Publication: The Berkshire Evening Eagle
Berkshire, MA, United States
Return of 'Cardiff Giant'
Asked by Perpetrator's Kin
NEW YORK (UP) — When P. T. Barnum foisted the Cardiff Giant on the public 60 years ago he chuckled "there's a sucker born every minute." Michael Fitzmaurice is out to prove that Barnum was wrong.
"My great-grandfather may have been a sucker," Fitzmaurice said in the mellifluous tones that have made him a leading radio performer, "but old P. T. will find that the strain toughened when it reached me. I want the Cardiff Giant back. It belongs to my family."
And setting his handsome chin he called for his attorney, Parnell Callahan, who has been instructed to demand the big concrete figure from the New York State Historical Museum at Cooperstown, N. Y.
Fitzmaurice realizes that he is stirring old circus ghosts by trifling with the memory of one of the greatest hoaxes of all time, but every time he thinks of the small salary his great-grandfather got for his fabulous creation be boils.
"Wesley Jukes was my great-grandfather," he said, "and anybody who has ever seen a circus has heard his handiwork. He invented the steam calliope, also the illusion of a woman cut off at the waist, and the famous robot chess player who beat so many champions 70 years ago."
"I think," he added, "I am violating no family confidence by revealing that the robot chess player was worked by air suction by an operator who sat where he could watch the chess board. Great-grandpa also used compressed air for his celebrated robot orchestra, Gideon's Band."
"Now the story about the Cardiff Giant is this. Barnum was hard up for ideas and asked great-grandpa, who worked for him, to think of something. So the old man suggested they ought to 'discover' the mummified body of a prehistoric giant. Barnum thought it was a great idea and grandpa fashioned a phony mummy out of concrete and buried it secretly on a farm in upstate New York where a farmer allegedly found it while plowing."
"Barnum then announced he had acquired this fantastic property at great expense and exhibited it for years, amassing many thousands of dollars. After that it was given to the museum without even consulting the Jukes family. We feel it belongs to us although — confidentially — darned if I know what we'll do with it. It's a matter of principle."
Fitzmaurice, who is 38 and married, feels strongly about the case.
"Maybe I'll use it for a play-thing for my kids — when I have kids," he said.
Note to Fitzmaurice: You're giving lots of publicity to Barnum's old circus, Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey, which comes to town next month. Are you sure P. T. wasn't a little bit right?