“Yes, I’d like to put seven tickets on the baby, please.”

Sitting presidents have done some odd things over the years, really.  But I have to admit, I have a new insane bit of trivia about a President of the United States: Taft was present at an event that raffled off a baby.

The  Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition of 1909 (sounds like a smaller World’s Fair) was held in Washington.  It had some incredibly racist shit, but I’ll be honest, I’m pretty much reeling over the news that an orphaned child was raffled off and there is no documentation of what happened to him after that.

Along the gaudy, wooden boardwalk of the Pay Streak, there were human exhibits. On one day, there was a raffle for a number of prizes, including a month-old orphaned boy, “the property of the Washington Children’s Home Society,” according to a story that September in The Seattle Times.

Just what happened to the baby, called Ernest, is what Seattle attorney Susan Ferguson is researching as part of MOHAI’s Discovering the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition program, which encourages citizens to take on research projects and write articles for publication on the AYPE Web site.

When she first read about Ernest, “I was flabbergasted,” Ferguson said. “My first thought was, ‘How could they give away a baby as a prize?’ ”

Others in the MOHAI program are researching Norway Day, Chicago Day and the gardens of the exposition.

McConaghy hopes more people will take on topics such as President William Howard Taft’s visit to the fair, the Hoo-Hoo House (a log house used by timber barons when they wanted to be rowdy) or the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, which was charged with guarding the purity and chastity of female fairgoers.

Can someone explain to me how this could happen?

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