Charles Sherwood Stratton or General Tom Thumb plus latest finds

One of my latest finds has been three Victorian Albums, each holding about fifty CDV and Cabinet cards, these albums also had about another fifty loose CDVs too. They apparently were all from the same family, the chap I bought them from goes to a lot of auctions and fairs around the country, and I have bought old photos from him before, so he let me buy them from him at a very reasonable price…an early Christmas pressie !
I spent all one evening very carefully taking the photo cards all out of the albums, ready for scanning..(I use tweezers) Some of the CDVs are a bit different too, I found my very first Dog portrait, all on his own without his owner……….the family obviously animal lovers, and back of the CDV written on too with a date 🙂

I haven’t as yet been able to identify the family who owned these albums, but as always I am hopeful of maybe finding a name that I can link up to..this is another of the CDVs a lovely family portrait taken in Yarmouth..

But is it THE family or just extended family or friends even ?
Another one that took my eye is this young child below, pencilled on the back ‘June 1869’…

Another child portrait that one album contained, is a very sad one……no name or date on this..

Then there is this one..comedy of its time…although for me I find it a bit uncomfortable, like the previous photo…as the child is in such distress here…there are two of these cards very similar, of the same child but with different writing..

But the interesting find for me so far,  is this wonderful CDV card below..pencilled at the bottom..
‘Tom Thumb, wife and child’ by  London photographers….People collected cards like this of famous people as they were such a fascination to them…

General Tom Thumb was the stage name for Charles Sherwood Stratton,  born 4th January 1838 Bridgeport, Connecticut..died 15 July 1882 Bridgeport, Connecticut....
Discovered and made famous by P.T.Barnum (Phineas Taylor Barnum)… From age four, Barnum taught Charles to sing,dance, mime, and impersonate famous people. Barnum also went into business with Stratton’s father, who died in 1855. Stratton made his first tour of America at the age of five, with routines that included impersonating characters such as Cupid and Napoleon as well as singing, dancing and comical banter with another performer who acted as a straight man, It was a huge success and the tour expanded.
Charles became an international celebrity after touring Europe, and met many famous people of the time including Queen Victoria at Buckingham Palace.

Here’s just two of many newspaper articles about Tom Thumb

On his 18th birthday, he was measured at 2 feet 8 and a half inches tall.
 On 10th February 1863 Charles married Lavinia Warren, she was actually also being wooed by another little person ‘Commodore Nutt’  (George Washington Morrison Nutt) but Charles beat him to it by proposing to Lavinia…George acted as Charles best man at the wedding and Lavinia’s sister Minnie Warren (also a little person) was a bridesmaid.

Another of the advertising pages about Tom Thumb after marriage

George and Minnie were both employed by Barnum, and toured with Charles and Lavinia.
Charles became a very wealthy man and owned a home in New York and specially adapted homes in Connecticut and Middleborough, Massachusetts.
In later years when Barnum became broke, Charles helped him out financially and they became partners…Charles and Lavinia’s last trip to England was in 1878.
There has been such a lot written about ‘Tom Thumb’ and his wife, its a job to know what is absolute fact ! But it seems that after Charles and Lavinia married, Barnum thought it a great idea for them to have a child.
He knew the public would adore it, but it was deemed out of the question, as there was a risk the foetus could grow to normal size and kill Lavinia. 
But Barnum had the answer, in the form of secretly hiring a baby from a foundling hospital in whatever place they visited. Such Exploitation !!!
As a result, in November 1864, ‘General and Mrs Tom Thumb’ arrived in Liverpool with their ‘daughter’ Minnie. The public loved it, and newspapers even remarked on how the infant took after her father. Once again Stratton was a guest of royalty – this time visiting the Prince and Princess of Wales at their home, with the Princess billing and cooing over the baby.
I have read lots of reports of the time with conflicting tales, so we will probably never know the whole story about their ‘daughter’…she does look remarkably like them, could she possibly have been a relative I wonder? …..this did not end well, as sadly while here in the UK in 1866 this was reported in the newspapers
September 1866
“DEATH OF THE INFANT DAUGHTER OF GENERAL TOM THUMB…..On the 15th, Minnie Stratton, or, as the child used to call herself, Minnie Tom Thumb, the infant daughter of General and Mrs. Tom Thumb, died at the Norfolk Hotel, Norwich. The child was left some days since at the hotel in charge of her nurse, while her her parents were on a professional visit to Yarmouth and Lowestoft. About a week since it was taken ill and two medical men were called in; they failed, however, to allay her sufferings, and it died from inflammation of the brain. Mrs. Tom Thumb was sent for; she arrived in Norwich on the 20th, and remained in attendance on the little sufferer till death took place.”
Little Minnie Warren Stratton was buried on the 26th September 1866 at St Gregory’s, Norwich, Norfolk.
At the burial and on the birth certificate it states that Charles was her father.
Apparently after the child’s death Charles and Lavinia were said to be distraught and actually cancelled several shows, which was unheard of by them.
Maybe the young child was related to them or even actually theirs after all.
The following year this was one of the newspaper adverts for their show in the Edinburgh Evening Courant on February 13th 1867..

 Giving people a last chance to see the famous couple……
Lavinia’s younger sister Minnie (Huldah Pierce Warren Bump) married Edward Newell, also a little person,   in July 1877 in Lock Haven, Pennsylvania. Tragically she died in childbirth in 1878, understandably Charles and Lavinia were heartbroken and Barnum apparently persuaded them to go back touring because they were becoming so depressed.
Charles died suddenly of a stroke while at home at age 45 on July 15th 1883, while Lavinia was on the road touring.
He was buried in Mountain Grove Cemetery, Bridgeport, Connecticut.
Lavinia later married an Italian little person, Count Primo Magri, they operated a roadside stand in Middleborough, Massachusetts. She died age 78 on 25 November 1919 and was buried next to her first love Charles, her headstone says ‘His Wife’
All this information I have found at various sources on the internet ..Wikipedia..various Museums and Libraries in America, Bridgeport Library being one, some wonderful Blogs have been written about the couple, including these excellent two  Sideshow Ephemera Gallery  
and Sideshow Slideshow
Also while searching I came across an amazing coincidence, I discovered that Lord Grade had presented a program all about ‘Tom Thumb’ this last week on BBC4, I missed it but watched it on iplayer..
here’s the Blog on BBC website about it    BBC BLOG Tom Thumb 
The program was absolutely fascinating and takes you on a journey through Charles and Lavinia’s lives visiting the places they lived and worked…well worth a watch as Lord Grade also gained access to their last home.

Till next time then………………

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