"Here's at least one girl for the Henn family," Dorothy said, according to news reports, and asked for a cup of tea.

Charles got his first look at the quadruplets through a nursery window some three hours later, and smiled. "I guess they look all right," he told a doctor.

From there, the coverage intensified. While the babies stayed at St. Agnes, the offer by a Midwestern contractor to hire Henn at $4,000 a year and house the family rent-free was good for days of stories. A comment by an Army recruiter that Henn could earn more by reenlisting drew more coverage. Had Baltimore Mayor Theodore McKeldin offered the family enough support? Another story.

The Sun's London bureau contributed a report on the difficulties suffered by a British family with quadruplets.

The attention challenged Dorothy Henn's British reserve, but it was not without some upside. On the day after the birth, Charles appeared on a local radio program and was given a $100 bill, a ham, a wristwatch, a washing machine and gold rings for each of the babies, among other gifts.

Sam Pistorio, a local builder, built the family a Cape Cod house on Park Drive in Catonsville at cost. Charles Henn allowed Pet Inc. to use a picture of the quadruplets on its delivery trucks in exchange for a steady supply of canned milk.

But there was a limit.

"He got a lot of offers for stuff," says Tom Henn, who lives in Monument, Colo. "And he said, 'No, I'm going to turn all that down, because we just want to be a normal family.'"

As a rule, Charles worked two jobs, as a bookbinder and a radio and television repairman.

"He would say, 'Hey, if you want something, find a way to work and pay for it." Tom says. "That's the way we were brought up."

Donald says the experience of the Dionne quintuplets affected his parents.

Soon after their birth in Canada in 1934, the first set of quintuplets known to have survived infancy were taken from their parents by the provincial government of Ontario and raised in a nursery, where they were put on display as a tourist attraction.

"Certainly that was before us, and all that trauma for that poor family," Donald says. "I think that that played into [the Henns' approach]. I think my parents wanted to keep it as low-key as they possibly could."

From the beginning, each of the quadruplets had distinct personalities. When they turned 1, the Sun Magazine writer took a stab at describing them: "They are Bruce, the placid one, who is the perfect baby; spirited Joan, with too much energy; Donald, with the winning ways; and Tommy speculating on the world, looking like a little old man who knows more than he intends to say."

"We're all individuals, we grew up and developed our own styles and personalities," Donald says. "Number one, we were each our own egg. So in that we have our own little separate things going on anyway."

"One of the things that we all strived to do unconsciously," Bruce says, "was being seen as separate, having our own personal identity, rather than being seen as a group."

Still, there remained a bond among them.

"It was an instant neighborhood," Bruce says. "When you're in the womb like that, and you're like this" — he presses a shoulder against Donald's shoulder — "that closeness stays with you when you leave.

"You know, you need that contact. That's how you started your life."

"We were our own best friends growing up, because, in a sense, we had to be," he says. "We needed to look after each other. …