Tom Thumb

Published in Issue 1 (January/February 2014), Volume 22

The life-sized statue, commissioned by his friend Barnum, above Stratton’s grave in Mountain Grove Cemetery, Bridgeport, Connecticut.

The life-sized statue, commissioned by his friend Barnum, above Stratton’s grave in Mountain Grove Cemetery, Bridgeport, Connecticut.

In 1883 Tom Thumb died of a stroke. He was aged 45. His friend Barnum commissioned a life-sized statue to be placed above his grave in Connecticut. Tom Thumb’s passing was noted with sadness in Ireland, the Freeman’s Journal averring that ‘he was the most notable dwarf of the century’. Lavinia lived until 1919. Although she remarried, she was buried with her first husband. Barnum also outlived his former protégé. In old age he, too, came to the assistance of the Irish poor. In April 1890 he attended a fund-raising event at the earl of Aberdeen’s residence in London to support the cottage work of distressed Irish women. Aberdeen, a Liberal politician, had served as Irish lord lieutenant in 1886. In that year Barnum had published a letter expressing support for Home Rule and for Charles Stewart Parnell. In 1890 Barnum, a renowned storyteller, entertained about 200 people with talking about his life, the highlight of which was an account of Tom Thumb’s meeting with Queen Victoria. Sadly, it was to be one of Barnum’s last public appearances. The public showman, impresario and self-professed master of ‘humbug’ died in his sleep in April 1891.

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