A Broker in Babies
Iowa State Reporter: Waterloo,
July 19, 1883
Of all the thousand and one professions on which the inhabitants of this city are dependent for support, it is probable that the pursuit of the baby broker has us yet attracted the least attention. Very few are aware of the extent and importance of the business. The recent researches of a Journal reporter revealed the fact that there are at present something like forty or fifty individuals and firms employed in this industry. It has been generally held that the "blessed baby" was not usually regarded as a thing to be desirable in American families, and that Matthusian ideas were exceedingly popular; but the volume of the transactions in infantile humanity furnish a striking refutation of this theory. '-Of course I will tell you something about it," said a prominent operator in infants to a Journal reporter yesterday. "Come round to the office with me, and I will give you a few points. At present the crop is coming forward but slowly, and as a natural consequence my stock is rather low; however, you shall see what I have. There is a desirable youngster about 10 days old, fair hair, blue eyes, and a boy. He has, you observe, a dimple on the left cheek, and that always enhances the value of a child. I am asking $100 for him. The girl next to him, of about the same age. will probably go for half that sum. She would fetch more, but her hair has every indication of developing into what is euphemistically termed an auburn shade—in other words, red. However, boys always bring more than girls."
" How do you account for that ?"
"Well, I don't know; all I know is that girls, with the exception of particularly fine specimens, are at a discount. I prefer not to deal in them."
"What nationalities do you find most in demand?"
"It depends entirely on that of the customer, and I endeavor to satisfy them in that respect to the best of my ability. Of course, once in awhile a mistake is made, and a child of Hibernian extraction is disposed of to Teutonic foster-parents, but as a general thing I manage to avoid such errors. No, we have no Chinese babies as yet"
"Do you find it difficult to suit your customers ?"
"Sometimes I do. Some women are very particular. They have in their mind's eye an ideal baby, and expect me to be able to produce it. As a general thing I find that the blonde type is most in demand, although many of my clients ask for such a curious combination as blue eyes and dark hair, or dark eyes and fair hair. A lady who came here this morning produced a lock of hair of a rather unusual white, which she expected me to match, for all the world as if she was buying a yard of ribbon."
"Do you find the business profitable."
"Well, generally the demand is rather in excess of the supply, and hence the chances of profit 'are fairly good, but my expenses are large. My rent is heavy, and doctor's fees make a large hole in my profits. My competitors are very numerous, and of course that cuts down prices. Things are not what they used to be.' Now, if a customer is not satisfied with my rates she goes elsewhere, in fact, goes 'shopping,' The establishment opposite has been a greaf source of loss to me. Where I used to get $200 a year ago, I must now be satisfied with $75.
"Do you ever have applications for colored babies?"
"No. The extreme brunette type is not popular among white people, and the African population do not seem to stand in need of my service. A large part of my trade is what we term futures. I have here." referring to a ledger, "contracts for July and August delivery; some, indeed, as far ahead as September, those being the months which my rustic customers, among whom most of the business is done visit the city. - New York Exchange