Charles Vance Millar

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Charles Vance Millar
Charles Vance Millar.jpg
Charles Vance Millar
Born 1853 (1853)
Aylmer, Ontario
Died October 31, 1926 (1926-11-01)
Occupation Lawyer, financier
Known for Being a notorious practical joker, most notably in his unusual will, which began the Stork Derby.

Charles Vance Millar (1853 – October 31, 1926) was a Canadian lawyer and financier. However, he is now best known for his penchant for practical jokes and his unusual will which reflected that sense of humour.[1]

Early years[edit]

Charles Millar attended the University of Toronto and graduated with an average of 98% in all his subjects. He chose to study law, passed the bar examination and opened up his own law office in Toronto.[2]

The BC Express Company and the Millar Addition[edit]

In 1897, Millar purchased the BC Express Company from Stephen Tingley and took over the government mail delivery contracts for the Cariboo region in British Columbia.[3]

When it was announced that the construction of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway would go through Fort George (later named Prince George) Millar expanded the company's services to Fort George and built two sternwheelers, the BX and the BC Express.[4] Millar also foresaw that Fort George would become a major center in Northern British Columbia and he made arrangements to purchase the First Nations reserve at Fort George. However, the railway was already planning to purchase the property and they convinced the Department of Indian Affairs to cancel their negotiations with Millar. When Millar took the railway to court, the railway agreed to sell him 200 acres (0.81 km2) of the property, which became known as the Millar Addition.[5][6]

The Stork Derby[edit]

Though highly successful in the law and in his investments, Millar is now known primarily for his love of jokes and pranks which played on people's greed. One favourite was to leave money on a sidewalk and watch from hiding as passers-by furtively pocketed it.

Millar's greatest and final prank was his will, which says in part:

This Will is necessarily uncommon and capricious because I have no dependents or near relations and no duty rests upon me to leave any property at my death and what I do leave is proof of my folly in gathering and retaining more than I required in my lifetime.

The will was full of hilariously playful bequests:[7]

  • Three men who were known to despise each other were granted joint lifetime tenancy in Millar's vacation home in Jamaica.
  • Seven prominent Toronto Protestant ministers and temperance advocates were to receive $700,000 worth of O'Keefe Brewery stock, a Catholic[8] business, if they participated in its management and drew on its dividends.[7]
  • Three fervid anti-horse-racing advocates were to receive $25,000 worth of Ontario Jockey Club stock.[7]

But the final bequest of his will was the largest and strangest. In the will's tenth clause, it required that the balance of Millar's estate was to be converted to cash ten years after his death and given to the Toronto woman who gave birth to the most children in that time.[9] In the event of a tie, the bequest would be divided equally. The resulting contest became known as the Great Stork Derby.[8][9]

The Supreme Court of Canada validated the will; Millar had prepared it with care.[1] The will survived ten years of litigation, including attempts by Millar's distant relatives to have it declared invalid, and the Derby continued uninterrupted.[10] Because of Millar's long-term investments, particularly one with the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel that turned a $2 investment into over $100,000, his estate increased drastically during the 10 years, and was worth $750,000 when it was finally liquidated with its value enhanced with it accumulating during a deflationary economic period. Most of this prize was shared by four Toronto women who each had 9 children.[1][11] The estate also settled $12,500 each for two women with dubious claims to a share in the prize. The childless Millar ended up 'fathering' (albeit indirectly) 36 children.

The contest would be immortalized by a made-for-television movie The Great Stork Derby, which starred Megan Follows.[12][13]

It was speculated that Millar prepared this clause in his will as a means to discredit indiscriminate births and prohibitions against birth control.[3]


  1. ^ a b c Orkin, M.M.
  2. ^ West p. 134
  3. ^ a b West pp. 135, 136
  4. ^ West pp. 136, 137
  5. ^ Christensen p. 36
  6. ^
  7. ^ a b c Time 1926-12-20
  8. ^ a b Mikkelson
  9. ^ a b Globe & Mail 05-01-2002
  10. ^ New York Times, 1936-11-17
  11. ^ Time 1936-09-28
  12. ^ IMDB
  13. ^ Erickson, H.


Further reading[edit]

  • Wilton, Elizabeth (1994). Bearing the Burden: The Great Toronto Stork Derby, 1926–1938. (Ottawa) National Library of Canada. ISBN 0-612-15836-5.

External links[edit]