No. 522
Crime, Eccentricity, and the Sporting Life in 19th Century America.
May 17, 2021

The Pancake Incident.

January 20, 2014
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A Memphis Badger Game. | Robbed of Her Tresses.

The Pancake Incident.

Anna Sachs

As President Grover Cleveland and his wife Francis were riding in an open carriage though the park on October 4, 1887, enjoying Fair Week in St. Louis, a pancake came flying through the air hitting the First Lady’s arm and landing in her lap. It had been thrown by Anna Sachs (also reported as Knocks, Lax, and Sax) who was making and selling pancakes in a booth nearby. She was quickly grabbed by an officer who took her directly to police court. When asked why she did it Mrs. Sachs said that something had impelled her. The case was continued until the following week.

Francis-Folsom-ClevelandMrs. Francis Folsom Cleveland

There was some dispute over the actual size and condition of the hurled pancake; The New York Times said it was a large buttered pancake fresh off the griddle, The Police Gazette said it was a half-eaten pancake, Mrs. Sachs herself said, “It was just a little bit of a piece—one-half of a quarter piece of pancake.”

When the matter went to court, attorneys debated whether Mrs. Sachs actually threw the pancake into the carriage or if she had thrown it into the air and the First Lady's lap is where it happened to land. One witness heard her say, “There, Frankie, you can’t get any as good as that at the Mayor’s house.” Mrs. Sachs said she never meant to hurt anyone and denied saying that her pancake was better than the Mayor’s.

A political motive was ascribed to the pancake throw, because Mrs. Sachs was wearing a badge of the Grand Army of the Republic, an association of Union Army veterans. President Cleveland had been in dispute with the G.A.R. earlier in the year when he endorsed a plan to force veterans to return Confederate flags and other captured trophies of the Civil War to their state of origin. Mrs. Sacks denied any interest in politics and insisted that she had meant no disrespect to the President or his wife.

The judge was not convinced however and concluded that Mrs. Sachs had sinister designs on the peace and dignity of the Presidential procession. He fined her $50 for “tumultuous and obstreperous conduct.” The New York Tribune reported that Mrs. Sachs “…became as limp as one of her pancakes when she heard the judgment, and gave notice of appeal.”

 

 


Sources:

"Anna Sachs, Pancake Thrower." National Police Gazette 12 Nov 1887.
"A Very Expensive Pancake." New York Times 19 Oct 1887.
"Mrs. Cleveland Hit with a pancake." Boston Journal 6 Oct 1887.
"The Pancake-Thrower Convicted." New York Tribune 19 Oct 1887