• U.S.

Law: Spear v. Dionne, et al.

3 minute read

Among the newshawks, photographers, gawkers and sharpers who hurried to the sleepy village of Callander, Ont. at the end of May 1554 was a Chicago promoter named Ivan I. Spear. Three days after the Dionne Quintuplets were born, Papa Oliva Dionne signed a contract with Promoter Spear to exhibit himself,his wife and ten children* at Chicago’s World’s Fair under the auspices of the Century of Progress Tour Bureau. Net revenues, including photographic rights, were to be divided: Tour Bureau 70%, Papa Dionne 23%, Rev. Daniel Routhier (Papa Dionne’s manager) 7%. For signing the agreement Papa Dionne got $100.

Dionne & Co. were never exhibited at the Fair, because in July 1934 guardians for the Quintuplets were appointed by the Provincial Government.† But Papa & Mama Dionne did go to Chicago for a vaudeville appearance at the gaudy Oriental Theatre, not under Promoter Spear’s auspices. While they were in town Promoter Spear sent Lawyer Luis Kutner around to the Congress Hotel to get an affidavit from Papa Dionne. Emphasized were Papa Dionne’s reactions to his children’s guardians: Lawyer Kutner: What did anybody say if you didn’t consent to the appointment? Papa Dionne: They were going to take the nurses away that night and stop the milk from Toronto and the doctor [Allan Roy Dafoe] would quit. . . .

Same day Lawyer Kutner secured this deposition he went into Federal District Court, filed Promoter Spear’s suit for $1,000,000 damages against Papa Dionne, Doctor Dafoe, the Quintuplets’ guardians and others. Grounds: breaking a contract & conspiring to break it. Twice the suit was dismissed, but a third amended complaint stuck. Last week counsel for Doc tor Dafoe sought to finish the affair once & for all.

Before Federal Judge John P. Barnes, the high-powered law firm of Kirkland, Fleming, Green, Martin & Ellis argued that the contract was void, that the agreement was against public policy, that the court did not have jurisdiction anyway.

To support their brief that the contract was void the legalists cited the Contract Labor Law of 1885 which voids contracts entered into with aliens prior to entry into the U. S. Revised in 1917, the law permits U. S. appearances of professional actors, artists and singers, also entry of fair & exposition performers contracted by an alien exhibitor. What Judge Barnes had to decide this week is whether the statute bars such contracts secured by a U. S. promoter.

*Their eleventh (Oliva) was born July 9, 1936.

†Hotelman William Herbert Alderson, one of the four original guardians (others: Grandfather Oliver Dionne, Merchant G. K. Morrison, Dr.

Allan Roy Dafoe), died last week at Gravenhurst, Ont.

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