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: http://www.reginajennings.com/courting-misfortune/.