Photograph with watercolour of a symmetrical blue building with two chimneys and a yellow door. Two figures are walking towards the building on a dirt road with greenery around it, and there is a tree in the distance.

Early Education Charles Millar

Early Schools

Photograph with watercolour of a symmetrical blue building with two chimneys and a yellow door. Two figures are walking towards the building on a dirt road with greenery around it, and there is a tree in the distance.

Grammar School ‘Blue School’, Toronto, 1912. Courtesy of the Toronto Public Library Archives.

Colour painting of the exterior of a large, two story brown brick building. Architectural details include multiple arched windows and large staircases at either end of the building, leading to its entrances.

Jarvis Collegiate Institute, Toronto, circa 1870. Courtesy of the Toronto Public Library.

Black and white image of a newspaper article with the  headline, "Stork Derby Near Deadline; Court Battle is Forecast." Underneath are photographs of three different women, Mrs John Nagle, Mrs Arthur Timleek and Mrs Matthew Kenny.

“Stork Derby near deadline; Court Battle is forecast.” The Grape Belt and Chautauqua Farmer, Oct. 23 1936.

Early Schools

The Home District Grammar School was built at King and George Streets in 1807 and was a one-room schoolhouse. When it first opened, only five students enrolled but it quickly rose to 37 by year’s end.  Eventually it became clear that it was too small to accommodate the number of attendees it was acquiring. To replace it, another school was built in 1816 at Adelaide and Church streets, known as the ‘Blue School.’

‘Blue School’

The ‘Blue School,’ named after its blue paint job, was a two-storey building. The first floor consisted of enough desks to accommodate 50 students, and the second floor was used for meetings, debates and performances. Toronto’s first official high schools grew out of the ‘Blue School’, including Jarvis Collegiate and Upper Canada College. The citizens of York put a high value on education; however, it wasn’t until 1871 when school in Ontario became mandatory. Among the many students that attended these schools were children born during “The Great Stork Derby.”

Charles Vance Millar

In 1926, a wealthy lawyer named Charles Vance Millar left surprising instructions in his will. Millar had always been an unusual man with a strange sense of humour and a history of philanthropy. With no living relatives, he decided to have some fun with his will. He left his large share of a brewing company to temperance advocates, horse racing stocks to those who preached against the ills of gambling, and his vacation home in Jamaica to three friends who detested one another. But the oddest allocation was investing a portion of his estate over a 10-year period and at the end of the decade, the woman who had the most children would receive the money.

Claiming the Prize

The Great Depression soon hit Toronto, and families were desperate. Many of the women who came forward to claim Millar’s money were from lower income neighbourhoods, including Corktown and The Ward. In the end, the judge split the prize between four women who had nine children. Each woman received the equivalent of $2 million. Learn more about the derby in the “Babies Got Bank” episode of This Great American Life podcast.