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1851 Jenny Lind comes to Madison

In 1851 the famous “Swedish Nightingale”, Jenny Lind, sponsored by the equally famous P. T. Barnum, made a cross-country tour of the United States.

Through a series of communications and much haggling, some of the more audacious citizens of Madison arranged for a concert to be held in Madison. It could be argued that in their eagerness to persuade Miss Lind to make a stop in Madison they may have over stated their case for her appearance.

In any event, a contract was secured and Miss Lind’s visit was imminent. Now the problem arose as to where a concert, which would no doubt draw the patronage of several hundred people, could be held, for Madison had no hall or building large enough to accommodate that many people. The railroad depot was the original favorite, but for some reason was not chosen. The site finally selected was, of all places, the Phillips & Sons pork packing building.

Despite the sweeping and swabbing and papering and painting that hastily took place, Miss Jenny Lind must have been quite appalled at the prospect of performing in a slaughterhouse. One can only imagine the ensuing confrontation between Barnum and Miss Lind, but a contract is a contract, and it had to be honored. After all, as Mr. Barnum once said, “Every crowd has a silver lining.”

Therefore, one evening, as the moon cast its silvery sheen across the Ohio River, the honeyed voice of Miss Jenny Lind floated from the rafters of the old Mammoth Cave slaughterhouse. Despite Miss Lind’s valiant efforts, the concert was not a financial success, but it did serve to point out a great need for a more suitable cultural center in Madison.

Internet: Google Books-Before the Fooltlights and Behind the Scenes by Olive Logan
Internet: Google Books-Jenny Lind in America by Charles Rosenberg
MJCPL: Historical Files
MJCPL: History of Jefferson County, Ind. By E. O. Muncie