An eccentric lawyer put up a prize of $10 million for the woman who would have the most children within 10 years
Charles Vance Millar (1854-1926) was a wealthy lawyer and horse lover with a knack for investing. He also loved pranks that played on people’s greed.
On October 31, 1926, Millar died of a stroke while working at his law firm in Toronto, Canada.
He was a very intelligent and peculiar individual who never married and had no children. During his lifetime, Millar accumulated substantial wealth and decided to use it for one last prank.
“I will make sex the most popular sport in Canada for the next ten years.”
— Millar to his friend shortly before death
As it befits to a lawyer, Millar wrote his last will. The will was so eccentric we could understand it as a joke, except that it wasn’t. Some of the most interesting points of Millar’s will were the following ones:
- Millar granted his stocks in a Catholic brewery, O’Keefe Brewery, to all Protestant ministers in Toronto, knowing they fought for prohibition.
- He gave his vacation home in Jamaica to three lawyers who hated each other on the condition they lived together in the house.
- He gave his shares in Ontario Jockey Club to three eager horse racing opponents.
If the above three points caused some sincere laughter, the next part received nationwide attention and spurred probably the strangest competition in history.
The ninth paragraph of Millar’s will stated his property was to be sold ten years after his death and the money given to the woman from Toronto who would have the most children in the period of ten years. In Millar’s case, this meant the period between 1926 and 1936.
If there were more winners, the prize money would be equally split.
Millar’s distant relatives and various politicians tried to invalidate his will for the entire duration of the “competition.” However, Millar was a master of his trade and the will was watertight. In the end, the Supreme Court confirmed the validity of the will.
The Supreme Court of Canada added two conditions: children had to be legitimate and still alive at the end of the competition in 1936.
The 1930s were the time of the Great Depression. A third of Toronto residents lost their jobs and those who were lucky to keep them had their wages halved.
In contrast, Millar’s wealth only grew during this time and in 1936 it was worth around $10 million (adjusted to today’s value). One of Millar’s investments was especially profitable. He purchased land near Detroit-Windsor Tunnel for $2 before they had built the tunnel. After the tunnel’s completion in 1930, the land became worth $100,000 (almost $2 million in today’s value).
Despite the immorality of the contest and the danger to health, many women entered the competition.
Two dozen families competed in the “baby race” nicknamed the Great Stork Derby. They became minor celebrities and their “progress” was followed by large audiences across Canada and the United States.
The Great Stork Derby was a ten-year-long reality show.
The competition ended on October 31, 1936, exactly ten years after Millar’s death. The Halloween of 1936 was thus especially exciting for Toronto’s citizens.
The court declared four winners: Kathleen Nagle, Annie Smith, Isobel MacLean, and Lucy Timleck. Each of the women had nine children. They split the prize money and spent it on vacations, houses, and furniture.
Lillian Kenny gave birth to ten children, but only six of them survived until 1936. The attractive Pauline Mae Clarke, dubbed by the press as “Mrs. X”, gave birth to ten children but was disqualified since five of them were not fathered by her husband.
Both Kenny and Clarke received a consolation prize of $12,500 ($250,000 in today’s value) in exchange for not starting any legal proceedings. Lillian Kenny used the money to buy a sealskin coat and visit Niagara Falls. After ten years of giving birth, she definitely deserved both!
Prankster Millar used his wealth and impeccable knowledge of the law and human nature to posthumously organize an immoral competition where desperate and greedy women risked their bodies to get insanely rich. A true proof of what people will do for money.