Axe or hatchet?  –  Most likely a hatchet or a short-handled axe.

Top Ten List of Most Often-Quoted  Borden Case Errors

 

 1. Lizzie was found guilty by jury of the murders of her mother and father.

Actually Lizzie was acquitted on all three counts, the murder of her father, her stepmother and both at the trial in New Bedford, June 1893.

 2. Lizzie Borden was a redhead.

According to her passport she had light brown hair.

 3.  Lizzie’s father cut off the heads of  Lizzie’s pet pigeons with a hatchet.

Andrew Borden did kill the pigeons, but by wringing their necks, according to Lizzie’s inquest statement.

 4.  Lizzie decapitated Abby Borden’s tabby kitten.

We have only the interview of Abby Borden’s niece, Abbie Whitehead Potter stating that Lizzie killed a kitten. The Whitehead family, with reason, had very little sympathy towards Lizzie, and this tale cannot be validated.

 5.  Lizzie Borden was a big, mannish woman.

Lizzie was 5 ft. 3 inches tall according to her passport, average for the times.  She had put on weight during the ten months she was incarcerated in Taunton jail. Her face did have a heavy lower jaw and was described by one newspaper as a face with attributes very common to the region.

 6.  Lizzie and her sister sold the house where the murders took place on Second Street after Lizzie was acquitted in 1893.

The sisters held on to the property until 1918.

 7. Lizzie was a kleptomaniac.

 Legend has it that she shoplifted at local Main St. stores and that the bill for what she had pilfered would be sent to her father to pay.  Shoplifting was surprisingly not uncommon among ladies of the period. There is no documentation at present in existence  that Lizzie was a kleptomaniac and that Andrew paid the bills.  The only corroborating bit of evidence is of a documented thievery of a porcelain wall ornament which went “missing” from the Tilden and Thurber jewelry  store in Providence.  When the item was taken back to the store for a repair, the owner was questioned about its provenance only to be told Lizzie Borden had been the gift giver. This matter was eventually settled privately. It is possible that Lizzie was a shoplifter in younger years, but not proven so.

 8. Andrew Borden was a mortician.

 Andrew Borden was trained as a carpenter and then went into business as a furniture and household goods retailer.  He invested wisely in real estate, including two small farms, all of which would bring him a good financial return, and as a sideline, he was an undertaker.  Undertaker in 1890 parlance meant a person who would supply items needed for a funeral.  He was neither a funeral director, embalmer, nor mortician. An invoice has been found for his services and for a casket, signed by Borden.  It was not uncommon for furniture retailers to supply wooden coffins and caskets and have a showroom or warehouse facility containing these items.

 9. Lizzie committed the two murders in the nude. 

 Thanks to the 1975 film starring Elizabeth Montgomery as Lizzie, the nude murderess scenario has its supporters.  In 1890, the thought was put forth that the killer must be saturated with blood, and it should have been impossible to hide or escape without the telltale blood evidence being detected.  In fact, the killer need not have been covered from head to toe with blood, or could have worn, then later destroyed a protective covering garment. It would be unusual for a lady  in the era of corsets and petticoats to have stripped bare twice on a sunny morning and walked around the house in broad daylight , then to clean up in between in a large tin basin in the cellar. Not impossible- just unlikely.

10. Lizzie Borden killed her stepmother and father.

So often assumed as fact ,  –  in fact, nobody will ever have the final answer to this one. Based on the evidence given to the jury then, and in re-examinations of the trial evidence now, Lizzie is acquitted. Her inquest testimony, prussic acid evidence, and dress-burning evidence were not allowed at the trial.  The fact that a side door remained open for almost an hour, and that an intruder could have entered the house and concealed himself, allows for reasonable doubt.  And therein lies the fascination with this case.

Got a favorite oft-quoted but unsubstantiated Borden case statement to share?  Please leave a comment!