Arsenic and Clam Chowder: Murder in Gilded Age New York


Recounts the sensational 1896 murder trial of Mary Alice Livingston, who was accused of murdering her mother with an arsenic-laced pail of clam chowder and faced the possibility of becoming the first woman to be executed in New York's new-fangled electric chair.
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Arsenic and Clam Chowder

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Recounts the sensational 1896 murder trial of Mary Alice Livingston, who was accused of murdering her mother with an arsenic-laced pail of clam chowder and faced the possibility of becoming the first woman to be executed in New York's new-fangled electric chair.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“…Livingston … meticulously recreates the world of Wall Street, emerging technology, development, racy journalism, celebrity, political ambition … and raises some doubts, reasonable or not, about her guilt.” — New York Times

“…a clear and engaging historical narrative that reflects years of painstaking research into these events and the records created as they unfolded in the press and were remembered in private family documents … Livingston’s choice to structure the book as a narrative rather than an analytical treatment of Fleming’s life and the complicated cultural history with which it intertwines makes for a fascinating read.” — Hudson River Valley Review

“This is a titillating account of mystery, murder trial procedures, social status of women, and the societal practices and prejudices back in the horse and buggy days. There is enough material here for an exciting film exploring legal history, social customs, and the behavior of the upper crust. This is definitely a non-fiction mystery thriller that will grab and flabbergast you at the same time.” — Sacramento Book Review

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781438431796
  • Publisher: State University of New York Press
  • Publication date: 7/1/2010
  • Series: Excelsior Editions
  • Pages: 211
  • Sales rank: 1,405,533
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.70 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Born June 23, 1930, in Brooklyn, New York, James D. Livingston studied engineering physics at Cornell University and received a PhD in applied physics from Harvard University in 1956. Since retiring from General Electric after a lengthy career as a research physicist, he has been teaching in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at MIT. Although a physicist by profession, he has long had a strong interest in American history, and is the coauthor, with Sherry H. Penney, of A Very Dangerous Woman: Martha Wright and Women’s Rights.

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Table of Contents

1. The Death of Evelina Bliss

2. The New York World

3. Mary Alice Almont of the New York Livingstons

4. Promises Breached

5. In the Tombs

6. Twelve Good Men and True

7. Opening of the People’s Case

8. The People Rest

9. The Defense

10. Decision

11. Afterwards

12. Reasonable Doubt and Judicial Murder


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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 27, 2010

    Fascinating true crime about a Gilded Age poisoner

    Arsenic and Clam Chowder by James D. Livingston is a fascinating look at murder in Gilded Age New York. Mary Alice Livingston (a distant cousin of the author) was arrested in 1895 for sending her ten-year-old daughter Grace to deliver an pail of arsenic laced clam chowder to her mother Evelina Bliss in order to gain access to her inheritance. As Evelina suffered a grotesque and painful death, she informed the doctor that she was poisoned by a relative for money. The ensuing investigation and trial would put capital punishment for women and reasonable doubt on trial for the world to see, while competing newspapers the World and Journal wrote eloquent stories about her four illegitimate children from three different fathers. The author lays the case against Mary Alice well and captures the heightened tensions in New York City that surrounded the trial. These were the days that were filled with "trials of the century" when female poisoners haunted Victorian imaginations. I love true crime books based in this period, and this book is thoroughly enjoyable and interesting. The author finishes up with a discussion on how reasonable doubt affected this trial and how it works today. My only quibble would be that in one of the pictures included in the center of the book, the author gives away the outcome of the trial. That's a small complaint however. The images included truly help the reader to see the main characters more clearly, and the historical details he adds also bring this era to life. I look forward to reading more from this author in the future.

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  • Posted October 24, 2010

    more from this reviewer


    In the summer of 1895, on a labor day weekend and in Manhattan, NY where Evelina lived at 397 St. Nicholas Ave. in a upper Manhattan apartment on the fifth floor. Evelina was fifty-three and the stairs had started to be too much for her. She lived her with her younger daughter Florence and a son Henry.

    This book is about the murder of Evelina Bliss, where they had fond arsenic in her blood after her death. She had been to visit her daughter, Mary Ellen Livingston, and then came home, Later Mary Ellen sent her daughter and a friend with a pail of clam chowder to Evelina which she ate for her dinner.

    The murder was based on the clam chowder and the daughter who was arrested. This complete book is the trial of Mary Alice Livingston, the life of her mother Evelina Bliss.

    My Thoughts:

    This book had a great start but unless you are really into the lawyers and trials it is a hard read.

    The author did a great job of writing the book and the telling of the story.

    This book was sent to me by James D. Livingston the author and Pump Up Your Book for Review.

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