Past Treasure of the Month – September 2008

The Badgett Quadruplets, Galveston’s Sweethearts

During the month of September 2008, before Hurricane Ike struck on the 13th, the Rosenberg Library exhibited a collection of very special vintage paper dolls as part of an ongoing series called Treasure of the Month, conceived and created by the Museum staff.

Display of paper dollsDisplay of paper dolls

The dolls depict the Badgett Quadrapulets, a set of four girls born in Galveston in 1939. The quads — named Jeraldine, Joyce, Joan, and Jeanette — were dubbed “the miracles of Treasure Isle” by the press and became media darlings during the 1940s.

The Badgett girlsThe Badgett girls

It began on a February morning in 1939 when Ellis Badgett received some shocking news from the staff at St. Mary’s Infirmary. His pregnant wife Esther, already a mother of two, had just given birth for a third time. The birth was even more than successful than expected. Instead of yielding just one healthy baby, Mrs. Badgett delivered four beautiful girls!

The citizens of Galveston embraced the Badgett family, raising funds to build a new home suitable for the quadruplets. The two-story white house was located at 927 Broadway. As part of the donation agreement, Mr. and Mrs. Badgett had to agree to open their home to visitors for several hours each day so that the public could view the baby girls and take pictures with them.

The Badgett quadrupletsThe Badgett quadruplets

Quadruplets are rare, occurring once in 670,000 cases. The Badgett Quads became an overnight sensation nation-wide. Images of Joan, Joyce, Jeraldine, and Jeanette Badgett appeared in thousands of newspaper articles, magazines, and postcards. They were featured in advertising campaigns for war bonds during WWII and made hundreds of appearances at special events to entertain American troops.

Baylor University awarded scholarships to all four girls, and they were made honorary members of organizations such as the Girl Scouts, the Kilgore College Rangerettes, and the American Women’s Voluntary Service. When celebrity entertainers Phil Harris and Alice Faye were married at the Hotel Galvez in 1941, the Badgett girls were asked to serve as flower girls at the star-studded event.

The large Ohio-based Saalfield Publishing Company jumped on the Badgett bandwagon and came out with a line of paper dolls in honor of the Galveston quadruplets. Each of the four dolls in the set came with multiple outfits, ranging from bathing suits to their Sunday best.

The girls’ celebrity slowly waned, and by the time they graduated from Ball High School in the 1950s, they led normal lives. Two of the quads married and continued to live in Galveston, while the other two married and moved to Dallas.