Tom Thumb Day

Tom Thumb Day is observed next on Wednesday, January 4th, 2023 (29 days from today).

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Tom

Charles Sherwood Stratton, known as "General Tom Thumb", was born on January 4th in 1838, in Bridgeport, Connecticut. He was a dwarf but achieved great fame as a performer.

Despite being born with a normal size, when he was six years old, he was 25 inches long and weighed 15 pounds. It means he stopped growing up more; the reason might be that he met a problem with the pituitary gland, such as Growth Hormone Deficiency. It was not until the age of nine that he started to grow again – but at a slow pace - and he was only 2 feet, 8 inches tall when he was at the age of 18. He continued to grow throughout his life and eventually reached 3 feet, 4 inches in height and 70 pounds in weight.

Stratton met circus impresario P.T. Barnum at his age of four. Then Barnum became his manager and started to teach Stratton how to sing, dance, mime, and make impersonations. As the result, Stratton became one of the great people at Barnum's American Museum in New York City, where he arrived on December 8, 1842.

Firstly, Stratton was advertised as an eleven-year-old dwarf from England named General Tom Thumb, when in fact he was from the US and just turned five. Barnum took the name "Tom Thumb" from British folklore. Stratton, or General Tom Thumb, is dressed on stage and plays various characters like Napoleon. His salary rose from three dollars a week to fifty dollars a week in a short span of time.

General Tom Thumb began touring around the US at the age of 5 and Europe at the age of 6. He was invited to perform at Buckingham Palace, and to see Victoria Queen, performing his songs, dances and imitations. Young Edward VII was also the listener and met General Tom Thumb after his performance. His appearance at the palace made him a star in London, and he then walked around the city in a small carriage. Then he performed in other European capitals.

He toured across America in 1856, and the following year he toured again in Europe. He married another dwarf working for Barnum, Livinia Warren, who was known as the "Little Beauty Queen" in 1863. Their wedding was held at Grace Episcopal Church in New York City with more 10,000 guests. They stopped at the White House on their honeymoon and met with President Lincoln. They continued to do a three-year world tour in the late 1860s.

General Tom Thumb has amassed a fortune over the course of his career, enjoying a luxurious home, a steam yacht and beautiful clothes. In addition, when P.T. Barnum found himself in financial trouble, Thumb was the one to help. He performed with his wife until the 1880s, and then they retired in Middleboro, Massachusetts. Charles Sherwood Stratton died of a stroke at the age of 45, on July 15, 1883. On January 4th annually, we celebrate his birthday.

Stratton died of a stroke six months after surviving the Newhall House fire. He is 45 years old. More than 20,000 people attended the funeral. P. T. Barnum purchased a real human statue of the Thumb Tom and placed it as a tombstone at Mountain Grove Cemetery in Bridgeport, Connecticut.

In 1959, vandals broke the Tom Thumb statue. The Barnum Festival Association and the Mountain Grove Cemetery Association with funds raised by public registration restored it.

It is still not clear what caused Stratton's ultra-shortness. X-rays were not discovered until 1895, 12 years after Stratton's death, and the medical techniques of the time were unable to ascertain the pathology (if any) inside his tiny size.

How to Celebrate Tom Thumb Day

Below are some ideas for us to celebrate the legacy of General Tom Thumb:

  • Read The Remarkable Courtship of General Tom Thumb: A Novel or Barnum Presents General Tom Thumb.
  • Watch History's Smallest Superstar.
  • View photos of him.
  • Visit his grave.
  • Visit the Barnum Museum.
  • Come and visit the Middleborough Historical Museum, and stop at one of his homes, also located in Middleborough.

Observed

Tom Thumb Day has been observed annually on January 4th.

Dates

Monday, January 4th, 2021

Tuesday, January 4th, 2022

Wednesday, January 4th, 2023

Thursday, January 4th, 2024

Saturday, January 4th, 2025

Also on Wednesday, January 4th, 2023

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