A Genealogy of the Barnum, Barnam and Barnham Family

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A One-Name Study for the BARNUM/BARNHAM Surname



Notes for Herbert Barnum SEELEY


From the New York Times, July 9, 1914, p. 5: Herbert B. Seeley, Host of famous “Seeley Dinner” and Grandson of the late P. T. Barnum. Herbert Barnum Seeley, a grandson of the late P. T. Barnum and the host of the “Seeley dinner” in 1896, died on Tuesday (July 7) in Maine. He was the son of Nathan Seeley and married Miss Lucy Mitchell, daughter of the late Archibald Paul Mitchell, who divorced him and afterward married Arnold Lawson of Boston. Mr. Seeley inherited a large portion of the showman’s fortune. In December 1896, he gave a farewell bachelor dinner for his brother Clinton Barnum Seeley who was about to be married at Sherry’s. Capt. Chapman, then in command of the precinct, raided the dining room, giving as his excuse that he understood that indecent dances were to be given by “Little Egypt” and others. The raid caused a police investigation and excited much interest, as several prominent men attended the party.

The "Seeley Bachelor Party Orgy" at Sherry's on Fifth Avenue was the well known in its day - 1896/97. Reduced for simplicity, here are the bare-bones details of the scandal: One of the "theatrical agents" hired to procure "talent" for the party offered an 18-year-old a certain cash amount to bare her "lower regions" for the benefit of the guests. Her father was insulted, as was she, not by the attempt at corrupting her morals but by the dollar amount offered and tipped off the police. Anyway, what followed was a tabloid paper journalist's dream as the details of the party emerged - obscene dancing, corruption of minors, entertainers being "cut out" of their costumes and mauled by the all-male ensemble and the titillating detail that the heads of some of New York's "best families" had been cavorting au naturel with harlots in the banquet room at Sherry's. This was not an isolated incident, just one of the best publicized of the era.

He is Find A Grave memorial #47071306.

Various obituaries for him state that he died in either New York or the state of Maine. This obituary from Bridgeport, his native town, states that he died in Long Branch, New Jersey.

From The Evening Farmer, Bridgeport, Connecticut, Thursday, July 9, 1914: Herbert B. Seeley Is Dead at 43, Body of Barnum's Grandson Buried in Mountain Grove Cemetery, Wasted a Fortune in Useless Endeavor. He expired in a Hospital in Long Branch from Complication of Diseases -- Herbert Barnum Seeley, grandson of the late Phineas T. Barnum, from whom he inherited a vast fortune, is dead. His body was brought to this city, yesterday, from Long Branch, N.J., where he died in Memorial Hospital after suffering for nearly a month with a complication of disorders.
While his passing will bring a thrill to those who knew him in his heyday of prosperity; the services at Mountain Grove cemetery today, where but a few of his kindred were able to gather, owing to their absence in various parts of the world, brings only pangs of sorrow to those closely related. For the publicity which followed a dinner he gave in New York, an act of exuberant youth, and which would today be little counted in the society of which the foremost aristocrats of the country indulge themselves, made his name famous in the annals of Broadway.
Herbert Seeley was born in Bridgeport, the son of Nathan Seeley, and Pauline Barnum, daughter of the late P. T. Barnum. He was but 43 years of age at the time of his death. During his early youth rosy prospects faced him. He inherited a considerable part of the $4,000,000 Barnum estate, but is said to have spent most of it in his attempts to become a king of the turf.
With plenty of money and influence be became a cadet at West Point. His alert mind and lack of self-control soon got him in trouble, however and after two years, he left the academy. Then his imagination was fired by stories of western life and he went to Mexico. After a while, he took up mining, but the work was too hard and the excitements not keen enough. He sold out and went into the show business.
He soon found that he inherited his grandfather's money rather than his genius. He forsook the circus for the racetrack and cut a figure as a plunger until the fall of 1894, when an incident occurred which made the betting ring an uncomfortable place for him.
Through some performances at Morris Park and Narragansett, Seeley had to refund, money which persons had lost betting on his horses.
His last appearance in New York was when he assumed the position of ticket seller at the New York Hippodrome. This was in 1905. He was married in 1900 to Miss Lucy Mitchell, daughter of the late A. P. Mitchell, but was divorced in 1903. She later married Arnold Lawson, son of Thomas W. Lawson, of Boston. Seeley subsequently married.
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