Joice Heth: The Hoax That Launched P.T. Barnum as a Showman

Phineas Taylor Barnum, the “greatest showman” on earth was still making a modest living as the owner of a grocery store in 1835 when his path crossed with that of a certain Mr. Coley Bartram, who would provide Barnum with a foray into the lucrative world of showmanship. Bartram informed Barnum of a spectacular “exhibit” that he had recently sold to Mr. R. W. Lindsay. The “exhibit” was an elderly African American woman named Joice Heth, who was supposedly 161 years old and had been the nurse of George Washington.

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