Charles F. Chandler, the Havemeyer Family, and New York City Politics
On December 5, 1878, the New York City Department of Health sent the Chamber of Commerce a copy of a report detailing the adulteration of sugars in regional barrels sold by refineries. The report was written by Dr. Charles Frederick Chandler, Columbia professor, consultant for the Havemeyer family, and President of the Department of Health. The sugar contained traces of tin salts, free acids, and artificial glucoses, all of which do not occur naturally in sugar, leading the report to conclude that the only explanation for the contaminants was an attempt to "defraud the consumer" and lie about the grade of the sugar. Even in small traces, the Department of Health saw these contaminants as a health concern.
After sending an initial report on the adulteration of sugars, the Department of Health resolved to "cause analyses to be made from time to time of the sugar and syrup sold in the city." The Department would designate money and public officials to monitor sugar products randomly to hold sugar refineries accountable. Repercussions are not detailed.
Sent one day after the Department of Health's resolution, on January 4, 1879, Theodore Havemeyer wrote a letter to be included in the Chamber of Commerce minutes calling the scientific analyses "one-sided." He cites the author of the report, Dr. Chandler, as a source. Chandler had apparently informed Havemeyer that “the sugars tested by him, and on the analysis of which he based his Report to the Chamber of Commerce were taken chiefly from Mr. Earle’s stock, and that the analysis was made at the request and expense of Mr. Earle.” Havemeyer proposed a more "neutral" analysis, offering to pay Chandler $500 to conduct a new test.
It is likely that Chandler had already defended the Havemeyer's sugar refining interests on similar grounds. Chandler's personal documents collected between 1875-1878 include an article in which he is quoted as saying that while some refined sugar contain traces of tin, they are too marginal to be considered a danger to public health.
The transcript of the letter is as follows:
"Professor Chandler informed me yesterday morning that the sugars tested by him, and on the analysis of which he based his Report to the Chamber of Commerce, were taken chiefly from Mr. Earle's stock, and that the analysis was made at the request and expense of Mr. Earle.
He gave as his reason for what I contested was a one-sided examination that the Board of Health had not funds sufficient at its disposal to make a thorough examination.
As I feel the public have a right to know whether what they purchase is or is not unadulterated sugar I herewith hand to your honorable body Five Hundred Dollars ($500), which I would ask you to place at Professor Chandler's disposal, so as to enable him to employ all the aid necessary to make a full and complete analysis of the refined sugar made by New York Refiners: his report to be furnished to your honorable body when completed..."