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Time Travel

Doing a Little Fundraising

By Christopher Shields

A "Tom Thumb Wedding", like the event at the Cos Cob School advertised in this 1916 promotional flyer, was once a popular fund-raising activity for churches and school groups. The “wedding” was really a pageant with a cast of children playing the roles of bride and groom, the wedding party, parents, grandparents and other "guests". The script, costumes and music were sometimes geared to a specific theme depending on the interests of the promoters and audience.

The concept of the Tom Thumb Wedding grew out of intense public interest in the union of two performers who worked for the promoter P.T. Barnum beginning in the mid-19th century. The 1863 wedding of Charles Sherwood Stratton (a.k.a. “General Tom Thumb”) and Lavinia Warren (a.k.a. “The Queen of Beauty”) was surrounded by the voluminous media coverage that accompanies present-day celebrity weddings. The bride and groom, both in their twenties, were 3 feet or less in height. The groom was originally from Bridgeport, Connecticut, where he was "discovered" at the age of 5 by the famed showman.

The wedding was held in New York City's Grace Episcopal Church and was attended by luminaries of the public and private sectors. Barnum paid all the expenses and, characteristically, sold tickets to the reception at the Metropolitan Hotel on Broadway and Prince Street.

Press coverage of the event temporarily competed with news from the ongoing Civil War. The detailed accounts of the ceremony and reception seemed to be particularly appealing to a public weary of news relating the horrors of the battlefield.

The Diamond Hill United Methodist Church, sponsor of the 1916 performance at the Cos Cob School, is currently located on East Putnam Avenue in Cos Cob in a building that dates from just a few years after the nuptials of the two famed Barnum performers.

The place name "Diamond Hill" may have originated from the glittering mica in the stones and rocks once found on the site.

—Christopher Shields, Archivist, Greenwich Historical Society

Greenwich Historical Society 39 Strickland Road, Cos Cob, CT 06807 203-869-6899


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