules of Civility and Decent Behaviour in Company and Conversation.”

1st. Every Action done in Company, ought to be with Some Sign of Respect, to those that are Present.

2nd. When in Company, put not your Hands to any Part of the Body, not usually Discovered.

3rd. Be considerate of others. Do not embarrass others. Show Nothing to your Friend that may affright him.

4th. In the Presence of Others Sing not to yourself with a humming Noise, nor Drum with your Fingers or Feet.

5th. If You Cough, Sneeze, Sigh, or Yawn, do it not Loud but Privately; and Speak not in your Yawning, but put Your handkerchief or Hand before your face and turn aside.

6th. Sleep not when others Speak, Sit not when others stand, Speak not when you Should hold your Peace, walk not on when others Stop.

7th. Put not off your Cloths in the presence of Others, nor go out your Chamber half Dressed.

8th. At Play and at Fire its Good manners to Give Place to the last Commer, and affect not to Speak Louder than Ordinary.

9th. Spit not in the Fire, nor Stoop low before it neither Put your Hands into the Flames to warm them, nor Set your Feet upon the Fire especially if there be meat before it.

10th. When you Sit down, Keep your Feet firm and Even, without putting one on the other or Crossing them…

“Happy Father’s Day!”