When I was a little girl, I was obsessed with mermaids. Hans Christian Anderson had a lot to answer for, as did John William Waterhouse who painted this romantic and sensual image.

And, how thrilled I would have been, if I'd lived in New York in 1842 and chanced to see this advertisement for PT Barnum's American Museum - and its latest aquisitions of some exotic Peruvian Mummies, a duck-billed platypus and last, but not least, the Wondrous Fejee Mermaid...

Many children must have been horrified to witness the actual display: for that grotesque monstrosity so 'puffed' by Mr Barnum was, in reality, the mummified torso and head of a monkey sewn onto the tail of some great fish,  the sight of which must have caused many a sensitive soul to succomb to an attack of the vapours.

Nevertheless, the Mermaid proved to be a great lure until the museum, and everything in it, burned down in 1865 after which, despite imitations being shown in freak shows around the world, the original Mermaid was thought to be lost, along with thousands of other exhibits - including a fragment of The True Cross, which had been so artfully displayed next to that other sacred object: the bed of one Robbie Burns!

Click onto this link to learn more about Barnum's American Museum.


  1. I would have loved to have seen this too!

    Thank you so much for visiting The Virtual Dime Museum and for the link - "Adventures in Victorian NY" is just the blurb though, actually the title is The Virtual Dime Museum...

    I am still trying to find just the right subtitle/blurb! :)

    I love your blog title, BTW..Am putting you on my blogroll too and will be visiting again -

  2. Thank you, Lidian. We are two Virtuals! I'll put that right straight away.