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The Stork Derby


Canadian lawyer Charles Vance Millar was a multimillionaire when he died in 1926. He had no heirs, but his will found ways to dispose of his money that were unorthodox, to say the least.  

But he wanted to do it in as roguish a way as possible. Millar started off by giving shares in a jockey club to gambling opponents and shares in a brewery to teetotalling religious leaders. Then he left his house in Jamaica to three men who hated one another, on the condition that they own it together. But those were just a prelude to the big finish. In clause 10, Millar revealed a biology and math challenge that would change the lives of dozens of Toronto families. The remainder of his fortune — about $9 million — would be bequeathed a decade later to “the mother who has since my death given birth in Toronto to the greatest number of children as shown by the registrations under the Vital Statistics Act.” If there were a tie, he wanted his fortune to be divided equally among the winners.

Would a chance at millions, with unknown odds, affect your family planning? We don’t know how many women actually tried to win, but by the time the ten-year period was up, we were in the middle of the Great Depression. It was not a great time to have a lot of children. One contender had a baby who died from rat bites because the family was so poor. Of 32 mothers who filed claims after the deadline, one was disqualified because some of her ten children were born out of wedlock, and another because some of her eleven children were stillborn. A few families won big, but imagine giving birth to eight children for the contest and receiving nothing for it! Read about what the press dubbed “The Stork Derby” at FiveThirtyEight. -via Metafilter

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