ST. LOUIS, MO. (KPLR) – In St. Louis, we are used to big time musicians coming to town to give a concert. But in the 1850s, it was unheard of, until someone everyone had heard of decided to make the city one of her stops on her American tour.
Her name was Jenny Lind, an international singing star known as the Swedish Nightingale. And when she came to town to perform in 1851, it was a sensation.
‘She had linked up with of all people P.T. Barnum, who of course was one of the great promoters, hucksters, circus developers, museum developers of the early 19th century, but he was also a promoter of the first class,’ said Dr. Robert Archibald, president of the Missouri History Museum.
Lind arrived in St. Louis on the steamboat Lexington, and made the Planters hotel her home. During her stay, local choral groups would show up at the hotel to serenade her.
The concerts were held across the street at Wyman’s hall.
‘Wyman`s was a relatively small theater, it seated 350 people and Barnum said he liked it that way because he`d rather have a crowded small house than an empty big house and so they charged what was a really substantial price for that time, 1851, they charged $5 to get in and hear Jenny Lind sing and $4 for standing room so it was very expensive,’ Archibald said.
Jenny Lind played St. Louis for six glorious nights, never to return again, though in 1933, the Muny performed a popular musical based on Lind`s life.
It was called, ‘Nightingale.’
‘People didn`t get around much. So the idea that this world renowned celebrity would come to St. Louis was really astounding,’ Archibald said.
As a way to whip up even more of a frenzy, Barnum held back a number of tickets to be auctioned each day before the performance.
And in typical Barnum style, he charged ten cents admission just for the chance to bid.
But apparently along with smarts, Barnum also had a heart, giving the money raised by that door charge to local charities.