THE PIE GIRL DINNER
The Orchard, South Hampton.
which StandfordWhite, with some assistance from McKim, began working on
in 1899 in Southampton, Long Island, for another longtime friend,
the talented amateur photographer James Lawrence Breese.
It had been in Breese's Carbon Photography Studio at 5 West Sixteenth
Street in May 1895 that the famous Pie Girl Dinner had taken place.
The unjustified notoriety that surrounded the event is further evi-
dence of the cloud of suspicion that was beginning to envelop
Stanford White's life. Planned as an anniversary celebration for one
of White's friends, the dinner was attended by some fifty men. At
the end of the banquet waiters carried out a huge six-foot pastry and
placed it in the center of the horseshoe-shaped dining table. The
waiters then began chanting the old nursery rhyme:
As the words "When the pie was opened" were reached, the crust
was broken and out flew a flock of canaries accompanied by sixteen-
year-old Susie Johnson swathed in black veiling and wearing on her
head a stuffed blackbird. Although the dinner guests included such
reputable personages as Charles McKim, Cooper Hewitt, Charles
Dana Gibson, and Edward Simmons, who wrote that the whole
affair was "very moral and dignified," the press, led by Joseph
Pulitzer's World. immediately attacked White and his crowd for
their "bacchanalian revels." Soon the studio and its "Carbonites"
came under fire as a secret place of lascivious intrigue, though it was
used by a number of well-known photographers and Breese listed it
openly in the Social Register as his place of business and regularly
gave dinners there attended by Bessie White, the Goelets, and other
highly respectable friends.
New York Herald April 1st 1896
And Now She asks to have a guest at the Breese Dinner Indicted
Alcott is Cautious
And He Tells Susie Johnson to
Go Before Police Magistrate First.
Echo of a Famous Banquet
An echo of the famous dinner when in a aureole of fluttering ,
twittering canary birds a beautiful young girl clad in a flowing robe of black rose entrancingly from a huge pie – reverberated in the corridor adjoining the District Attorney’s office today.
It as for an indictment
A mysterious echo it is. The name of the accused person is concealed. A sweet-voiced echo it is soprano. It was set in motion by Susie Johnson herself, the Pie Girl.
The dinner as which Miss Johnson sprang in fame in such unique and bewitching fashion was given in May 1895 in honor of John Elliot Cowdin. It took place in James L. Breese’s photography studio at No.5 West Sixteenth Street, Many well known men were present, but the painters dominated, and the guests joyfully suspected that some bizarre artistic surprise awaited them.
Girl in the Pie
It was last- songs, smoke and music
A huge pie was cut, and lo, a beautiful young girl, a fairy, not a bit scorched anywhere, done to a turn, stood revealed she was the pie.
She had posed some before the dinner, but after it she became the best-known model in town.
Her story is that some time after the dinner she was posing in the studio of and artist who had been one of the guests. Another man she declares who was also at dinner came in. The artist left the room and the girl alleges the visitor presumed upon her freedom of the studios.
She asks the District Attorney to go before the Grand Jury and as for an indictment against the man on two counts. One is the usual ground; the other is that she is under sixteen years of age.
Mr. Olcott said this morning that he would refused have anything to do with the case until it came up in regular procedure from a Magistrate’s court. He refused to take the responsibility of blackmailing the character of a man until a thorough examination had been held.