Artaxerxes was supposed to have had 106 children; Conrad, Duke of Moscow, 80; and in the polygamous countries the number seems incredible. Herotinus was said to have had 600; and Jonston also quotes instances of 225 and even of 650 in the Eastern countries.
Recently there have been published accounts of the alleged experiments of Luigi Erba, an Italian gentleman of Perugia, whose results have been announced. About forty years of age and being quite wealthy, this bizarre philanthropist visited various quarters of the world, securing women of different races; having secured a number sufficient for his purposes, he retired with them to Polynesia, where he is accredited with maintaining a unique establishment with his household of females. In 1896, just seven years after the experiment commenced, the reports say he is the father of 370 children.
The following is a report from Raleigh, N.C., on July 28, 1893, to the New York Evening Post:--"The fecundity of the negro race has been the subject of much comment and discussion. A case has come to light in this State that is one of the most remarkable on record. Moses Williams, a negro farmer, lives in the eastern section of this State. He is sixty-five years old (as nearly as he can make out), but does not appear to be over fifty. He has been married twice, and by the two wives has had born to him 45 children. By the first wife he had 23 children, 20 of whom were girls and 3 were boys. By the second wife he had 22 children--20 girls and 2 boys. He also has about 50 grand-children. The case is well authenticated."We also quote the following, accredited to the "Annals of Hygiene:"--"Were it not part of the records of the Berks County courts, we could hardly credit the history of John Heffner, who was accidentally killed some years ago at the age of sixty-nine. He was married first in 1840. In eight years his wife bore him 17children. The first and second years of their marriage she gave birth to twins. For four successive years afterward she gave birth to triplets. In the seventh year she gave birth to one child and died soon afterward. Heffner engaged a young woman to look after his large brood of babies, and three months later she became the second Mrs. Heffner. She presented her husband with 2children in the first two years of her wedded life. Five years later she had added 10 more to the family, having twins 5 times.
Then for three years she added but 1 a year. At the time of the death of the second wife 12 of the 32 children had died. The 20that were left did not appear to be any obstacle to a young widow with one child consenting to become the third wife of the jolly little man, for he was known as one of the happiest and most genial of men, although it kept him toiling like a slave to keep a score of mouths in bread. The third Mrs. Heffner became the mother of 9 children in ten years, and the contentment and happiness of the couple were proverbial. One day, in the fall of 1885, the father of the 41 children was crossing a railroad track and was run down by a locomotive and instantly killed. His widow and 24 of the 42 children are still living."Many Marriages.--In this connection it seems appropriate to mention a few examples of multimarriages on record, to give an idea of the possibilities of the extent of paternity. St. Jerome mentions a widow who married her twenty- second husband, who in his time had taken to himself 20 loving spouses. A gentleman living in Bordeaux in 1772 had been married 16 times.