Joice Heth

Joice Heth

Birth
Madagascar
Death 19 Feb 1836 (aged 79–80)
USA
Burial Unknown
Memorial ID 40962205 · View Source
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Joice Heth (c.1756 – February 19, 1836- was an African American slave who was exhibited by P. T. Barnum with the claim that she was 161 years old.

Little is known of Heth's earlier life. The promoter R. W. Lindsay introduced her as the nursing "mammy" of former President George Washington, but lacking success sold her in her old age to the upstart Barnum. She was toward the end of her life, blind and almost completely paralyzed (she could talk, and had some ability to move her right arm) when Barnum started to exhibit her on August 10, 1835 at Niblo's Garden in New York City. As a 7-month traveling exhibit for Barnum, Heth told stories about "little George" and sang a hymn. Eric Lott claims that Heth earned the impresario $1,500/week, a princely sum in that era. Barnum's career as a showman took off. Her case was discussed extensively in the press. Because doubt had been expressed about her age Barnum announced that upon her death she would be publicly autopsied. She died the next year; probably her actual age at the time of her death was no more than 80 years.



Barnum engaged the service of a surgeon, Dr. David L. Rogers, who performed the autopsy on February 25, 1836 in front of fifteen hundred paying spectators in New York's City Saloon. When Rogers declared the age claim a fraud, Barnum insisted that the autopsy victim was another person, and Heth was alive, on a tour to Europe. Later Barnum admitted the hoax.


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  • Created by: Laurie
  • Added: 22 Aug 2009
  • Find A Grave Memorial 40962205
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Joice Heth (1756–19 Feb 1836), Find A Grave Memorial no. 40962205, ; Maintained by Laurie (contributor 2811407) Unknown.