Lavinia Warren

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Lavinia Warren
Lavinia Warren - Brady-Handy.jpg
Lavinia Warren c. 1860
Mercy Lavinia Warren Bump

(1842-10-16)October 16, 1842
DiedNovember 25, 1919(1919-11-25) (aged 77)
Middleborough, Massachusetts, U.S.
Resting place Mountain Grove Cemetery, Bridgeport, Connecticut
41°10′19″N73°13′29″W / 41.17189°N 73.22465°W / 41.17189; -73.22465
Known for Circus performer
Height32 in (81 cm)

Mercy Lavinia Warren Stratton ( née Bump, October 31, 1842 – November 25, 1919) was an American proportionate dwarf, who was a circus performer and the wife of General Tom Thumb. She was known for her appearance in one silent film, The Lilliputians Courtship (1915).


Early life

Warren was born as Mercy Lavinia Warren Bump at Middleborough, Massachusetts, the daughter of Huldah Pierce (Warren) and James Sullivan Bump. [1] She was distantly descended from a French family named Bonpasse, from Governor Thomas Mayhew, and five Mayflower passengers: John Billington, Francis Cooke, Edward Doty, Stephen Hopkins, and Richard Warren—New England families which intermarried many times over.

Lavinia and her younger sister Minnie Warren had a form of proportionate dwarfism (considered to be desirable by sideshows and "museums" of that era owing to its perfectly miniaturized characteristics, with the same proportions as common larger people) caused by a pituitary disorder which seemingly occurs when close relatives (cousins) descended of identically replicating DNA (twins) produce offspring.

Performing career

The Fairy Wedding The Fairy Wedding group - From photographic negative in Brady's National Portrait Gallery, from photographic negative by Brady. LCCN2017659631.jpg
The Fairy Wedding

After a successful career as a well-respected school teacher, which began at the age of 16, Lavinia went to work as a miniature dancing chanteuse upon a Mississippi showboat owned by a cousin. She enjoyed performing, learned of Tom Thumb's success, alongside the rest of the nation, and pursued a performing career as an adult. Under the management of showman P. T. Barnum, she changed her name from Mercy Lavinia Bump to Lavinia Warren, the stage name she had previously used while performing on the Mississippi River.

In February 1872 she visited England with her husband, sister and Commodore Nutt. They were photographed in Stonehouse, Plymouth, and all four signed the photograph. [2]

Personal life

Wedding photo Charles Sherwood Stratton and Lavinia Warren marriage.jpg
Wedding photo

Romantically pursued by the tiny entertainer Commodore Nutt, her affections belonged to General Tom Thumb from their first introduction. Lavinia met General Tom Thumb while working at Barnum's American Museum. Their wedding was one of the biggest events in nineteenth century New York. She was married in an elaborate ceremony to Tom Thumb on February 10, 1863 at Grace Episcopal Church and the wedding reception was held at the Metropolitan Hotel which included the couple greeting guests from atop the grand piano. Her sister Minnie Warren was her bridesmaid. While admission to the actual wedding was free, Barnum sold tickets to the reception for $75 each to the first five thousand to apply. After the couple was married, their fame grew even greater.

Though their fame afforded Lavinia and General Tom Thumb a life of luxury, it came with downsides. Lavinia and Tom were presented as childlike to the public by P.T. Barnum. This was an advertising strategy to make the audience feel sympathetic for them in order to sell more tickets. Though they were some of the most famous people in America at the time, due to the way they were presented, people treated them like children. Many people Lavinia met wanted to pet her and hold her. She wrote in her autobiography "It seemed impossible, to make people understand at first that I was not a child; that, being a woman, I had the womanly instinct of shrinking from a form of familiarity which in the case of a child of my size would have been as natural as it was permissible." [3] Even though Lavinia was not extremely fond of how she was viewed by the public, she still continued to perform. Since Lavinia's life revolved around her presence in the media, she once said "I belong to the public." [3]

The apparent baby of Lavinia Stratton and her husband General Tom Thumb Lavinia Warren Stratton Baby.jpg
The apparent baby of Lavinia Stratton and her husband General Tom Thumb

Together, Tom Thumb and Lavinia Warren became famous. President Abraham Lincoln and his wife provided a reception for the new couple at the White House. Tiffany and Co. gave a silver coach to the couple. They amassed and spent a fortune over the course of their life together which would have made them millionaires by today's standards. They had no actual children, though they did pretend to in the public eye (pictured).

Minnie, who grew to be 27 inches (69 cm) high, also married a little person in P.T. Barnum's employ: Major Edward Newell. She became pregnant with a normal-sized child, but excitement was cut short by tragedy on July 23, 1878 when Minnie and her 6 pounds (2.7 kg)-baby died during the birthing. Several years later on January 10, 1883, Lavinia and her husband stayed at Newhall House in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on the day it caught fire. They were narrowly rescued by their friend and manager, Sylvester Bleeker, from what had been referred to as "one of the worst hotel fires in American history." Within 6 months, on July 15, 1883, her husband suddenly died at age 45 of a stroke.

Two years after her husband's death, Lavinia married an Italian dwarf, Count Primo Magri, and they operated a famous roadside stand in Middleborough, Massachusetts. At age 73, she appeared alongside Count Magri in a 1915 silent film, The Lilliputian's Courtship.


Warren died on November 25, 1919, at the age of 77 and is buried next to her first husband with a simple gravestone that reads: "His Wife."

See also


  1. Charles Stratton ("General Tom Thumb") and his bride Lavinia Warren, alongside her sister Minnie and George Washington Morrison Nutt ("Commodore Nutt"); entertainers associated with P.T. Barnum.
  2. From left to right: George Washington Morrison Nutt, Charles Stratton, Lavinia Warren, Minnie Warren

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  2. See images: File:JE Palmer 027.jpg and File:JE Palmer 027a.jpg
  3. 1 2 Nielsen, Kim (2010). A Disability History of the United States. United States of America: Beacon Press. p. 171.