Webpage created: July 24, 2018
Webpage updated: July 24, 2018
DEATH BY ICE CREAM
On the evening of Saturday October 27th 1900 a 12-years-old youngster by the name of Christopher Kemp bought some ice creams at the shop of Mr Michaelangelo Antonucci, of 49 Treville Street, in Plymouth. By the following Tuesday he was dead.
After eating the ice creams Master Kemp had returned to his home at 3 Stanlake Terrace, where he first complained of being kicked in the leg and then that he was suffering from a headache. Not thinking that this was more serious than a headache, and presumably being unaware that he had eaten the ice creams, he was sent to bed. But things got worse and on the Monday a Doctor was sent for. For some unexplained reason, the Doctor did not arrive until the Tuesday, only to find that the boy had passed away.
An inquest was held by the Borough Coroner, Mr R B Johns, and giving evidence his younger brother stated that on the previous Saturday evening, Christopher had eaten four or five ice creams at Mr Antonucci's shop. A post-mortem had been carried out by Doctor E A Travers-Stubbs, of Laira Villas, who declared that the cause of death was "Ptomaine Poisoning" as a result of eating the ice creams. The kick had nothing to do with the boys' death. The Borough Council instituted a medical investigation at Mr Antonucci's premises.
Master Kemp was the son of Mr William Thomas Kemp, of 3 Stanlake Terrace, Plymouth, a house carpenter originally from north Devon.
In those days ice cream was usually made by the vendor and was served in glass shell-like dishes, from which the ice cream was licked. They were known as "penny licks". The glasses were then supposed to be washed before being used for the next person but the Council found that often the water they were being washed in was dirtier than the dishes themselves. Ptomaine Poisoning was quite common and was not confined to ice cream. Another case in Plymouth in 1900 involved a joint of meat.