Tag Archives: P.T. Barnum

Major Ray and Wife, Cabinet Card

Yet another in my collection of circus freaks from the late 19th Century. In this scan of the card I’ve deliberately tweaked the scan of the back of the card to make the imprinting more readable. You’ve got to love the fact that their ages were left blank, to be penciled in, but their height and weight were printed. It makes me very suspicious of all three figures – Victorian-era circuses were known for intentionally over/under-stating data to make their particular freaks seem all the more extreme as a draw to customers. “Barnum’s fat man weighed 325 lbs! Ours weighs 450!” when in reality Barnum’s fat man was 275 and theirs just breaks 280. Ditto for giants – many of the circus giants were described as being somewhere between seven and eight feet, when in fact they were a bit north of 6’6″. It would have been hard for the average Victorian to gauge, as they often were paired on stage with little people, and the average height in 1870 was around five feet six inches, as opposed to five feet 10 today, so someone standing six feet nine would have looked even taller. Tom Thumb’s height bounced around in official descriptions of the time as well, frequently knocking three to six inches off his actual height (at his passing at age 45, he was 3 feet 4 inches tall).

Major Ray and Wife, by Wendt
Major Ray and Wife, by Wendt

Frank Wendt was the successor to Charles Eisenmann, taking over Eisenmann’s studio in 1893 upon his death, and running it in New York City until 1898, when he moved to New Jersey. Wendt is best known for photographing circus freaks, but he also worked with the general theatrical trade and more mainstream portrait customers as well. For more information about Wendt, check out Frank Wendt Photographs: The Wondrous World of Frank Wendt

Anonymous CDV, Anonymous Subject, Little Person, CA. 1865-70

Anonymous CDV of Anonymous Little Man
Anonymous CDV of Anonymous Little Man


Another addition to the collection of 19th century “freaks”. This one is totally anonymous – no label of who the subject is, or blind stamp on the verso from the photographer. But it’s clearly an original image from the overall quality – not a copy made from someone else’s CDV or stereo view, which makes it a little surprising to see. Oftentimes when photographers were stealing images of another photographer to reprint and sell, they would leave the back of the carte blank so if the copyright holder tried to track them down it would be much harder, and provide them with a degree of plausible deniability “I was merely selling these on consignment – I didn’t illegally copy them! And by the way, I don’t know who it was that sold me the copies…I think he said his name was Smith… yeah, that’s the ticket”. The subject looks familiar to me but I’m not sure – I bet he can be identified though. He’s quite handsome, bordering on just unusually short, and very well proportioned, unlike some of the circus freak little people performers of the day.

Subjects Identified

Three little people, by CD Fredricks
Three little people, by CD Fredricks

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:

Miss Suzie Reed, by Brady
Miss Suzie Reed, by Brady
Major Littlefinger & Wife, by Eisenmann
Major Littlefinger & Wife, by Eisenmann
The Strattons, George Nutt and Minnie Warren in their Tuilieries outfits
The Strattons, George Nutt and Minnie Warren in their Tuilieries outfits
Unknown Little Person, H.B. Gerncore's Temple of Art
Unknown Little Person, H.B. Gerncore’s Temple of Art
Three little people, by CD Fredricks
Three little people, by CD Fredricks
Tom Thumb and Lavinia Warren, in middle age
Tom Thumb and Lavinia Warren, in middle age
The Thumbs, Commodore Nutt and Minnie Warren, as presented to the Queen
The Thumbs, Commodore Nutt and Minnie Warren, as presented to the Queen
Lavinia Warren Stratton Magri and the Magri Brothers, by Ollivier
Lavinia Warren Stratton Magri and the Magri Brothers, by Ollivier
Anonymous CDV, The Thumbs, at middle age
Anonymous CDV, The Thumbs, at middle age
Mr. Tower, by L.J. Hurd
Mr. Tower, by L.J. Hurd
Mr. Chas. Decker, by Henry Heyde
Mr. Chas. Decker, by Henry Heyde
The Thumbs, by the Stereoscopic Co of London
The Thumbs, by the Stereoscopic Co of London
Minnie Warren, by Brady
Minnie Warren, by Brady
Admiral Dot & Lottie Swartwood By Chas Eisenmann
Admiral Dot & Lottie Swartwood By Chas Eisenmann
General Cardenas, Anonymous Photographer
General Cardenas, Anonymous Photographer
Admiral Dot, published by Anthony, photographer unnamed
Admiral Dot, published by Anthony, photographer unnamed
Tom Thumb by C.D. Fredricks
Tom Thumb by C.D. Fredricks
The Magri Brothers with Lavinia Warren, ca. 1895
The Magri Brothers with Lavinia Warren, ca. 1895
Baron Littlefinger & Family
Baron Littlefinger & Family
Major S.E. Houghton
Major S.E. Houghton
Lavinia Warren Stratton, by C.D. Fredricks
Lavinia Warren Stratton, by C.D. Fredricks
Tom Thumb & Lavinia Warren - Walzl, Photographer, Baltimore
Tom Thumb & Lavinia Warren – Walzl, Photographer, Baltimore
Comic Actor by Gurney
Comic Actor by Gurney
The Rice Family, by J. Wood, The Bowery
The Rice Family, by J. Wood, The Bowery
Nellie Keeler, on Bogardus' Sideboard
Nellie Keeler, on Bogardus’ Sideboard
Tom Thumb and Minnie Warren, in their advancing years
Tom Thumb and Minnie Warren, in their advancing years
Tom Thumb and Lavinia Warren, by Masury of Boston
Tom Thumb and Lavinia Warren, by Masury of Boston
Admiral Dot, published by E&HT Anthony
Admiral Dot, published by E&HT Anthony
Nellie Keeler, by Bogardus
Nellie Keeler, by Bogardus
Sideshow Family, Aledo, Illinois
Sideshow Family, Aledo, Illinois
Waino and Plutano, The Wild Men of Borneo, by Eisenmann
Waino and Plutano, The Wild Men of Borneo, by Eisenmann
Major Atom, by Chas. Eisenmann
Major Atom, by Chas. Eisenmann
The Reception Dress, The Fairy Wedding
The Reception Dress, The Fairy Wedding
George Nutt & Minnie Warren, Groomsman & Bridesmaid
George Nutt & Minnie Warren, Groomsman & Bridesmaid
Tom Thumb, Wife and "child"
Tom Thumb, Wife and “child”
Bride & Groom, The Fairy Wedding
Bride & Groom, The Fairy Wedding
Lavinia Warren Stratton, Mrs. Tom Thumb
Lavinia Warren Stratton, Mrs. Tom Thumb
Fairy Wedding Group #3
Fairy Wedding Group #3
Commodore Nutt and unknown little woman, Anonymous CDV (probably Brady)
Commodore Nutt and unknown little woman, Anonymous CDV (probably Brady)
Commodore Nutt, Mrs. and Mr. Tom Thumb
Commodore Nutt, Mrs. and Mr. Tom Thumb
Brady's Fairy Wedding
The Fairy Wedding, 1863 E&HT Anthony print, Obverse
Nellie Keeler, by Bogardus
Nellie Keeler- by Bogardus

Suzie Reed, one of Barnum’s Little People

Miss Suzie Reed, by Brady
Miss Suzie Reed, by Brady

Here is a CDV of Suzie Reed, another one of Barnum’s Little People. The image is by Brady, even though the backmark just says E. & H.T. Anthony. The image is documented in the Meserve Collection, which was a collection of Brady images assembled by Frederick Hill Meserve that ended up being one of the largest repositories of Brady’s work not held in a museum. Another notable hallmark is the “reaper” clock, which made a regular if infrequent appearance (there are some 60 known images by Brady featuring the clock, but more may exist in the negatives as the clock may have been cropped out of the final prints). There’s a great article about the clock online – Bob Frishman’s Story of the Brady ‘Reaper’ Clock.

Yet More Little People

Unknown Little Person, H.B. Gerncore's Temple of Art
Unknown Little Person, H.B. Gerncore’s Temple of Art

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.

The Strattons, George Nutt and Minnie Warren in their Tuilieries outfits
The Strattons, George Nutt and Minnie Warren in their Tuilieries outfits

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.

Two more little people CDVs – The Thumbs, and a trio…

Tom Thumb and Lavinia Warren, in middle age
Tom Thumb and Lavinia Warren, in middle age

Here’s a CDV of Tom Thumb and Lavinia Warren, in middle age. This is an E&HT Anthony CDV, with the facsimile dedication on the verso. The studio that took the photo is unknown, as it is not credited. It is possible that it is a Brady image, as Anthony owned the Brady negatives in later years, but it is also very possible that it is by someone else who sold the negative to Anthony, or was commissioned by Tom Thumb and/or P.T. Barnum to take the photo.

Three little people, by CD Fredricks
Three little people, by CD Fredricks

This image is NOT Tom Thumb and Lavinia Warren. The little man on the left may be Commodore Nutt, but the woman is definitely not Lavinia Warren OR her sister Minnie, and the little man on the right is definitely not Tom Thumb either. I have seen his image before on other CDVs where it is just him, but I don’t have one of them and I can’t recall the name either. He’s a big name in the 19th century little people sideshow circuit, but I’m drawing a blank (if memory serves, I’ve seen his solo CDVs sell for upwards of $150 each). This CDV is in overall outstanding condition, pinholes at the top of the card mount excepted – the albumen print still looks new.

These were bought as a pair, and were owned by the same individual in the past – it is the same handwriting on the verso that identifies the little people as Tom Thumb and Lavinia Warren (correctly on the one card, wrongly on the other).

Another Tom Thumb, Lavinia Warren, George Nutt and Minnie Warren photo – for Queen Victoria

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.

The Thumbs, Commodore Nutt and Minnie Warren, as presented to the Queen
The Thumbs, Commodore Nutt and Minnie Warren, as presented to the Queen