Arsenic and Clam Chowder: Murder in Gilded Age New York

Arsenic and Clam Chowder: Murder in Gilded Age New York

by James D. Livingston
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Overview

Arsenic and Clam Chowder: Murder in Gilded Age New York by James D. Livingston

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.

Arsenic and Clam Chowder recounts the sensational 1896 murder trial of Mary Alice Livingston, a member of one of the most prestigious families in New York, who was accused of murdering her own mother, Evelina Bliss. The bizarre instrument of death, an arsenic-laced pail of clam chowder, had been delivered to the victim by her ten-year-old granddaughter, and Livingston was arrested in her mourning clothes immediately after attending her mother’s funeral. In addition to being the mother of four out-of-wedlock children, the last born in prison while she was awaiting trial, Livingston faced the possibility of being the first woman to be executed in New York’s new-fangled electric chair, and all these lurid details made her arrest and trial the central focus of an all-out circulation war then underway between Joseph Pulitzer’s World and Randolph Hearst’s Journal.

The story is set against the electric backdrop of Gilded Age Manhattan. The arrival of skyscrapers, automobiles, motion pictures, and other modern marvels in the 1890s was transforming urban life with breathtaking speed, just as the battles of reformers against vice, police corruption, and Tammany Hall were transforming the city’s political life. The aspiring politician Teddy Roosevelt, the prolific inventor Thomas Edison, bon vivant Diamond Jim Brady, and his companion Lillian Russell were among Gotham’s larger-than-life personalities, and they all played cameo roles in the dramatic story of Mary Alice Livingston and her arsenic-laced clam chowder. In addition to telling a ripping good story, the book addresses a number of social and legal issues, among them capital punishment, equal rights for women, societal sexual standards, inheritance laws in regard to murder, gender bias of juries, and the meaning of “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781438431796
Publisher: State University of New York Press
Publication date: 07/01/2010
Series: Excelsior Editions
Pages: 211
Product dimensions: 5.80(w) x 8.70(h) x 0.80(d)

About 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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Arsenic and Clam Chowder: Murder in Gilded Age New York 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
ChristysBookBlog More than 1 year ago
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.
mrsred49 More than 1 year ago
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.