P. T. Barnum’s 10 Most Famous Human “Freak” Show Attractions

During the 1800s, Phineas Taylor Barnum – better known as “P.T. Barnum” – became famous as “The Great American Showman.” Barnum specialized in displaying odd and intriguing attractions to audiences who were eager to pay to see something out of the ordinary.


10. Joice Heth

The very first human attraction that began P.T. Barnum’s career was a woman named Joice Heth, who he claimed was 161-years-old. Barnum received a letter about Joice from a fellow circus owner named R.W. Lindsay in Kentucky, so he paid her a visit. She was blind, and her eyes looked sunken into her head, which gave her the appearance of being very old. She also went on and on about the time she spent being the wet nurse of George Washington. Barnum wrote in his biography that he paid $1,000 for her, and became her new owner. Keep in mind that this was during the 1830s, so slavery was still legal in the United States.

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