Archive for Charles Stratton

Happy Valentine’s Day from the Littlest Lovers: Tom Thumb & Lavinia Warren

Posted in BUNKUM, Dime Museum and Side Show, Little People, STEAMPUNK/ VICTORIANA, Valentine's Day with tags , , , , , , , , , , on February 14, 2017 by travsd

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“There’s someone for everybody” goes the old matchmaker’s expression, and perhaps no words rang truer on February 9, 1863, the day that professional little person Tom Thumb (Charles Stratton) married Lavinia Warren at Grace Church, New York. (I believe that’s Lavinia’s sister Minnie Warren as Maid of Honor; and Commodore Nutt as Best Man). This little stunt, the “Fairy Wedding” by the press, lightened people’s hearts during the depths of the Civil War. We present it to you in the same spirit today.

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It wasn’t just a publicity stunt, however; the two were a real couple. But even so, their boss P.T. Barnum was probably not too unhappy when the big event resulted in coverage like this:

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“I love you completely, my own, my all. But above all, I love this front page coverage in Harpers!”

Tom Thumb Talk Tonight!

Posted in Dime Museum and Side Show, EXHIBITIONS & LECTURES, Human Anomalies (Freaks), Little People with tags , , , on March 19, 2013 by travsd

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General Tom Thumb, or, the Commercial Wonders of 19th-Century America, Illustrated Lecture with Matthew Wittmann, Curatorial Fellow at the Bard Graduate Center and author of Circus and the City: New York, 1793-2010
Date: Tuesday, March 19
Time: 8:00 PM
Admission: $8
Presented by Morbid Anatomy 

Charles Sherwood Stratton (1838-1883), better know to the world as General Tom Thumb, was a dwarf, an entertainer, and one of the most famous Americans of the 19th century. His success in the United States transformed the traditional exhibition of lusus naturae, or human wonders, into a flourishing commercial industry. This presentation explores what made the diminutive General such a sensation and traces his fascinating career from the boards of Barnum’s American Museum through his celebrated tour around the world.

Matthew Wittmann is a Curatorial Fellow at the Bard Graduate Center, the author of Circus and the City: New York, 1793-2010(BGC, 2012) and co-editor of The American Circus (Yale, 2012). He is a graduate of the Program in American Culture at the University of Michigan and is working on projects that range from popular entertainment to Pacific history. He blogs about these assorted interests at www.matthewwittmann.com.

The event is happening tonight at 8pm at the Observatory, 543 Union Street #1E in beautiful downtown Gowanus. More info here. 

General Tom Thumb

Posted in BUNKUM, Child Stars, Dime Museum and Side Show, Human Anomalies (Freaks), Little People with tags , , on January 4, 2011 by travsd

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Today is the birthday of the most famous of all performing Little People, Charles Stratton, a.k.a General Tom Thumb (1838-1883). Please excuse the size of this photo. It’s just a THUMB nail!

Stratton was P.T. Barnum’s first monster success as a showman. While he had previously made a few bucks and gotten some attention by exhibiting Joice Heth and the Feejee Mermaid, his 1842 exhibition of the two-and-a-half foot tall Stratton resulted in North American and European tours, audiences with Queen Victoria, and a fortune for both Barnum and Stratton. The packaging was ingenious: the clever name drawn from fairy tales, the ruse that the four year old boy was actually 11, the costuming of him as Napoleon, the funny repartee he was given to speak, the antics he was drilled to enact. The formula was repeated many times with Admiral Dot, Commodore Nutt, Major Atom, General Mite, etc etc.

In 1863, there was another huge burst of publicity when Stratton married fellow little person Lavinia Warren in a lavish ceremony at New York’s prestigious Grace Episcopal Church. The couple arrived in a tiny custom-built wagon drawn by a small pony. Later, on their wedding tour, they met with President Lincoln. Stratton retired from performing in 1878; he died of a stroke 5 years later.

To find out more about the variety arts past and presentconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famousavailable at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold. 

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Don’t miss my new book: Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Mediaalso available from amazon.com etc etc etc

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