In 1863, General Tom Thumb married fellow Little Person Lavinia Warren. It would be nice to think that it was a love match, but P.T. Barum was the driving force behind everything Tom Thumb did, so the marriage could have easily been a business arrangement. Barnum turned the wedding at New York City’s Grace Episcopal Church into quite the spectacle. Then, Barnum sent the couple on tour to marry again and again all over the world. I assume that Ali Chapman‘s union is a love match, but Todd Ray isn’t one to let an opportunity go to waste. He’s going to replicate Tom Thumb’s wedding with Ali and her partner, Matt, in the leading roles.
The episode hasn’t aired yet, so I have no information other than the tidbits that AMC has thrown out, but I thought I’d prepare for the party by showing some of my own souvenirs of that long-ago Little People wedding event.
Souvenirs were a big part of the sideshow business. Performers sold them to supplement the take of the show. Giants sold huge rings so the audience could marvel at the size of their fingers long after the show was over. “Pitchcards,” were the common souvenir, sold by many performers. A pitchcard would feature a photograph of the performer and often some information on the performer’s life. Sometimes performers autographed them, particularly if they had no arms and wrote with their feet.
Sideshow souvenirs and images are hot items on eBay, and I have a few, but very few. Bidding is often fierce, especially when the item or the performer is uncommon. My favorite souvenir is my Tom Thumb locket. It’s a little brass locket in the shape of a suitcase. It has the words “Somebody’s Luggage” stamped on it. The locket opens to reveal a little brass series of frames that accordion out. The tiny pictures in the frames are of Tom Thumb and Lavinia Warren.
I find conflicting information on the internet about the number of pictures and the images featured in the locket. I can only assume that there wasn’t a lot of quality control when it came to the production of 1800s sideshow souvenirs. A common theme I find is that some of the images repeat, and I’ve seen different numbers of frames mentioned. My locket has five, with pictures in either side. And, yes, some of them repeat. There are certainly lockets in better condition than mine. I can’t made out all of the images in my locket. However, it’s one of the coolest, oldest things I own, and I like to imagine the excitement of the person who first bought it, all those years ago. I’ve actually seen one claim that the lockets was sold at the church on the wedding day, but I doubt that was the only time they were sold. I’ve also seen someone say that their locket has a picture of Abraham Lincoln in it. Although that seems unlikely, it’s really not, because the couple did have an audience with the president on their wedding day.
I wish Ali and her husband all the best, and I will certainly accept the invitation to watch their wedding from my living room!
(I’ve included my Tom Brady stereoview of the wedding party in my picture, and also a later carte-de-viste of the couple with Lavina’s sister, Minnie, and Commodore Nutt.)