In 1842, legendary showman, entrepreneur, and curator of “human curiosities” P. T. Barnum discovered his next money-maker: Charles Sherwood Stratton, a four-year-old boy from Bridgeport, Connecticut who, having stopped growing in height since he was six-months-old, was just over two-foot tall. With permission from Stratton’s parents, Barnum soon took Stratton to New York, trained him to sing and dance, and marketed him as ‘General Tom Thumb’; by the time of his death in 1883, Stratton had been exhibited around the world and was a global superstar, his high profile fans including Queen Victoria and Abraham Lincoln. In March of 1847, the former Mayor of New York City, Philip Hone, became one of the millions of people to have paid money to see Stratton. This was his diary entry that evening.
The Diary Entry
Friday, March 12
My wife and I went this morning to see the celebrated Tom Thumb at the American Museum. He appears to have increased in littleness during his European visit. He is said to have realized by showing himself £150,000 sterling, and been kissed by a million pairs of the sweetest lips in Europe, from Queen Victoria down; and now he is making here a thousand dollars a day. He performs four or five times each day to a thousand or twelve hundred persons; dances, sings, appears in a variety of characters with appropriate costumes, is cheerful, gay, and lively, and does not appear to be fatigued or displeased by his incessant labors. He kisses the goodlooking women, a favor which he does not grant indiscriminately, and in one way and another sends his audience away well satisfied with their outlay of a quarter of a dollar each.
The Diary of Philip Hone is long out of print and can be read online at the Internet Archive. Should you wish to learn more about Stratton, Wikipedia is a good place to start.
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