“There’s a Sucker Born Every Minute”

This quote is usually attributed to P.T. Barnum….or WC Fields….or, in today’s world, Bernie Madoff. Not so. The first person to utter these words of solid business advice was George Hull. Who?

George Hull was a devout atheist who lived in Binghamton, New York in the 1860’s. One night he got into a heated argument with a fundamentalist preacher about ‘how literal is the Bible?’  Preacher said, “every single word.” Hull thought “nutcase” and came up with a scheme that would eventually bring jealous tears to the eyes of old P.T. himself.

Hull knew the Book of Genisis talked about “giants roaming the earth”. He also knew there were countless Christian believers roaming the earth always looking for Biblical “proof” – and they had more faith than sense. So Hull, whose only religion was the quote above, decided to give them “proof” – for a small fee, of course.

In 1868, Hull commissioned a stone carver to sculpt a 10-foot, 5-inch “fossilized giant” for $2600 – a lot of money in those days. Of course the stone carver was no Michelangelo but – hey – you lie in the earth for a few million years and see how you look!  Next, Hull buried his masterpiece at a friend’s farm in Cardiff, NY.  A year later, in 1869, workers were hired to dig a well on the farm.  Instead, they “discovered” the giant.

Naturally, geologists immediately denounced the giant as a ridiculous fraud but, as Hull had guessed, fervent fundamentalists “swore” it was real – “just look at the Bible!” After a short time Hull made over $30,000 – a WHOLE lot of money in those days – charging the faithful 50-cents a peek.

P.T. “Egress” Barnum knew a good fraud when he saw one and offered to buy the Cardiff Giant.  George Hull said “no thanks.”  And then, in what has to be one one of the funniest footnotes in American history, Barnum HAD HIS OWN CARDIFF GIANT CARVED and exhibited it across the country.  In other words, Barnum was making money from a fake of a fake!

Today the giant rests peaceably in the Farmers Museum in Cooperstown, New York.  Not surprisingly, you have to pay an additional fee to see it – just like in the old days.  However, there’s no truth to the rumors that the giant is wrapped in the Shroud of Turin or the snack bar sells “Jesus-Face Tacos” for a buck and a half.


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7 Responses to ““There’s a Sucker Born Every Minute””

  1. Awwh I swear I saw that thing when I was little and either the circus brought it to Rochester or a side show did, I’m sure I saw it and by the way it WAS real. It IS real. At least the one I saw was real. That just explains why so many people that saw the real one I saw thought it was fake, because there WAS a fake one. But I also saw gas going for four dollars a gallon once and I know that was fake so I dunno you know maybe I was lookin’ AT the fake one and the real one WAS somewhere else.

  2. paolo. says:

    “It was only when both giants appeared in New York City at the same time that the hoax was finally acknowledged by everyone (The false giant, according to its current owner, can be seen at Marvin’s Marvelous Mechanical Museum, Farmington Hills, Michigan).”

    From: RoadsideAmerica.com

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