Down-to-earth singer with an incredible voice, benefactress, the first real celebrity in the middle of the 19th century to trigger a mania, the first person to travel in her own railway carriage: that was Jenny Lind.
I am interested in the Swedish singer and benefactor Jenny Lind, because she was hired as a singer by P.T. Barnum. Barnum's miscarriages are mentioned in the autobigraphic novel Schau Heimwärts, Engel! by the American writer Thomas Wolfe, with whom I am currently working and researching. I examine all the phenomena, metaphors, authors and terms mentioned in the book that are unknown to me.
Businessman and marketing genius
Phineas Taylor Barnum
The curiosity cabinet owner, circus man and politician Phineas Taylor Barnum never ran out of ideas, he was someone you could rightly call a capable but ruthless businessman.
Around 1849 he tried his hand at more serious business and became aware of the Swedish singer Jenny Lind, who was known as the Swedish Nightingale and is still in Sweden today. Jenny Lind was born as Johanna Maria Lind on 6 October 1820 in Stockholm. She was appointed Swedish court singer at the age of 20.
Adored by poets such as Franz Grillparzer, Hans Christian Andersen, whom she turned down on his proposal of marriage and who probably set a cold literary monument to her with the Snow Queen, and admired by Schumann, Berlioz and Bartholdy, she enthused with her unique voice and performed as a famous singer throughout Europe.
Tour through the USA
W. S. Rockstro and Henry Scott Holland
W. S. Rockstro and Henry Scott Holland wrote a two-volume biography of Jenny Lind based on her estate and the collection of letters from her husband Otto Goldschmidt. William Smith Rockstro was an English musicologist, teacher, pianist and composer and studied under Felix Mendelsohn at the Leipzig Conservatory. Jenny Lind herself was a close friend of Felix Mendelsohn throughout her life. Henry Scott Holland was Regius Professor of Theology at Oxford University. He was also a canon of the Christian Church in Oxford.
H.S. Holland and W.S. Rockstro: Jenny Lind, Ihre Laufbahn als Künstlerin. 1820 bis 1851. Übersetzt von Hedwig J. Schoell. F. U. Brockhaus, Leipzig 1891. Quelle: Archive.org
Barnum made her the offer of a year-round tour of the United States of America. Thinking of the high income for the many charities she supported, she agreed to the trip. Jenny Lind donated large parts of her fortune to poor musicians, hospitals and orphanages. Many of these institutions, but also streets in Sweden, Great Britain and the USA still bear her name today.
Barnum's sophisticated advertising campaign preceding her trip made her famous before she had even set foot on American soil.
When the Beatles first set foot on American soil on 7 February 1964, 3000 screaming fans were waiting for the mushroom heads from Liverpool. On Sunday, September 1, 1850, the paddle steamer Atlantic of the American Collins Line arrived in New York after an eleven-day voyage across the Atlantic Ocean under Captain West. In 1850, the American Atlantic was the first steamship with a vertical stem, which was to displace the curved clipper bow.
The arriving 30-year-old Jenny Lind received more than ten times as many people as 114 years later the Beatles, although she was completely unknown to the American public except from advertising posters and newspaper articles and only a few had probably heard her voice before. 30000 New Yorkers stood at the pier on Canal Street and wanted to see the singing nightingale from Sweden.
In 1849 she was still completely unknown in the United States, but by September 1850 she was already one of the most famous women in America. She owed this only secondarily to her voice but primarily to the marketing and sales genius P. T. Barnum. On his posters and in newspaper articles he cleverly used the fact that Jenny Lind was already known in Europe for her humility and charity and her charitable activities. This gave her an angelic reputation among the people in the States.
All this in times when there was no Instagram, Facebook or Twitter - newspapers and posters, throwing notes were the only way to publicize events and personalities. There was neither radio nor television, even the gramophone was only invented by Emil Berliner in 1887, the phonograph by Edison in 1877. So you could really only hear them live. And people came.
The tickets were so popular that Barnum could auction them off. Up to $625 was bid, which would be about $22,000 today. The first performances took place in Castle Garden, a fortress built in 1811, which was later converted into a performance hall. Today it is known as Castle Clinton. There was a Jenny Lind Price Song Competition for a lyric, which Jenny Lind would then sing during her tour.
She usually sang a few arias, religious songs and songs that would be called folk songs today. Among these, according to her own statements, were: the Birdsong by Wilhelm Taubert, Ich muss jetzt einmal singen, Op. 74. Nr 1, which had been assigned to her by the composer himself, Isak Albert Berg's (born 1803 in Stockholm) Lied with the long held notes (probably Fjärran han dröjer) and the Norwegian Echo Song (The song sung by Florence Macbeth). She played piano for four hands with the Stuttgart born conductor and composer Sir Julius Benedict. All this to spare her voice as much as possible, because she could and should not sing only arias night after night.
The first fandom on American ground
Still completely unknown in the United States in 1849, Jenny Lind was already one of the most famous women in America by September 1850. She owed this only to her voice and the marketing and sales genius P. T. Barnum. All this in times when there was no Instagram, Facebook or Twitter - newspapers and posters, throwing notes were the only way to make events and personalities known. There was neither radio nor television, even the gramophone was only invented by Emil Berliner in 1887, the phonograph by Edison in 1877. So you could really only hear them live. And people came.
And although many people never heard them themselves, the enthusiasm knew no bounds. The press called the phenomenon "Lind mania". Even hair from her hotel room brush was sold at a profit. W. H. C. West wrote the multi-strop song The Jenny Lind Mania to a well-known melody to the Lind mania. Elisabeth Soderstrom sang it once again at an event and this is the only recording (from 0:42)that I found on the net or in Youtube.
Jenny-Lind-Box & endless merchandising
Lind Mania Song
Composer W. H. C. West wrote The Jenny Lind Mania Song to a popular melody. The first two verses went like this:
If you step into a grocer's
(Upon my word. 'tis true!)
There is Jenny Lind lump sugar
And Jenny's cocoa too.
We shall alll become great singers,
Thro' Jenny Lind pipes high;
At each snuff shop in London,
Jenny Lind pipes you may buy.
My wife has a Jenny Lind bonnet
And a Jenny Lind visite;
With Jenny's portrait on it,
My handkerchief looks neat.
My wife is a slave to fashion,
Against it never sinned:
Our baby and the kitten
Are called after Jenny Lind.
Of manias we've had many,
And some have raised the wind,
But the tallest far of any,
Is that for Jenny Lind,
Causing quite a revolution,
To compliment her fame;
from a toothpick to an omnibus
All call-ed by her name.
Chor: O! manias we've had many, etc
Isabelle Putnam Emerson: Five Centuries of Women Singers, Seite 158
You could buy a beautiful box of 10 different paper Jenny-Lind doll dresses, all assigned to their respective singing roles, real Jenny-Lind clothes, hats and other headgear, piano, stool and all kinds of other stuff that carried her name. At all concerts she only appeared in a plain white dress. On the website of the New-York Historical Society you can find more pictures of this very nice collection of paper dresses in a beautifully designed box.
The first person with a private railway car
Jenny Lind toured the USA in a private railway carriage specially equipped for her. It was the first time ever that a railway car was specially equipped for a certain person. The need for her own railroad car arose due to the unreasonable enthusiasm and Lind mania that arose from her performances and her publicly known marriage with the musician Otto Goldschmidt who later accompanied her. She simply could no longer perform in public without being disturbed. Jenny Lind was the first person in history to travel in this unusual way.
According to Kat Eschner of Smithsonian Magazine, the enthusiasm had less to do with her vocal qualities than with her life story and her perception in American society:
it had more to do with the bourgeois aspirations with which Lind and her goods could be associated: good business sense, a charitable spirit and a decent, Christian, white femininity. (Source: https://www.smithsonianmag.com)
Jenny Lind was probably a grateful, unpretentious, modest singer who was satisfied with the simplest things.
Personally, I find that very sympathetic. The highly decent Jenny Lind, who did so much good for people, and the king of humbug P. T. Barnum. An odd but financially very successful combination.
Under Barnum alone she gave about 95 concerts, she separated from him and then toured the United States and Canada for another year. On May 24, 1852, she returned to Europe. After her return, she performed only rarely, the last time in 1870 at the Niederrheinische Musikfest in Düsseldorf.
Together with her husband Otto Goldschmidt she had a daughter and two sons and died on November 2, 1887 in the English spa town of Malvern in the county of Worchestershire in England.
My research on the Swedish voice of the 19th century Jenny Lind, who travelled the USA for Phineas Taylor Barnum as a singer from 1850 to 1852 and caused a rock star-like hysteria called Lind mania.