International celebrity culture often feels like a very modern phenomenon, but the concept was not foreign to society in the 1860s, when there was one couple everybody wanted to meet: General Tom Thumb and his wife, Lavinia Warren. Both were famous because of their short stature — Lavinia was just 32 inches tall — and they toured the country as "curiosities." Their wedding in 1863 caused a national sensation that extended as far as the White House, where President Abraham Lincoln hosted a reception in their honor. Tom Thumb is now a household name, though most people have never heard of Lavinia.
Melanie Benjamin is the author of "The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb: A Novel," a new fictional work that tells the story of Lavinia and Tom Thumb.