When and Where is 'The Greatest Showman' Set? Exploring the Historical Context of the Film

When and Where is ‘The Greatest Showman’ Set? Exploring the Historical Context of the Film

When and Where is ‘The Greatest Showman’ Set?

Set in the 19th century, ‘The Greatest Showman’ takes place during a time of great transformation and innovation. The film is primarily set in the United States, specifically in New York City and Barnum’s American Museum.

The Historical Context of ‘The Greatest Showman’

The film is inspired by the life of P.T. Barnum, who was a real-life showman and entrepreneur. Barnum’s American Museum, which was located in Manhattan, was a popular attraction during the mid-1800s. The film chronicles Barnum’s journey from being a struggling businessman to creating the famous Barnum & Bailey Circus.

New York City: The Glittering Backdrop

New York City in the 19th century was a bustling metropolis filled with diverse cultures and opportunities. It was a time of great industrialization and urbanization, as well as a period marked by social and economic inequalities. The film showcases the vibrant energy of the city, with its towering buildings and lively streets, providing a perfect backdrop for Barnum’s larger-than-life aspirations.

The film also highlights various iconic locations in New York City, such as Madison Square Garden and the Brooklyn Bridge, which add to the historical authenticity and visual spectacle of ‘The Greatest Showman’.

Barnum’s American Museum: The Epicenter of Entertainment

Barnum’s American Museum, located at the corner of Broadway and Ann Street in Manhattan, was a significant setting in the film. The museum was filled with oddities, curiosities, and live performances, attracting visitors from all walks of life. From bearded ladies to acrobats and exotic animals, Barnum’s American Museum was a place where people could escape their everyday lives and be captivated by the extraordinary.

While the museum no longer exists today, ‘The Greatest Showman’ showcases the magic and wonder that it once held for audiences. The film portrays the museum as a place of inclusivity and diversity, where individuals who may have been considered outcasts or misfits found a sense of belonging and acceptance.

Exploring the Historical Themes of the Film

‘The Greatest Showman’ delves into several important historical themes that resonated during the 19th century. The film addresses issues of class and social inequality, as well as the power of entertainment to bridge divides and bring people together.

Furthermore, the film touches on the idea of pursuing one’s dreams and the sacrifices that come with it. P.T. Barnum’s relentless pursuit of success and his unwavering belief in the power of spectacle serve as a reminder of the entrepreneurial spirit that defined America during this era.


‘The Greatest Showman’ is set against the backdrop of 19th-century New York City and Barnum’s American Museum. The film captures the historical context of the time, showcasing the vibrant energy of the city and the transformative power of entertainment. It explores themes of social inequality, diversity, and the pursuit of dreams, offering viewers a glimpse into the life of one of history’s most iconic showmen.

Through its captivating storytelling and musical numbers, ‘The Greatest Showman’ brings to life the magic and wonder of a bygone era while also resonating with contemporary audiences.


1. When is ‘The Greatest Showman’ set?

The film is set in the mid-19th century.

2. Where is ‘The Greatest Showman’ set?

The film is mainly set in New York City, United States.

3. What is the historical context of ‘The Greatest Showman’?

The film is based on the life of P.T. Barnum, who was a famous American showman and founder of the circus known as Barnum & Bailey Circus.

4. Is the movie historically accurate?

While the film is inspired by real events and people, it takes creative liberties and should be viewed as a work of fiction rather than a strict historical account.

5. What major historical events are depicted in the film?

The film touches on the abolitionist movement, the temperance movement, and the growing cultural diversity in urban centers during the 19th century.

6. How does the film portray the social and cultural aspects of the time period?

‘The Greatest Showman’ showcases the society’s views on class, race, and entertainment during the mid-19th century, although it presents an idealized and romanticized version of these aspects.

7. Are there any famous historical figures mentioned or portrayed in the film?

Yes, the film features P.T. Barnum himself, as well as other notable figures of the time such as opera singer Jenny Lind and playwright Philip Carlyle.

8. Does the film explore any specific historical locations?

The film includes several iconic locations of the time, including the original site of Barnum’s American Museum and the historical theater, The Bearded Lady’s Museum of Wax.

9. How does the film incorporate historical music and entertainment?

‘The Greatest Showman’ features a soundtrack heavily influenced by modern pop music rather than historically accurate music of the time period. The film uses anachronistic music for entertainment value.

10. How does ‘The Greatest Showman’ highlight the legacy of P.T. Barnum?

The film portrays Barnum as a visionary and a champion of the marginalized, emphasizing his impact on the entertainment industry and his ability to create a sense of wonder and awe among audiences.