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The Curious Death of Former New York Congressman Michael Farley from Anthrax

October 08, 1921
The Curious Death of Former New York Congressman Michael Farley from Anthrax Image, National Retail Liquors Association, 1916 A one-term Member, Michael Farley of New York died an unlikely death from anthrax.
On this date, former New York Representative Michael Francis Farley, suffering severe pains, was admitted by his physician into the sick ward at Bellevue Hospital in New York City. Seven hours later, Farley was dead at age 56. The one-term Congressman had contracted a powerful form of anthrax less than two days earlier. What first appeared to be a blemish on his chin, quickly spread to his neck and face. Farley suffered from swelling coupled with tremendous throbbing. Dr. Douglas Symers, chief pathologist at Bellevue and an expert on anthrax, administered a series of injections of anti-anthrax serum, but it was too late. Farley was not the victim of an act of terrorism. Instead, he was killed by a shaving brush contaminated with bacillus anthracis, the deadly anthrax bacteria that is most commonly found in wild or domestic animals. Michael Francis Farley was born in Birr, Ireland, on March 1, 1863. At the age of 18, he immigrated to New York City. He opened a tavern on West 22nd Street and made a small fortune in the saloon business. Farley became president of the Wine and Liquor Dealers Association of New York County, and was later named head of Manhattan's Central Association of Liquor Dealers. In 1914, he was elected to the House of Representatives, succeeding Jefferson M. Levy in the 64th Congress (1915–1917). During Farley’s term he was a proponent of the McLemore Resolution, which warned Americans of traveling on armed merchant ships. Unfortunately, he also had a reputation for being a rather apathetic Member of Congress. He was often absent from Washington, D.C., tending to his New York saloon business. Farley was defeated for re-election to the 65th Congress (1917–1919) by Fiorello La Guardia. During the campaign, La Guardia often referred to him as “the sitting Congressman.”

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