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Famous People of the Finger Lakes

David Hannum (1832-1892)

Homer (Cortland County) native David Hannum will live forever as the character David Harum of Edward Noyes Westcott's 1898 novel (David Harum) about a shrewd, humorous country banker by the same name. In real life Hannum was a banker, who got himself involve with P.T. Barnum, not a wise thing to do. As always with Barnum, reality and fiction can overlap, but here's how the story goes.


In order to make money, Barnum contrived with some others to make a large human figure out of gypsum. This figure was buried in the ground somewhere in Cardiff, New York. A year later, one of Barnum's compatriots, a fellow named George Hull, dug up the figure, claiming to have found it by accident. It was dubbed The Cardiff Giant and sold to a group of bankers, including Hannum, who put it on display in Syracuse. Barnum came along with another figure, claiming that Hannum's was a fake. As people paid to see Barnum's giant, Hannum (not Barnum) claimed, "There's a fool born ever minute." Barnum took Hannum to court, at which point Hull stepped forward, exposing the whole scam.


It is said that Hannum liked to tell children stories and that his Golden Rule was "Do unto the other fella what he would like to do to you, only do it fust!"








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