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REVIEWS 563 importance,' the workers only role to date has been as 'losers' providing the system with a 'largely willing acquiescence.' This will not do. It is simply apriori assumptions at work. IfKatz, Doucet, and Stern want to write about the working class, let them study it first. GREGORY s. KEALEY Memorial University ofNewfoundland The Great Stork Derby. MARK M. ORKIN. Toronto, General Publishing, 1981. Pp. 344ยท $17.95. The Great Stork Derby, a famous episode of Depression-era Toronto, had its beginnings in 1926 with the death of Charles Vance Millar, a lawyer and sportsman who left a most curious will. Millar, a man ofwealth, a bachelor, and an eccentric, in death took aim at some of the notorious foibles of 'Toronto the Good' by leaving brewery shares to well-known temperance advocates and racetrack stock to opponents of horseracing. It was the will's residuary clause, however, which made it a cause celebre and gained for it a fame or notoriety almost akin to that achieved in the same period by the Dionne quintuplets. According to this clause, Millar's executors were directed to let the residue of his estate gather interest for ten years and then pay it 'to the mother who has since my death given birth in Toronto to the greatest number ofchildren.' With no more than the usual exaggeration, author Mark Orkin claims that the Millar will and the Great Stork Derby which it set in motion 'would provoke more public indignation and laughter, fill more newspaper columns, and inspire - more lawyers' legerdemain than any other single event ofthe nineteen twenties and thirties.' Quite rightly Mark Orkin has presented his story primarily as entertainment and as such it offers good reading for those whose taste incline towards dramatic or bizarre social incidents. If at times the plot drags or the cast of characters fails to excite the imagination, there is enough here to induce most readers to pursue the story to its conclusion, if only to determine what magic number ofinfants would lead some fortunate mother to the pot of gold as well as whether the courts in their wisdom would allow the inclusion as 'Millar babies' of such categories as stillborn and illegitimate children. But behind the humour and the melodrama of these events are two themes of larger significance. Firstly, the Millar will was very much a product of the rollicking, high-spirited 1920s but circumstances determined that the world was a very different place ten years later when it fell to the courts to decide the validity ofthe residual clause and to pick the winners ofthe Stork Derby. By the 1930s the mood had changed and in Ontario both Conservative and Liberal governments looked askance at a will which seemed to mock conventional morality by encouraging women to engage in a breeding contest. Yet in the sombre 1930s, in an environment in which most of the contestants and their families were receiving welfare from the city, the Millar will offered an escape 564 THE CANADIAN HISTORICAL REVIEW from grinding poverty and the public was in no mood to allow the politicians to set aside its terms, as was attempted, or even to interfere to the extent that the Hepburn government did in the case of the Dionnes. The Stork Derby could have been a degrading spectacle motivated only by greed but Orkin demonstrates how the quiet dignity of working-class families prevailed and turned a potential circus into something good and positive. Even when the city fathers somewhat meanly and with dubious legality submitted claims to the winners for the repayment of welfare funds, the families paid promptly and without cavil. Ifthe contestants emerge as worthy heroes, there is more doubt with respect to the other principal actors, the lawyers andjudges, and at times Orkin seems to present them as vultures determined to ensure that they and not the winners received the bulk ofCharlie Millar's estate. In the Depression era when lawyers were hit as hard as the rest of the community, the lawsuits arising out of the Millar will, Orkin tells us, 'had all the ingredients of a lawyer's dream.' They involved lots of money, about three-quarters...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1710-1093
Print ISSN
0008-3755
Pages
pp. 563-564
Launched on MUSE
2016-04-06
Open Access
No
Archive Status
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