Who was Tom Thumb?

Hold on just one second, Amy. No, I can't give you information about Tom Thumb right now. I'm just finishing a poem. 

Seriously, I can't listen to you right now. Just give me a minute, will you? Grrrr. Now you've got me growling. 



             It's an emergency?





Tom Thumb bit you when you were sleeping? 

Honestly, Amy, you know that's not an emergency. And it has nothing to do with Tom Thumb.
Oh, I get it. Tom Thumb is what the family you live with has named the cat. They said it's because he's so small?
Well, there really is a well known Tom Thumb in the mid 1800s. He's only 2 feet tall, or 61 cm, and I'm pretty sure this is why they've named this tiny cat Tom Thumb.

Tom Thumb's real name is Charles Sherwood Stratton, and in 1868 he is 30 years old. He is a little person who has already achieved a lot of fame working as a performer for the great circus owner, P.T. Barnum.

Born is Connecticut, USA, Charles is the son of a carpenter of medium height. His mother is of average height as well. He grew normally during the first six months of life, but stopped growing after that time. His several siblings are all of normal size.

Victorians are very curious about unusual differences in others in the 19th century and enjoy going to freak shows. This is how Charles has become famous.

P.T. Barnum is a distant relative of the Stratton family, and heard about Charles from his parents. Charles' father gave Barnum his blessing to take Charles under his wing. Barnum taught Charles - now named Tom Thumb - to sing, dance and impersonate historical figures. 

Tom Thumb made his first tour of the United States at the age of five. The tour was a major success. One year later, Barnum took Charles on a tour across Europe. Tom Thumb became an instant celebrity. He was like a rock star in today's world; crowds gathered wherever he went.

You might be wondering if Charles grew at all at this point. Indeed he did, but by 1851 he was still only 2 feet 5 inches tall, or 74 cm. By his 18th birthday, his height was 2 feet 8.5 inches, or 82.6 cm. 

In 1863, Charles married another little person, Lavinia Warren, in New York City. The news of the large wedding, held at the Metropolitan Hotel (there were 10,000 guests) travelled around the world. Lavinia's younger sister, also a little person, was the maid of honour. Another little person, also working for Barnum, was Charles' best man.

Charles is a wealthy man in 1868. He has purchased a home in New York city and another one on an island in Connecticut. 
He will make his final appearance in England in 1878, but unfortunately will die suddenly of a stroke six months later at the age of 45.
By the 1890s the popularity of freak shows will begin to decline; many nations will begin to ban them. The people known as "freaks" at this time, will perform in travelling shows and carnivals in order to make a living, and also to live with others who understand and embrace each of their circumstances, unique abilities and talents.