Blog: Tom Thumb wedding raises money for Centenary’s Junior League (5/30/23)

A Tom Thumb wedding staged at Old Lorimier School has defied identification. Only the child in the black robe, front row far right, is known: Bill Ruesskamp. (Courtesy of Fay Wilkins ~ Southeast Missourian archive)

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Tom Thumb weddings, where children play the parts of all the characters in a make-believe nuptial, continue to be popular forms of entertainment and fund raisers, although you don’t hear about them locally.

The photograph accompanying this blog was taken at Old Lorimier School in Cape Girardeau. I have no way to date it, except to note that the boy identified as the cleric — Bill Ruesskamp — was born in 1893. If he was 10 years old at the time the picture was made, that would place the wedding around 1903, just before the Southeast Missourian began publishing.

Tom Thumb weddings took their name from that of Charles Stratton, whose stage name was Gen. Tom Thumb. The diminutive performer, who worked under the management of P.T. Barnum, wed an equally small woman named Lavinia Warren in New York in 1863. As time went on, re-enactments of the wedding became popular.

While I wasn’t able to find an account of the wedding pictured here, I did find one for a performance staged at Centenary Methodist Church in 1923 as a fund raiser for the church’s Junior League.

Published May 11, 1923, in the Southeast Missourian:



Indications today were that there would be a large number of Cape Girardeans present at the “Tom Thumb” wedding tonight at Centenary Methodist Church. Nearly 75 youngsters of the church, between 4 and 8 years of age, will take part in the wedding, which will be featured especially by the distinguished guests present — prominent Cape Girardeans as the “kiddies” see them.

The “wedding” will be carried out with much formality and with all the splendor of a real nuptial event. There will be the bride, little Mary Ellen Miller, with her corsage of beautiful flowers, her pretty bridal gown and all the necessary features to make the wedding a success.

Lester Taylor Jr. will be the lucky groom for the occasion and will be attended by Eugene Hopper as the best man. The maid of honor will be Charlotte Walther and the bridesmaids and flower bearers will be Bernice Samuels, Anna Bell Seabaugh, Mary Lee Wiles, Rose Mary Tallent, Jenny Tuttle, Dorothy Dobson, Mable Shawn. Ring bearer will be Virginia Latimer.

Special music

The ceremony will be performed by the “Rev.” R.H. Limbaugh Jr., and the bride will be given away by her stern father, Bobby Nunn. John Brandt and Jesse Slover will be the ushers.

Special music for the ceremony has been arranged. Dorothy Bennett will sing “I Love You Truly”; Anna Jane Lesem will sing “O Promise Me”; Elizabeth Hopper will render “The Heart of the Rose”; Dick Bennett is expected to be in excellent voice in “Silver Threads Among the Gold”; Kathryn Tuttle will sing “I Cannot Sing the Old Songs”; and “Loveland” will be sung by Mary Virginia Johnson. A trio composed of Margaret Riggs, Bernice Mosley and Lillian Pierce will sing “The Old Maid’s Consolation.”

Fifty guests have been invited to attend the ceremony and all will be present, in addition to “Grandma Thumb” and “Grandpa Thumb” and other relatives. A reception will be given after the ceremony in honor of the contracting parties.

The wedding march will open the ceremony promptly at 8 o’clock and all spectators are expected to be in the building at that time. Admission is 25 cents for children and 50 cents for adults. Proceeds are to go to the Junior League of the church.

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Originally Appeared Here

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