DIME MUSEUM

For as long as humanity has existed, there has been the desire to collect, especially to collect the strange, the unusual, the bizarre and the exotic. This drive led to the Cabinets of Wonder--collections of exotic objects gathered by wealthy and often eccentric Europeans prior to the 19th Century. These personal collections were the spiritual ancestors of the ultimate collections: the Dime Museums. Dime Museums showcased live human entertainment as well, and in their later phases (1910's-1950's) transformed themselves into sideshows set up in temporary store-fronts in many downtown areas of America.

Though simply called Museums in their early form, the idea of a collection of objects which the public would pay to see spread quickly in early 19th Century America. And by the mid-1800s, the idea had become so popular with the American public that entrepreneurial geniuses like P. T. Barnum became millionaires through the exhibition of vast collections of man-made and natural curiosities.

Eventually, capitalizing on the public's need for entertainment of all types, museums came to house not only unique collections of objects; they also housed the first family-oriented performance spaces, menageries, and, in fact, nearly every type of entertainment available in 19th Century America. And all for only one dime.

Almost as old a form was the Anatomical Museum-- ostensibly learning exhibits for physicians and scientists-- they typically contained wax models, and specimens in jars, ultimately catering to the morbidly curious generally public, or those looking for symptomatic cures for their own undiagnosed diseases. The Anatomical Museum generally excluded women and children and often became storefronts for doctors selling cures for venereal diseases and other ailments.