By Benna Vaughan, Special Collections and Manuscripts Archivist
Seeing twins everyday is somewhat unusual, but at Baylor University in March 1939, you could see twins everywhere you looked. The papers of Pat M. Neff at the Texas Collection document the event very well: the first Texas College Twin Convention, on March 24-25, 1939.
The convention, held at Baylor University, consisted of approximately 80-100 multiples and represented 20 colleges. The Keys Quads (Leota, Mary, Mona, and Roberta), who had graduated from Baylor in 1937, attended the event and participated in judging and entertainment. These four women promoted Baylor during the mid-1930s and were the most visible set of quadruplets in the country at that time. At this first convention there were not only the Keys Quads from Oklahoma, but also the nine-year-old Perricone Quads (Anthony, Bernard, Carl, and Donald) from Beaumont, three sets of triplets, and 80+ sets of twins.
The Twin Conventions were special events, and twins from numerous states competed for different awards. Categories included most identical (in-state and out-of state), best skit, and most unique experience. The Texas College Twin Association was formed at the convention, and the first officers for the organization were elected: Irene and Florene Rushing of Baylor were the first presidents; vice-presidents were Melvin and Elvin Franklin from the University of Texas at Austin; and the office of secretary went to the Crow twins, Douglas and David, from Hardin-Simmons.
The conventions were much more than just meetings—they were opportunities for recruitment and research. People wrote to Neff, telling him about their own twins or twins that they knew, wanting an invitation. Neff openly recruited twins such as Meryle and Beryle Mixon to Baylor, writing: “We have what is known to be the Twins club, an organization made up of twins now attending the institution. On March 20, we are having a twin convention to which a very large number of twins from other institutions as well as high schools have been invited.” Neff goes on to suggest that the girls should attend Baylor once they had completed high school.
In addition, Dr. Iva Cox Gardner, head of the psychology department, was doing research on multiple births at the time, and the twin conference gave her the opportunity to conduct further research. A copy of Dr. Gardner’s twin survey is in the Baylor Twin Club vertical file at the Texas Collection, along with sample letters and programs for the second and third conventions.
In efforts to gain students and support for Baylor, a promotional trip was planned for the Keys Quads and the Perricone Quads immediately after the 1939 convention. They visited the Badgetts, a set of quads who were only six months old, with the two-day affair in Galveston also including luncheons and vocal performances by the Keys. The meeting between the three sets of quads was well publicized and many came to view the “actual meeting.”
The Twin Conventions ended up being a short-lived tradition, with the last one in 1941. Baylor continued to encourage twins to attend college in Waco and awarded scholarships to twins who came to the University. One set of twins was already enrolled at Baylor before they were born! Although the Twin Conventions never regained momentum after World War II, they are remembered fondly in reminiscences, letters, and photographs housed in the Texas Collection.