Who Nailed That Fudge?: A 1908 Mystery

Who Nailed That Fudge? recounts a sweet-toothed theft in the State Bank building the day before Thanksgiving, 1908, and was published in the November 25, 1908 edition of The Evening Record:


The strange disappearance of a pan of home made fudge, turned out in the fudge factory in the State bank building about 4 o’clock yesterday afternoon, created an excitement in that building which has never been equaled at any time, not excepting the time when the screens mysteriously disappeared.

The fudge was brewed by the Misses Lettie Marvin and Florence Rattenbury, its delectable fumes penetrating the air, floating out over the transom and attracting a horde of gentlemen tenants, who flocked around that door in a manner that reminded one of flies around a honey jar in July. They all came to the fudge factory, but it was noticed that two of them, E. Sprague Pratt and C.L. Curtis, the engineer, looked greedily upon the brewing brown mixture while their noses twitched like those of rabbits when they scent the fresh green things in the spring.

Jens Petersen taken on October 24, 1901 as he was starting his training under prominent Chicago architect, James Gamble Rogers. Image courtesy of Julie Schopieray.
Jens C. “Jensy” Petersen, taken on October 24, 1901 as he was starting his training under prominent Chicago architect, James Gamble Rogers. Image courtesy of Julie Schopieray.

Others came also, among them being Jens C. Petersen, G.W. Power, C.J. Helm, E.S. Williams, E.C. Billings and the greyhound Jack, in fact it is claimed by the fudge manufacturers that every man in the building came and looked longingly at the candy, sniffed the air and swallowed hard in anticipation. But having faith in these gentlemen and never for one moment believing that they could do any wrong, the ladies did not place a guard over their product when it was completed, but set it in the window of the fudge factory to cool, then went down the hall to discuss what they were going to be thankful for on Thanksgiving day.

And now they are looking for that pan of fudge. When they went back to get it, there was no fudge there, not even the pan. It was gone as completely and mysteriously as though it had never been. Search was made for it, detectives were placed on the case, the different offices were visited, the tenants begged threatened, wheedled and bluffed, but none confessed.

A notice was place in a conspicuous place stating that if the pan would be returned no questions would be asked, but even this was ignored. The prosecutor left the city hurriedly, and the ladies believed it possible that the fudge went with him, but this is only suspicion. It is thought that the fudge, pan and all was swallowed by someone, and they are wondering which one off the tenants could have performed this feat. The only one in the building who could make way with the pan in that manner is Jack the greyhound, but he can prove an alibi. The mystery deepens.

The ladies declare that if any of these hungry eyed men had asked them for a piece of fudge, they would gladly have given them some, but to think of being robbed like this of all they had, is hard indeed. When the guilty party or parties are apprehended, they will be dealt with severely.

Fudge recipe from McCall's Great American Recipe Card Collection,  ca. 1980s.
Fudge recipe from McCall’s Great American Recipe Card Collection, ca. 1980s.

Nothing has been found that indicates that anyone ever confessed to this crime, so it remains a mystery 107 years later. The writing style of the article is suspiciously like that of Jens C Petersen, a local architect. Two weeks after this incident, the editor began publishing letters to Santa Claus, and many local businessmen submitted their own pleas to Santa. The following letter was sent in by Petersen. His obvious love of fudge makes one wonder if he was the one who absconded with the sweet treat the day before Thanksgiving.

Dear Santa Claus: Bring me a bob sled and some fudge and lots of work and some nuts and candy and more fudge. I have been good and will continue to be. Jensy Petersen. –The Evening Record, December 18, 1908

NOTE: I was curious about the use of the word NAILED in this article and found one definition that applies here: “Nailed- past tense of nail- is seize, or take into custody.” I had never heard the word used that way before!

Contributed by local Jens C. Petersen aficionado, Julie Schopieray.