Come See The 200-Year-Old Man!

If P.T. Barnum were alive today, he'd totally promote his bicentennial birthday on July 5 by enticing suckers born every minute to see a 200 year-old-man.

Marc Hartzman of AOL Weird News has a nifty article about one of history's greatest showman:

After all, promoting a 200-year-old man wouldn't be far off from his first claim to fame -- Joice Heth, the supposed 161-year-old caretaker of George Washington.

It was 1835 when a young Barnum got a taste of his budding powers of publicity with Heth. She was completely blind, had no teeth, weighed under 50 pounds and moved very little. Yet she was very sociable around visitors and enjoyed recounting anecdotes of the young president-to-be and his family.

Heth was a hit. Both the public and the press generally accepted the claim of her age. Although the truth didn't necessarily matter, the prospect was fascinating and entertaining. In fact, when a newspaper printed a letter from a visitor claiming Heth was nothing more than a cleverly crafted automaton with a ventriloquist operator, her popularity grew. People had to see for themselves.

A post-mortem report eventually determined Heth was a mere 80 years old, though some refused to believe it.

Egress (Photo: Henry Guttmann/Getty Imags)

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Barnum was the quintessential showman. When he couldn't buy the best act for his own show, he went out to find one that topped it.
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