The Great Stork Derby

Charles Vance Millar fathered no children of his own. But thanks to an unusual clause in his will, this wealthy Toronto lawyer brought 36 lives into the world and was known as the Stork Derby.The Stork Derby

Millar, a bachelor, died in 1926 after running up a flight of stairs. The 73-year-old had been known as a successful attorney and shrewd financier, but the reading of his will underscored his true passion in life: the practical joke.

His entire will was rife with pranks. He left a (previously sold) vacation home to a group of warring lawyers, and (nonexistent) brewery stock to temperance advocates.

And then there was the ninth clause of the document, which stipulated that Millar’s remaining estate — valued at around $500,000 — be left to the Toronto woman who gave birth to the highest number of children in the 10 years following his death.

The jackpot provoked a minor baby boom.

This was the ’30s, and families throughout the country were struggling to make ends meet. For many Toronto women, Millar’s estate seemed a legitimate solution to their Depression-era troubles. They bore child after child.

Meanwhile, the country’s top attorneys — Millar’s former colleagues, whose legs he may have been pulling one last time from six feet under — debated the legality of the will. The matter was even brought before the Supreme Court of Canada. But the document prevailed and the Stork Derby continued on.

In the end, four women split the purse. Alice Timleck, Kathleen Nagle, Annie Smith and Isobel MacLean had each given birth to nine children since 1926, and each received $125,000.

Millar’s intentions with the contest remain a puzzle. As he wrote in his will, “What I do leave is proof of my folly in gathering and retaining more than I required in my lifetime.”

Although he left behind no biological heirs, his legacy lives on through those 36 Stork Derby babies and his amusing story.

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