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Jenny Lind at Castle Garden: New York City’s Most Famous Concert

EPISODE 316 What happens when P. T. Barnum, America’s savviest supplier of both humbug and hoax, decides that it is time to go legit? The result is one of the greatest concert tours in American history.

If you’ve seen the film musical The Greatest Showman, you’ve been introduced to Jenny Lind, the opera superstar dubbed the Swedish Nightingale. And you also know that Barnum, taken with the Swedish songstress, brings her to New York to begin a heavily promoted American debut.

But the film sidesteps many of the more fascinating details. Lind was greeted like a queen and rock star when she arrived at the Canal Street dock despite most New Yorkers having never heard her sing.

Jenny Lind / New York Public Library Digital Collection

Her stage was Castle Garden, the former fort turned performance venue that sat in New York harbor, connected to the Battery by a small bridge.

The concert proved legendary. And Lind proved herself an enterprising businesswoman, bending even the will of a profiteer like Barnum. Her financial arrangement for the tour would influence 170 years of musical performances and cement her reputation as one of the greatest vocalists of the 19th century.

LISTEN NOW — JENNY LIND AT CASTLE GARDEN

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The concert as depicted in a lithograph by Nathaniel Currier/New York Public Library
New York Public Library Digital Collection

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