It sounds like something straight out of the annals of criminal behavior, but while it is strange, the authorities decided that it wasn’t illegal. Everyone knows that the adoption process, and the cost involved can make it almost impossible for many parents to adopt a child, but in late 1911, Parisians seeking to become parents could do things the regular way. Or they could take a more unusual option offered to them that year: A baby lottery. That’s right a baby lottery.
In January 1912, a foundling hospital, which was actually a children’s home, decided to hold “a raffle of live babies.” The hospital’s management check on the legalities and once they received the go-ahead, the plan went forward. The plan was two-fold. They wanted to find homes for these sweet abandoned babies, and they wanted to raise funds for the children’s home and other charitable institutions.
To protect the innocent babies, “An investigation of the winners was made, of course, to determine their desirability as foster parents.” By modern standards, this sort of thing feels bizarre and crazy, not to mention neglectful. But, as John F Ptak points out in his blog post about the lottery, “in comparison with some bitter early histories of the want of tenderness in the care of children, and keeping in mind the great leap forward in the creation of the foundling hospitals and what they represented in the face of not having anywhere for unwanted and impossible babies to go, the idea of the lottery for cute babies in 1912 doesn’t look so bad when placed in its historical context…With the terrible history of infanticide and exposure not too dimly removed from this time, the lottery seems far less horrible than its antiquarian components.” I would agree. While the idea was odd, it was similar to the Orphan Trains, with the exception of the background checks done on the parents wanting these babies.
It is an amazing thing when we look back on it, and most of us would be somewhat appalled, but for these babies, it was a chance at a loving home, and it would appear that it worked very well…at least in that era. I don’t know how successful such a thing would be in this day and age. The dangers would very likely outweigh the good, and that is sad, because adoption is so expensive that many families remain childless. They just don’t have the money to go through a reputable agency, and anything else is a scary proposition. I would worry about they kinds of people who would try for something like this these days too. Most would be fine I’m sure, but there are a lot of crazy people out there too. I think the 1912 Paris Baby Lottery was an event of another era that will most likely never be seen again.
Most of the time, the oldest sibling is the first to marry, and true to that thought, my Aunt Evelyn Byer was the first of my Grandma and Grandpa Byer’s nine children to marry. The love of her life turned out to be George Hushman, a young man who was raised in the children’s home in Casper, Wyoming, after losing both of his parents at a very young age. His mother, Wyoma Woodfork Hushman passed away when George was just 11 years old, and his dad, George Wave Hushman was killed in action during World War II, when George was just 17 years old. Uncle George’s dad was unable to take care of him after his mother died, so at some point he ended up in the children’s home. I’m sure many people would think that his would always be a sad story, but it wasn’t. Uncle George had a friend James Wesley Saint John…who went by Wes. They were good friends, and Uncle George spent a lot of time at his parents house. Wes’ mom, Hettie Saint John became like an adopted mom to Uncle George. She was a very stabilizing influence in his life. As the years went on the two men grew up and went into the service. Unfortunately, only one of them would come back home. Wes was lost at sea in 1944, and they never found out what happened to him. It was a hard loss for Hettie, and for Uncle George.
Uncle George went on to marry my Aunt Evelyn on September 1, 1947. While the sadness of losing his friend and not knowing any of his family lingered, Uncle George was a very happy family man. He and Aunt Evelyn would be blessed with five children, and they would be married for almost 68 years before Aunt Evelyn’s passing in 2015. Uncle George has been in frail health since Aunt Evelyn’s passing, but I know that their time together is still vivid in his mind, because she was the love of his life. I remember so many fun times they had with my parents. they bowled together, double dated, went to dances, and spent time at each others house. They were more that sisters and brothers-in-law, they were best friends. I really miss those good times they had, because w, their kids got to have those good times too. Today is Uncle George’s 92nd birthday. What an amazing milestone that is. Happy birthday Uncle George!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
While in Superior, Wisconsin in late August, we drove by a beautiful home, called the Fairlawn Mansion. I have always been intrigued by mansions. It isn’t that I would like to live in one necessarily, but I very much enjoy going through them. We didn’t have time to go through this one, unfortunately, so I have been doing some research on it. My research has helped to tie a couple of things together for me about my hometown. I was born in Superior, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that I know a lot about the history there…especially since we moved when I was three years old. I never knew who the mayors were for instance, or why some of the places were named what they are.
I knew about Pattison Park, but never knew how it got it’s name. It was named after Superior’s three time mayor, Martin Pattison. He was a lumber and mining baron, and he built the Fairlawn Mansion as the family home for himself, his wife and their six children. Construction began in 1889 and was completed in 1891. It is known as one of America’s castles, and it definitely looks the part. It is a 42 room mansion with a four story turret complete with a widow’s watch overlooking the bay at the tip of Lake Superior. The cost of building the mansion was $150,000 at that time, which is equivalent to well over $3,000,000 today. The grounds are adorned with several gardens filled with flowers in the summertime.
The family lived in the home until Martin’s passing in 1918, and the home sat vacant until 1920. From 1920 to 1962, this mansion served as a children’s home and house for the less fortunate. To me that seems a bit odd. Not that the house would be used in this manner, but that the people who benefitted from it’s use in those days would be called less fortunate…since they did have an amazing home to live in. Of course, if they were orphaned, they would be less fortunate. Nevertheless, they had an amazing house to live in. I can imagine that if those walls could talk, they would have many stories of the laughter of children to tell, because the mansion housed over 2000 children during it’s 42 years as a children’s home.
There are always a few ghost stories associated with mansions, it seems, and this mansion is no exception. It is said that a former maid, who was later killed by her husband and a little girl who supposedly drowned in the pool both haunt the mansion to this day, but I don’t believe in ghosts, so I say that only in passing, since it is a story connected to this beautiful house. Neither of these accounts can be substantiated, and there is no record of anyone dying there. I’m not sure why it is always the mansions that seem to carry the haunted status, because quite likely every older home and even many of the newer ones have had a resident die in them, and I’m sure quite a few of the deaths involved murder, but you just never hear of ghosts haunting those places. Maybe the story just doesn’t fit in with a dinky little house.
Rather than the supposed ghosts a mansion might have, I prefer to think of the happy times the mansion got to see over the years. These days the house is a museum, and hosts many weddings. I can imagine that the ballroom would be fabulous, and such a romantic place to have a wedding party. If the couple planned it right, theirs could be a replica of a traditional high society wedding of days gone by. I would imaging that if these walls could talk, we could hear stories of beautiful gowns, elegant people, and beautiful music. This mansion has such a unique history, that I would really love to sit and hear all it one day, because the stories would have to be simply amazing.