The First Steam Locomotive, used by the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. Built in 1828.

Charles Sherwood Stratton (Tom Thumb) was born Jan. 4, 1838, in Bridgeport, Conn., to Sherwood Edward Stratton, a carpenter, and his wife, Cynthia, both of whom were of normal size. He was a fairly big child, weighing 9 pounds at birth. He grew normally for his first 5 months of life, reaching a length of 25 inches and a weight of 15 pounds, but then he simply quit growing. Other than his height, however, Charles was a normal, healthy person. He was what was known as a midget, which in those times meant a short person of normal proportions. Dwarves were then the name given to short people who had long trunks, big heads, and short limbs. Today little person is the "politically correct" term to use for both, and midget is considered derogatory.

Sherwood was discovered at age 5 by P. T. Barnum, who taught him to dance, sing, mime, and act. Sherwood was given the stage name General Tom Thumb and traveled the world in the company of Barnum, meeting with and performing for various leaders and royalty, including Abraham Lincoln, Queen Victoria, and Prince Albert. His parents accompanied him in all his travels. His starting wage at age 5 was 4 dollars a week with all expenses paid, and by 1844 he was making fifty dollars a week, with his parents and his traveling and living expenses paid.

Tom Thumb first went to Europe in 1844. His first performance there was at the Princess's Theatre where he was an instant success. Thumb, his parents and P. T. Barnum moved into the exclusive West End of London, where they began receiving a constant stream of the wealthy and the nobility of Europe. One of the early invitations to dinner that the party received was from the Baroness Rothschild, the wife of the richest banker in the world. Barnum engaged the Egyptian Hall in Picadilly and began a series of wildy successful public appearances by General Tom Thumb. At last, however, the most coveted of invitations arrived: an audience at Buckingham Palace with her majesty the Queen.

On the appointed evening, Barnum and Thumb arrived at the palace and were escorted into a room where Queen and Prince Albert, the Duchess of Kent, the Duke of Wellington, and others awaited them. Tom Thumb proceeded to thoroughly charm the entire party. When Thumb was exiting, however, the scene occurred which forever endeared him to the Queen. Tom Thumb and his party were exiting the room in the proper manner, which was backing out facing the Queen. When Tom, with his short legs, realized that he was losing ground and not keeping up with the rest of his party, he turned and ran a few steps to catch up then turned and resumed backing. This so entertained the royal spectators that soon the gallery rang with their laughter. This excited the Queen's favorite poodle dog, who commenced barking and startled the General so much that he began attacking the dog with his little cane, which renewed and increased the merriment of the royal party. After that, Tom could do no wrong in the Queen of England's eyes. This added to Thumb's popularity both in Europe and back in the United States, where he was a particular favorite of President and Mrs. Abraham Lincoln.

In 1863 Tom Thumb married Lavinia Warren in New York in front of over 2,000 wedding guests. It was the most celebrated wedding of its time, and beside many well known people attending the ceremony, President and Mrs. Lincoln sent gifts. To receive their guests, the bride (a dwarf herself) and groom stood atop a grand piano.

Tom Thumb died of a stroke on July 15, 1883. His funeral was attended by more than 10,000 people. He is buried in Mountain Grove Cemetery in Bridgeport, Connecticut. The statue of him, on top of his headstone is life size.

A fairy tale from the Grimm brothers. This text is in the public domain. More fairy tales here.

A poor woodman sat in his cottage one night, smoking his pipe by the fireside, while his wife sat by his side spinning. 'How lonely it is, wife,' said he, as he puffed out a long curl of smoke, 'for you and me to sit here by ourselves, without any children to play about and amuse us while other people seem so happy and merry with their children!' 'What you say is very true,' said the wife, sighing, and turning round her wheel; 'how happy should I be if I had but one child! If it were ever so small--nay, if it were no bigger than my thumb--I should be very happy, and love it dearly.' Now--odd as you may think it--it came to pass that this good woman's wish was fulfilled, just in the very way she had wished it; for, not long afterwards, she had a little boy, who was quite healthy and strong, but was not much bigger than my thumb. So they said, 'Well, we cannot say we have not got what we wished for, and, little as he is, we will love him dearly.' And they called him Thomas Thumb.

They gave him plenty of food, yet for all they could do he never grew bigger, but kept just the same size as he had been when he was born. Still, his eyes were sharp and sparkling, and he soon showed himself to be a clever little fellow, who always knew well what he was about.

One day, as the woodman was getting ready to go into the wood to cut fuel, he said, 'I wish I had someone to bring the cart after me, for I want to make haste.' 'Oh, father,' cried Tom, 'I will take care of that; the cart shall be in the wood by the time you want it.' Then the woodman laughed, and said, 'How can that be? you cannot reach up to the horse's bridle.' 'Never mind that, father,' said Tom; 'if my mother will only harness the horse, I will get into his ear and tell him which way to go.' 'Well,' said the father, 'we will try for once.'

When the time came the mother harnessed the horse to the cart, and put Tom into his ear; and as he sat there the little man told the beast how to go, crying out, 'Go on!' and 'Stop!' as he wanted: and thus the horse went on just as well as if the woodman had driven it himself into the wood. It happened that as the horse was going a little too fast, and Tom was calling out, 'Gently! gently!' two strangers came up. 'What an odd thing that is!' said one: 'there is a cart going along, and I hear a carter talking to the horse, but yet I can see no one.' 'That is queer, indeed,' said the other; 'let us follow the cart, and see where it goes.' So they went on into the wood, till at last they came to the place where the woodman was. Then Tom Thumb, seeing his father, cried out, 'See, father, here I am with the cart, all right and safe! now take me down!' So his father took hold of the horse with one hand, and with the other took his son out of the horse's ear, and put him down upon a straw, where he sat as merry as you please.

The two strangers were all this time looking on, and did not know what to say for wonder. At last one took the other aside, and said, 'That little urchin will make our fortune, if we can get him, and carry him about from town to town as a show; we must buy him.' So they went up to the woodman, and asked him what he would take for the little man. 'He will be better off,' said they, 'with us than with you.' 'I won't sell him at all,' said the father; 'my own flesh and blood is dearer to me than all the silver and gold in the world.' But Tom, hearing of the bargain they wanted to make, crept up his father's coat to his shoulder and whispered in his ear, 'Take the money, father, and let them have me; I'll soon come back to you.'

So the woodman at last said he would sell Tom to the strangers for a large piece of gold, and they paid the price. 'Where would you like to sit?' said one of them. 'Oh, put me on the rim of your hat; that will be a nice gallery for me; I can walk about there and see the country as we go along.' So they did as he wished; and when Tom had taken leave of his father they took him away with them.

They journeyed on till it began to be dusky, and then the little man said, 'Let me get down, I'm tired.' So the man took off his hat, and put him down on a clod of earth, in a ploughed field by the side of the road. But Tom ran about amongst the furrows, and at last slipped into an old mouse-hole. 'Good night, my masters!' said he, 'I'm off! mind and look sharp after me the next time.' Then they ran at once to the place, and poked the ends of their sticks into the mouse-hole, but all in vain; Tom only crawled farther and farther in; and at last it became quite dark, so that they were forced to go their way without their prize, as sulky as could be.

When Tom found they were gone, he came out of his hiding-place. 'What dangerous walking it is,' said he, 'in this ploughed field! If I were to fall from one of these great clods, I should undoubtedly break my neck.' At last, by good luck, he found a large empty snail-shell. 'This is lucky,' said he, 'I can sleep here very well'; and in he crept.

Just as he was falling asleep, he heard two men passing by, chatting together; and one said to the other, 'How can we rob that rich parson's house of his silver and gold?' 'I'll tell you!' cried Tom. 'What noise was that?' said the thief, frightened; 'I'm sure I heard someone speak.' They stood still listening, and Tom said, 'Take me with you, and I'll soon show you how to get the parson's money.' 'But where are you?' said they. 'Look about on the ground,' answered he, 'and listen where the sound comes from.' At last the thieves found him out, and lifted him up in their hands. 'You little urchin!' they said, 'what can you do for us?' 'Why, I can get between the iron window-bars of the parson's house, and throw you out whatever you want.' 'That's a good thought,' said the thieves; 'come along, we shall see what you can do.'

When they came to the parson's house, Tom slipped through the window- bars into the room, and then called out as loud as he could bawl, 'Will you have all that is here?' At this the thieves were frightened, and said, 'Softly, softly! Speak low, that you may not awaken anybody.' But Tom seemed as if he did not understand them, and bawled out again, 'How much will you have? Shall I throw it all out?' Now the cook lay in the next room; and hearing a noise she raised herself up in her bed and listened. Meantime the thieves were frightened, and ran off a little way; but at last they plucked up their hearts, and said, 'The little urchin is only trying to make fools of us.' So they came back and whispered softly to him, saying, 'Now let us have no more of your roguish jokes; but throw us out some of the money.' Then Tom called out as loud as he could, 'Very well! hold your hands! here it comes.'

The cook heard this quite plain, so she sprang out of bed, and ran to open the door. The thieves ran off as if a wolf was at their tails: and the maid, having groped about and found nothing, went away for a light. By the time she came back, Tom had slipped off into the barn; and when she had looked about and searched every hole and corner, and found nobody, she went to bed, thinking she must have been dreaming with her eyes open.

The little man crawled about in the hay-loft, and at last found a snug place to finish his night's rest in; so he laid himself down, meaning to sleep till daylight, and then find his way home to his father and mother. But alas! how woefully he was undone! what crosses and sorrows happen to us all in this world! The cook got up early, before daybreak, to feed the cows; and going straight to the hay-loft, carried away a large bundle of hay, with the little man in the middle of it, fast asleep. He still, however, slept on, and did not awake till he found himself in the mouth of the cow; for the cook had put the hay into the cow's rick, and the cow had taken Tom up in a mouthful of it. 'Good lack-a-day!' said he, 'how came I to tumble into the mill?' But he soon found out where he really was; and was forced to have all his wits about him, that he might not get between the cow's teeth, and so be crushed to death. At last down he went into her stomach. 'It is rather dark,' said he; 'they forgot to build windows in this room to let the sun in; a candle would be no bad thing.'

Though he made the best of his bad luck, he did not like his quarters at all; and the worst of it was, that more and more hay was always coming down, and the space left for him became smaller and smaller. At last he cried out as loud as he could, 'Don't bring me any more hay! Don't bring me any more hay!'

The maid happened to be just then milking the cow; and hearing someone speak, but seeing nobody, and yet being quite sure it was the same voice that she had heard in the night, she was so frightened that she fell off her stool, and overset the milk-pail. As soon as she could pick herself up out of the dirt, she ran off as fast as she could to her master the parson, and said, 'Sir, sir, the cow is talking!' But the parson said, 'Woman, thou art surely mad!' However, he went with her into the cow-house, to try and see what was the matter.

Scarcely had they set foot on the threshold, when Tom called out, 'Don't bring me any more hay!' Then the parson himself was frightened; and thinking the cow was surely bewitched, told his man to kill her on the spot. So the cow was killed, and cut up; and the stomach, in which Tom lay, was thrown out upon a dunghill.

Tom soon set himself to work to get out, which was not a very easy task; but at last, just as he had made room to get his head out, fresh ill-luck befell him. A hungry wolf sprang out, and swallowed up the whole stomach, with Tom in it, at one gulp, and ran away.

Tom, however, was still not disheartened; and thinking the wolf would not dislike having some chat with him as he was going along, he called out, 'My good friend, I can show you a famous treat.' 'Where's that?' said the wolf. 'In such and such a house,' said Tom, describing his own father's house. 'You can crawl through the drain into the kitchen and then into the pantry, and there you will find cakes, ham, beef, cold chicken, roast pig, apple-dumplings, and everything that your heart can wish.'

The wolf did not want to be asked twice; so that very night he went to the house and crawled through the drain into the kitchen, and then into the pantry, and ate and drank there to his heart's content. As soon as he had had enough he wanted to get away; but he had eaten so much that he could not go out by the same way he came in.

This was just what Tom had reckoned upon; and now he began to set up a great shout, making all the noise he could. 'Will you be easy?' said the wolf; 'you'll awaken everybody in the house if you make such a clatter.' 'What's that to me?' said the little man; 'you have had your frolic, now I've a mind to be merry myself'; and he began, singing and shouting as loud as he could.

The woodman and his wife, being awakened by the noise, peeped through a crack in the door; but when they saw a wolf was there, you may well suppose that they were sadly frightened; and the woodman ran for his axe, and gave his wife a scythe. 'Do you stay behind,' said the woodman, 'and when I have knocked him on the head you must rip him up with the scythe.' Tom heard all this, and cried out, 'Father, father! I am here, the wolf has swallowed me.' And his father said, 'Heaven be praised! we have found our dear child again'; and he told his wife not to use the scythe for fear she should hurt him. Then he aimed a great blow, and struck the wolf on the head, and killed him on the spot! and when he was dead they cut open his body, and set Tommy free. 'Ah!' said the father, 'what fears we have had for you!' 'Yes, father,' answered he; 'I have travelled all over the world, I think, in one way or other, since we parted; and now I am very glad to come home and get fresh air again.' 'Why, where have you been?' said his father. 'I have been in a mouse-hole--and in a snail-shell--and down a cow's throat-- and in the wolf's belly; and yet here I am again, safe and sound.'

'Well,' said they, 'you are come back, and we will not sell you again for all the riches in the world.'

Then they hugged and kissed their dear little son, and gave him plenty to eat and drink, for he was very hungry; and then they fetched new clothes for him, for his old ones had been quite spoiled on his journey. So Master Thumb stayed at home with his father and mother, in peace; for though he had been so great a traveller, and had done and seen so many fine things, and was fond enough of telling the whole story, he always agreed that, after all, there's no place like home!

"Tommeliten" is a Norwegian fairy tale from Asbjørnsen and Moe's Norwegian Folk Tales. The original, Norwegian text was found at Project Runeberg and has been translated to English by me.


Once upon a time, there was a wife who had a single son, and he wasn't taller than a thumb; therefore they called him Tom Thumb.

When he had reached a certain age, his mother told him that he should go out to seek a bride; she thought it was time he got married. Tom was so happy. They packed their stuff and left, and the mother put him in her lap. They were travelling to a king's house, where a large princess lived; but when they had come some way, Tommeliten disappeared. She looked for him a long while, called for him and cried because he was gone and she couldn't find him. "Peep, peep!" said Tom, he had hidden in the horse's mane. He came out and had to promise not to do it again.

When they had driven another while, Tom disappeared again. The mother searched for him and called and cried, but he was gone. "Peep, peep!" said Tom, and she heard him laugh and giggle, but she just couldn't find him. "Peep, peep, I'm here!" said Tom and appeared from the horse's ear. Then he had to promise not to do it again.

But when they had driven a while, he was gone again; he couldn't help it. His mother searched and cried and called for him; but he was gone and stayed gone, and no matter how much she searched, she couldn't find him. "Peep, peep, I'm here!" said Tom. But she couldn't understand where he was, because it was so muffled. She searched, and he said "Peep, here I am!" and laughed and enjoyed himself, because she couldn't find him; but suddenly the horse sneezed, and out came Tom, because he was sitting in one of its nostrils. His mom now put him in a bag, she didn't know what else to do, because now she saw that he wouldn't change.

When they came to the king's house, there was quickly an engagement, because the princess thought he was a beautiful small boy, and before long there was wedding as well.

When they started the wedding dinner, Tom Thumb sat at the table next to the princess; but he had some trouble, because when he wanted to eat, he couldn't reach up to the table, and he wouldn't have been able to eat if the princess hadn't helped him up on the table. That was good, as long as he could eat from the plate; but then a large porridge trough was brought in, and he couldn't reach up; but Tom knew what to do, he sat on the edge of the trough. But there was an eye of butter in the middle of the trough; he couldn't reach it, and had to crawl out to the edge of it; but suddenly the princess came with a large spoon to have a taste, and she accidently touched Tom, and he fell in and drowned in butter.

More fairy tales, please!

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