In 1918, the citizens of Greeley were doing all they could to contribute to the war effort. Some enrolled in the Army and others in the Army Nursing Corps. As World War I raged across the Atlantic, those at home made a difference through rationing, hard work, and fundraising. In April, the Red Cross requested donated items to auction off at an upcoming fundraiser, and Greeley’s citizens met the call with enthusiasm.
A startling article then appeared in the paper in early April titled, “Who Will Buy This Dark Colored Baby at Red Cross Auction Sale?” The Greeley Daily Tribune and the Greeley Republican reported that auctioneer J.V.H. Browne would auction off a baby after Judge Ewing declared it could not be considered slavery if the parents both agreed to the auction and provided all legal adoption papers.
A week later the Tribune and Republican reported that, despite protests by local citizens and an offer from the Lincoln Home orphanage in Pueblo to take the child, the auction for the kid Erastus would go forward as scheduled on April 13. The parents wanted Erastus auctioned off specifically for the Red Cross.
The day of the auction, the paper reported the “baby was exhibited at the court house this noon and he sure is ‘some kid.’” At 4 p.m. that day, Erastus finally went to the auction block. The bidding started at $10 and quickly rose to a winning bid of $125. Young farmer J.P. Mitchell took Erastus home.
However, Greeley residents who read about the auction in the paper as it drew nearer did not get the whole story. Those whose curiosity had been piqued enough to attend the auction realized quickly that a human kid was not on the auction block, but instead a kid goat. The controversial joke endorsed by the paper certainly helped its cause; the Red Cross auction raised a total of $1556.20 for the war effort. Two days after the auction, the paper let everyone in on the joke: “Credulity a Besetting Weakness: Mulatto ‘Kid’ was a Real Kid.”
Originally published in 2014 in The Greeley Tribune
Written by Ashley Baranyk, former City of Greeley Museums Archives Assistant