Barnum's First Big Bamboozle

Barnum's First Big Bamboozle (HM2FGP)

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N 40° 42.838', W 73° 59.845'

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Washington's 161-Year Old Nursemaid

—Bowery & Division Street —

Barnum's First Big Bamboozle
Washington's 161-Year Old Nursemaid
Bowery & Division Street
Whether P.T. Barnum said it or not, "there's a sucker born every minute" certainly applies to the throngs that lined up at Bowery and Division Street in 1836 for his first big bamboozle - the exhibition of slave woman Joice Heth, the supposed 46-pound, 161-year-old former nurse to America's first president. Popular with audiences, Heth smoked a pipe, sang Baptist hymns and reminisced about baby George. To lure the skeptics, Barnum also exploited one critic's theory that Heath was actually a clever combination of automation and ventriloquism.
By his own admission, he bought the blind, toothless, partially paralyzed old woman for $1,000. Given the 10-hour shifts and multi-state touring schedule, he almost certainly hastened her death within just a few months of purchase. An autopsy, which Barnum sold tickets to, suggested she was probably not over 80.
The Bowery was the young Barnum's stomping ground. In addition to Heth, he exhibited song and dance acts at Vauxhall Garden (Bowery at Cooper Square), wrote advertising hype for the Bowery Amphitheatre (37 Bowery), and tried manufacturing and selling bear's grease hair-loss ointment at 101 Bowery. Barnum had his portrait mass produced at Charles Eisenman's



photography studio (229 Bowery) and spoke at Cooper Union's Great Hall.
Even after hitting the big time with Barnum's Museum on Broadway, his influence continued to be felt at the dime museums that lined the Bowery, offering in miniature the exotic exhibits and stage shows that made his museum the wonder of the age.
-David Mulkins, Historian/Educator
Details
HM NumberHM2FGP
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Placed ByBowery Alliance of Neighbors
Marker ConditionNo reports yet
Date Added Tuesday, April 9th, 2019 at 11:01am PDT -07:00
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Locationbig map
UTM (WGS84 Datum)18T E 584682 N 4507488
Decimal Degrees40.71396667, -73.99741667
Degrees and Decimal MinutesN 40° 42.838', W 73° 59.845'
Degrees, Minutes and Seconds40° 42' 50.28" N, 73° 59' 50.7" W
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Which side of the road?Marker is on the right when traveling North
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