Friday, August 9, 2013

Nannette Stocker and the Windsor Fairy

Many people know of General Tom Thumb (Sherwood Stratton) and his wife Lavinia, who were among the most well-known American celebrities of the 1850s and 60s. Less familiar are the people of short stature of the Regency period.

Chief among these people were Nannette Stocker and John Hauptmann.
 
Conventional employment was difficult before our current era for people with differences and challenges in stature or physiology to obtain. In many cases they had to turn to 'exhibiting' themselves to make a living wage. While they were often treated with respect and admiration, the advertisements and articles make it clear that they were not regarded as people in any ordinary sense, but 'wonders and marvels'.

Stocker and Hauptman were Austrians, both 'encouraged' into public performance as young people by their guardians. They were talented musicians, and one can only hope that they found satisfaction in impressing audiences with their musical performances.
They toured Europe for many years, and there is a sixteen page booklet, of the era, in existence "The History and Travels of the Little Nanette Stocker and of John Hauptmann" which would make interesting reading. Nannette was reported to enjoy knitting and needlework, and when she died in 1819 she was buried in the churchyard of St. Philip's, Birmingham.
In memory of Nannetta Stocker who departed this life, May 4th 1819, aged 39 years. The smallest woman ever in this kingdom. Possessed with every accomplishment, only 33 inches high. A Native of Austria.
Stocker and Hauptman were not the only renowned little people of the Regency era. British born Miss Smith and Mr. Leach impressed audiences with their beauty and their talents in 1816-1818. Such people were star performers at the great fairs of the day.

Two decades earlier Mr. Thomas Allen and Miss Morgan were acclaimed in London. Their association had begun in the 1780s shortly after Miss Morgan (popularly known as the Windsor Fairy) was given the title Lady Morgan by the king.
It should be noted that the 'average-sized' people in this 1804 illustration are disproportionately tall.
The New Wonderful Museum and Extraordinary Magazine which published the above picture was also moved to create and print a fatuous piece of poetry:
The lady, like a fairy queen,
The gentleman--of equal stature,
Oh how curious these dear creatures,
Little bodies, little features,
Hands, feet, and all,
Alike are small,
How wond'rous are the Works of Nature.
The poem is flattering in its way, but how much more gratifying it would have been if these people could have lived ordinary lives of their own choosing.

'Til next time,

Lesley-Anne

Sources:

The New Wonderful Museum and Extraordinary Magazine by William Granger 1804
Giants and Dwarfs by Edward J. Wood 1868
Kirby's Wonderful and Eccentric Museum 1820

All of the above publications are available free for download from Google Books.

2 comments:

Anne Gallagher said...

I feel bad for them. It's a shame they had to be "on display" instead of allowing to be "normal" people. But I suppose there was nothing much for them to do back then.

Today they'd have their own cable tv show.

Lesley-Anne McLeod said...

I suppose they would! I think that's almost as bad--except they are raising awareness.