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updated: 1/6/2014 4:23 PM

The Essential PT Barnum explores the life of the famous showman

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  • Author and magician William Pack will explore the fascinated life of P.T. Barnum Jan. 12 at Naper Settlement.

    Author and magician William Pack will explore the fascinated life of P.T. Barnum Jan. 12 at Naper Settlement.
    Courtesy of William Pack

Naper Settlement

Years before he revolutionized the circus, P.T. Barnum was already the most famous name in the world. Join author and magician William Pack as he reveals the amazing life of this famous showman, through storytelling and recreations of historical performances during "The Essential PT Barnum," a presentation of the History Speaks Lecture Series to be held from 4 to 5 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 12 at Naper Settlement's Century Memorial Chapel, 523 S. Webster St., Naperville.

"Barnum is not just the circus -- he didn't start the circus until he was 60 years old," Pack said. "In the years before, he revolutionized all of American entertainment. His promotional techniques were used by Houdini to become famous and are still used today."

As a magician and performer his entire life, Pack said he was amazed by Barnum's creativity, inventiveness and resilience.

"When I started my intense research for my program and book, I started to see Barnum as we all are -- a complicated human being full of contradictions, flaws and virtues," he said.

During his presentation, Pack said he gives a wide overview of Barnum's life. He will bring large shadow boxes filled with ephemera and photographs, including a life-sized display of Tom Thumb. Pack will perform a sideshow stunt and audiences will see a recreation of one of Barnum's greatest exhibits, the Feejee mermaid.

The author of "The Essential PT Barnum," said that Barnum remains a mystery to modern audiences.

"People have a vague notion of Barnum, but mostly they only know his name because the Barnum name has been kept alive and in front of the public long after his death," Pack said. "The circus itself and anyone associated with it conjures thoughts of the unusual, curious and exotic and awakens an overwhelming feeling of fantastical adventures."

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