restricted access “The Biggest Little Marriage on Record”: Union and Disunion in Tom Thumb’s America

This article examines the extensive national newspaper coverage of the “Tom Thumb wedding,” the 1863 nuptials of Lavinia Warren and Charles Stratton, two little people performers from P.T. Barnum’s American Museum. The article argues that in the immediate aftermath of Emancipation, the Northern mass media presented the Strattons as idealized representations of whiteness, making their wedding a figure for the purity and unity of white America. At the same time, however, the newspaper coverage of the Strattons upended the traditional assumption that disability bars one from citizenship. The “Tom Thumb wedding” thus provides a unique vantage point from which to reconsider the freak show’s role in the historical production of race, as well as the dynamic relationship between disability, racial identity, and national belonging.