Manchester New Hampshire Performer: George Washington Morrison Nutt (1844-1881)

Watercolor painting of Commodore Nutt. Manchester Historic Association. Used with permission.

Standing about twenty-nine inches tall in adulthood, George Washington Morrison Nutt, was auspiciously born on April 1, 1844 in Manchester, New Hampshire. [Note: other sources state he was taller than this].

Called “Commodore” during his show career, he was paid $30,000 by P.T. Barnum to join his troup of performers, and was part of the Thumbiana & Liliputian Opera Company.

He was of Scotch-Irish descent,  the son of Rodney & Maria (Dodge) Nutt, and one of a family of eleven children.  His brother, “Major” Rodnia Nutt was also part of Barnum’s midget troupe. Their remaining 9 siblings apparently were of normal size.

According to the Manchester Historical Association Archives, “William Crawford Walker, a horse dealer and trainer was the first to bring George Washington Morrison Nutt ”The Commodore” (age 12) to the attention of the public. With Arthur L. Walker, they started the first ice company in Manchester at Nutts Pond.”

According to P.T. Barnam’s diary, in 1862 Commodore Nutt met President Abraham Lincoln and some of his cabinet members.

Mr. Lincoln received us cordially, and introduced us to the members of the Cabinet. When Mr. Chase was introduced as the Secretary of the Treasury, the little Commodore remarked:

” ‘I suppose you are the gentleman who is spending so much of Uncle Sam’s money?’

” ‘No, indeed,’ said the Secretary of War, Mr. Stanton, very promptly; ‘I am spending the money.’

” ‘Well,’ said Commodore Nutt, ‘it is in a good cause, anyhow, and I guess it will come out all right.’

“His apt remark created much amusement. Mr. Lincoln then bent down his long, lank body, and taking Nutt by the hand, he said:

” ‘Commodore, permit me to give you a parting word of advice. When you are in command of your fleet, if you find yourself in danger of being taken prisoner, I advise you to wade ashore.’

The Commodore found the laugh was against him, but placing himself at the side of the President, and gradually raising his eyes up the whole length of Mr. Lincoln’s very long legs, he replied:

” ‘I guess, Mr. President, you could do that better than I could.’ “

The visit was later parodied in a cartoon.

Nutt served as the best man at the marriage between Tom Thumb and Lavinia Warren, other diminutive Barnum performers. He was romantically linked with Minnie Warren, Lavinia’s sister. In June 1865 he appeared before Her Majesty, Queen Victoria, at Windsor Castle.

G.W. M. Nutt died in New York City, 25 April 1881. He, along with many members of the Nutt family is buried in Merrill Cemetery, near the Mall of New Hampshire, in Manchester. A tiny stone with an “M” marks the spot.

Learn more about his family tree.

The Manchester Historic Association is home to several of G.W. M. Nutt’s personal effects, including his first stage costume and his miniature 22 caliber pistol.


*****Additional Reading*****

The Life of P.T. Barnum

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