By Eric D. Lehman
When P. T. Barnum met twenty-five-inch-tall Charles Stratton at a Bridgeport, Connecticut resort in 1843, probably the most vital partnerships in leisure historical past used to be born. With Barnum’s promotional abilities and the miniature Stratton’s comedic skills, they charmed a Who’s Who of the nineteenth century, from Queen Victoria to Charles Dickens to Abraham Lincoln. loved world wide as “General Tom Thumb,” Stratton performed to sold-out indicates for nearly 40 years. From his days as a precocious baby famous person to his tragic early demise, Becoming Tom Thumb tells the entire tale of this iconic determine for the 1st time. It information his triumphs at the ny degree, his epic big name marriage ceremony, and his around-the-world journey, drawing on newly to be had basic assets and interviews. From the mansions of Paris to the deserts of Australia, Stratton’s particular model of american comedy not just earned him the accolades of thousands of enthusiasts, it helped movement little humans out of the aspect express and into the lime light.
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Extra resources for Becoming Tom Thumb: Charles Stratton, P. T. Barnum, and the Dawn of American Celebrity
Success builds on success, and before “Tom Thumb” he had only had minor victories and major failures, with somewhat profitable fakes like the Fejee Mermaid and 34 At the American Museum Joice Heth, and forgettable hoaxes like the wooly horse and a cherry- colored cat. 37 As a Pennsylvania newspaper said twenty years later, Charles was “perfectly formed, graceful in every movement, with a shrewdness and wit worthy of his country . . ” People expected a humbug, a baby dressed in adult clothes or a mirror illusion, but when they saw him their disbelief evaporated, and suddenly the world was full of wonders again.
His small size had launched him into the world of entertainment. His talent, intelligence, and skill would keep him there. 19 At the American Museum M useums in the United States were still experiencing an uncertain childhood. Were their primary purposes to provide academic settings for elites? Education for the public? Entertainment? Or were they simply “repositories” of curiosities, as Dr. Johnson defined them in his 1755 dictionary? The first small American museum was founded in Charleston, South Carolina in 1773, followed by a variety of societies and academies interested in promoting the development of knowledge, all with varying levels of capability and finances.
26 And in fact this seems to be the case and not just propaganda. Until 1883 there is only one report of Charles being too ill to perform, despite working long hours, traveling constantly, and smoking daily cigars. Nevertheless, he had to prove his health repeatedly to a society that thought of dwarfs as perpetually weak and sickly. And although child actors were fairly common, concern for their health was just as prevalent as it is today. 27 Since Charles was even younger and much smaller, this issue was no doubt brought up by members of the audience quite often.
Becoming Tom Thumb: Charles Stratton, P. T. Barnum, and the Dawn of American Celebrity by Eric D. Lehman