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Arsenic Biscuits

May 23, 1909, seemed like any typical Sunday morning in the Staten Island, New York home of Robert and Cynthia Barry. The 80-year-old woman woke up early and made biscuits for breakfast, something that she had done many times before.

Almost immediately after eating the biscuits, the couple turned ill. Robert took his cane and rapped it on the wall to get the attention of his next-door neighbors. They came quickly and telephoned the stricken couple’s son-in-law, Dr. Frank H. Ross.

Upon arriving, Mr. Barry was gasping for air but was able to tell Dr. Ross, “Grandma used the wrong powder in the biscuit.” He then lapsed into a state of unconsciousness. Mrs. Barry, who was barely conscious herself, denied having done so.

A quick search through her ingredients confirmed what had happened. A container of arsenic was found with the salt, pepper, and baking powder, which she had stored together in the same closet. The doctor immediately administered strychnine as an antidote, but it didn’t work. Mrs. Perry died that evening and her husband the following afternoon.

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