Famous Little People: General Tom Thumb aka Charles S. Stratton Part 2

About General Tom Thumb or Charles S. Stratton the little person entertainer and his place in United States history.

CHARLES S. STRATTON (1838-1883).

General Tom Thumb.

The next stop was Paris, where the exploitation of The General reached its frenzied peak, culminating in 3 audiences with King Louis-Philippe. The French press had a field day. A cafe was named after Tom Thumb; snuffboxes bore his picture on their lids, and his statue graced hundreds of shop windows. He inspired poems and lithographs, and was elected an honorary member of the French Dramatic Society. His 2 shows a day at the Salle Musard were sold out months in advance.

In Spain, Tom Thumb attended bullfights with Queen Isabella. In Belgium, he was entertained by King Leopold. After 3 years as the toast of the Continent, the midget (Barnum erred when he called him a dwarf) returned to America having become, in Barnum's words, "an educated, accomplished little man."

At 23, The General had grown to 35", 52 lbs. With a more equitable share of the profits (in his lifetime, 20 million people paid to see him), he retired to enjoy the pleasures of his miniature billiard table and his yacht. Then he met Lavinia Warren, Barnum's newest midget attraction. Lavinia was 20 years old, 32" tall and weighed 29 lbs. At 1st sight, Tom Thumb fell head-over-his-little-heels in love. Their wedding, which took place on February 10, 1863, was attended by thousands of people, including governors, congressmen, and millionaires, and thousands more sent gifts. The newlyweds were received at the White House, where President Lincoln observed, apropos of their respective heights, "God likes to do funny things; here you have the long and the short of it."

The couple lived happily in The General's Bridgeport home for 20 years. Tom Thumb grew portly; he also grew extravagant. He owned a sailing sloop, pedigreed horses, and a carriage and driver. He was a 32nd Degree Mason and a Knight Templar. When he died (of apoplexy) at the age of 45, more than 10,000 persons attended his funeral. A life-sized granite statue of himself, which he had commissioned, was placed atop his grave in Bridgeport. Lavinia married again, but when she died in 1919, at the age of 78, she was buried beside Tom Thumb; the words on her headstone read simply, "His Wife."

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