Society Saturday: PT Barnum and Tom Thumb’s Valley Connections, Oxford CT

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(At this point we do not expect to have to cancel ecause of snow. However, if there is significant snow, please check our website at, in case we need to cancel.)

“Barnum, Tom Thumb and the Tornado” will be the topics of an illustrated talk by Marion O’Keefe on Sunday, February 3, at 3 p.m. at the Twitchell Rowland Homestead Museum. Located at 60 Towner Lane, off Route 67, in Oxford, the Museum will open at 2 p.m.. This program is sponsored by the Oxford Historical Society.

Admission is free for Oxford Historical Society members and children under the age of 12. Cost for the talk for all others is $3. Refreshments will be served.

Mrs. O’Keefe is Director Emeritus and former curator of the Derby Historical Society. She is currently a Board of Directors member and curator of the Seymour Historical Society. Her lecture and photographs will focus on circus great P. T. Barnum, and how word of a tiny boy, later renamed “Tom Thumb”, brought him to Bridgeport, an event that would change both their lives. Mrs. O’Keefe will also discuss the devastating effects of the tornado which struck the P. T. Barnum Museum in Bridgeport in June of 2010 and the ongoing work to restore the structure.

Born Charles Stratton in Bridgeport, Connecticut in 1838, Tom Thumb had a number of local connections to the Sharpe and Bassett families. His grandmother, Amy Shepherd, was from Southford. From the age of 6 months, he failed to grow normally, and was only 3 feet 4 inches high as an adult. Discovered by P. T. Barnum at the age of 5, he became an international celebrity as a singer, dancer and stage performer. He was introduced at court to Queen Victoria and later was received by President Abraham Lincoln. With Barnum’s management, he became a wealthy man, and his wedding in 1863 to another small person, Lavinia Warren, made headlines. While he and his wife escaped the Newhall House Hotel fire in Milwaukee in January of 1883, Tom Thumb died of a stroke 6 months later, aged 45. He and Lavinia are buried in Mountain Grove Cemetery in Bridgeport.

A pink satin covered pillow used by Tom Thumb is on display at the Homestead Museum.

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