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The Little Circus Man Nicknamed Tom Thumb: Charlie Sherwood Stratton

Updated on October 7, 2014

Tom Thumb Circus Performer

Poor little Charlie, was birthed by two normal-sized parents; so what went wrong with Charlie Stratton? Nothing, according to his distant cousin, a man famed for judging quickly a successful prey. It was Barnum whom started with Bailey to create the circus that became the Ringling Bros & Barnum & Bailey Circus the one so noted from 1907. It was after all, the "Greatest Show on Earth". And there he casted midget Charlie, and Charlie travelled under the stage name of Tom Thumb given to him by P.T. Barnum himself. The label of ”midget” was created by showman P.T. Barnum in the last half of the 19th century. They were tiny humans with no physical deformities.

Tom Thumb was a seventeenth century legendary folktale created and handed down verbally throughout the ages. This little man as big as a thumb was knighted by King Arthur.

Tom Thumb Fairytale

Charlie became a midget celebrity circus performer weighing seventy one pounds and standing less than three and a half feet tall. He was born weighing over nine pounds in Bridgeport Connecticut January 4, 1838, Charlie achieved grand fame under circus pioneer P.T. Barnum. Charlie grew like a normal baby, but after his sixth month, he stopped growing. When he reached the age of four, he was still the same weight and height. P.T. Barnum was a distant relative of Charlie's family and took the opportunity to train Charlie to sing, mime, dance and do impersonations with his circus.

By the age of five Charlie Stratton learned to imitate Cupid and Napoleon Bonaparte.

In his sixth year, Charlie travelled with the circus throughout Europe becaming an international celebrity. During his tour he performed for Queen Victoria and met the Prnice of Wales whom at the time was only three. Another big success for Charlie.

It was February, 1844, and little Charlie was on stage at the Princess’s Theatre in London and the London News called him ‘a little monster’.

Charlie Stratton Marriage to Lavinia

Surprisingly in 1847, when Charlie was nine, he started growing again very slowly, and four years later he reached 2 feet 5 inches tall. In the next nine years, he turned eighteen and sprouted only three more inches.

At age twenty four he joined the Freemasons in October 1862, and was now 2 feet 11 inches.

The next year marked his marriage to midget Lavinia Warren, where they stood on a grand piano with the best man another dwarfGeorge Washington Morrison Nutt with the circus, and maid of honour, Minnie Warren Lavinia's tinier sister in the Metropolitan Hotel in NYC in front of 2,000 guests. Just after the wedding they were presented to President Lincoln at the white house.

At this point Charlie was a very wealthy man, he owned a steam yacht and a fine wardrobe, he also owned a home on one of the Thimble islands. He also had a home that was was constructed for midgets by the people in his town. He later became business partners with Barnum himself after he helped him out of a financial crisis.


Charlie's one last appearance was made in 1878 England. Five years later Charlie and his wife experienced one of the worst fires in history while in Milwaukee at the Newhall house. But here, Charlie and his wife Lavinia were rescued.

Six months after the fire incident, Charlie sadly died of a stroke at age 45. And because he was known as Tom Thumb P.T. Barnum purchased a life-sized statue of Tom Thumb that is at his grave site at the Mountain Grove Cemetary in Bridgeport Connecticut.

Unfortunately, the Thumb mansion has been replaced with commercial buildings in Bridgeport as was his original home. It's sad because it was beautiful farmland at one time. I was also told alot of his original home was custom designed just for midgets.


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