The Lost Museum Archive

"Marriage A La Barnum," Brooklyn Eagle, January 26, 1863

The February 10, 1863, wedding of Charles Stratton and Lavinia Warren, known to the public as General Tom Thumb and his bride, occasioned voluminous press coverage not unlike the attention lavished on celebrity weddings today. This article from the Brooklyn Eagle newspaper was more critical than other coverage, however, chastising Barnum and the Episcopal clergy for allowing the crass comercialism of the heavily promoted wedding to take place in a "house of God."

Flunkeydom in England is in a great flutter over the impending marriage of the Prince of Wales, and New York, through the ingenuity of Barnum, has been entertained with a similar sensation on a smaller scale, about the nuptials of a pair of dwarfs whom the great showman has taken under his protection. Everybody has doubtless heard that the well known General Tom Thumb and a diminutive young lady named Miss Lavinia Warren were to be married. Under ordinary circumstances the marriage of a couple whose physical bulk united would scarcely match the dimensions of one average sized human being, would excite public interest. But Barnum, with an eye to profit, seeing the advertising advantages of such a wedding, has dosed the public daily with paragraphs in the New York papers concerning the nuptial preparations. There could be no objection to this if confined to secular matters. Mr. Stratton, alias Tom Thumb, and Miss Warren have a perfect right to avail themselves of their physical peculiarities to make money, and if they choose to allow Mr. Barnum to unveil all the sanctities of their private life to the public gaze for the sake of profit, not one has a right to object, as both these little folks are said to have attained to the years of discretion, and to possess a more than ordinary share of shrewdness and intelligence. But when Mr. Barnum brings the church and its solemn rites into his show business, he outrages public decency. It has been openly advertised that the marriage services would be performed by Bishop Potter, in one of the fashionable churches, into which no one would be admitted without a ticket, the pews being reserved like seats at the opera, for the performance. To keep up the sensation there was some objection raised to the use of a particular church, and a correspondence is kept up on the subject. We are surprised that the clergy, or representatives of so respectable a body as the Episcopal Church should, for a moment, allow themselves to be used by this Yankee showman to advertise his business; or that a Bishop should allow himself to be exhibited like the Albino, or the What is it. Should he do so, the fittest place for the exhibition would be the American Museum; and not in a house dedicated to the services of a holy religion. It is bad enough to turn the solemn rites of marriage into a public entertainment for the gaping crowd of morbid curiosity hunters, without profaning the house of God with such an exhibition.