Thursday, February 6, 2020

The True Story about the 1948 Chicago Yard Sign; "4 Children for Sale," and the Consequences for Some of these Children.

In historical writing and analysis, PRESENTISM introduces present-day ideas and perspectives into depictions or interpretations of the past. Presentism is a form of cultural bias that creates a distorted understanding of the subject matter. Reading modern notions of morality into the past is committing the error of presentism. Historical accounts are written by people and can be slanted, so I try my hardest to present fact-based and well-researched articles.

Facts don't require one's approval or acceptance.

I present [PG-13] articles without regard to race, color, political party, or religious beliefs, including Atheism, national origin, citizenship status, gender, LGBTQ+ status, disability, military status, or educational level. What I present are facts — NOT Alternative Facts — about the subject. You won't find articles or readers' comments that spread rumors, lies, hateful statements, and people instigating arguments or fights.

When I write about the INDIGENOUS PEOPLE, I follow this historical terminology:
  • The use of old commonly used terms, disrespectful today, i.e., REDMAN or REDMEN, SAVAGES, and HALF-BREED are explained in this article.
Writing about AFRICAN-AMERICAN history, I follow these race terms:
  • "NEGRO" was the term used until the mid-1960s.
  • "BLACK" started being used in the mid-1960s.
  • "AFRICAN-AMERICAN" [Afro-American] began usage in the late 1980s.


Family members accused the mother of being paid to stage the photo, which may have been part of the story, but unfortunately, she was dead serious about selling her children. No one knows how long the sign stood in the yard, whether it was long enough for the camera to take the picture or whether it was years. Within two years, all of the children pictured and the baby she was carrying at the time were sold off to different homes. 

Before being picked up for national newspapers, the photo first appeared in The Chicago Herald-American Newspaper - on August 4, 1948. The children looked posed and a bit confused as their pregnant mother hid her face from the photographer.
Original caption from the Chicago Herald-American Newspaper - August 4, 1948, Chicago, Illinois: "They're on the auction block. These small children of Mr. and Mrs. Ray Chalifoux of Chicago, Illinois. For long months 40-year-old Ray and his wife, Lucille, 24, waged a desperate but losing battle to keep food in their mouth and a roof over their heads. Now jobless and facing eviction from their near barren flat, the Chalifoux has surrendered to their heartbreaking decision. The photo shows the mother sobbing as the children pose wonderingly on the steps. Left to right: Lana, 6; RaeAnn, 5; Milton, 4; Sue Ellen, 2 years old." — Image by Bettmann.
NOTE: The Vidette-Messenger of Valparaiso, Indiana is usually given credit for publishing this picture first on August 5, 1948, but on August 5th thru the 10th, dozens of newspapers around the country published this picture with nearly the same caption.
According to the New York Post Newspaper, several days after the sad photo and its caption ran in a newspaper called the Chicago Heights Star, A Chicago Heights woman offered to open her home to the children. Offers of jobs, apartments, houses and financial assistance poured in. However, it's unclear if and where the financial aid was distributed or whether funds were held by the family for a couple years before all the children were sold off.

Sometime later, Lucille Chalifoux had four more children — this time, she kept them.

In 2013, the scattered siblings tried to find each other, and their stories are of raw survival and heartbreaking.

"No one believes it," Lance Gray said about his mother RaeAnn's horrific and dramatic life story. In 2013 the then 70-year-old RaeAnn Mills reunited with her 67-year-old sister Sue Ellen Chalifoux for the first time since they were seven and four. By the time of their reunion, Sue Ellen was dying of lung cancer, but RaeAnn was grateful for the brief, bittersweet reunion. "It's one of the happiest days of my life," RaeAnn said of the trip she took with her son to visit Sue Ellen a few months before she passed away. Sue Ellen could no longer speak when they met, but she could write. "It's fabulous. I love her," she wrote of her sister RaeAnn, but minced no words about her birth mother: "She needs to be in hell burning."

David McDaniel, who was in his mother's womb at the time of the photograph, never got to meet Sue Ellen before she passed away or their older sister Lana, who died before the siblings started reconnecting.

According to RaeAnn, she was sold for $2 ($22 today) to farmers John and Ruth Zoeteman on August 27, 1950. Her brother Milton was crying nearby during the transaction, so the Zoetemans took Milton for another $2.
RaeAnn Mills left, and her brother Milton was sold to the Zoeteman family.
Their names were changed to Beverly and Kenneth, and although their birth mother's dire situation, their new home wasn't much salvation. They were often chained up in a barn and forced to work long hours in the field. Milton remembers being called a "slave" by his new father figure, a label he accepted because he didn't understand what it meant.

Although it seems that RaeAnn and Milton were never officially adopted by their abusers, their brother David (born Bedford Chalifoux) was legally adopted by Harry and Luella McDaniel, who only lived a few miles away. David was given away at two years of age. When his adoptive family, the McDaniels, received him, he had bed bug bites all over his body. They raised him strictly religiously, but their proximity to his siblings RaeAnn and Milton allowed him to visit them at the farm on which they lived. He remembers untying them in the barn.

David, who says his adoptive parents were strict but loving and supportive, remembers riding out on his bike to see his siblings and unchaining them before returning home.

RaeAnn left home at 17, shortly after undergoing a brutally traumatic situation. As a young teen, she was kidnapped and raped, which resulted in a pregnancy. She was sent away to a home for pregnant girls and had her baby adopted when she returned.

As Milton grew older, he reacted to the beatings, starvation, and other abuses with violent rages. A judge deemed him a menace to society. He spent several years in a mental hospital after being forced to choose between that and a reformatory (a juvenile detention center.)

The woman in the photograph remarried after selling/giving away her five children and had four more daughters. When her other children eventually came to see her, she's described as entirely lacking love for her estranged children or having any regret for letting them go.

David McDaniel defended his mother's coldness as evidence of a different, hardscrabble world. "As soon as my mom saw me, she said, 'You look just like your father,'" McDaniel said. "She never apologized. Back then, it was survival. Who are we to judge? We're all human beings, and we all make mistakes. She could've thought about the children and didn't want them to die." He also met her four daughters during a later marriage: the children she kept. 

Milton had a different perspective on the situation: "My birth mother never did love me, and she didn't apologize for selling me and hated me so much that she didn't care."

Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.


  1. My God! How could people be so cruel as to treat those children like animals.

  2. One of the saddest stories I've read. Chaining children in a barn -- how horrible!

  3. Painfully tragic. My heart is heavy just imagining it all.
    The world is a cold hard place but shouldn't be for young children.

  4. Beyond belief. The mistreatment of children - then - and now, is a stain on humanity.

  5. It's sad and a disgrace that the police or adoption agencies at the time did nothing after seeing this in the local news.

    1. That's what I was thinking. How does that go National and no one checks in the children or prevents a mother from Selling them??

  6. What I found shocking was that this happened at such a late date, after WWII!!! Never heard of this before...

  7. I thoroughly agree with your concept of Presentism. Several generations now have NO concept that children came and came whether we chose to have them or not, whether we could afford them or not, whether they were truly wanted or not. And that's just one portion of the lack of historical perception, to my mind.

  8. My heart feels pain when I read this horrible tale. Life can be difficult and so sad for our fellow men and women who seem to us heartless but have no alternatives We must be alert to these conditions and act with good faith to help when we hear of these sad facts. I had never before heard this story. God protect these grown humans now.

  9. What a sad and horrible story … Any information on how and where Lana and SueEllen grew up? It’s also hard to know Milton and Rae had such a bad ‘new’ home at the farm, yet on that photo they are smiling and shining and are all dressed so fashionable and pretty. Things are never what they seem. 😥

  10. I find this whole situation hideous and heartbreaking. No one reached out to truly help them. I pray for them now and forever. I'm so sorry.


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