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Grand Forks Daily Herald, November 28, 1909. I think we’ve tracked down President Taft’s missing mince mega-pie.
Judge William J. Gaynor came up in politics through the Tammany machine and was elected mayor of New York in 1910. Tammany connection notwithstanding, Wikipedia gives him pretty high marks as an honest pol and civil service reformer. For his pains, he was shot in the throat by a disgruntled and syphilitic former government worker. A photographer happened to be taking Gaynor’s picture just as the bullet him home. Check it out:

Gaynor walked around for three years with a bullet lodged in his throat before dying of complications. Seems he seen as “a strong candidate for Governor or President” at the time of his passing. Sucks for him then.
The papers just never let up on Taft about the fat boy thing. Guy wouldn’t have a prayer of getting elected today. Rudolph Block was the editor of Hearst’s New York Journal. He’s “Katzenjammer” because he commissioned cartoonist Rudolph Dirks to create The Katzenjammer Kids for the Journal. And the Katzenjammer Kids were pretty into mince pie:
That brings us full circle, and concludes our history lesson for today.


  1. The mince pie recipe you found in the San Francisco Chronicle required three whole nutmegs for whatever quantity of pies their recipe produces (about 18 pounds of ingredients were involved.) According to a previous clipping, the Taft Christmas pie was 92 pounds, so it would have contained about 15 nutmegs. I’ve never weighed a nutmeg, but Wikipedia says they weigh between 5 and 10 grams, so that’s about 112 grams per giant pie.

    Erowid says a recreationally hallucinogenic dose of nutmeg is around 1 gram per 10 pounds body weight. If we assume Taft was 300 pounds, he would have had to have eaten about a third of one of those giant pies to have a full-on Unca-Scrooge-like nutmeg trip. Nobody could possibly tolerate eating so much mince pie in one sitting, even a professional competitive eater (and in that case, it would have come right back up once the ten seconds of Headline News footage had been taped.) So, I conclude that President Taft was probably not a psychotic nutmeg fiend.

    However, the Katzenjammer Kids lived on a diet of pure nutmeg, laced with angel dust and cucumber peels and strawberry jam (note that the kid on the left is holding a gallon jar of it.) And that is why America elected a fat President instead of the Katzenjammer kids: Taft was heavy enough to resist efforts to dose him with nutmeg, while the Katzenjammer Kids would have destroyed the country during their first day in office.

    In those days, Americans chose their Presidents on the basis of “Are they tough enough to overcome huge doses of drugs?” That’s how we got Teddy Roosevelt — people knew that you could shoot a hundred tranq darts into his neck and he’d still maul you. At the same time, Americans have always wanted their cartoon characters to be hopped up on quantities of drugs that would explode the body of any three-dimensional person. Whether it’s Unca Scrooge constantly pounding down the nutmeg tea, Linus going through withdrawal when Snoopy hides his heroin-soaked security blanket, Zippy drinking taco sauce, Cathy drinking twelve cups of coffee before trying on a million swimsuits, or Dagwood getting some sort of sickening buzz off pimento loaf, we demand that our cartoon characters live a lifestyle that even Tommy Chong would call “totally messed-up.”

    And this is why we can sleep easy at night knowing that Marmaduke will never be President.

  2. Mr. Parallel, the more Hope Chest I read, the more I have the feeling that these old newspapers contained nothing but the gruesome or unbelievable, the sensational, salacious or stark raving mad, and then some mince pie for dessert. Please tell me that, like the pape today, they also reported on ordinary things like (the contemporary equivalents of) school board trustee elections, stagflation, the release of Windows 7, gas price wars and water-skiing squirrels. I know your work is in the realm of “Bad news from the past”. I am just curious to what extent you are skipping the rest of it.

    • I can offer this analogy from a book I just read, The Big Short:

      “Looking for bad bonds inside a CDO was like fishing for crap in a Port-O-Let: The question wasn’t whether you’d catch some but how quickly you’d be satisfied you’d caught enough.”

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