Tom Thumb

Courtesy of the collection of Steven Bolin
The sideshow sensation, Tom Thumb was born Charles Sherwood Stratton on January 4, 1838 in Bridgeport, Connecticut. He started out life as a normal child, born weighing over nine pounds. However, by six months he stopped growing. He experienced various growth spurts throughout his life, and at the time of his death he towered at three feet and four inches, and weight a hearty seventy-five pounds.

Barnum discovered the young Charles while visiting Bridgeport. Upon hearing about the tiny boy, Barnum traveled to his house and convinced his parents to allow the then four year old boy to travel with Barnum. With the boy, Barnum would elevate his American Museum, becoming on the greatest showmen in history.

Barnum began exhibiting him under the name Tom Thumb and lied about his age, stating he was 11. The boy was an instant sensation, 30,000 people paying to see him his opening week. He met many royals while traveling throughout Europe, including Prince Albert and Queen Victoria.

Tom found love in another petite celebrity, Lavinia Warren and the two were married in a lavish ceremony in 1862. Attendees included the most dignified. 2,000 guests in all attended the highly promoted event. Together they traveled the world living the life of celebrity. They were sometimes photographed holding a child, posing as a happy family as seen in this carte de visite. In reality the couple never had children of their own. Later in life, Lavinia claimed she couldn’t have children.

Tom Thumb died of a stroke July 15, 1883. Over 10,000 mourners attended the funeral.

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