Thirty-seven babies are christened en masse at the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition in Seattle on July 20, 1909.

  • By Paula Becker
  • Posted 6/09/2008
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 8636

On July 20, 1909, 37 infants are christened before a large audience in the Auditorium Building at the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition on the grounds of the University of Washington in Seattle.  A-Y-P Exposition president J. E. Chilberg, director general Ira  Nadeau (1856-1930), director of ceremonies Josiah Collins, and director of special events Louis W. Buckley serve as honorary godfathers.

Born In June, Baptized in July

The only eligibility requirement the babies had to meet was being born in June 1909.  Twenty of the babies were boys and 17 were girls.  Most were newly minted Seattleites. The rest hung their diapers in Tacoma, Snohomish, South Park, and Brownsville. 

The stage was decorated with a large white silk canopy and surrounded by palm plants, ferns, and flowers.  Garlands of baby blue ribbons completed the picture.  The Seattle Post-Intelligencer noted that the band would play "Babes in Toyland" and Jacobowsky's "Lullaby." 

Exposition officials joined the babies, parents, and sponsors in a large half-circle on the stage.  The Seattle Post-Intelligencer recounted, "But for the sounds that came from the throats of the mites of humanity now and again and the solemn tones of the ministers' voices, nothing was audible, not even a whisper" (July 21, 1909).

Blessed with a Kiss 

The babies were christened in lots by denomination.  Officiating ministers were:

  • Reverend Doctor Mark A. Matthews, First Presbyterian Church
  • Reverend C. L. Gilbert, Madrona Heights Methodist Church
  • Reverend E. L. Benedict, Green Lake Methodist Church
  • Reverend O. A. Tinglestad, Norwegian Lutheran Church
  • Reverend H. A. Stubbs, Norwegian Lutheran Church
  • Reverend Martin Larsen, Swedish Lutheran Church

The ceremony took about two hours.  The Seattle Post-Intelligencer described the scene:

"The mothers and sponsors stood up with the infants in their arms, while the minister walked down the line, baptizing and blessing each as he came to it.  A kiss was planted on the brow of every little one, and it was then returned to the arms of its mother ... . As each child was christened a sterling silver cup, the gift of the exposition, was placed in the hand of its parent.  A certificate of attendance, signed by President Chilberg (1867-1954) and Director General Nadeau, was given each child" (July 21, 1909).

Belated Bridal Tour

Counterbalancing the dewy-eyed parents of the 37 cooing newly christened, The Seattle Times reported the exposition visit of a pair who were considerably more seasoned: "Ben Marshall, Sr., and his wife, of Frankfort, Kentucky, are visiting the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition on their honeymoon, although they have been married twenty-five years and are the parents of thirteen children.  They declare that the trip is their bridal tour.  None of their children is with them" (July 19, 1909).


Sources: "Large Audience Sees 37 June Babies Baptized," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, July 21, 1909; "To Christen 36 Babies At Fair," Ibid., July 20, 1909; "Parents of 13 Visiting Fair," The Seattle Times, July 19, 1909.

Related Topics:   A-Y-P Exposition | Fairs & Festivals | Religion | Society

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