Becoming Tom Thumb: Charles Stratton, P. T. Barnum, and the Dawn of American Celebrity

Overview

When P. T. Barnum met twenty-five-inch-tall Charles Stratton at a Bridgeport, Connecticut hotel in 1843, one of the most important partnerships in entertainment history was born. With Barnum’s promotional skills and the miniature Stratton’s comedic talents, they charmed a Who’s Who of the 19th century, from Queen Victoria to Charles Dickens to Abraham Lincoln. Adored worldwide as “General Tom Thumb,” Stratton played to sold-out shows for almost forty years. From his days as a precocious child star to his tragic ...

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Becoming Tom Thumb: Charles Stratton, P. T. Barnum, and the Dawn of American Celebrity

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Overview

When P. T. Barnum met twenty-five-inch-tall Charles Stratton at a Bridgeport, Connecticut hotel in 1843, one of the most important partnerships in entertainment history was born. With Barnum’s promotional skills and the miniature Stratton’s comedic talents, they charmed a Who’s Who of the 19th century, from Queen Victoria to Charles Dickens to Abraham Lincoln. Adored worldwide as “General Tom Thumb,” Stratton played to sold-out shows for almost forty years. From his days as a precocious child star to his tragic early death, Becoming Tom Thumb tells the full story of this iconic figure for the first time. It details his triumphs on the New York stage, his epic celebrity wedding, and his around-the-world tour, drawing on newly available primary sources and interviews. From the mansions of Paris to the deserts of Australia, Stratton’s unique brand of Yankee comedy not only earned him the accolades of millions of fans, it helped move little people out of the side show and into the lime light.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Eric Lehman’s Becoming Tom Thumb hits the sweet spot of celebrity biographies. Its subject is timely, riding on a new wave of interest in historical circuses and sideshows. It chronicles, as far as is possible, the life of Charles Stratton, known as General Tom Thumb, from his birth in Connecticut, through his life as child actor, and his career on the stage as an adult performer. The book is published by Wesleyan, and has won recognition for its focus on evoking 19th century Connecticut, so readers familiar with that part of the country will enjoy this focus. Lehman also works very hard to keep his book scholarly, giving the reader only what can be determined by the facts, and not imagining emotional responses for his subjects, but the book is still highly readable and entertaining. Lehman also presents ‘the General’ as a fully developed human being, recognizing his amazing ability to create a place for himself in a world where he was different. The label of ‘circus studies’ or ‘freak studies’ never limits Lehman and he is able to give his subject the full recognition he deserves.”
—Katie Richards, Portland Book Review

“It is an understatement to say that Charles Stratton is worth a biography. In Lehman’s gentle, entertaining, and informative Becoming Tom Thumb, he has gotten a very good one.”
—Eugene Leach, Connecticut History Review

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Product Details

Meet the Author

ERIC D. LEHMAN teaches travel literature and creative writing at the University of Bridgeport. He is the author of seven books, including Insiders’ Guide to Connecticut and Bridgeport: Tales from the Park City. His essays, reviews, and stories have appeared in dozens of journals and magazines.

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Table of Contents

Preface
Acknowledgments
Prologue: Playing the Palace
The Boy from Bridgeport
At the American Museum
Prince Charles the First
Buttons, Bullfights, and Balloons
Hop O’ My Thumb
Heart of a Child
On the New York Stage
The Measure of a Man
The Wedding of the Year
The Long and Short of It
A Very Strange Honeymoon
Tom Thumb’s America
Around the World
At the Helm
A Marriage and Two Funerals
The Great Fire
At Mountain Grove
Notes
A Note on Sources
Selected Bibliography
Index

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