Tom Thumb Collection

Scope and Content

The collection contains playbills, handbills, programmes, music sheet covers, drawings, lithographs, photographs, newspaper and periodical cuttings, letters and personal ephemera relating to the career of Charles Sherwood Stratton - popularly known as General Tom Thumb. The material also refers to Stratton's wife, Lavinia Warren and fellow performers Minnie Lavina Warren (Lavina's younger sister) and George Washington Morrision 'Commodore' Nutt, and their exhibitor, Phineas T Barnam. The collection was made by Bert Shevelove.

Administrative / Biographical History

This collection relates to the career of Charles Sherwood Stratton (January 4, 1838 – July 15, 1883) - popularly known as General Tom Thumb - who was born a dwarf, or person of short stature - never growing more than three feet tall. Stratton was 'discovered' by Phineas T Barnum, a businessman who founded the Barnum and Bailey Circus. Stratton was first exhibited by Barnum in his American Museum in New York in 1842 at the age of five, although Barnum claimed he was eleven. Barnum taught Stratton to sing, dance, mime, smoke cigars and impersonate famous figures including Napoleon Bonaparte and Cupid. In 1844, he made his first appearance at the Princess's Theatre in London and on subsequent tours, charmed both public and royalty in England and on the continent. His marriage to Lavinia Warren in 1863 made front page news and 10,000 people attended the ceremony which Barnum had paid for. Stratton became an international celebrity and wealthy man. He owned a house in a fashionable part of New York, a steam yacht and a wardrobe of fine clothes. Stratton made his final appearance in England in 1878. He died six moths later of a stroke aged forty-five, it is thought that over 10,000 attended his funeral.

Conditions Governing Access

This archive collection is available for consultation in the V&A Blythe House Archive and Library Study Room by appointment only.Full details of access arrangements may be found here: .

Access to some of the material may be restricted. These are noted in the catalogue where relevant.

Conditions Governing Use

Information on copying and commercial reproduction may be found here: .