A Bizarre Custody Case: Incubator Baby Kidnapped Again

In 1904, Charlotte Bleakley was under chloroform when she gave birth to a premature baby girl in St. Louis. She was given a dead infant to bury. But the baby had been switched with another premature girl born to an unmarried woman, possibly for nefarious reasons. That woman, who'd unknowingly had a stillbirth, left the child to be adopted. But since the baby was premature, she was sent to the World's Fair. What? The St. Louis fair had an exhibit of those newfangled "incubators" that kept premature babies alive, like the one we've posted about at Coney Island. The infant was labeled as Emily Darwin, because she looked like a chimpanzee. But she got better.

Bleakley found out her baby was alive, but allowed the wealthy Stella Barclay to adopt her. She later changed her mind, and wanted the little girl back. She kept taking the girl over and over as the lawsuits over the child went all the way to the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, all the details of the custody dispute were in the papers because of the bizarre baby switch and the notoriety of the child displayed at the World's Fair. At one point, the little girl's actual relation to Bleakley was questioned, but there were no DNA tests at the time. The girl went from being Emily Darwin to Thelma Barclay to Marian Bleakley. Read about the notorious case of the incubator baby kidnapping at The American Scholar. -via Strange Company   


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