WESTFIELD- Lewis B. Allyn was murdered in Westfield 79 years ago on May 7, 1940 in what is to date the only unsolved murder case in Westfield. It has been dubbed ‘The Pure Foods Murder.”
Westfield Police Capt. Michael McCabe grew up just around the corner from the house where Allyn was killed at 69 Western Ave. He said that he recognized many of the names associated with the case, and has been investigating it himself, now nearly 80 years after Allyn died.
Until now, McCabe had about as much luck solving the case as the investigators who responded to the original call.
“New evidence has come to light,” said McCabe.
McCabe will give a talk about the case at the Westfield Athenaeum on Wednesday, Aug. 28, at 6:30 p.m. in the Lang Auditorium. McCabe will present all that is known about the case in addition to new evidence that may point to the real killer.
“I had to piece this back together from nothing,” said McCabe.
Born in 1874, Allyn was a professor of chemistry at what is now Westfield State University (then called Westfield Teacher’s College) in the early 20th century. He was a prominent figure in the Pure Foods movement of the time, which advocated for the better food safety and toxicity standards that we enjoy today.
The facts of the case and the crime scene are simple, and they don’t point to any one suspect as the culprit to Allyn’s death. At approximately 10:30 on the night of May 7, Allyn was downstairs in his house on Western Avenue while his wife was allegedly upstairs.
His wife reported that she was upstairs when she heard loud noises and shouting from downstairs, followed by several “pops.”
When she went downstairs to investigate, she found her husband’s body with five gunshot wounds. She reported that the suspect must have left immediately. There were no other witnesses.
The mystery surrounding Allyn’s murder has spawned numerous theories, some more conspiracy-driven than others. McCabe said he has been able to identify seven different legitimate working theories behind Allyn’s killing.
Allyn was believed to have been working on the development of a replacement to saccharin, an artificial sweetener that was found to be harmful to once’s health following the passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1907.
As legend goes, Allyn had developed a substance to replace saccharin, and some foreign entities had taken notice. Although it is not able to be confirmed, some say that Allyn was approached by both representatives of the German Nazi party and the Soviet Russian Imperial Army. Allegedly, both forces had an interest in using Allyn’s new compound to feed their troops with relatively little food-mass.
It is unknown if either the Soviets or Nazis had him killed because of his refusal to give them the formula, or if another party had him killed out of the possibility of him giving it up, or if his interactions with those powers had any relation to his death at all.
Another theory, which has a little more real information to work with, is that his death was the result of an affair between Allyn and another woman. The other woman was also having an affair with the chief of police at the time, Allen H. Smith. This spawned theories that Allyn was killed to prevent the chief’s side of the affair from being made public.
Another theory has to do directly with the Pure Foods Act. At the time, Allyn had asked 13 grocers to sign on to support the act. 12 of the 13 signed on, one of them did not, and was vocal about their opposition to it. This leads some to believe that the 13th grocer murdered him to hinder the progress of the act.
Ultimately, however, each of these theories is just that: theories. None of the involved parties to the murder, including any of the investigators, are alive today.
McCabe hopes he can finally put this case to rest with his newfound evidence, which he said he may present at his talk on Aug. 28.