Camden Courier-Post – June 24, 1933
60 Overcome While At Work in RCA Victor; Probe Started
New York Ship Employees Sent to Hospital From Ptomaine
Workers of 4 Firms Listed Among Victims
Sandwiches Served by Philadelphia Caterer Believed to Be Responsible
Nearly 100 Camden factory and shipyard workers were poisoned yesterday after eating food contained in box lunches.
More than 60 of the workers, stricken at their machines in. the RCA Victor Company plants, were rushed to the company’s dispensary and local hospitals. Many are reported in serious condition.
At the New York Shipbuilding Company others became ill after partaking of the lunches. Four are in West Jersey Homeopathic Hospital recovering from the effects of the poisoned food. At least three more were stricken at the leather plant of the John R. Evans Company, Second and Erie Streets.
In Philadelphia more than a score of laundry workers were carried to physicians and hospitals, all said to be victims of contaminated foods. Physicians believed all would recover.
Dr. David D. Helm, city sanitary inspector, believed the ptomaine condition resulted from the eating of egg sandwiches.
Dr. Helm, along with Sergeant Rox Saponare and detectives, last night questioned Ray Konst, 3313 D Street, Philadelphia, owner of a Philadelphia box lunch concern.
Put Ban on Sales
Following the quizzing, Konst was ordered to refrain from further selling of the box lunches in Camden, pending the result of an investigation. He also must obtain complete approval from the Philadelphia Board of Health before being allowed to resume operations here.
The boxes, distributed by Konst, are labeled “The Majestic Lunch.” Konst declared that never before had complaint reached him as to the quality of his food.
“I have ordered distribution of Majestic Lunches in Camden be stopped,” Dr. Helm said, “until the investigation has been completed and the health authorities in Philadelphia to whom all evidence will be given because they supervise this company, give them a clean bill of health.”
Two of the box lunches have been obtained by police and will be chemically analyzed today by order of Dr. A. L. Stone, city health officer.
Konst assured police he would assist in any manner possible to learn the source and nature of the foodstuff causing the illness.
Woman First Victim
‘The first illness occurred shortly after 3 p. m. at the RCA Victor plant. A young woman was overcome after partaking of a glass of water. She was taken to the dispensary where Dr. Reuben L. Sharp said she was suffering from ptomaine poisoning.
Within a short time several other girls and men in various sections of the plant were stricken. Some fainted at their machines and had to be carried to the dispensary.
Soon Dr. Sharp and his staff of nurses had more than they could handle. Private automobiles were pressed into service and many of the victims taken to Cooper Hospital, where stomach pumps were used to clear their bodies of the poisonous food.
One man, B. H. Poole, 40, of 144 North Sixtieth street, Philadelphia, was admitted and his condition described as serious.
Others were treated and sent to their homes, where many were attended last night by their personal physicians.
Girl Describes Scene
Miss Clara. Shaeffer, 19, of 226 South Fifth Street, Gloucester, employed at the RCA Victor, told of the scenes near her shortly before she became ill and was rushed to Cooper Hospital for treatment.
“I saw many of the girls running upstairs to the restroom,” Miss Schaeffer said at her home, where she is confined to bed, “but paid little attention to them, although several had to be assisted up the steps.
“Suddenly I felt sick at my stomach and had a desire for a drink of water. I asked the girl next to me to get me a drink, but she was unable to leave her machine at the time and I walked to the fountain.
“After taking the drink everything seemed to whirl about and I thought I was going to faint. I told my foreman and he ordered me taken to the dispensary.
“When I arrived there the place was filled and someone took me to Cooper Hospital, where the doctor gave me some medicine and I was taken to my home.”
Miss Schaeffer said she grew worse after she arrived home and her parents summoned a physician.
Fall at Machines
Others told similar stories of the scenes as worker after worker was stricken. Plant officials said many had fallen where they stood, the ptomaine attack seizing them so suddenly they had no time to summon aid.
He also sells more than 500 box lunches daily in Philadelphia.
The lunch yesterday was made up of a cheese sandwich, an egg and lettuce sandwich, a piece of apple pie, cupcake and fruit. Some of the lunches contained tuna fish sandwiches.
Man’s Condition Serious
According to Dr. Helm, all of those taken ill had eaten the egg sandwiches, some had partaken of the tuna fish and others of the cheese.
One man became ill when he ate half an egg sandwich given him by a fellow employee late in the afternoon.
The laundry workers affected were employed at the Forrest Laundry, 1225 West Columbia Avenue, Philadelphia.
One of these, John Gilligan, 52, of 1923 East Willard Street, was taken to St. Luke’s and Children’s Homeopathic Hospital in a critical condition.
Police were checking other hospitals to learn if additional victims were unreported.