Somers Historical Society
"JOICE HETH is unquestionably the
most astonishing and interesting curiosity in the World! She was the slave
of Augustine Washington, (the father of Gen. Washington,) and was the
first person who put clothes on the unconscious infant, who, in after
days, led our heroic fathers on to glory, to victory, and freedom. To
use her own language when speaking of the illustrious Father of his Country,
'she raised him.' JOICE HETH was born in the year 1674, and has, consequently,
now arrived at the astonishing AGE OF 161 YEARS."
( December 1835)
In late 1835 and the first weeks of 1836, Americans in cities and towns across the northeast might have seen
this poster advertising the exhibit of Joice Heth, an elderly African-American woman. The poster's text
provided one enticement to the curious by highlighting Heth's connection to the revered George Washington.
The poster's crude woodcut image, depicting a woman with a wizened face and talon-like nails, tempted
onlookers to see for themselves the curiosity of her extreme age. Unlike Barnum's later human exhibits,
who were photographed fairly often, this is one of only two images of Heth that remain.