Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Dionne Quintuplets:
An Ontario Government Tourist Attraction

Successful multiple births are not unusual in this era of fertility drugs and state-of-the-art neonatology facilities . In 1934 this was not the case. The Dionne Quintuplets born near Callander, Ontario, were the first quintuplets known to have survived their infancy.

Elzire Dionne and her five daughters

In the bleak days of the Great Depression, the birth of the Dionne Quintuplets ("Quints") drew world-wide attention. Fearing for the exploitation of the only living quintuplets in the world, the Ontario government removed the babies from their parents four months after their birth making them wards of the provincial crown.


Ironically, it was the Ontario government that exploited the Quints, turning them into the province's top tourist attraction. The government placed them in a specially built facility, which became know as "Quintland", where thousands of people per day walked around an observation gallery to view the sisters behind a one-way screen.Over 3 million people visited  the gallery between 1936 and 1943. According to a 2001 New York Times article, the Quints " brought an estimated $500 million to Ontario..."


After a bitter custody battle, the sisters were returned to their parents in 1943. Unfortunately for the sisters it was the saddest home they ever knew. They viewed their mother as unloving and their father as controlling. Difficult lives followed.

 In 1998, the surviving sisters reached a monetary settlement with the Ontario government as compensation for their exploitation.

Covers from Callandar

1. The Dionne Quintuplet Guardianship

 Callander to Philadelphia, August 8, 1941

Corner card

Back of the envelope

2. From Yvonne Dionne

Callander to Hudson, Mass., February 28, 1940

Corner card

Enclosed letter from  five-year old Yvonne :

3. Philatelic Souvenirs

Second Birthday Anniversary

Callander, May 28, 1936