The Library of Nineteenth-Century Photography

'The Australian Tom Thumb'

'The Australian Tom Thumb'

A carte-de-visite portrait of the sideshow and vaudeville performer John David Armstrong (1857–1943), known professionally as ‘The Australian Tom Thumb.’

Armstrong made his stage debut in Melbourne in August 1870, billed as ‘one of the greatest wonders of the age.’ In 1871, he was exhibited alongside Chang the Chinese Giant in Melbourne, Bendigo, Geelong and other towns in Australia. In 1879 he embarked on an overseas tour that took in the UK, the USA and South Africa. Following his return to Australia, Armstrong returned to the local circuit, appearing at George Selth Coppin’s theatre in Melbourne and at various other venues, causing ‘a diversion of wonderment on all sides’ with his comic songs. He retired around 1910. He claimed to be the world’s shortest Freemason, and later in life often related the story of an encounter with Queen Victoria that occurred when, driving through Windsor, his tiny goat-drawn carriage frightened the horses harnessed to Her Majesty’s coach. Armstrong never married. He died in Melbourne at the age of 86 in August 1943.

Photographer unidentified [reverse is blank].


Code: 126653
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