Playing Bride

Ann Armentine Smith as the bride in a 1945 Tom Thumb wedding

In a south Louisiana Tom Thumb wedding in April 1945 was petite and pretty little Ann Armentine Smith of Lafayette, LA, daughter of J. Frank Smith, Jr. Tax Consultant of Baton Rouge, LA.

Tom Thumb wedding?

General Tom Thumb was the stage name of Charles Sherwood Stratton (4 January, 1838 – 15 July, 1883), a little person who achieved fame under circus pioneer P.T. Barnum.  Charles developed and grew normally for the first six months of his life, at which point he was 25 inches tall and weighed 15 pounds. Then he stopped growing.

Charles Stratton was the son of Bridgeport, Connecticut carpenter Sherwood Edward Stratton, who was the son of Seth Sherwood Stratton and Amy Sharpe. Sherwood Edward Stratton married his first cousin Cynthia Thompson, daughter of Joseph Thompson and Mary Ann Sharpe. Charles Stratton’s maternal and paternal grandmothers, Amy and Mary Ann Sharpe, were allegedly small twin girls born on 11 July 1781 or 83 in Oxford, New Haven, Connecticut.

Stratton’s marriage on February 10, 1863, to another little person,  Lavinia Warren, became front-page news. The wedding took place at Grace Episcopal Church and the couple stood atop a grand piano in New York City’s Metropolitan Hotel to greet some 2,000 guests. Following the wedding, the couple was received by President Lincoln at the White House. Charles Stratton and his wife toured together in Europe as well as Japan.

Shortly after “The Greatest Little Wedding” people everywhere were putting on their own miniature weddings as plays.  The Walter H. Baker & Co. of Boston put out a play 35 years later called, “The Tom Thumb Wedding.”  It was published in 1898.  Many churches and schools put on these plays for the fun of it and also as fundraisers.

A Tom Thumb wedding refers to a wedding pageant in which all of the major wedding roles are played by small children, usually under ten years old. In a Tom Thumb wedding, there would be children assigned to portray the bride, groom, attendants, and sometimes the minister. Smaller children would sometimes play the flower girls and ring bearers. Everyone would be costumed, and there would usually be many photographs.

Staging Tom Thumb weddings was a big American fad during the 1920s, but they were also staged fairly regularly until the 1970s, often as fundraisers for schools or churches. The fascination of this type of wedding still carries on to this day.

Sources:  Louisiana Weekly, 14 April, 1945, pg. 11; Wikipedia.org; wikianswers.com; aweddingtradition.com.

LAG

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