From the Small to the Tall

Three recent acquisitions, after a long hiatus from collecting. All in the circus freak genre. The first is my second image of General Cardenas, a famous little person and contemporary of Tom Thumb.


This next image is of Martin Van Buren Bates, a famous giant. Very much like with little people, the Victorians were quite fond of attaching fake military titles to giants and dressing them up in uniforms. I can’t tell if the signature on the verso is Van Buren’s or if it is someone else’s later notation. This is most likely a rip-off of another photographer’s image, bought on the east coast and reproduced without credit. This was an incredibly huge problem in the Victorian era, when it was very easy to sell copies elsewhere in the country without ever coming to the knowledge of the original photographer.

IF the signature is indeed Van Buren Bates’, then it could be that he owned the negative and had new copies printed from town to town as he toured. I don’t know if there are any known copies of his autograph extant to compare it to. The flourish of the last letter is the only thing that makes me think this might be an actual signature – in the vast majority of the CDVs I’ve bought where names were hand-annotated on the verso, the writing was quite plain, and sometimes even in block printed letters, not script.


James Murphy, the Giant Boy. 8 feet tall, 18 years old. Looking at the overall stature of the man beside him in the photo, In reality he was 7 feet 3 1/2 inches. Also billed as The Irish Giant and the Baltimore Giant, he toured with PT Barnum’s circus. He lived from 1842 to 1875. This photo is dated 1863.




Lavinia Warren, Minnie Warren, and Baby

Here’s one of Lavinia Warren Stratton, her sister, Minnie Warren, and a baby. Neither one of them had children of their own, as they were unable to conceive and/or would not have been able to survive pregnancy due to their small stature.


P.T. Barnum would rent a standard size baby to display with them, and when the baby got too old, he would rent a new one. This CDV is anonymous – given the overall soft and mediocre quality of the image, I’m guessing it was a copy of someone else’s photo, most likely by one of the New York studio photographers like Eisenmann, J. Wood, or maybe Masury. Given the plain-ness of the set, I doubt it would have been one of the posh studios like Brady’s or Gurney or Bogardus, as this photo doesn’t even have a floor cloth or a decorative curtain. I’ll keep looking for a credited version of this photo (if any of you out there in internet-land have a version of this with back mark or other credit, please let me know, I’d love to see it!).


Thanks to a friend and highly estimable collector of photographica, I received this additional bit of information. Minnie Warren was able to conceive, and died after giving birth to a baby, who also did not survive. Here is her obituary in the Laconia, NH Mercantile Journal, August 7, 1878.


Tom Thumb Comp Card – “Liliputian Souvenir”

Here’s an interesting one – a composite CDV of all the wedding CDVs from Tom Thumb’s wedding, plus a couple. This must have been a promo teaser from the Anthony archives, showcasing all the Tom Thumb CDVs in their catalog.


I have most of the wedding CDVs except the one with the priest (if anyone has a lead on a good copy of that one, please send me that way!), and a whole bunch not included on this card. When I get the chance to re-scan and re-organize my Tom Thumb CDV collection, I’ll post a new summary of them.



General Mite – Companion to Lucia Zarate

A companion purchase to the recent Lucia Zarate CDV, here is a CDV of Francis Joseph Flynn, otherwise known as General Mite. There is a real-world connection between the two of them, as they performed together on stage in an international tour.


In 1884 he would marry Millie Edwards, another little person, and would die in 1898 in Broken Hill, New South Wales, Australia (Wikipedia)

Lucia Zarate, Mexican Sideshow Curiosity

Well, look who just dropped in. This is my second Lucia Zarate image.


She is in the Guinness Book of Records as the lightest adult recorded, weighing in at 4.7 lbs at the time the record was made. She was born in the state of Veracruz, Mexico, and according to Wikipedia, her family home is open as a museum.


She also obviously traveled significantly in her sideshow career, having been photographed at age 13 in New York, and at age 18 in London. She succumbed to her small size at 26 when her train was crossing the North American Sierra Nevada in winter and stalled, rendering her hypothermic.

New Tom Thumb CDV


The latest arrival in my collection – a new CDV of the Thumb “family” including the rent-a-baby, in a pose I haven’t seen before, combined with an advertising verso. The grand irony of the advertisement is that it violates the prime directive of advertising – let your customers know WHERE to get your products. Where on earth (let alone what street in what town in what state) is B. Green’s Modern Wonder Department??