Death Comes for the Archbishop (2-10-1916)

This might have been a day remembered for the greatest mass murder in Chicago history.  In the end, all went well.

George Mundelein had just arrived in Chicago to take charge of the Catholic archdiocese.  At 43 he was young for an archbishop.  Now the leaders of the city and state were giving him a welcoming banquet at the University Club.

Archbishop George Mundelein

About 300 people were present.  Mundelein sat at the head table, next to Governor Dunne.  During the first course, one of the guests felt faint.  He got up from his chair, then collapsed.

The man was helped from the room.  Waiters opened windows, thinking cigarette smoke had knocked him out.  Soon other people were complaining of upset stomachs.  They were led away.  A few doctors were present, and they followed to help.

The trouble was traced to the soup.  The doctors thought the bouillon in it had spoiled, and that the victims were suffering from ptomaine.  The banquet went on as planned.  Most of the remaining guests refused to eat anything except the ice cream.

Over 100 diners had become sick.  After further investigation, public health officials made a chilling announcement.  This had not been a case of accidental ptomaine—someone had put arsenic in the soup!

Suspicion immediately fell on one of the cooks, a man named Jean Crones.  He was nowhere to be found.  Police searched his apartment.  They found piles of anarchist literature.

Authorities wondered aloud if the poisoning were part of a larger anarchist plot.  Labor leader Bill Haywood was questioned, and said “All I know about it is what I read in the papers.”  One of Haywood’s friends claimed the whole incident was a police scheme to frame radicals.

All the poison victims recovered.  Jean Crones turned out to be an Italian anarchist named Nestor Dondoglio.  He was never caught.

Mundelein himself came through the evening just fine—he had not eaten the soup.  He knew his church had its enemies, but he was unafraid.  “The man who would be guilty of such a plan is a crank or mentally unbalanced,” the archbishop said.

Then he smiled and added, “It takes more than soup to put me out.”

George Mundelein later became a cardinal, and remained Chicago archbishop until his death in 1939, long enough to have a suburb named for him.


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