George Washington Morrison Nutt was born in New Hampshire in 1848. Though his parents were of average size, young George suffered from dwarfism. His greatest height was just over 29 inches, and he made the most of it. From an early age, young George performed in ‘human curiosity’ shows> indeed, he was performing in a circus in New England when P.T. Barnum spotted him and invited him to join his American Museum in New York City.
As he often did, Barnum wanted to create a stage persona for his latest signing. He named George ‘Commander Nutt‘, and kitted him out in a naval officer’s uniform, complete with small dress sword. He was even given a small carriage to ride around in. All this combined to make Nutt one of Barnum’s biggest stars. However, Tom Thumb, a fellow small man, was his rival in more ways than one.
Nutt was alleged to have been in love with Lavinia Warren, another dwarf in the employ of Barnum. He was devastated, therefore, when she married Tom Thumb. To make matters worse, Nutt, in his full Commander persona, was required to attend the wedding and serve as best man. But still, despite his humiliation, Nutt toured the world with Barnum between 1869 and 1872. He returned a rich man and then decided to go it alone.
It was not a wise career move. Working with his brother, Nutt attempted to launch variety shows on the West Coast of America. He also tried to open several saloons, but these were failures too. Despite his lack of business success, Nutt did find love. He married an actress from California in 1879. However, he fell sick at the start of 1881 and died two months later.