The Fultz Quads were the first #Black quadruplets born at Annie Penn Hospital in Reidsville, NC on May 23, 1946. The babies were born in what the nurses at the hospital called “the basement.” It was a wing the wing that housed the emergency room, cafeteria and rooms for black patients. The babies mother had arrived 3 weeks early at the hospital. She had grown increasingly big and the X-rays had actually detected triplets. Other than that her husband and other 6 children lived to far out on a tenant farm down a small dirt path. The family didn’t have a car, electricity nor running water, and they definitely didn’t have a phone.
Annie Mae Fultz, didn’t have a long or painful labor. The babies for one were just too small, all coming into the world weighing around 3 pounds each. Annie Mae was death, however the hospital nurses knew that already, and communicated well with her through gestures and her being able to read lips. Dr. Fred Klenner, delivered the children. He would deliver the world’s first recorded set of identical black quadruplets, and the first set of quads ever to survive in the South. He later rose to fame by delivering the Black girls, who became a test of his messianic belief in massive vitamin-C therapy.
The Greensboro Daily News, ran the story on page 9 with no picture and the headline. : “Quadruplets Born To Negro Family In Rockingham Reported Thriving.” However, many times what the families of the Quads were reading was not necessarily true as to what was going on at home.
According to News-Record, the father was called “Pete” by his friends, was not at the hospital when the children were born. When his brother-in-law, Bill Troxler, rushed out to the farm near Reidsville which “Pete” rents from T.S. Wray of this city, and broke the news, “Pete” it is said, uttered a laconic and justifiable “Good God” and fell back in his bed. His brother-in-law’s message was reported as, “Man, you better get up to the hospital quick. You got a whole bunch of babies. They’s so many of them, they laying ’em cross-wise of the bed.”
Hospitals were nothing like they are today, and were usually in poor conditions for the Black people. The only nursery equipment was one hospital bed, and old used single-unit hot plate and an equally old 10-quart kettle. There was no incubator, but Kleener used cotton gauze blankets and laid the newborns close together for warmth. He also took it upon himself to name each little girl after the women in his family, Ann, after his wife, Louise, his daughter, Alice, after his aunt, and Catherine, his great-aunt. However, it was not unusual during that time for the doctors to do that. It was a time before intergration. The nurse Margaret Ware, at the time recalled, “They did us how they wanted. And these were very poor people. He was a sharecropper, Pete was, and she couldn’t read or write.”
No one was surprise that the big name formula people wanted a part of the story. Borden and Carnation were the first to come calling, but Klenner awarded the deal to Pet, a midland dairy based in St. Louis. In exchange for using the quadruplets for “promotional purposes,” the company would provide food and medical care, including a nurse, and buy a farm to be deeded to the four sisters when they reached adulthood. So, the children received good care.
The family took the girls home from Annie Penn Hospital under contract, named after their white doctor’s relatives, headed home to a glass-enclosed nursery and driven there in a pair of McLaurin Funeral Home ambulances. The children were open to the public for viewing from 2pm -4pm, but through the glass window.