General Tom Thumb, born Charles Sherwood Stratton, was a dwarf born in the mid-19th century who became a famous circus performer under P.T. Barnum. Stratton started his career as a performer at a very young age, his parents willingly putting their son on public display as a means to earn $3 per week. In the modern era, many would consider the actions of Barnum, Stratton's parents, and the media to be exploitative. Because of his work in the era's "freak shows," Stratton managed to use his disability to travel the world, mingle with royalty, and bring General Tom Thumb's net worth to levels you probably will never reach.
During an age when disabled people had few opportunities and were shunned by society, Stratton used his short stature to entertain others and make a good life for himself and his wife. As one of the most famous circus sideshow performers ever, Stratton achieved a fame that made him recognizable to even Queen Victoria and Abraham Lincoln. Even today, it remains unclear what caused Stratton's short stature. X-rays weren't invented until 12 years after his death, and doctors at the time were mystified by his condition. Though Stratton may have been small, his legacy is anything but.
He Was A Big Baby At BirthPhoto: The Metropolitan Museum of Art / Wikimedia Commons
He Was Discovered By Distant Relative P.T. BarnumPhoto: Samuel Root or Marcus Aurelius Root / Wikimedia Commons
Barnum Inflated The Boy's Age And Changed His NamePhoto: Brady-Handy Photograph Collection (Library of Congress) / Wikimedia Commons
He Earned $3 A Week At Barnum's MuseumPhoto: Baugniet 1844 / Wikimedia Commons
Americans Obsessed Over "Freaks Of Nature" Just Like HimPhoto: Wikimedia Commons
He Performed For Queen VictoriaPhoto: W. & D. Downey / Wikimedia Commons