The Fun Archaeology



Tom Thumb

An antique miniature brass album,
measuring 2,7 × 2 × 1 cm,
depicting the wedding of General Tom Thumb and Lavinia Warren, circa 1863.
The album consists of six brass frames holding 12 albumen prints.
The frames are hinged, accordion-style, and attached between two brass covers,
embossed to resemble a miniature suitcase with the words “Somebody’s Luggage” on the front
(the title of a Charles Dickens book).

The pictures, 2,3 × 2 cm, show the bride, Lavinia Warren; her maid of honor and sister,
Minnie Warren; the groom, Charles Sherwood Stratton, popularly known as General Tom Thumb; and his best man, George Washington Morrison (Commodore) Nutt. There is also an image of Lavinia holding a baby and other people in the wedding party whom have not yet been identi ed.

Charles and Lavinia both worked for the celebrated showman P.T. Barnum, who purchased Scudder’s American Museum in 1841 to present his strange and educational attractions.
Many of his showpieces became famous, with one of the most renowned being the 25-inch-tall dwarf General Tom Thumb, who performed together with Lavinia to admiring audiences in Barnum’s “Greatest Show On Earth.”
The two performers announced their engagement to Barnum in 1862 and he immediately envisioned the money-making potential of such news. He pleaded with Tom Thumb to prolong the engagement, setting a date the following year in order to reap as much nancial bene t from publicity as possible. In early 1863, in the midst of an escalating Civil War, the joyful union between the two “little people” became a sensation in the popular press. Barnum tirelessly promoted the wedding and, by the mid-1860s, “cartes de visite” photographs of the couple were being produced and sold in thousands. On the day of the wedding, Feb. 10, 1863, Tom Thumb and Lavinia Warren were married at Grace Episcopal Church in New York. They arrived in a miniature horse-drawn carriage gifted by Queen Victoria, which attracted thousands of onlookers. For the reception, Barnum charged $75 per ticket (around $1,400 today) and many important guests, including the Vanderbilts and the Astors, attended.
Some special guests received a brass locket containing 12 miniature albumen pictures of the couple: measuring only 1 inch on each side, it may be the smallest wedding album ever. The locket, which can be hung from a necklace, features portraits of the couple taken by one of the earliest American photographers, Mathew B. Brady.
Fast-forward 50 years to the 1930s, and another marriage, this time between Elfriede and Gottlieb Fischer, was dominating the headlines. Both giants, these song-and-dance performers met doing vaudeville. They were wedded in Hamburg in 1933 and became known as the tallest married couple in the world. When they travelled to the United States, they joined the famous Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus and took their act around the country. As well as the Tom Thumb wedding album, the Fun Archaeology includes a ring, measuring 3,4 cm in diameter, sold as a souvenir at one of their performances. The giant rings were made by melting down softer metals — in this case lead — and putting them into specially designed molds to set. The words on this one read: “Tallest Married Couple on Earth.”