Latchman Triplets

Latchman Triplets, circa 1943.

Donald, Marvin and Victor Latchman were Toronto’s first Jewish male identical triplets born on November 5, 1933. Their parents Philip and Sally (Sugarman) Latchman applied for and received the King’s Bounty for triplets of £3. Multiple births were so rare in the 19th century that Queen Victoria had introduced the bounty for births of triplets or more to help struggling parents. The bounty continued to be distributed under the reign of King George V (1910-1936), open to all parents of new-born living triplets who were married and British subjects.

Growing up around Markham Street in Toronto, the Latchman triplets became local celebrities and regularly appeared in newspaper articles. The 1930s was the era of the Dionne quintuplets, who became Canada’s biggest tourist attraction as the only quintuplets to survive more than a few days and because of their parents’ poverty and the controversy over the Ontario Government assuming their guardianship. Articles about the Latchman triplets reported that their parents contemplated taking them to Hollywood, but decided to raise them out of the spotlight instead. An article in the Toronto Daily Star (November 15, 1937) reported that the Latchman triplets had their fingerprints taken by the R.C.M.P. to test a claim made by scientists that the Dionne quintuplets had identical fingerprints. The article contemplated whether police should keep fingerprints of all Canadian citizens on file at the hefty cost of 25 cents per print.

Celebrity aside, the Latchman triplets had a relatively normal life in Toronto. In the 1940s the family moved to Montclair Avenue in Forest Hill. The triplets’ father Phillip and uncle Morris Latchman started Federal Farms Limited in 1948 when the boys were 14 years old, which became a successful vegetable farm. The boys helped the business by working for the farm and at the Ontario Food Terminal.

In 1946, Rabbi David Monson invited the Latchman family to join as founding members of Beth Sholom. The Latchmans have maintained close ties with the synagogue on Eglinton Ave. W. ever since. An edition of the Beth Sholom Bulletin in 1971 featured Donald Latchman being installed as President of Beth Sholom’s Brotherhood by his father. In 2012, the Bulletin featured a profile of the triplets written by Bill Gladstone.

The triplets each studied business at university or college, started their own families and became successful in their chosen careers. Donald founded Latchman Insurance Brokers in 1957. He married Annette Bachst and together they had children Leonard and Robyn. Marvin became a real estate broker. He married Shirley Wolkofsky and together they had children Karyn, Linda and Wendy. Victor and Rosalie Greenspan (d. 2014) were married in 1958 at Beth Sholom Synagogue by Rabbi David Monson. Their children are Howard and Faith. In 1966, Victor purchased Taylor’s Shoes in the Junction. The store specialized in “extreme fitting for men and women”. Victor retired in 2010.

In 1983, the Toronto Star published an article in honour of the Latchman triplets’ 50th birthday calling them “Metro’s first triplets.” This inspired of series of responses from Star readers remembering earlier-born Toronto male triplets including the Wegriches, the Jarvises and the Von Zubens. At least one set of Jewish triplets preceded the Latchmans in Toronto; Kate, Sarah and Beckie Finklestein received the royal bounty for triplets in 1907. The Latchman records, now held at the Ontario Jewish Archives, reveal the public’s ongoing fascinating with multiple births and documents how one such family was able to live and thrive.

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