Prison Museum Recreates Century-Old Prison Meals During Weekend of Food Tours, June 11 and 12

PHILADELPHIA, June 2 /PRNewswire/ — Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site, Philadelphia’s massive prison museum, will present a weekend of special tours and food samplings, June 11 and 12. These special tours will trace the history of prison food during Eastern State’s 142 years of use. Also on display will be sample menus, rare archival photographs of the mess halls decorated for Christmas, prison reports, and audio recordings of firsthand accounts of the prison fare.

At 2:00 p.m. on each day, a local restaurant will recreate prison fare from the 1830s and 1950s. Visitors will have the opportunity to sample Indian mush sweetened with molasses, molasses cakes, bean soup and corned beef croquettes with catsup gravy.

When Eastern State Penitentiary opened in 1829, it was the world’s first true Penitentiary. Inmates were housed in solitary confinement and spent 23 hours a day in an 8.5 x 12 ft. cell. Meals were prepared on the ground floor of the Administration Building. The prison overseers would transport the meals to each cell using food carts – nicknamed “Washington,” “Franklin,” and “Lafayette” – and pass the food to the inmates through a “feeding hole” in the cell wall.

By 1927, Eastern State’s nearly 1,700 inmates were dining in two new group mess halls. For the first time, inmates ate meals outside of their cells.

Eastern State Penitentiary is located at 22nd and Fairmount Avenue, just five blocks from the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Call for hours at (215) 236-3300, or explore the website at

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