Debunking Joan Crawford's Birth Year

Part 2: Discrediting 1904
Part 1: Establishing 1906 | Menu | Part 3: Debunking 1905

     The birth year of 1904 has came from no where. No document that has ever surfaced which lists 1904 as Joan's year of birth. The only known source for this birth year is magazine and newspaper articles written after Joan's arrival at MGM in 1925. Due to the publication of the 1904 birth year in articles, it has become the most commonly cited birth year in biographies of Joan. However, no origin for the 1904 birth year has ever been produced.

      It appears 1904 originated simply by word-of-mouth within the entertainment industry. However, as with many word-of-mouth rumors, there can be errors.
The most logical explanation of the origin for the 1904 birth year is to explain the theory that it is possible the reduction of Joan's age by MGM was accidentally doubled by those who knew Joan, and later learned MGM had deducted two years from Joan's age.

     When Joan arrived in Los Angeles, California in January 1925, she most probably told those she met, both personally and professionally, that she was born in 1906 (or simply told them that she was 18 years old). As her popularity grew, people within the industry heard the rumor that MGM had deducted two years off Joan's age. Therefore, the people who heard this rumor mistakenly though the two year age deduction by MGM was already deducted from the age Joan had originally told them. Therefore, instead of deducting two years from 1908, the two years was mistakenly taken from 1906, thus producing the 1904 birth year. This explains why 1904 was only a rumor, with no documentation explaining it, or its origin.

The most simplistic approach to debunk the 1904 birth year is to exhibit why 1904 is physically improbable, and most likely impossible. This can be exhibited by proving, beyond a doubt, the birth date of Joan's brother, Hal LeSueur. This achievement has been done below.

Exhibit A: Hal LeSueur's Date of Birth

Above: An official Bexar County, Texas report of birth for Hal LeSueur, confirming his date of birth as September 3rd, 1903

     Joan's brother, Hal, was born on September 3rd, 1903. If Hal was born on September 3rd, 1903, it is physically impossible for Joan to have been born on March 23rd, 1904, unless she was drastically premature - which has never been cited by any source.
    According to most medical resources, a woman does not resume ovulation until at least six weeks after giving birth. If one was to calculate this time under the assumption that Joan was conceived as early as possible after Hal's birth, that would place her conception in the middle of October 1903.
     If Joan was born on March 23rd, 1904, that would mean that she was born approximately 23 weeks after conception. According to medical resources, Joan would have weighed approximately one pound. By modern standards, Joan's survival, especially without any long-term physical or mental disabilities, would have been highly unlikely. Given this birth would have taken place in the early 1900s, and the family's lower economical status, the probability of a child born this premature, and surviving, is even more unlikely.

     In full disclosure, there is a debate as to whether or not 1903 is Hal's true year of birth. This is due to an April 1910 U.S. Census listing Hal's age as 8 years old. Additionally, Hal's two marriage certificates list his age to correspond with a 1901 birth year. Therefore, I have taken this several steps further than simply relying upon Hal's birth record to establish his accurate year of birth. Below are further exhibits to demonstrate that 1903 is, undoubtedly, Hal's year of birth.

Exhibit B: The Namesake "Hal Hays LeSueur"

Above: the grave marker of Thomas LeSueur's brother, Hal Hays LeSueur (Photo courtesy of

     In addition to his official report of birth in Bexar County, Texas, Hal's name itself is a testament as to when he was born. Hal was given the name "Hal Hays LeSueur" in honor of Thomas LeSueur's deceased brother, whose name was Hal Hays Le Sueur. Thomas' brother passed away at age 19 in Austin, Texas on November 25th, 1902, only 15 days following Thomas' marriage to Joan's mother, Anna Bell Johnson. Prior to this date, there would have been no reason for Thomas to name a child in honor/remembrance of his brother.

Exhibit C: Hal LeSueur's Army Enlistment Record

Above: Hal LeSueur's U.S. Army enlistment record, which states his date of birth as September 3rd, 1903

Exhibit D: Hal LeSueur's Death Certificate

  Above: Hal LeSueur's death certificate, which states his date of birth is September 3rd, 1903

     The date of birth listed on Hal LeSueur's death certificate is September 3rd, 1903, the same date of birth listed on Hal's Bexar County, Texas record of birth and his 1942 U.S. Army enlistment record. I would like to call your attention to the name of the informant on the death certificate, Betty Kutchey. For those who are unaware of what an informant is on a death certificate, they are the person who supplies the information of the deceased, such as their date of birth, occupation, etc. Betty Kutchey was Hal's aunt, Anna LeSueur's sister. She is pictured as a toddler below in the 1904 family photo, the same photo with an infant Hal. It is reasonable to conclude that Betty would have been aware of Hal's correct age when supplying, and confirming, the information for Hal's death certificate. There is also no known reason why she would have given an incorrect year of birth.

Exhibit E: The Date of Birth of Betty "Bessie" Irene Johnson

Above: A Johnson family photo. (Back row, L to R) A lady who I have identified as Joan's uncle's wife, Blannie Moody Johnson;

Joan's father, Thomas LeSueur; Joan's aunt, Susie Lee ("Sue") Johnson. (Front row, L to R) Joan's uncle, Erastus "Rossie" Johnson;

Joan's mother, Anna Bell Johnson LeSueur; on Anna's lap, Joan's brother, Hal LeSueur; Joan's grandmother, Mary Ellen Johnson;

on Mary's lap, Joan's aunt, Betty Irene Johnson; Joan's grandfather, Sylvester Johnson

     According to the U.S. Social Security Administration, Joan and Hal's aunt, Betty Johnson (Kutchey), was born on January 13th, 1901. The two children shown in the above family photo is Joan's brother, Hal, and Joan's aunt, Betty. This photo is believed to have been taken in early to middle 1904.
When examining the two children's ages by physical appearance, this photo coincides with a September 3rd, 1903 birth date for Hal (who appears to be approximately six to eight months old), and the January 13th, 1901 birth date for Betty (who appears to be approximately 3 years of age). If Hal was only eight months younger than Betty, unarguably, there would not be such an obvious age chasm between the two children.

     In addition to the birth date listed for Betty Johnson Kutchey via the U.S. Social Security Administration, I have further established Betty's date of birth. Below is a 1920 U.S. Census record for Maricopa County, Arizona, which lists Betty's age as "18" on January 9th, 1920. This coincides with Betty's recorded January 13th, 1901 date of birth. On the record, Betty is listed as "Bessie I." (aka Betty Irene).

 Above: A closeup of Betty's information on the 1920 U.S. Census record

Above: The 1920 U.S. Census for Maricopa County, Arizona, which lists Sylvester Johnson's family in the highlighted section of the page

Exhibit F: Daisy LeSueur's Date of Death

     No Crawford scholar has ever established the date of death for Daisy LeSueur. This is because no such record exists. However, through my own, independent research I have discovered the date of Daisy's death. I accomplished this after discovering that Daisy was not the daughter of Thomas LeSueur. Daisy was the product of Anna Bell Johnson's marriage prior to Thomas LeSueur. Before her marriage to Thomas LeSueur, Anna was married to a man by the name of Ed McConnell. Daisy was McConnell's daughter, her name was Daisy McConnell. With this information, I was able to find that Daisy passed away at the age of four in Fort Smith, Arkansas on November 23rd, 1904. Daisy was apparently not in the custody of Anna LeSueur at the time of her death.

It has long been established that Daisy died prior to Joan's birth. If Daisy passed away in November of 1904, then that date is inconsistent with the claim that Joan was born in March 1904.

Above: Two marriage documents between Joan's parents; Thomas LeSueur and Annie (aka Anna) B. Johnson

(Click on the photos for a larger view)

Above: the obituary for Daisy McConnell. This appeared on page 7 of the Fort Smith Record newspaper on November 25th, 1904

Note: Joan's mother is not cited within this obituary

Above: the burial record for Daisy McConnell. Daisy's final expenses were paid by Joan's grandfather, Sylvester Johnson

Exhibit G: The Visual Confirmation of Age Difference

Above: A photo of Joan and her brother Hal, circa 1910/1911

     In the above photo of Joan and her brother, Hal, one can visibly notice the age difference between the siblings. While the growth of a child can vary case by case, the difference in the two children's ages is obviously more than seven months. The difference in the children's visible ages appear to be more in line with a 2 to 3 year age gap; with Hal appearing to be around seven years old, and Joan appearing to be around four to five years old. A two to three year age gap would also be consistent with a March 23rd, 1906 birth date for Joan.