Charles Sherwood Stratton was born as a little person, or dwarf, at a time when the options for a person with such unique abilities were not very great. Tom Thumb Day was founded to celebrate this famous actor who was known professionally as General Tom Thumb.
History of Tom Thumb Day
Born in Connecticut in 1838, Charles Sherwood Stratton was a relatively large baby and grew normally for the first six months of his life until he suddenly stopped growing. For the next six months, he barely grew although he had all of the normal functions of children his age. He remained just over two feet tall until he was nine years old and then slowly started growing to his final height of 35 inches.
When P.T. Barnum, of circus fame, heard about Stratton, he took the boy under his wing, teaching him to sing, dance, and even impersonate famous people. Barnum marketed the act as “General Tom Thumb”, and it shot Stratton to fame in his time. He even performed for royals like Queen Victoria and the Prince of Wales (future King Edward VII). After his wedding to Lavinia Warren, Stratton and his new wife were even received at the White House by then US President Abraham Lincoln.
Stratton’s act as General Tom Thumb included impersonating famous characters such as Napoleon and Cupid. In addition, he often performed full length fairytale plays for Barnum. While many people felt that he was taken advantage of for his size, others believe his fame was most notable and due to his talent as a professional entertainer. Eventually, after becoming very wealthy in his own right, Stratton became business partners with Barnum and bailed him out of financial difficulty.
Tom Thumb Day is celebrated each year on January 4 because it is the birthday of Charles Sherman Stratton. The day is meant to celebrate the life and talent of Stratton, as well as encouraging others with unique features, including little people, to work hard, overcome barriers and reach for their potential.
How to Celebrate Tom Thumb Day
No matter how small or large, enjoy and celebrate Tom Thumb Day with some of these ideas:
Learn More About Tom Thumb
Tom Thumb Day is the perfect time to learn more about the stage character, General Tom Thumb, as well as the man behind him, Charles Sherman Stratton. Whether reading a book or watching a documentary, get more educated and informed about his life, his struggles and his reality being a little person in the late 1800s.
Embrace and Encourage Differences
Perhaps it is a person who is small, someone with different colored skin or a person with a disability of some kind. Whatever the difference, spend some time on Tom Thumb Day, remembering and appreciating those who have made their way forward against all odds. Take time to send a card to a friend or family member who has overcome barriers or made their way through difficult times. Encourage that underdog and cheer on someone in celebration of Tom Thumb Day!