Spectacle Of Curiosities

Minnie Warren (June 2nd 1849 – July 23rd 1878)

Huldah Pierce Warren Bump also known as ‘Miss Minnie Warren’ was a 19th Century dwarf, born in Middlesbrough, Massachusetts. She was the sister -in- law of Tom Thumb, as her sister Lavinia Warren married Thumb.

Minnie gained fame with her association with Phineas Taylor Barnum (1810-1891). He was an American showman, entertainer, and businessman and yes, a scam artist! It should come as no surprise that the popular phrase “there’s a sucker born every minute” has been known to be credited to Barnum. I wonder why?

During the Civil War Minnie was part of a quartet of minute performers which included ‘General Tom Thumb’, ‘Commodore’ Nutt, Lavinia Warren, and herself.  They attracted phenomenal popularity as Barnum’s use of dwarfs for public amusement during the ‘freak show’ era. Sadly, this amusement was popular in the United States from the 19th Century through to the mid-20th Century, and was often associated with carnivals and circuses – creating a ‘spectacle of curiosities’.

Although many photographs had been taken of Nutt and Minnie performing together, even including a composition of Nutt proposing to Minnie, there was no romance on the cards, as Nutt’s affection were for another, Minnie’s sister Lavinia.

Mercy Lavinia Warren Bump married Tom Thumb on 10th February 1863. Below is a stereo card from Brady’s studio that shows a re-enactment of the wedding before a painted backdrop and the bride and groom with their attendants. On the left is the best man, George Washington Morrison Nutt, known as Commodore Nutt, Tom Thumb, Lavinia, and Minnie Bump  also known as ‘Minnie Warren’, her younger sister and bridesmaid.

Collection of Jack and Beverly Wilgus

Minnie married Major Edward Newell, also a dwarf, and soon became pregnant. Sadly Minnie and the baby died during childbirth on 23rd July 1878. The child was said to have been of normal size around 6 pounds.

In our collection we have a glove worn by Minnie Warren. Cream/fawn leather, right hand glove with whip-stitch seams, in a contrasting brown thread. The glove has 3 tambour points, in cream and brown thread. The cuff has a separate piece of leather attached to the wrist, with a contrasting piece of dark brown leather at the wrist creating a welted effect. The cuff has a scalloped edge with dome style studs in dark brown/black.

 

It is such a pleasure to be able to make a ‘spectacle’ of the curious stories hidden within the construction of a glove!

Sarah, Dents Museum Curator

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