Tales from the Morgue: Selling babies

2013-08-08T12:15:00Z Tales from the Morgue: Selling babiesJohanna Eubank, Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
August 08, 2013 12:15 pm  • 

When the Morgue Lady peruses microfilm of early editions of the Arizona Daily Star, she generally looks for interesting Arizona news to retell local history buffs.

We all know there was a big war that ended in 1918, so war news, unless it was local, was not on the radar. However, when the Morgue Lady saw this headline, she was horrified enough to read the article. Thankfully, the horror didn't last.

From the Arizona Daily Star, Tuesday, Dec. 10, 1918:

 

SELLING BABIES TO AMERICAN SOLDIERS IS NEW INDUSTRY IN PARIS; PLATOONS BUY THEM AT 500 FRANCS EACH UNDER AUSPICES OF "Y"

(By A. P. LEASED WIRE.)

Paris, Dec. 9.—"Selling babies to soldiers," is Murray G. Sawyer's characterization of his activities as a Red Triangle man with the American Expeditionary Force. Mr. Sawyer comes from Minneapolis, Minn.

"Horrible, isn't it, but true," he said to a friend who met him in a French village and asked what he was doing. "My particular outfit of men have sold ten babies in the last ten days and we expect to sell a hundred more within the next two months. Why, it's the greatest business in France today—this selling of babies to soldiers.

"We have been working with a bunch of men pretty close up to the front lately, and when pay day comes around there's nothing much to do with their money. So we Y. M. C. A. men began to figure out something to offset that.

"There are 59 men in a platoon, and we suggested that platoon should adopt a baby on pay day. It costs 500 francs to take care of a baby for one year, and that means that all but nine men in a platoon should pay 5 francs each on the following pay day. Making a payment each time of 250 francs, or the 500 in all. Each platoon elects a leader who acts as a go-between, for the babies are bought through the baby department of the Stars and Stripes. On the payment of the second and final installment the leader gets seven pictures of the child in various poses.

"It will be possible for one platoon to take up to six babies a year, for it would mean about a dollar from each man on every pay day, which comes around about twice in two months.

"One man said to me the other day, 'Gee, Sawyer, this baby business is great. Who wouldn't rather have a baby than a jag.'

"And that's the way we Y. M. C. A. men have figured it out. We have sold ten babies in ten days, and we are going to place one hundred right in our division before next pay day rolls around."

The Morgue Lady originally had visions of babies stuffed into duffle bags to be spirited home to the States.

Now she knows where that charity on TV got its idea to have people adopt a child for 50 cents a day. "About the price of a cup of coffee," say these people who have never been to Starbucks. As long as it helps the children.

It was extremely accommodating of the YMCA to help these poor men spend their money. It would have been very hard on them to have to save it so they'd have cash when they return home. But that's what charities do.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

About this blog

"Tales from the Morgue" is a way for the Star to share stories from the treasure trove of information held in its old files.

Johanna Eubank, aka the Morgue Lady, was a research assistant in the Star Library — also known as News and Research Services — for 18 years before becoming an online content producer. She has had her share of sneezing fits after digging into dusty old files, so she's sure to find a few old stories to re-examine.

If you have suggestions, comments or questions about this blog, e-mail jeubank@tucson.com

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