ebook  History of Watertown, Wisconsin

America’s First Quintuplets

Mrs. Edna Kanouse of Watertown gave birth to America’s first quintuplets.

February 13, 1875

Watertown Daily Times 08 15 1992


Back on Feb. 13, 1875 a set was born in Watertown.


The Watertown quintuplets received only an 18 line item in the Watertown Gazette, one of the weekly newspapers here that preceded the Daily Times.   Yet they were the first quintuplets born in the United States.



The quintuplets born here were five boys, born to Mr. and Mrs. E. M. Kanouse.


The mother, Mrs. Edna Beecham Kanouse, was 22 years old at the time.  The attending physician was Dr. T. H. Vesty, but the babies were delivered without his presence, because the father of the quintuplets went to bring him to the Kanouse home and the two were delayed by an extremely heavy snowstorm.  When they arrived, the five boys had been born with several of the neighbor women providing assistance.


The five boys appeared normally developed.  One baby was stillborn, three died a few minutes following delivery, and the remaining one survived only a few hours.  The total weight of the five was 10 pounds, two ounces.


The story was also told in a special bulletin which the Wisconsin State Board of Health issued in 1942.  The story was based on the doctor's record and old Watertown newspaper files.


Mrs. Kanouse had another child several years after the quintuplets were born.  The mother died a few months later of a contagious disease which she contracted while caring for a sick friend. Her husband studied medicine after her death and practiced in Columbus, Appleton and Wausau with his father who was a prominent physician.


The Watertown Historical Society files at the Octagon House include a picture of the quintuplets.


Cross Reference:

1934      Bittner & Tetzlaff Displays Quintuplets’ Photograph

Bittner & Tetzlaff’s Drug Store has placed in its show window a picture of the quintuplets born here to Mr. and Mrs. E. M. Kanouse on February 12, 1875.  The picture was taken by C. W. Rundlett, who had a studio above the present John E. Heisman grocery store.  It was secured from Mrs. A. Cox of Green Bay, a granddaughter of the photographer, who has presented it to the Watertown Historical Society.     08 02 1934 WG



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History of Watertown, Wisconsin