Most of have probably read or heard about the exploits of one Rob Ford, the eccentric current mayor of Toronto, Canada and his use of crack cocaine, alcohol abuse and various run ins with hookers and other assorted characters. It seems he’s not the only eccentric person to hail from that neck of the woods.
Let’s take the case of one Charles Vance Millar, a practicing attorney in the Toronto area from 1881 until his death in 1926. It seems that during his lifetime that Mr. Millar had a pretty warped sense of humor when the subject came to such things as greed and the moral convictions of some of Toronto’s more “upstanding citizens”. The following is an excerpt from his last will and testament and is a pretty good indicator on how he viewed his life.
”This Will is necessarily uncommon and capricious because I have no dependents or near relations and no duty rests upon me to leave any property at my death and what I do leave is proof of my folly in gathering and retaining more than I required in my lifetime.”
Here’s a few of the provisions set forth in Mr. Millar’s document.
It seems that during his lifetime he acquired a bit of ownership in something called the Ontario Jockey Club. Upon his death he split his remaining interest among two of those “upstanding members” of the community who had long been vocal opponents about the evils of gambling and those who partook in that sort of lifestyle. Another piece of ownership was willed to a rather unseemly character who’s reputation would have prevented him from acquiring ownership on his own.
Another stipulation gave every practicing Protestant minister in Toronto a share in a local brewery that was owned by Catholic interests. It seemed the Protestants at that time had railed long and hard about the evils of drinking and Mr. Millar was curious as to what their reaction would be. Too bad he would never find out since he would already be dead and besides, he never owned any shares of the brewery to begin with.
The last clause in his will is the most controversial and brings us to the subject of this write up. In local circles it came to be known as “The Great Stork Derby”. Here’s the excerpt that inspired all of the hubbub.
”All the rest and residue of my property wheresoever situate I give, devise and bequeath unto my Executors and Trustees named below in Trust to convert into money as they deem advisable and invest all the money until the expiration of nine years from my death and then call in and convert it all into money and at the expiration of ten years from my death to give it and its accumulations to the Mother who has since my death given birth in Toronto to the greatest number of children as shown by Registration under the Vital Statistics Act. If one or more mothers have equal highest number of registrations under the said Act to divide the said moneys and accumulations equally between them.
When news of this clause was made public it set off a breeding frenzy within Toronto as many families tried their darndest to comply with the terms and pocket the cash. Of course, distant relatives of Mr. Millar appeared out of nowhere and tried to contest the will but their requests were eventually denied. Questions regarding the actual number of children also became an issue. Did stillborns count? What exactly was “Toronto”? Could mothers become pregnant in different locales and move to Toronto to eventually birth their babies?
While all these questions were being answered a couple of things occurred along the way that nobody could have foreseen. First of all, during his lifetime Mr. Millar purchased a huge amount of shares in a project that would create a tunnel between Windsor, Canada and Detroit, Michigan. He bought them at $2.00 (Canadian) at an initial cost of $100,000.00 (Canadian). By the time the stipulations in his will were to be fulfilled the value of his investment had reached $750,000.00.
The next thing that occurred was a small event known as the Great Depression. At its height in 1933 (only seven years after his death) estimates are that one out of every three able bodied Canadians were out of work and the prospect of making some easy money while having fun doing it were hard to ignore.
Tallies of births began to be kept in the local papers and the general public took quite an interest in keeping abreast of the “scores”.
In the end, nobody knows how many families tried their best to fulfill Mr. Millar’s request. What is known is that four mothers pocketed $125,000.00 apiece for producing ten (live) children and another two shared $25,000.00 since they also gave birth to ten children but two of them were stillborn. Another few tried to claim the prize but since they were impregnated by different fathers those babies were, in keeping with the times, deemed to be illegitimate.
In closing, in today’s world $125,000.00 might not seem like that much but if you consider that these were the times of the Depression, that was a boatload of money. A quick visit to this website confirms that. According to them, $125,000.00 in 1936 dollars would equate to around $2,095,000.00 in today’s world.
That’s a pretty hefty sum if you ask me.
Note: Those latest figures are expressed in USD but I think you get the idea.