American Dime Museum & Sideshow
The American Dime Museum (ADM) was co-founded in Baltimore, Maryland, by the artist and antique dealer Richard Horne, and James Taylor, author, writer and publisher of the sideshow journal Shocked and Amazed!
Opening November 1, 1999, the museum recreated, in spirit, the dime museums which saw their heyday in the 19th and early 20th centuries in America.
The museum closed officially in late 2006.
February 2007: The end finally arrived for the Dime Museum. The contents were auctioned off on February 26.
May 2006: Horne has managed to keep his museum going, albeit on shorter hours and only by appointment.
November 2005: The Dime Museum is planning to close at the end of the year due to revenue and fundraising problems.
The was the website of the DimeMuseum.net. When the museum closed the site's domain was allowed to expire. DimeMuseum.net disappeared from the web Not wanting the knowledge of this unique museum to disappear the domain was purchased with the goal of recreating some of the content from the site's archived pages. Enjoy this stroll back in time........
Welcome to a world where the strange is typical, the bizarre happens every day, and the amazing is the least you should expect!
Become a Member...of the American Dime Museum and receive these great benefits:
- One year free admission to the museum for yourself and a guest
- A 10% discount at the museum store
- Special discounts to exclusive museum events
- One-of-a-kind invitations to members-only activities
- Bring your camera! Taking pictures is encouraged!
Dime Museum: A Brief History
For as long as humanity has existed, there has been the desire to collect, especially to collect the strange, the unusual, the bizarre and the exotic. This drive led to the Cabinets of Wonder--collections of exotic objects gathered by wealthy and often eccentric Europeans prior to the 19th Century. These personal collections were the spiritual ancestors of the ultimate collections: the dime museums.
Though simply called museums in their early form, the idea of a collection of objects which the public would pay to see spread quickly in early 19th Century America. And by the mid-1800s, the idea had become so popular with the American public that entrepreneurial geniuses like P. T. Barnum became millionaires through the exhibition of vast collections of man-made and natural curiosities. Eventually, capitalizing on the public's need for entertainment of all types, museums came to house not only unique collections of objects; they also housed the first family-oriented performance spaces, menageries, and, in fact, nearly every type of entertainment available in 19th Century America. And all for only one dime.
Throughout the last days of the 19th Century and bulk of the 20th, carnivals roamed the American countryside as the circuses - the competition to the carnivals - had roamed the land since the late 1700s. In the days up to World War II, the carnivals were mostly shows - called the back end as that was the location of the shows on the typical carnival lot - with a ride or two thrown in among the concessions and games. The carnival shows grew from several traditions:
- The dime museums made famous by Barnum and the Peale family, with their fame in exhibiting the "wonders of nature, the works of man".
- The traveling circuses, which showed that mobile entertainment could tap the resources of the exploding of population of a growing America.
- The world's fairs, particularly the Columbian Exposition of 1893 in Chicago, where the grand Midway Plaisance and its multitude of amusements is credited with demonstrating to showmen that a gathering of their kind could make big money.
Even after the Second World War, when the writing was on the wall for the decline of the shows, there were still grand and glorious days for the back end, and there were still classic shows on the road into the '60s and early '70s
Follow the history of the dime museums – those 19th century collections of the world’s strangest flotsam and jetsam – and their evolution into the astounding traveling sideshows of yesteryear!
The central figures of the museums are interesting by themselves and were prominent figures in their society, even if they were not wealthy. One such figure was Jay Orien, who founded and managed a commerical cleaning supply business even as he traveled the country with his own show. He used his bully pulpit to amaze crowds with feats of magic, near magic, and truly astonishing reality, always featuring his best selling cleaning products. He was the originator of the "magic broom" tricks where he fit a traditional broom or mop into his hat. In those days, common solvents were sold as cleaning agents and people would be amazed that with one wipe of the magic rag (soaked with acetone) he could completely remove paint and oil based inks - a demonstration so powerful that he often sold out immediately after the performance. We have some images of his act and his janitorial products on the site. There's also a photo of Jay wearing the hat from which a broom emerges with a slight amount of coaxing. Jay never was a rich man, but he amazed the crowds and he claims that is his greatest reward. He was alternately billed as "the janitor magician" or the "gifted custodian" - he was both indeed.
See the actual objects – both oddities of nature and works of man, the memorabilia of the exotic and novelty acts of old, and the most colorful advertising art of all time – all in a life-like historical setting!
Laugh and learn about America’s most unique entertainment – the dime museums and sideshows of yesterday, today, and tomorrow!
The ADM's Exhibition Space
Currently occupying two floors, the ADM offers visitors a sample of both the "old time" dime museums and store shows as well as a more contemporary sideshow. The dime museum exhibition includes numerous recreations, from Fiji mermaids to shrunken heads, as well as original artifacts, including one of the only surviving Nelson Supply Co. giantess mummies. The sideshow features an extensive display of banners as well as genuine sideshow props and "backyard" paraphernalia. Extensive exhibition notes explain the attractions and let visitors in on the secrets of the business.
The ADM's Advisory Board
- Marty Bass
- Gayle Economos
- Joan Erbe
- Richard Flint
- Walt Hudson
- Rick Opfer
- Joel Shipley
- Peter Smith
- Marc Steiner
- John Waters
- Steve Yeager
Wednesday - Friday: 12:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m.
Saturday - Sunday: 12:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.
In the event of seriously inclement weather (weather emergency conditions), calls placed to the museum with voice mail messages left will have those messages returned by 12:30pm or the caller can assume the museum is closed due to the weather emergency.
Adults - $5.00
Children (7-12) - $3.00
Well behaved children 6 & younger - Free
1808 Maryland Avenue
Baltimore, Maryland 21201
From the south or north via I95: Take I95 toward Baltimore; take 395 toward downtown; turn right onto Pratt St., then left onto Calvert St.; go approximately 1.5 miles to North Ave. and turn left; go 3 blocks to Maryland Ave. and turn left again. The museum is on the right, before the traffic light (Lafayette), across the street from J&M Auto.
From the north via I83: Take I83S to North Ave. exit; turn left onto North Ave. at the first traffic light; turn right onto Maryland Ave. (the 3rd traffic light after the turn onto North Ave.). The museum is on the right, before the traffic light (Lafayette), across the street from J&M Auto.
Via Public Transportation: Walking distance from Amtrak, MARC, and light rail service to Penn Station; walking distance from University of Baltimore light rail stop; accessible from MTA routes 3, 11, 13, 27, 31, 61, and 64.
There is parking on the 1800 block of Maryland Ave. in front of the museum as well as on Lafayette, the next cross street south, and further south on Maryland Ave. Visitors MUST avoid parking in the large lot across the street from the museum (on the corner of Maryland & Lafayette): This lot is a tow-away zone, 24 hours a day, 7 days per week.
- by phone at (410) 230-0263
- by fax at 410-347-DIME
The American Dime Museum NEEDS YOU to help with new exhibits, programs, and changes that are happening EVERY DAY
For the unique experience of helping Baltimore’s most unusual museum
If you are interested, please contact us at 410-230-0263, or send us your resume
1808 Maryland Avenue
Baltimore, Maryland 21201
Celebrate with Us!
You can go anywhere and celebrate a birthday party, a wedding, a bar or bat mitzvah. Why not hold your next important event in someplace truly memorable, unique, and extraordinary. No one who comes to the American Dime Museum leaves less than amazed. Don't you want your friends to remember your next event always?
The American Dime Museum offers:
- Four unique galleries of unusual and exotic exhibits in which your guests can party and be entertained
- A range of food and party services for a range of budgets
- Surroundings suitable to all ages
- Easy to find from all major arteries, just 1_ miles north of Baltimore's popular Inner Harbor.