Stories about abandoned babies were once common in Minneapolis newspapers. The word “foundling” appeared in the Tribune more than 300 times between 1880 and 1910. The story of one infant left on the counter of a confectionery shop on Lyndale Avenue S. in 1909 resonated more than most. It had the usual element of mystery: Who was the mother? Why did she abandon the good-natured little girl? But there was so much more: The 19-day-old infant was left with a childless woman who had been longing for a baby. Her neighbors showered her with love and support. And the newspaper was so involved in the coverage – six stories in six days -- that the new parents decided to name the baby Tribuna.
Tiny Baby Deserted;
Now Neighbor’s Pet
Strange Woman Asked Storekeeper for Drink – Fled Leaving Infant.
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Mystery Shrouds Abandonment – May Be Rich Parent’s Offspring.
“Isn’t she a cute little thing!”
“Such bright blue eyes!”
Practically every woman in the neighborhood went last night to get a look at the 19-day-old baby left yesterday afternoon at the confectionery store, 3401 Lyndale avenue. Each of the curious visitors had some complimentary remark to make over the infant so strangely deserted, and after every comment, Mrs. C.C. Sanford, with whom the baby was left, emphasized the decision that she was going to keep the little one for her very own.
Shortly after 2 p.m. yesterday a woman entered the store conducted by Mrs. Sanford and asked for a drink of water. She carried a large bundle. Mrs. Sanford went to a rear room to prepare an iced drink and upon returning found that the woman had gone. On the counter lay the bundle. Opening it, she discovered a tiny baby girl and a small piece of paper upon which was written, “Aug. 9, 1909,” evidently the date of the child’s birth, being the only mark of identity.
Had Wanted a Baby.
|Mrs. C.C. Sanford and the little foundling in a photo taken from Tribune microfilm.|
When the baby was visited by a Tribune representative last night it lay cooing happily on a couch in a room just off the store, giving every sign of being contented with its new environment. Beside it sat Mrs. Sanford admiring its chubby hands, its tiny features and its soft brown hair.
Every moment some new neighbor would come in “to see the baby that was left.” It has even been suggested by women of the neighborhood that they be permitted to make the baby’s wardrobe. Mrs. Sanford has not been away from the infant’s side since she lifted it from its bundle.
Woman Was Refined.
“I have read of such things but I never dreamed it could happen with me,” said Mrs. Sanford. “The woman came in when there was no one in the store. We have been running the place only a week and I am not used to customers. I think she wore a black skirt and a gray waist. Besides the bundle, she carried a suit case. When I came back with the drink, the woman was gone, and opening the bundle, I found the baby. Then I went to the door and looked for the woman but she was gone.
“No, I am sure I never saw the woman before. She seemed to be refined and I noticed that she was tired and sad. She might have been 25 years of age. I think she had been crying. And the baby has been so good. I’m going to keep her, too. I love her more every moment. Just look at the precious little thing.”
“Maybe her own mother would like to see her right now,” suggested one of the visitors.
“They say a mother has never been known to come back when a baby is left this way,” added another.
“The trouble is, we don’t know the little one’s nationality,” [said a third visitor].
“Why she’s American born, ain’t she?” pouted the would-be parent, already offended at criticism.
Think Auto Mixed in Case.
The theory is advanced by some of the neighbors that an automobile played a part in the abandonment. They say that at the time the infant was left at the store, a machine occupied by two bareheaded men stopped in the street a block away. The fact that one of the occupants left the car, and later returned on the run, giving the signal to drive away, aroused attention at the time and is now believed to have some connection with the case.
Read Part 2: Who are you, sweetheart?
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"While I would not have chosen this for my children ... in our situation it has caused us to rise to the occasion," says their mother.
More than a dozen neighborhood women gathered at the Sanford home to present a variety of "useful gifts" and extend their kind wishes to the little foundling.