One of the most bizarre bits of Toronto took place in the years of 1926-1936. What has been since referred to as ‘The Great Stork Derby’ was a decade-long baby-making contest between several Toronto residents. Yes, this was a real thing, and the event had women popping out children like nobody’s business in hopes of receiving a financial reward.

Okay, let’s back things up a minute. Here’s how The Great Stork Derby came to be. The wild behaviour was actually a result of one man’s will. Charles Vance Millar, a lawyer and financier, caused the ruckus by promising a portion of the fortune in his will to the Toronto woman who produced the most kids in the decade after his death. Well, he died, and so the race began.

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great stork derby
Photo of a winning family via W.H. James/Toronto Star, “Nagle family portrait,” TPL Virtual Exhibits, accessed June 10, 2021

A number of families reportedly competed in The Great Stork Derby over the years it was running. Some with as many as 16 children! However, many of them were disqualified within that time for various reasons (their children were not born in Toronto, they were already born before the contest began, etc.).

In the end, there were six women tied for first place. Four of the six women received $125,000 (worth roughly $2 million today). The other two mothers received smaller out-of-court settlements because some of their children were eventually deemed ineligible for the contest. Oh, and before you ask, the winners each gave birth to nine children.

Pictured below is Lilly Kenny and her family. She gave birth to 12 children, but was disqualified because two of her eligible children were stillborn. In the end, she received a $12,500 consolation prize.

great stork derby
Photographer unknown, “Kenny family portrait,” TPL Virtual Exhibits, accessed June 10, 2021

Now, if you’re wondering how on earth something like this is even legal, you’ll be interested to hear that the will was actually held up in the Supreme Court of Canada, where the court determined that as long as the children were not born out of wedlock or were stillborn, the clause was valid. Wild, right?

But that’s not the only craziness in Charles Vance Millar’s story. Ever the prankster, the lawyer included a few other clauses in his will designed to create chaos. He left his vacation home to a group of three men who notoriously did not get along with each other – with the condition that they must live in the home together indefinitely. He also willed his jockey club stocks to a group of anti-horse-racing advocates, saying that all three had to collect their shares as a group or all would receive nothing. As you can see, there was a bit of a theme with this guy.

We don’t know what Charles Vance Millar was thinking when he wrote his will, but we’re sure he was laughing from the great beyond! The Great Stork Derby has got to be one of the weirdest bits of this city’s past.