updated: 08/12/2008

old-age: P. T. Barnum

Joice Heth (c 1756—1836) was an African American slave who was exhibited by P T Barnum with the claim that she was some one-hundred-and-sixty years old; her previous owner had claimed her to have been wet nurse to George Washington. She was near the end of her life (blind and almost completely paralyzed except for her right arm) when Barnum started to exhibit her in August 1835 in New York with Heth telling stories about ‘little George’. Barnum’s career as a showman took off. She died the following year – her actual age at the time of her death was no more than eighty years.

Olivier Xavier & Eric Thivierge (Texa FX) were responsible for special effects makeup; Penny Lee was key makeup artist.

Curiously, this was the second time Lorena Gale had played this role; she was also in the 1986 movie Barnum at which time she was still in her twenties.