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May 22, 2009

Celebrating the Quints’ 75th Birthday in North Bay



Pierre Berton in his book The Dionne Years: A Thirties Melodrama (1977) wrote the following in his introduction about the birth of the Quints 75 years ago next Thursday. 

“On May 28, 1934, between the hours of three and six in the morning, there were born to a farm-wife in the backwoods of Northern Ontario five identical girl babies. The event can properly be called a miracle. The chances of a woman giving birth to fraternal quintuplets were fifty-four million to one. The chance of such a child growing to adulthood was incalculable; there was no past record of any quintuplet living more than a few days.” 

Dolls produced celebrating the life of the Quints in the years after their birth. Submitted photos

“Because the Dionne quintuplets survived and were on display for the first nine years of their lives, they became the world’s best known babies – better known than the princesses, Elizabeth and Margaret Rose, better known, even, than Shirley Temple. Millions, seeing their photographs almost daily on the front pages, on magazine covers, in countless advertisements, and in newsreels and feature films, were able to watch them grow, pound by pound and inch by inch, just like their own children.” 

The Dionne Quints weighted 13 pounds 5 ounces and were first Quints to have all lived at that point. An estimated 3 million people came to see them at Quintland in the middle of the depression which was a real boost to the economy of the area. 

Many of the people connected with the birth received attention as well, especially Dr. Dafoe who lived in what is now the Callander Bay Heritage Museum.  Louise de Kiriline Lawrence one of the nurses wrote a book on the Quints before going on to a long career as a naturalist where she wrote several books. I enjoyed writing an article on Verna Yerlasky the Quints hairdresser last June.

Moved to North Bay

As most people know a huge home was built in Corbeil near their birth home for the Quints that is now Nipissing Manor, a home for the Aged. 

The original house was bought by an entrepreneur who moved it near the Pinewood Motel where it ran for years before it and the many artefacts were moved to North Bay to the Chamber of Commerce site at Seymour and the Bypass where it is today in an ideal tourist location. 

Cover of one of the books on the Quints.

Many additional artefacts have been collected and are on display in the summer months at the museum.  The remaining three Quints visited in 1998 as a part of a fundraiser for the Museum and a local Treatment Centre. A large financial settlement for the Quints later made up for years of exploitation.  The two remaining Quints live in relative seclusion and will celebrate their birthday with family and friends. 

Museum Event 

The Museum will celebrate the birthday on Thursday the 28th with free admission and a “Craft Your Own” Birthday Card Table.  There will be a giant birthday card to sign. 

There will be a Quintvention of collectors of Quint Memorabilia with collectors from far and wide with some special activity at the Museum on Saturday May 30th.  The Convention “Where It All Began” has its own itinerary running from Friday May 29 to Sunday May 31.  Check www.quintvention2009.com. On Saturday there will be a cake cutting with Mayor Vic Fideli at noon at the Museum, music and craft and activity centres for kids. 

Watch for further information and join the fun and remember this momentous story for the ages. 

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