Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Charles Sherwood Stratton
For the similarly named governor of New Jersey, see Charles C. Stratton.
General Tom Thumb was the stage name of Charles Sherwood Stratton (January 4, 1838July 15, 1883), a midget who achieved great fame under circus pioneer P.T. Barnum. Stratton was a son of a Bridgeport, Connecticut, carpenter. He was born in Bridgeport, CT.

Charles Sherwood Stratton Under Barnum
Stratton's marriage on February 10, 1863, to another little person, Lavinia Warren, was front-page news. The wedding took place at Grace Episcopal Church and the wedding reception was held at the Metropolitan Hotel.They stood atop a grand piano in New York City's Metropolitan Hotel to greet some 2,000 guests. The best man at the wedding was George Washington Morrison ("Commodore") Nutt, another midget performer in Barnum's employ. The maid of honor was Minnie Warren, Lavinia's even smaller sister. Following the wedding, the couple was received by President Lincoln at the White House. In 1868, Stratton was 2 feet 11 inches tall and finally reached 3 feet in the early 1870s.
Under Barnum's management, Stratton became a wealthy man. He owned a house in the fashionable part of New York and a steam yacht and had a wardrobe of fine clothes. He owned a specially adapted home on one of Connecticut's Thimble Islands. When Barnum got into financial difficulty, Stratton bailed him out. Later, they became business partners. Stratton made his final appearance in England in 1878.
On January 10, 1883, Stratton was staying at the Newhall House in Milwaukee when a fire began on the first floor. More than 71 people died in what Milwaukee historian John Gurda calls "one of the worst hotel fires in American history." Luckily, Tom and Lavinia were saved by their manager, Sylvester Bleeker. Over 10,000 people attended the funeral. P.T. Barnum purchased a life-sized statue of Tom Thumb and placed it as a grave stone at Mountain Grove Cemetery, Bridgeport. Lavinia Warren is interred next to him with a simple grave stone that reads "His Wife".
It is very likely that Stratton's extreme shortness was caused by damage to, or the malfunctioning of, his pituitary gland. X-rays were not discovered until 1895, 12 years after Stratton died, so no one during his lifetime was able to determine the medical cause of his growth problems. It wasn't until 1915 that it was determined that the pituitary gland was responsible for the Human Growth Hormone.

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