The Case of the Poisoned Clam Chowder, the Socialite and the Yellow Press


Mary Alice Fleming on the eve of her trial for the murder of her mother.

By the time Mary Alice Livingston Fleming was accused of killing her mother, Evelina Bliss, on August 30, 1895, the details of the case had already created one of America’s original media frenzies. The alleged murder weapon: arsenic-laced clam chowder delivered unwittingly by Fleming's 10-year-old daughter, Gracie, in a tin pail. The alleged motive: access to a rich inheritance that would support Fleming's expensive lifestyle.

The arrest and ensuing trial may have established the template for the kind of media coverage that marked last year's trial of Casey Anthony, accused (and later acquitted) of killing her infant daughter, or this year's coverage of the Trayvon Martin shooting and the sex abuse scandal at Penn State.

From trial transcripts held at John Jay College's Lloyd Sealy Library, and newspaper articles from the historical archives of The New York Times and Brooklyn Daily Eagle, The Crime Report presents a tale from New York's brawling era of “yellow journalism” that should make familiar—and painful—reading.

Read the story here.

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