Friday, March 13, 2015

Are You Greedy?

A lot of people are greedy.  In fact, most of us have probably put a little too much thought to money at one time or another.  If you lived around Charles Vance Miller, you might have had your greed put to the test at one time or another.

Charles was born in Toronto, Canada, a lawyer, and a lifelong bachelor.  At the age of 68 he decided it was time to write his will.  He opened it with the following:  "This will is necessarily uncommon and capricious because I have no dependants or near relatives and no duty rests upon me to leave my property at my death ..."

He designated a few religious leaders, known for being proponents of prohibition as well as their anti-gambling views, to be recipients of shares of stock in distilleries.  He left a life-tune tenancy in a Jamaican vacation residence to three lawyers who were known to hate each other.  (This did happen though, as he sold the place before he died.)

The one inheritance stipulation that got the most attention was the one that became known as the Stork Derby.  He said his money was to be put in trust for ten years following his death, then was to be given to the woman who had the most children in Toronto within that ten year period as shown by birth certificates registered in the city.  If there was a tie between two or more mothers for this designation, the money was to be divided between them.

Initially it was just an oddity to many of the Canadians.  After all, he died in 1926 at the age of 73, and times were pretty good for a lot of the world.  However, a few years later the depression hit and times became tough for a lot of people. 

Of course, where there is a will and a lot of money, things get complicated.  Before the will was finally through probate and the dust had settled, there would be more than 30 lawyers, nine judges, 8 days of hearings, who knows how much time and energy given in depositions and paperwork invested in settling the will.

You know there would some long lost long-distance relative show up and claim the proceeds should rightly go to him, and yes, some lawyer took his case.  Many women came forward to claim the Baby contest.  Several claims thrown out because at least some of the children were designated as illegitimate, some women claimed miscarriages as children that should be counted (but the court over-ruled that claim), some were born outside the city limits.

At last the final decision was made.  The trust now had about $500,000 to be given to the winner.  There were four women who made the final selection, each giving birth to nine children.  They each received $125,000.  In 1938, this was a life-changing sum of money.  They became celebrities and the press had a field day following them as they spent the money.  One woman moved her family from the area because she didn't want her children exposed to all the attention.  (Smart woman, in my opinion.)

I don't know how the religious leaders responded to the receipt of their distillery shares.  That would be interesting to find out, but I doubt I ever will.  More important, you wonder about all those kids conceived for the chance of getting money.  The families were poor at the outset, surely no better and possibly worse at the end. 


  1. such an interesting post. I enjoyed reading it. Thank you.

  2. Thank you JerieLyn. I do appreciate the kind words. Come by any time. - Karen