These dramatic images depict the burning of Barnum’s American Museum during the Great Fire of 1865. According to the New York Times, losses from the fire were estimated to be one million dollars. Thirty-thousand spectators gathered to see the fire and had to move around frequently to avoid the billowing heat and smoke. The Times writer even compared the whistling of the steam-driven fire engines rushing to the scene to the “shriek of an elephant.”

Map of Broadway and Anne Over Time
The Destruction By Fire Of Barnum’s American Museum
Burning of Barnum's Museum

Alfred R. Waud. “The Destruction By Fire Of Barnum’s American Museum, In New York, July 13, 1865.” From Harper’s Weekly, July 29, 1865. Collection of David Jaffee. Photographer: Bruce White.

Christopher Pearse Cranch. Burning of Barnum's Museum, July 13th, 1865, 1865. Chromolithograph. Eno Collection Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs, The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations.