James Rada, Jr.

Photo Courtesy of Findagrave.com

The Tracey triplets (from left): Mabel, Bessie, and Edith.

In 1886, Emma Catherine Tracey of Fountaindale gave birth three days in a row.

Mabel Viola was born around noon on April 4, weighing 6 lbs. Her sister, Edith Grace, was born the following day around noon, also weighing 6 lbs. Finally, Bessie Barton was born on April 6 around 6:00 p.m. and weighed 7 lbs. Dr. Abram Pierce Beaver of Fairfield, Pennsylvania, delivered the children.

A total of 54 hours separated the births.

Because of the expense involved with raising triplets, the Traceys took pictures of them on August 26 and began selling them as postcards for 25 cents each (about $11.00 in today’s dollars). One side of the card had the picture of the children. The other side had information about them and their unusual birth. However, it misspelled Mabel’s name as Mable and listed Bessie’s birth time as 4:00 p.m.

The card also mentioned that Mother Emma had been born with only one arm. Her health seemed perfect otherwise. Not only did she survive the birth of her triplets, she lived until 1949 and was 91 years old.

The girls lived long lives, marrying and having children of their own. When they were 79 in 1965, it was reported that they were the oldest living triplets in Pennsylvania, and possibly, the country.

Bessie, the youngest of the triplets, was the first to die. She passed away on February 24, 1966, shortly before turning 80. The cause of her death was listed as “Ovarian carcinoma & metastases.”

Mabel and Edith died the following year on January 17 and March 20, respectively. Mabel’s cause of death was listed as “Recurrent myocardial infarction & hypertensive cardiovascular, due to severe disease and thrombus in the left ventricle.” Edith’s cause of death was listed as “Myocardial infarction, acute, due to [illegible] heart disease and generalized arteriosclerosis.”

The sisters are all buried in Green Hill Cemetery in Waynesboro.

Nowadays, triplets make up only about 5 percent of births, and that number has been boosted because of fertility drugs. In 1886, it was even less frequent, so the Tracey girls began life as an oddity. As the Waynesboro Record Herald noted in 1950, “The rarity of their births 64 years ago was made more significant last month when three babies were born on consecutive days, but within a much shorter span of time, to a woman in Jonesville, Louisiana. When this phenomena was learned, press associations over the world proclaimed the three-day birth series as having occurred perhaps ‘the first time in medical history.’”

But it had happened before.

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