Monday, September 17, 2012

Best of AM - The Continuing Tragedy of the Binghamton Salt Babies

I first ran this post in September of 2009.  This incident reached the national news - I remember it on the cover of a magazine when I was very young.  I never dreamed I would live in that community for a great part of my life.  And, I have not seen the woman in question in a long time.  I wonder what ended up happening to her and if she was really the person I was told she was.

The continuing tragedy of the Binghamton Salt Babies - more Forgotten History

There is an older black [this information is relevant] woman who has been seen for years in downtown Binghamton. She appears (to the casual observer) to be mentally ill.  She screams at the noontime lunch crowd. 

I was told recently that this woman was the nurse accused of the accidental salt poisonings of newborns in the Binghamton Salt Baby tragedy of 1962.  She had gone insane from the truth of what she had done, or so the story went.

I remember this news-I was young and the "salt babies" stuck in my mind.  I remember reading it in either Life or Look magazine for some reason-I wonder how reliable that memory is.  It was several years after I moved up here before I found out the incident had happened here in Binghamton.

In brief, a number of newborn babies at Binghamton General Hospital were fed hospital-mixed formula where salt was accidentally used instead of sugar.  The salt and sugar canisters were on the same shelf.   7 babies died from salt poisoning, several others were saved using dialysis.

So is this unfortunate older woman (who could possibly be in her 70's) the nurse mentioned in the Time article?  (Time had said she was a "Negro"-and, a pregnant mother of 3)  Was she ever charged with a crime?  Why were sugar and salt canisters stored so closely together?  What was the rest of her life like?  I could certainly see a mother of 3 not being able to live with this knowledge, if indeed she was the guilty party. (or, even more horribly-was she a scapegoat?  That was, after all, 1962.)

And, more of interest, what of the families who lost children? 

There doesn't seem to be very much online for this happening of 47 years ago....another instance of Forgotten History (except to the families involved), lost in the mists of time.


  1. Wow. What a riveting story! Can you imagine? Sounds like a good book, m'dear!! I bet you can find out more by searching news articles at the local library (they keep them on microfiche, usually). That would be an engrossing story to read. Historical Fiction, if you will. Just a thought. WRITE ON!

  2. I was a young man living I Binghamton at the time and remember the incident. At the time we would often take a shortcut through the hospital on the way home from St. Johns church. On the day in memory, we were barred from entering the hospital by uniformed police as the deaths were still a mystery. It was several days before the story made headlines. About all I can remember is that the labels on the containers were torn and hard to read.

  3. The women in question was a guest at my wedding in 1988 but I have not seen her since. She worked at the hospital with my mother and was a family friend. She was cleared of any wrongdoing so I will not disclose her name. Initially she was fired but then rehired as the Hospital's liability became clear. Each victim's family received $7000.00.


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