“General” Tom Thumb’s Personal Settee

by John Werry on July 11, 2009

Belter Tom Thumb sofa 1024x709 General Tom Thumbs Personal Settee
Speaking of upholstery … Joan Bogart recently shared with me a settee in her possession that originally belonged to Tom Thumb.  Discovered at the age of 5 by distant relative P.T. Barnum, Charles Sherwood Stratton was a dwarf who became one of Barnum’s most famous and lucrative human curiosities.   Barnum immediately concocted a story of the 5-year old being 11 years of age and having been brought from Europe “at great expense”, though none of that was true.

The settee was owned by Tom Thumb and I assume by association, his similarly statured wife, Livinia.  It retains it’s original silk and velvet damask.  Dimensions are 52″ wide at the widest point, 34 1/2″ tall, & approx 30″ from the rear foot to the front toe.  The settee has family documentation to confirm it’s provenance.

I speculate whether it was a gift at their wedding in 1863.  It was one of the most important social events of the year with 5,000 attendees at their reception upon which they were bestowed incredible gifts, including some from “Queen Victoria, King Louis Phillipe, Emperor Nicholas, and various other crowned heads, as well as the nobility of Europe“.

Some of the furniture-oriented gifts include a miniature parlor set in ebony and gold by George A. Wells and a chair made by none other than Gustave Herter: “An elegant chair, about a foot in height, made of rosewood, richly carved, and upholstered with blue velvet; by Mr. G. Herter, No. 547 Broadway“.  I wonder where that chair is today and I also wonder if this depiction of a chair gifted to them during the wedding is the Herter chair.

Truly a rare sofa, made by one the most famous cabinetmakers of the era, John Henry Belter, with original upholstery and supporting family documentation.  For more information on the set, you can visit Joan’s website.

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Mario July 11, 2009 at 2:52 pm

Kudos to Ms. Bogart. This piece has everything a serious collector would want, original upholstery, original finish, great provenance, important history and an important maker.

If one has further interest in Gen Tom Thumb, some of his effects are on display at the Barnum Museum in Bridgeport, CT (along with a suite of furniture by Julius Dessoir from Barnum’s home, Iranistan) as well as the Ringling Museum in Sarasota, FL.

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