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March 28, 2013

NoMad History Fun: Victims of Pie Writhe in Agony

 50 Ill of Poison Pie

On July 31, 1922, ambulances raced from Bellevue, New York and other hospitals across the city to aid “between fifty and sixty victims of blackberry and huckleberry pie who were writhing in agony.” Office workers near Broadway and 25th Street were suddenly turning pale, then blue, and finally collapsing in intense pain.

The The New York Times reported that at first the problem was narrowed down to people who had eaten pie at a nearby restaurant, but as the Times pointed out, “then it turned out that about half of them had eaten blackberry pie and the other half had eaten huckleberry.  This was considered to exonerate the berries and lay the blame on the crust.”  Evidently, the restaurant had added, mistakenly or not, plaster of paris to the crust batter.

The lobby of the Townsend Building, 1123 Broadway, became a makeshift infirmary and eight or ten stomach pumps were operated simultaneously.  The Times reported, “The stomach pumps were administered vigorously, and they (the patients) were suffering both from the pie and from the effects of the treatment.”

Interestingly in the white glove journalism of the day, The New York Times article never mentioned the name of the restaurant.