Buy a Ticket, Win a Baby

We are pleased to welcome Regina Jennings as our guest blogger today!  No doubt you’ll be amazed with the circumstances surrounding her topic…”Buy a Ticket, Win a Baby.”  Enjoy!

You’ve probably heard of some crazy raffle prizes, but they all pale in comparison to what I found in the Joplin News Herald of 1910. First, some background.

After the Civil War, Joplin became the land of opportunity. It didn’t seem you could dig a hole in the ground without hitting either lead or zinc. Stories were told of poor families traveling through the region who decided to do a little digging around their campfire one night and a few years later they might be living in a mansion in the expensive Murphysburg neighborhood.

But with easy riches came a host of other problems. First off, there were purported to be seventy-five saloons in the newly-settled town, along with gambling dens and houses of ill-repute. Before long, the respectable citizens of Joplin thought to establish a Children’s Home to accommodate the children abandoned by the less-responsible and less-fortunate among them.

Not surprisingly, the Joplin Children’s Home had trouble keeping up with the needs of the community. In an attempt to raise money for the Children’s Home, the Elks planned a charity fair in 1910 and M. B. Peltz, the new manager of the Electric Light Park, offered his services to promote the amusements, including a raffle.

Now, to Mr. Peltz’s thinking, raffling off a baby was a practical solution. Not only would the Children’s Home raise funds, but it would also be left with one less mouth to feed if the raffle was a success. And Mr. Peltz wasn’t alone in his thinking. This was a trend of the times.

In 1911, A Foundling Hospital in Paris had a baby raffle, and in 1909 a baby named Ernest was put up as a prize during the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition in Washington State. Who knows how many other orphaned children were placed in that way? To many early 20th Century humanitarians, it was a pragmatic solution.

But the fine citizens of Joplin wouldn’t hear of such a thing. While the Elks were divided on the idea, the mayor said he’d call out the militia to prevent a baby from being raffled. Despite the threat, Mr. Peltz continued to share the tragic (and often contradictory) history of the orphaned child, along with promoting the other amusements of the charitable fair.

When Peltz failed to disavow the plans, he was arrested, but the publicity only encouraged Peltz. Even after he posted bail and was released from jail, he couldn’t help but drop hints to the newspapers about the poor kid that would be rescued by someone willing to buy a ticket. After all, his goal was to get people talking about the carnival and to raise funds. People were talking all right. A promoter, through and through.

The day of the Joplin fair arrived with its parade, carnival, and games. There was no baby among the raffled items, but the controversy seemed to have achieved its purpose. One thousand and two hundred dollars were raised for the Children’s Home, and Mr. Peltz undoubtedly credited himself and the scandal for the success. How did he explain the absence of a kid to be given away? The newspapers don’t say specifically but stories passed down over the years say he produced a goat “kid” while others say there was a kitten.

While some places might have raffled off a baby, Joplin, for all its scandalous ways, avoided that trespass. But barely. And in my new release Courting Misfortune, a baby raffle does take place, with disastrous consequences.

What are some things you’ve seen raffled off? What would you like to win? What would you refuse?

To one person who leaves a comment I will give away a copy of Courting Misfortune. 

Here’s a quick excerpt of the book.

“Courting Misfortune”– Calista York needs one more successful case as a Pinkerton operative to secure her job. When she’s assigned to find the kidnapped daughter of a mob boss, she’s sent to the rowdy mining town of Joplin, Missouri, despite having extended family in the area. Will their meddling expose her mission and keep Lila Seaton from being recovered?

When Matthew Cook decided to be a missionary, he never expected to be sent only a short train ride away. While fighting against corruption of all sorts, Matthew hears of a baby raffle being held to raise funds for a children’s home. He’ll do what he can to stop it, but he also wants to stop the reckless Miss York, whose bad judgment consistently seems to be putting her in harm’s way.

Calista doesn’t need the handsome pastor interfering with her investigation, and she can’t let her disguise slip. Her job and the life of a young lady depend on keeping Matthew in the dark.  

Regina Jennings is a graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University with a degree in English and a minor in history. She’s a Christy Award finalist, the winner of the National Reader’s Choice Award, a two-time Golden Quill finalist and a finalist for the Oklahoma Book of the Year Award. Regina has worked at the Mustang News and at the Oklahoma National Stockyards. She lives outside of Oklahoma City with her husband and four children and can be found online. Her link to purchase is:  

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98 thoughts on “Buy a Ticket, Win a Baby”

  1. Welcome. What a interesting story. Tragic but hopeful for the child. I’m a big fan of anything antique. So that would be awesome. Not so much if it was a snake. Lol.

  2. I have seen all kinds of things raffled off, but since I live in Texas the most common things I see raffled off, at least at church raffles, are guns and four wheelers. One day I would love to win a handmade queen size quilt. A prize I would absolutely refuse would have to be a snake. Especially since this summer I was bitten by a copperhead.

  3. I’ve entered raffles for quilts and books, and would be delighted to win either! But a baby? Yikes–that’s beyond the pale!

  4. I have entered raffle for tickets to concerts, quilts, and turkeys. I would not be interested in a raffle for a gun, snake, livestock (I live in the city).

  5. Baby–that’s as bad as those adoption schemers prevalent in parts of the US in the 20th century, stealing babies from the poor and selling them to the wealthy.

    I’ve seen everything from baskets of wine, to home party plan items, to quilts, cars, homes, and so much more raffled off around here. I’ve won a few things over the years–a large Longaberger basket or gift cards were probably the biggest items I have won through a raffle.

    I wouldn’t buy a ticket for anything illegal or amoral, or something I didn’t really want, or something I would have to pay an exorbitant amount of taxes on.


  6. I’ve seen dolls, quilts, full-sized playhouses, livestock, guns, vehicles, cash, etc. I’ve also seen expensive alcoholic beverages, which doesn’t interest me, and I wouldn’t buy.

  7. One of the funniest items I have seen at a raffle was half used candles – a lot of 50 already used candles. It was very hot that day and not only had they been used, they were bent into different shapes by the heat in the room. I remember buying them because I used to melt candles in cupcake tin and then I put in a pine cone and a wick to make fire starters for our fireplace.
    I made so many fire starters that I gave them out to my friends with fireplaces.

  8. Welcome Regina- What an amazing blog of history. I’ve seen TV’s, vehicles, trips, and guns raffled off.
    I’d love to win a Raffled side of Beef. We all can Alway use meant and the prices just keep going up.
    I do not think I’d enjoy winning a raffle that included a cruise or going to another country. Although there is so much to see in our world, I think AMERICA has so much to offer and I’ve not even seen 1/4 of it, yet.
    Thanks you for coming. Merry Christmas.

  9. A baby raffle is crazy. it’s definitely not something you would see these days. At least I hope not. I have seen all sorts of things raffled off. When I volunteered for a cat rescue, I used to do their fundraising and we had auctions and raffles all the time.

  10. I have been part of many raffles on both providing the prize and purchasing an item? When they are for extraordinary causes, I love helping. I have enough jewelry to last me forever. Since I’ve retired I don’t have many places to wear the pretty jewelry. Not expensive … just pretty. I always like to help mission work. It brings me joy. I’ve raffled off woodworking items, gift cards, baked items, and books. I don’t think I would refuse any items on a raffle I’ve entered. If I won and didn’t want the item, I would regift it to someone who may.

    Your book looks so good! I think the cover is very inquisitive. I would love to read it. Thank you for coming today. I enjoyed the history lesson.

  11. Good Morning, Regina! Thank you for this interesting post! I’ve seen some interesting things raffled off such as a windmill yard ornament,

  12. That’s crazy (and awful) to think of a baby being raffled! I’ve seen other things like gift baskets, gift cards, etc. be raffled.

  13. I have seen quilts, food, furniture raffled off, gosh most anything but I have never seen a baby raffle. Thanks for the chance to win.

  14. I once bought a raffle ticket & won a TV! You could have knocked me over with a feather I was so surprised! The only unusual thing I have seen raffled was a “date” with a guy! Which probably happens all the time but I have only seen it once! LOL!

  15. Northing like a baby but I would like to Win a book. I have been reading a lot since I have been only leaving home for essential trips.

  16. Here in Finland we didn’t have child raffles, we had child auctions. Child auction was a practice in Sweden and Finland during the 19th and early 20th centuries, in which orphan and poor children were boarded out in auctions. The children were handed over to the person asking least money from the authorities.

      • Just write child auction or child auctions and Finland or Sweden on Google.
        There are actually still people living in Finland who experienced being auctioned.

      • I remember my older relatives talking about these child auctions and mentioning someone who actually didn’t ask for any money in order to take in a child (or it might have even been more than one child). Hopefully she treated the kids well. That of course, wasn’t always the case.

  17. Welcome Reginna, this article gave me a chuckle. Im sure it was serious business back then, but reading it brought all kinds of emotions. I have been to many fairs over my years and have loved most of the raffled items. There was one that I wanted to put my name in but mom wouldnt let me (ok I was only 10) it was for a Black Angus Bull. Yessssss. But we already had a Shorthorn bull and adding another bull would not be such a wise idea. LOL. I saw a raffle for week in Florida by Disney. But something about it just didnt seem right. Sure there are a lot of scammers out there.
    quilting dash lady at comcast dot net

    • Yes, I’m really slow to enter raffles now. Especially at places like fairs. Don’t know what I’d do with a bull, either. I guess take it to the auction immediately. 🙂

  18. I have entered a couple of raffles for a new car. Didn’t win but the money went to a good cause.
    Enjoyed reading the article. Interesting

  19. As soon as I saw the title of your blog, Regina, I had to read it! LOL. I’m glad the children’s home had a successful fundraiser, and I certainly hope every baby found a loving home the proper way. And OF COURSE you had to use that tidbit of history in your book!!! Love it.

    Thanks for joining us today, Regina!

  20. Hi Regina. You’d think, if there was a chance you’d win a baby and you didn’t WANT a baby, it’d prevent you from entering to begin with, right? Unless the baby raffle ticket was separate. I wonder if all the promotion of the raffled baby led to any adoptions?

  21. I’ve seen many things raffled off. One thing I’ve refused was a bottle of wine since I don’t drink alcohol. But babies? Wow, that’s something I didn’t know about.

    Thank you for the giveaway chance and this interesting post today Regina!

  22. Welcome Regina! Very interesting post.

    I once entered a raffle for children’s artwork. That’s the one that stands out. I love books so winning would be awesome.

  23. Wow, I had never heard of a baby being raffled, hopefully they got a good home and loving parents. I have entered different raffles and I have won a couple of them. I would definitely not want to win a snake in a raffle for sure. They have had Big Screen TV raffles at our church, but I have never won one.Thank you for the chance of this awesome sounding book. Have a Great weekend and stay safe.

  24. What a fascinating post. I have entered raffles and did win a restaurant dinner once which was a nice gift. I would love a quilt or a basket of goodies.

  25. I wonder what happened to those babies that were raffled off. Did they have better lives than they would have had at the children’s home? Did their new family love them?

  26. Some popular things that I’ve seen raffled off are hunting guns, lawnmowers, quilts, TVs, and furniture. I would like to win something useful like a set of good cookware. I would not buy a ticket for anything living I would have to take care of and feed and clean behind everyday.

    • I can’t imagine raffling a baby! A couple of the oddest things I’ve seen in a raffle were a chainsaw and a truckload of gravel.
      My favorite kinds of raffles are for things like restaurant gift cards or trips. We also do 50/50 raffles where you win half the money in the pot and the other half goes to the fundraiser.

  27. I once went to a church where they were raffling off decorated Christmas trees, when I was younger I loved porcelain dolls because I thought they were so pretty. Well they had a tree themed with tiny porcelain dolls! My parents let me enter that one, but we didn’t win.

  28. I used to help my mom with her birdhouses that she made and sold. Her husband would make the wooden house and she would put stones on them. Since we live in Michigan each one had a petosky stone somewhere on it! She put one in a raffle once and I think the highest bid was $50!

  29. I have seen cars, homes, and what we’re supposed to be antiques (but we’re really junk). I wouldn’t mind winning a home or RV, but I would refuse the junk.

  30. Grills, gift baskets, gift certificates, TVs I’ve all seen, and would probably accept. I’d definitely have to say no to anything alive: puppies, kittens, bunnies, goldfish…

    But babies?? I couldn’t say no if a kid needed a home. No matter the unconventional choosing of a home. History is fun. Thanks for sharing weird but true tidbits!

  31. I won a raffle for a Cabbage Patch doll when I was younger, and have seen all sorts of other things being raffled off such as dance lessons, gift cards and ceiling fans. Out of those three things I would not want the ceiling fan. 🙂

  32. Quilts are popular raffle pries here. I’m glad they didn’t really raffle off a baby. I’m looking forward to reading your book.

  33. You find the neatest and quirkiest (and after all, aren’t those the same thing?) historical fun facts, and I love seeing how you spin them into stories! (I’m about halfway through _Courting Misfortune_ now and thoroughly hooked.) Thanks for sharing so generously.

    Around here guns are raffled off with some regularity, as are certificates for various local goods and services, such as oil changes, gasoline, gift certificates for cash amounts, gift baskets, various livestock-care products, dinners at restaurants, turkeys, quilts, electronic devices like tablets, and groceries. My favorite one, though, was when the senior class president at the high school donated one of his pigs to raise money for the senior trip. I bought quite a few tickets for that one (as both a senior class sponsor and as a mother of one of the seniors) and was super, SUPER relieved when I didn’t win it!

  34. Oh my goodness! I’ve never heard of a baby raffle. That is just heartbreaking. It always stuns me to think about how people viewed orphans and foundlings back then.

  35. This was fascinating! I’ve seen a goat raffled off. I would absolutely refuse a live animal. I don’t have the energy to take care of an animal.

  36. One raffle we attended had a mounted, preserved horse’s hoof. It was bisected to show the internal structure of the hoof and fetlock. Not really all that unusual considering it was for the farrier school our daughter attended. I have bought many raffle tickets and been lucky enough to win several times. Nothing out of the ordinary for the most part. I did win a couple metal caterpillar tracks in a raffle at the blacksmithing group my husband and son belong to. It was an embarrassing day. I won 5 of the 12 items they were drawing for. Honey, a courting candle, and apple butter were some of the other winnings that day. Oddly enough, neither my husband or son won anything.

    • I can understand raffling children/babies to get funds for an orphanage. Not that I approve. One could hope they would be treated as members of the family and children that were loved and wanted. Unfortunately, I worry many were just servants or worse. It was a bit like the orphan trains. Some of those children were cherished but many were no better than slaves.

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