Friday, March 19, 2021

The History of Case & Martin's Connecticut Pie Bakery, Mechanical Bakery, and the Troubled Case-Moody Pie Corporation of Chicago.

On April 26, 1869, Elisha W. Case and Stephen E. W. Martin established the "Connecticut Pie Bakery," one of the most extensive pie bakeries in the United States, at 37 North Wood Street (1934W) at the corner of Lake Street in Chicago. In 1872, they were obliged to enlarge their facilities for manufacturing, and to this end erected the building they occupied. They had three sixteen-foot rotary ovens, employ about 50-people, and had twelve two-horse wagons. 

Their bakery has a capacity of ten thousand pies daily. The lard used by them was rendered fresh every day; and it was a sufficient commentary on the reputation of Connecticut pies, to say that they bring about 2¢ a pie more than any other brand or bakery. 

During the first year of the Connecticut Pie Bakery's existence, the average number of pies manufactured and sold was seventy-seven daily. At that time, Case & Martin thought of only reaching a sale of 1,000 pies per day; and their anticipations were realized in July 1870, when they sold a daily average of twelve hundred and fifty-three during that month. In 1874, the daily average reached twenty-three hundred and thirty; in 1879, twenty-four hundred and eighty-two; and in 1880, thirty-seven hundred and thirty-seven. The wagons used in delivering pies were brought into use in 1870, are an invention of the junior member of the firm, and since their introduction have been duplicated by firms doing business in a number of Western cities. The wagons were handsomely painted with fruit and forest scenes, having a carrying capacity of two hundred and fifty pies, and cost $700 (Today; $14,534) each.

Charles A. Case and their younger brother, Elisha W. Case joined Charles in Norwich, Connecticut in his pie company in 1849. In 1854, Charles Case came to Chicago, bringing his younger brother with him, and established business at 72 Milwaukee Avenue (Today; 332 Milwaukee), near Halsted Street. This location, at that time, was 'way out of town.' The building was formerly an old copper shop, and the Case brothers persuaded John C. Culver, the owner, to turn the buildings front entrance to face Milwaukee Avenue, to put it in excellent repair, and to build an over for them; which he did, and they paid him $25 a month for it until 1858. 

The brothers found it very difficult to educate the western appetite to appreciate the Connecticut pies. When "The Mechanical Bakery" was started, about 1858, the Case brothers closed out their private business, and took the pie department of that concern, making pies, on contract, for 1¢ each. 

In July 1863, E. W. Case gave up his interest in the bakery and moved to his farm in Clinton County, Iowa, where he spent about three years, and then returned to Chicago. The Mechanical Bakery, in the meanwhile, having closed, Mr. Case started business on his own account, on April 26, 1869, at 37 N. Wood Street (1934W) at the corner of Lake Street in Chicago, with Stephen E. W. Martin, his present partner. The early venture of the Case brothers, and their subsequent connection with The Mechanical Bakery, had established a reputation for Connecticut pies, causing a demand that no one but the original founder could supply. When Mr. Case returned to Chicago, there was no exclusive pie bakery in the city; and pies with old established Connecticut flavor had disappeared altogether. The result was an immediate and prosperous business. Charles A. Case joined the Army during the Civil War, and died at Black River Bridge, Mississippi, in the summer of 1864. Charles Case was a member of the Western Avenue Baptist Church, which he served as Deacon for twelve years.

Stephen E. W. Martin was born in Sidney, Maine, on December 14, 1833. Martin came to Chicago in 1855 and obtained employment as a machinist with H. A. Pitts manufacturer of the Pitts threshing machine. Martin had served no previous apprenticeship to the trade, but his natural adaptability to mechanics enabled him to make himself very useful to Mr. Pitts, and he remained with him for eleven years. Mr. Martin married Miss Susan Lashore of Chicago in 1858.

At the end of that time, his health failed, and with his accumulated earnings, he started a fruit and vegetable stand at 37 N. Wood Street (1934W) at the corner of Lake Street in Chicago, about 1865, and after erecting his building, he found himself with but $1.50 to invest in stock. From so small a beginning he built up a prosperous trade in the incredibly short span of two years. He continued the business for three years, when he opened a grocery store, selling out his stock in 1869, to form a co-partnership with Elisha W. Case. 

Elmer Grant Case, son of Elisha W. Case, born in Wheatland, Iowa, came to Chicago as a boy. The Case & Martin Pie Company, one of the units merged into the $6 million Case-Moody Pie Corporation, was founded by his father in 1869. Case's personal fortune was estimated at $1 million (Today; $19,650,000) or more. He was three times married. His first wife divorced him in 1910 and the second wife died in 1929. I cover his third wife, Doris Case, later in this article.

The Case-Moody Pie Corporation was formed on June 28, 1929, by Elmer Case, and Charles Moody, who shared the role of Chief Executive Officer. Both men came from families that ran pie companies, so they knew pie. Case-Moody Pie Corporation was a very successful wholesale bakery for many years selling baked pastries, pies, and wedding cakes.
Case-Moody Wall/Counter Pie Safe

Prior to June 28, 1929, Elmer Case was president and principal stockholder of the Case Martin Pie Company. On that date, the company entered into an agreement with the Pellar Pie Company, Inc., Patterson Pure Food and Pie Company, and Moody Waters Pie Company whereby it was agreed that these corporations would consolidate under the name of Case-Moody Pie Corporation, which was organized under the laws of Illinois in order to carry on the consolidation as agreed.
Case-Moody Pie Tins

Case-Moody grew quickly at 1807 West Walnut Street on the Northside of Chicago and then they added a second factory at 3548 South Shields Avenue, which was next to Comiskey Park on the southside of Chicago. Case-Moody offered over 30 types of pie, each made fresh daily.

The company’s history, however, is a tale of misfortune including run-ins with the health department, law suites, bizarre fistfights, and suicide.
Elmer Grant Case
Trouble came to Case-Moody in 1934. Elmer Case committed suicide by shooting himself in the head in the basement of the Walnut Street factory. He left a note blaming labor costs but some sources say he had learned he was about to be fired. Case’s much-younger wife Doris, a former employee of Case-Moody, and a member of the board of directors was described as “comely” by the Chicago Tribune, shortly took Elmer's place.

Chicago Tribune, July 13, 1934
Elmer G. Case, Pie Company Head, Kills Self.
Elmer Grant Case, 69 years old, president of the Case-Moody Pie Corporation, shot and killed himself yesterday, July 12th afternoon in the basement of the corporation plant at 1807 Walnut Street. Awaiting him at the time in another part of the building where the company's directors, whom Case credited with the intention of taking his position from him.

When the veteran executive failed to appear for the scheduled meeting at 2 PM the directors waited an hour for him. Then, learning that Case had made his usual noon tour of the bakeries, which are among the largest of their kind in the country, the directors decided to search for him.

Find Body in Basement
Led by James Henderson, 3345 Kamerling avenue, they descended to the basement. The body, with a bullet wound in the left temple and a pistol beside it, lay in the corner. In one of the pockets of Case's coat were two letters, one addressed to the board of directors and the other to his wife and daughter, who resided with him in the Palmer House Hotel.

The first was full of expressions denoting that Case was deeply despondent over his personal financial affairs and his health. His strength and courage, he had written, had been heavily taxed in conducting the company. He added: "Now that I have given all that is in me, and the company has a bright future ahead for the first time in years, my services are no longer required."

The letter said that Case was "without funds," that he had expended much of his once ample fortune in protecting the company's interests, and ended by requesting that the board take care of his wife, Doris, and daughter. The second letter was filled with expressions of affection for Mrs. Case and his adopted daughter, Marguerita
Widow of Pie Company Head at Inquest. Mrs. Doris Case (right) testifies at hearing on suicide of Elmer G. Case. At left is Mrs. Case's daughter, Marguerite.
Faced Loss of Leadership
L.R. Tomlinson, secretary of the company and one of the directors, said that Case had had control of the corporate affairs through a voting trust that expired on June 30. He said it had been suggested that Case resign "because of his age." It was likely, Tomlinson admitted, that he would have been displaced later. No action toward his removal was contemplated yesterday, the secretary said.

Chicago Tribune, September 14, 1934.
Choose Widow of E.G.Case to Head Pie Firm.
Directors of the Case-Moody Pie Corporation yesterday elected Mrs. Doris A. Case president to succeed her husband, Elmer G. Case, who killed himself on July 12, of this year. Mrs. Case prior to the formation of the Case-Moody Pie Corp., in 1929 was for many years presidentof the Case & Martin Pie Company (Elmer Grant Case's father's organization), having been one of the city's pioneer pie makers.

Following Mrs. Case's election, the following statement was issued: "Mrs. Case, due to her capable business ability, has been a member of the board of directors of the corporation for several years and her broad knowledge of the pie baking business makes her well qualified to carry on this important work." L.R. Tomlinson will continue on as the corporate secretary.

The following year, Doris became embroiled in a property dispute over a flour mill she owned and was accused of assault and battery. In the incident.

Chicago Tribune, Friday, May 3, 1935
Beating for Case-Moody Key
Warrants for the arrest of John Case, nephew of the late Elmer G. Case, president of the Case-Moody Pie Corp., and one "John Doe," (Frank Tibbitts), sales manager for the pie corp., were issued yesterday by Municipal Judge Edgar A. Jonas in the Women's court.

The complainant is Frank M. Smith, 59 years old, of the Newberry hotel, 817 North Dearborn Street. He alleges that on April 25, Frank Tibbittss and Mrs. Doris Case, widow of Elmer Case. visited his room in search of a key. Failing to find the key, Smith charges, Case and Tibbits sat on Smith while Mrs. Case struck him.

Smith told Judge Jonas that the key was for a flour mill in Morris, Ill., owned by Mrs. Case, but on which Smith claims to hold an option. He is negotiating to sell the flour mill, he said.

The warrant for Mrs. Case was issued at the close of a hearing in which Case and Tibbitts were found guilty on similar charges and were placed on a year's probation. Previously Judge Jonas refused a warrant for Mrs. Case on the ground that she would not have been physically capable of injuring Smith. Mrs. Case was released in her own bond for a hearing on June 10. 

Case-Moody continued on under new leadership but ran into trouble again in the 1950s when the FDA charged that their products “contained insect and rodent filth.” After a merger with Sunkist, the company was bought by Mrs. Wagner’s Pies.

Simon and Garfunkel fans might remember Mrs. Wagner Pies were named in the song “America.”
America, Simon and Garfunkel, [Verse 1]
Let us be lovers, we'll marry our fortunes together
I've got some real estate here in my bag
So we bought a pack of cigarettes and Mrs. Wagner's pies
And walked off to look for America
Case-Moody’s North Side factory was abandoned in the 1960s and later torn down, and the South Side factory burned down around the same time, which is now part of the U.S. Cellular Field parking lot.
August 2015 — Governor Bruce Rauner signed legislation, passed by the Illinois General Assembly, elevating Pumpkin Pie to the status of the "Official State Pie of Illinois." About 85% of consumed pumpkin in the U.S. comes from Illinois.

Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.


  1. I have a Case-Moody Pie tin, nice to know the history.

  2. Elisha W. Case is my 4th Great Grandfather. I am descended from his son John Merton Case, brother of Elmer G. Case. I appreciate this blog post and the facts about Elmer that I was not aware of.

    1. My grandfather was the CPA for Case Moody for many years, even through the depression.


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