I've talked a little about Tom Thumb wedding pageants before, and about the characters involved. There were two popular names that popped up for brides, Lilly Putian and Jennie June, and both had apparently pretty different backgrounds.
I found about 19 promotions featuring the name “Miss Midget” or references to parents with the surname Midget. Miss Midget’s full name is Lillian Putian Midget, which comes with all sorts of variations. There's Lillie Putian, Lily Midget, and on two occasions in Minnesota, simply Lilliputian. These variations put Lillie in the lead with over 40 promotions.
A promotional pamphlet for C.A. Rose's production brags that “this entertainment has been given twenty-two times in Kansas City; eight times in Joplin, Mo., five times of which were with the First Christian Church; ten times in Des Moines, Iowa; seven times in Independence, Kansas; six times in Springfield, Ill.; and it has been repeated in four hundred towns.”
The C. A. Rose Midget Wedding was spearheaded by May Burnworth, who copyrighted the play and personally oversaw productions in Kansas and Iowa in 1903, Illinois in 1911, California in 1926 and 1929, and probably many more.
It was published by the Baxter Printing Company in Missouri, and there are frequent mentions of their company sending women out to oversee the production.
The address given was 2920 Olive St. Kansas City. I found another advertisement from C.A. Rose in 1921, with this address, saying “an experienced and well-known entertainment business desires to employ three young ladies as traveling directors of Juvenile entertainments.” No experience necessary.
I’ve never been able to find out exactly who C. A. Rose was. All I know is that May Burnworth wrote this play and had it copyrighted under her name. And the company threatened to SUE anyone who performed the play without their personal direction!
Although this would apparently earn them animosity with the owners of the Jennie June copyright, this business tactic seems to have worked pretty well. Lily/Miss Midget shows up in the most states. Her most common appearances seem to be in Kansas, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, and Oklahoma. Jennie June shows up mostly in Ohio and Pennsylvania, and otherwise in the most northern states. I found about ten with no name given in promotional material.
However, although Lillie shows up into the 1950s, I have never seen any inkling of a surviving script. (Maybe they should have been freer about sharing it.) Everything I know is from old articles. Jennie June was published first, she is the one with a surviving script that is available today, and there are newspaper articles on Jennie June weddings up to the 1970's and 80's.
People clearly worked their own thing sometimes. The cast might be full of celebrities, or cartoon and nursery rhyme characters.
There seems to have been some confusion; a fictional bride might show up alongside Minnie Warren and Commodore Nutt, real people from the real wedding. On at least one occasion, in 1957, the bride was called Lavinia Warren.
In a Jennie June production in the 1920's, Minnie Warren was be the maid of honor and Commodore Nutt the groomsman; Reverend Tie-em-up officiated; Bo Peep and Miss Muffet were bridesmaids, and guests had names like Mr. and Mrs. Barney Google or the Katzenjammer Kids (from comic strips) or Mr. and Mrs. Simon Says. Another had some of the same guests, but featured the Fairy Queen and President Coolidge in attendance, and a “rejected suitor” named Percival Doolittle (rather than Commodore Nutt). One promotion in Chillicothe, Missouri in 1926 mentioned Jennie June Midget’s sister, Mrs. Sam Little.
Lillie Putian weddings do not have cast lists quite as elaborate, as far as I could see, but seemed to feature an awful lot of cousins who sang solos. A 1914 Lillie wedding had a much more simplistic cast list, with the newspaper article merely mentioning the maid of honor, best man, flower girls, various family members, three old maids, and in its one confused nod to real life, Colonel Nutt as a rejected suitor.
In both Lily productions and Jennie productions, there were some common popular songs that showed up: “Oh, Promise Me,” “I Love You Truly,” “You are the Ideal of My Dreams,” “I'd Love to Live in Loveland With a Girl Like You,” “When You and I Were Young, Maggie,” “I Cannot Sing the Old Songs” and “Silver Threads Among the Gold” (these two usually by Grandma and Grandpa Thumb), “When You and I were Young,” and “When You Look in the Heart of a Rose.”
I'm still hoping maybe someone somewhere has a copy of the May Burnworth script, or more history on her. That story, about the woman traveling around America directing pageants, sounds amazing.
Who was C. A. Rose, anyway? Was it her? ... Well, probably not.
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Researching folktales and fairies, with a focus on common tale types.