New York City, 1842
If there is one thing I have learned from my brother, PT Barnum, it is the power of promotion and publicity.
Surely you must agree with me because no matter where you live, no matter who you are, or what commerce occupies your day, I know you have heard of Phin. He is, after all, the owner and proprietor of Barnum’s American Museum here in the city of New York and the museum hosts more than 15,000 visitors each day.
This fame (and the fortune that follows it) did not happen by accident. Though it is not common knowledge and I ask you to keep it to yourself, you should know that it was Phin himself who wrote to newspapers far and wide across this country to announce that astounding and marvelous find, the Feejee Mermaid. Yes, it is true, Phin signed various names to those letters, each man proclaiming himself to be an eminent scientist, each one telling the readers of those newspapers that they had to come see the most astonishing scientific find ever.
It worked. These days when we open the museum at eight each morning, there is a line out on Broadway, eager customers anxious to come up to our second floor Portrait Gallery to see our mermaid.
Promotion. It is all about promotion.
And that is exactly why I am writing to you three months in advance of when “Smoke and Mirrors,” the story of my first adventure as curator of Phin’s museum, is published. The book, you see, is coming out in hardcover, and though it is easy to see why people pay their 25 cents to enter Phin’s museum, I do understand that it can often be hard to pay the money it costs for a hardcover book.
One of the best ways to assure you will be able to read the book is to get it at your library. I have attached here a form you can copy and fill out and turn in at your library to request that they order the book. In it, you will hear the story of what I like to call the Feejee Mermaid Murders.
A myth dispelled: My brother never did say, “There’s a sucker born every minute.” He is, however, known to have said, “Every crowd has a silver lining.”
A crowd of libraries ordering “Smoke and Mirrors” would be a very good thing, indeed!