In this contract, R.W. Lindsay of Kentucky agreed to sell, transfer, and deliver to Barnum the possession of Joice Heth and the sole right of exhibiting her for the remainder of the twelve months for which Lindsay had the right to exhibit Heth. Barnum, in effect, leased Heth for ten months and became her master for that time period, if not her legal owner. In later years, Barnum made contradictory claims about his status as the master of the enslaved Joice Heth to distance himself from his earlier support of slavery. In 1854 he claimed to be "the proprietor of the negress," while in 1869 he wrote that his payment only made him "proprietor of this novel exhibition." The distinction is critical since slavery was illegal in the North where Barnum exhibited Heth in 1835. William P. Saunders, an apparent partner of Barnum, pulled out of the agreement and his name is crossed out in the contract.
Source: Boston Public Library, Rare Books and Manscripts