Tuesday, July 9, 2024

Wedding Cake in a Library?

__By Tiffany Amber Stockton__

In June, a few wedding traditions received the spotlight focus. One of them was about saving the top layer of a wedding cake, and since this month is *my* anniversary, I thought I'd share a little about a piece of wedding cake from over 150 years ago!

Library of Congress, Not Only for Books

America’s Founding Fathers loved reading. What a fantastic pastime. :) I'd say our writers and readers on this blog are in good company with them. To encourage and support this love, Congress funded its own library. Philadelphia and New York City housed some of the earliest American libraries. When Congress moved to Washington, D.C., President John Adams created the Library of Congress in 1800 to help keep legislators informed. The library started with 3,000 books, mostly legal texts, but British soldiers destroyed it in 1814 when they burned parts of the city. President Thomas Jefferson helped rebuild it.

Today, the Library of Congress holds over 173 million items and adds nearly 10,000 new materials every day. Can you imagine the task of cataloguing all those materials? And not all of them are books. This might be hard to believe, but the Library of Congress also has a piece of wedding cake from the 1800s.

For many reasons, celebrity weddings have always fascinated Americans. Take Charles Stratton, aka General Tom Thumb, for example. Known for his small stature at only 3 feet 4 inches tall, Stratton had a successful career singing, dancing, and acting. He worked with the famous showman P.T. Barnum, who called him the "smallest man alive."

In February 1863, Stratton married Lavinia Warren, also diminutive in stature, in a grand New York wedding to which Barnum sold several thousand reception tickets. Given the inflation rate from then to now, the total take from the sales would be in the millions today. Those with tickets could meet the newlyweds and receive a boxed slice of brandy-soaked wedding fruitcake as they left.

After Stratton's death in 1883, Lavinia's career struggled. In 1905, she sent a then 42-year-old slice of her wedding cake to an actress and her editor husband with a letter saying, "The public thinks I'm not alive." Lavinia continued to perform into her 70s, even starring in a silent film with her second husband, "Count" Primo Magri.

Today, two pieces of their wedding cake still exist—one at the Library of Congress and another at the Barnum Museum in Connecticut.

Other celebrity weddings have also drawn massive crowds. In 1956, thousands gathered to watch the wedding of Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier III of Monaco. More recently, the 2011 royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton attracted millions of viewers worldwide, with thousands lining the streets of London.

Fun little facts:
  • Charles Stratton began performing for audiences at the age of 5.
  • It cost $75 to attend the Stratton-Warren wedding in 1863.
  • Queen Victoria's wedding cake weighed 300 pounds.
  • The most expensive wedding cake slice sold at auction for $29,900.


* What do you think makes celebrity weddings so fascinating to the public?

* If you could ask Charles Stratton or Lavinia Warren one question about their lives and careers, what would it be?

* If you could submit an item to be housed in the Library of Congress, what would it be and why?

** This note is for our email readers. Please do not reply via email with any comments. View the blog online and scroll down to the comments section.

Come back on the 9th of each month for my next foray into historical tidbits to share.

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Tiffany Amber Stockton has been crafting and embellishing stories since childhood, when she was accused of having a very active imagination and cited with talking entirely too much. Today, she has honed those skills to become an award-winning, best-selling author and speaker who is also a professional copywriter/copyeditor. She loves to share life-changing products and ideas with others to help improve their lives in a variety of ways.

She lives with her husband and fellow author, Stuart Vaughn Stockton, along with their two children, one dog, and three cats in southeastern Kentucky. In the 20+ years she's been a professional writer, she has sold twenty-six (26) books so far and is represented by Tamela Murray of the Steve Laube Agency. You can find her on Facebook and GoodReads.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for posting today. I think for many, celebrity weddings are the ultimate "what if". Others may be fascinated because of their infatuation with the particular person.