Shopping Cart Link

Wesleyan University Press

Sign up for our newsletter

Bookmark and Share
Cart link
Hardcover add to cart

For Educators

Add exam ebook
Cover image Click for larger image

Becoming Tom Thumb
Charles Stratton, P. T. Barnum, and the Dawn of American Celebrity
Eric D. Lehman

The Driftless Connecticut Series
Garnet Books
2013 • 276 pp. 30 illus. 6 x 9"
Biography / American History

$28.95 Hardcover, 978-0-8195-7331-5

$22.99 Ebook, 978-0-8195-7332-2

Check your ebook retailer or local library for ebook availability.

Eric Lehman’s Becoming Tom Thumb hits the sweet spot of celebrity biographies. Its subject is timely, riding on a new wave of interest in historical circuses and sideshows. It chronicles... [continued in Reviews below]”—Katie Richards, Portland Book Review

The definitive biography of an iconic American entertainer

When P. T. Barnum met twenty-five-inch-tall Charles Stratton at a Bridgeport, Connecticut hotel in 1843, one of the most important partnerships in entertainment history was born. With Barnum’s promotional skills and the miniature Stratton’s comedic talents, they charmed a Who’s Who of the 19th century, from Queen Victoria to Charles Dickens to Abraham Lincoln. Adored worldwide as “General Tom Thumb,” Stratton played to sold-out shows for almost forty years. From his days as a precocious child star to his tragic early death, Becoming Tom Thumb tells the full story of this iconic figure for the first time. It details his triumphs on the New York stage, his epic celebrity wedding, and his around-the-world tour, drawing on newly available primary sources and interviews. From the mansions of Paris to the deserts of Australia, Stratton’s unique brand of Yankee comedy not only earned him the accolades of millions of fans, it helped move little people out of the side show and into the lime light.

Click here for TABLE OF CONTENTS

Reviews / Endorsements

“Eric Lehman’s Becoming Tom Thumb hits the sweet spot of celebrity biographies. Its subject is timely, riding on a new wave of interest in historical circuses and sideshows. It chronicles, as far as is possible, the life of Charles Stratton, known as General Tom Thumb, from his birth in Connecticut, through his life as child actor, and his career on the stage as an adult performer. The book is published by Wesleyan, and has won recognition for its focus on evoking 19th century Connecticut, so readers familiar with that part of the country will enjoy this focus. Lehman also works very hard to keep his book scholarly, giving the reader only what can be determined by the facts, and not imagining emotional responses for his subjects, but the book is still highly readable and entertaining. Lehman also presents ‘the General’ as a fully developed human being, recognizing his amazing ability to create a place for himself in a world where he was different. The label of ‘circus studies’ or ‘freak studies’ never limits Lehman and he is able to give his subject the full recognition he deserves.”
—Katie Richards, Portland Book Review

“It is an understatement to say that Charles Stratton is worth a biography. In Lehman’s gentle, entertaining, and informative Becoming Tom Thumb, he has gotten a very good one.”
Eugene Leach, Connecticut History Review

"Eric Lehman narrates Tom Thumb's story crisply, with an eye for the telling anecdote. … He is familiar, too, with the larger literature of mid-nineteenth-century American stage entertainment as well as with recent trends in disability studies."
Benjamin McArthur, New England Quarterly

“This well-researched biography is evocative and entertaining, always good-humored, and treats its main figure with respect.”—Neil Harris, author of Humbug: The Art of P. T. Barnum

“With this book, Eric Lehman has contributed positively and significantly to the history of Charles Stratton, and I am sure his work will inspire others to continue to uncover the story of this great American performer.”
Michael Chemers, author of Staging Stigma

“My thanks to Eric Lehman for his sincere dedication to the fascinating history of Bridgeport, Connecticut’s native son, Charles Stratton, aka Tom Thumb. A remarkable historic journey and a brilliant tale of challenge and success.”—Kathleen Maher, executive director, Barnum Museum


Winner of the Henry-Russell Hitchcock Award, Victorian Society of America (2014)

ERIC D. LEHMAN teaches travel literature and creative writing at the University of Bridgeport. He is the author of seven books, including Insiders’ Guide to Connecticut and Bridgeport: Tales from the Park City. His essays, reviews, and stories have appeared in dozens of journals and magazines.

Click here for author's website.

A Driftless Connecticut Series Book
This book is a selection in The Driftless Connecticut Series,
for an outstanding book in any field on a Connecticut topic
or written by a Connecticut author.
The Driftless Connecticut Series is funded by the
Beatrice Fox Auerbach Foundation Fund
at the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving.
For more information and a complete list of books in The Driftless Connecticut Series,
please visit us online at

Wed, 17 Oct 2018 11:43:35 -0500