Dime museums were institutions that were briefly popular at the end of the 19th century in the United States. Designed as centers for entertainment and moral education for the working class (lowbrow), the museums were distinctly different from upper-middle class’ cultural events (highbrow). In urban centers like New York City, where many immigrants settled, dime museums were popular and cheap entertainment. The social trend reached its peak during the Progressive era (1865–1920). P.T. Barnum founded the first Dime Museum in 1841, called the American Museum. P.T. Barnum and Charles Willson Peale introduced the so-called ‘Edutainement’ which was a moralistic education realized through sensational freakshows, theater and circus performances, and many other means of entertainment. The American Museum burned down in 1865.
Photo from typical 1920’s itinerant dime museum set up in Atlanta storefront. Of two men sitting center of photo, the one on right is Carl Lauther who presumable owned this show.