A Scattering of Seeds: The Creation of Canada
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Sidebar: 19th-CENTURY CONDITIONS OF THE WORKING CLASS as reported in the 1889 ROYAL COMMISSION ON LABOR AND CAPITAL

Stork Derby

On October 31, 1926, Charles Vance Millar was rushing up the stairs to get to his study to look up some legal point in order to win a bet with a friend. By the time the friend reached the study a few minutes later, Millar, a 70-year-old single eccentric Toronto lawyer, was dead from a heart attack. Charles Vance Millar was known for two things: he was a sportsman and a practical joker. The reading of his last will and testament gave a lasting example of Millar's sense of humour.

Among the clauses of his will are some of the following: he bequeathed lucrative shares in a racetrack to a judge and a preacher, both of whom were fiery foes of gambling. If they accepted his will, they would become automatic members of the horse racing club. Another example was the one share of the O'Keefe Brewing Company, which the left to every Protestant minister in Toronto. The most bizarre clause came towards the end of his will. He left the remainder of his fortune to the Toronto woman who had the most babies in the ten years following his death.

Charles Vance Millar could not have foreseen two occurrences which affected this contest. The first was that he owned some river property in Detroit, that at the time of his death was not worth a great deal. But when this land was chosen as the sight of the Detroit Windsor Tunnel, the value suddenly increased greatly. At stake for the women who took part in the 'stork derby' was close to a $1 million!

The second event which Millar could not have foreseen, was the Great Depression, which began three years after his death. The 'stork derby' took place during the same period as people were desperate for a single dime, let alone $1 million. The contest attracted couples who could least afford large families, drawn by the lure of $750,000. In addition, the contest brought to the front pages of Toronto newspapers, issues which normally would not have been thought of as good taste in 'Orange' Toronto, such as birth control, illegitimate children, and divorce. The question of medical care for the children was suddenly front page news. The ten years of the contest were marked by political infighting and court challenges.

One of the contestants, Pauline Clarke, would have won by today's standards, with ten children in ten years. However, not all her children were with the same father. In the process of getting a divorce, she had children with a man who was not her husband - a big mistake in 1930's Toronto.

 

Another front runner was Lillian Kenney, who had twelve children in ten years. Several of her children died, but because she could not provide death certificates to prove that the children were not stillborn, they were not included in her total.

In the end, both Pauline Clarke and Lillian Kenney were given the sum of $12,500 for their 'effort' in the contest. There was no mention of compensation for pain and suffering.

The remainder was divided up between the four front runners - each had given birth to ten children in the designated time period. The winners were Annie Smith, Kathleen Nagle, Lucy Timleck and Isabel Maclean.

Grace Bagnato also took part in this contest. By 1936 she had had 23 children, of which 12 lived. 9 were eligible, as they were born within the ten-year period October 31, 1926 - October 31, 1936.

She was one baby short of sharing the prize with the other front runners.

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