No, not a prequel to The Thief, the Cook, His Wife and Her Lover, it’s a CDV by an unidentified photographer of Tom Thumb, his wife, and her sister Minnie Warren.
The latest addition to the collection of Tom Thumb images, this was one I hadn’t seen before. Clipped corners aside, it’s in quite good condition overall. Certainly the image is very clear and sharp, and the print has minimal wear. In the conversation I had with Zoe Trodd, the co-author of Picturing Frederick Douglass, she triggered an interesting thought. The main thesis of Picturing Frederick Douglass is that he is the most-photographed American of the 19th century. I was skeptical of this as his images on the secondary collector market are not common, however the book does document her case rather thoroughly, with 150-some distinct images of him known. This got me to wondering how many different images of my favorite subject to collect are there. I’ll enumerate the Tom Thumb images I have below:
These are the ones I have in my collection. I know there are more out there that I don’t have (one particular one from the wedding, and at least two from the London Stereoscopic Company). This puts me at 15, eighteen if you count the ones I know but don’t have. It’s a far cry from the 150 of Frederick Douglass, but I’m going to keep hunting and collecting and tallying up. Having been a star of stage and circus for most of his life, he was dependent on publicity for his career and would have worked hard to keep his image in the public eye.
When I had previously posted this image, I stated that I didn’t know the identities of everyone, especially the little person on the right, although I had seen him before somewhere. Well, troll Ebay long enough and another image will show up. He’s Colonel Small. The other little man is Commodore Foote. I’m not certain of the identity of the little woman in the middle, but all three were Barnum performers.
I’m feeling a little bit like doing a review of the little people in my collection, so here goes nothing:
I’ve had a devil of a time trying to decipher the photographer’s name on the back – the best I can tell is it’s either H.B. Gerncore or H.L. Ger-something-something. In any case, it’s a beautiful photo of a strikingly proportionate little person. I’m frankly not even entirely sure he’s a little person and not just a pre-teen in a well-tailored suit. But the top hat and tails make it more likely he’s an adult sideshow or circus performer.
Here’s yet another photo of Tom Thumb and company, this time in the outfits they wore to meet Napoleon III. Also an Anthony print, with the facsimile signatures on the back. Again no attribution of the photographer, so while it is possible it’s a Brady, it’s likely not. Notice the hand-coloring of the women’s garlands and the men’s watch chains.
Here are the Thumbs, Commodore Nutt and Minnie Warren in the outfits they wore when presented to Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Given that the image was produced by E&HT Anthony, in all likelihood it was taken by Mathew Brady in New York upon their return to the US after meeting the Queen. The verso contains the usual “Compliments of …” facsimile signatures of the four subjects. This probably was commissioned by P.T. Barnum to sell at his American Museum.
Two more recent acquisitions. One is a solo of Minnie Warren, the sister of Lavinia Warren Stratton (aka Mrs. Tom Thumb). She played maid of honor at her sister’s wedding as a bookend to Commodore Nutt being Tom Thumb’s best man, helping set the stage for P.T. Barnum’s “Fairy Wedding”. This is another in the Brady grouping of photos related to the wedding. Note the E&HT Anthony embossed seal on the card.
Minnie Warren did marry, but not Commodore Nutt – she married yet another little person stage performer, Edmund Newell, aka General Grant Jr or Major Edmund Newell. Minnie died in childbirth in 1878. She is buried in Middleborough, Massachusetts. (What IS it with these ersatz military titles?)
Here is the first Tom Thumb Wedding photo I’ve seen NOT by Brady. This is by the Stereoscopic Company of London which despite its rather pedestrian and industrial name was in fact one of the premier photographic portrait parlors of its day. The Regent Street address if nothing else should be a clue to that.
I’m still trying to figure out who/what the monogram embossed into the verso of the card stands for – CWA? CAW? WAC? I also dig the American flag embossed as well – it appears to have only two rows of stars, which was probably as much artistic license taken trying to fit a readable symbol into the space as anything. I’m a little surprised at the need to mark the image as somehow American – the Thumbs were international superstars and virtually everyone would have known they were Yankees.
Ok, I’ve been waiting for a while to get this one. I originally saw a listing with a copy of this image on Ebay for somewhat north of $300. I debated and debated whether to get it or not. After much consideration, I passed on it, thinking that the signatures on the back were most likely facsimiles, and not original signatures. Patience paid off – another copy (the one I bought) showed up. While not quite as nice a condition, it actually looks much better in person than it does in the scans. My copy had the added benefit of being less than a quarter of the current asking price of the other copy I passed on.
For those not familiar with the subject matter, Charles Stratton, AKA General Tom Thumb, was a star of the P.T. Barnum sideshow and performer from the 1840s to the late 1870s. He was born a relatively large, healthy baby but stopped growing significantly before his second birthday. At his tallest he was 3 feet 4 inches. In 1863, he married another dwarf, Lavinia Warren. His best man was George W.M. Nutt, a fellow dwarf and performer in Barnum’s circus, and Lavinia’s bridesmaid was her younger sister, Minnie, also a dwarf. The event was dubbed “The Fairy Wedding” and was the social event of the year. Two thousand guests packed Grace Episcopal Church in Manhattan. After the wedding, Charles and Lavinia went to Washington where they were received by President Lincoln. Charles, Lavinia, George and Minnie posed for Matthew Brady who went on to sell CDVs of the photo as souvenirs of the wedding through his publisher, E. & H.T. Anthony. This is one of the E. & H.T. Anthony productions.