Over the years he endured periods of financial strife; did a lecture tour, primarily as a temperance speaker; served two terms as a Republican in the state legislature, speaking out against slavery and African-American suffrage; and was mayor of Bridgeport where he helped found the Bridgeport Hospital.
He is most famous for his connection with the circus, The Barnum & Bailey Circus being known worldwide. In 1907, Barnum & Baileys was sold to the Ringling Bros who later renamed it the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. It is still delivering shows, mostly in the eastern states of America.
Just before his death, Barnum gave permission to the Evening Sun to print his obituary, so that he might read it. On April 7 he asked about the box office receipts for the day; a few hours later, he was dead
He died on April 7, 1891.
In 1890, while in London, he recorded a message on an Edison wax cylinder record