Mr. Ayers was the kingpin of patent medicines in the mid-Victorian era. Lowell, Massachusetts was the center of his far-reaching enterprise and his annual almanac publication was seen in the kitchen and privies of New England homes for decades, usually hanging on a nail by a piece of string. August 4th shows the sunrise at 4:55 a.m., sunset at 7:15 p.m in the far right Massachusetts column. Alice Russell was right about one thing- anyone tampering with the Borden’s milk can on the north side steps would have been seen at 5 a.m., provided someone was looking! The full moon was on the 8th, which would have shone over the holding tomb containing the bodies of Abby and Andrew Borden.
One very good reason the Borden case has made such a long-lasting impression in the public consciousness for so many decades must surely be the unforgettable crime scene photos of Abby and Andrew Borden. For these we have James A. Walsh to thank for forever capturing the brutal wounds inflicted upon the elderly couple.. Even in black and white, the victims and the grisly scenarios which unfolded that day in 1892 still fascinate and horrify today.
James Walsh was a portrait photographer- one of many with shops on North and South Main Street in the 1890s. It was fashionable to have photographs taken of all family members, individual portraits, groups, youngsters and even infants. Post mortem photographs were also commonly done to preserve one last glimpse of a precious family member recently- departed.
It is unknown just who on the police force decided the Borden homicides were important enough to be carefully photographed but Mr. Walsh and his camera were sent for on the afternoon of August 4th. His home was on nearby Rodman Street and the studio was at 66 South Main, neither very far from the Borden residence on Second Street. The police departments in most cities did not include a crime scene photographer on their payroll. It is doubtful Mr. Walsh could ever imagine that so many years later, those memorable photos would still be carefully studied by so many interested in the case.
The prints online of the crime scenes, interiors and exteriors of #92 Second Street do not do justice to the original prints held in the Fall River Historical Society archives where the details are much clearer and sharper. Unfortunately, by the time Mr. Walsh arrived late in the afternoon, the bodies of both victims had been examined and moved and so the positions seen in the photographs were not exactly as they were following the attacks. Mrs. Borden had been turned over and back at least once, and Mr. Borden’s pockets had been gone through to see if burglary had been a motive. It is even likely that he was arranged in a more decorous manner on the sofa for the photo, befitting his stature in the city. His arm is clearly propped up with a pillow and it is likely his slip-on Congress boots were put back on his feet. It is hard to imagine police forensic work today without the all-important crime scene photos. During the Jack the Ripper investigation, one policeman suggested photographing the victim’s eyes as the last thing seen would still be imprinted on the retina! Those photos have also immortalized the Ripper case.
Cartes de visites (CDVs) or cabinet photos by Walsh are fairly common on Ebay in the 4-5 dollar range and are fun to collect. Often the back of the card is as interesting as the front; Walsh’s were very elegant. Who knows- more photos of the Borden family might still be out there! (scans below W&W archive with thanks to Joseph Soares)
Bridget Sullivan gives testimony about her first employment when she arrived in America, long before going to work for the Bordens on Second Street. Today the old opera house is the Jane Pickens theatre on the green near the courthouse. The Perry House Hotel, the original building destroyed many years ago, is at the intersection of Thames and Broadway. Bridget lived awhile with a man named Sullivan during her year in Newport, a fact which seemed to cause a little sensation as to if he were a married man or a single man.
Q. You came to New York first, and went from New York to Newport?
A. Yes Sir.
Q. That then is five or six years ago, is it not?
A. Six years ago the 24th of last May.
Q. How old are you?
Q. When was your last birthday?
A. I do not know.
Q. You do not know?
A. No Sir.
Q. Then how do you know you are twenty-five; because you have been informed so?
A. Yes Sir.
Q. Did you ever live anywhere else than in Pennsylvania and Fall River?
A. In Newport I worked twelve months.
Q. In whose family there?
A. A hotel.
Q. What hotel?
A. The Perry house.
Q. That was when you first came to this country?
A. Yes Sir.
Q. How long did you stay there?
A. Twelve months.
Q. Did you work anywhere else in Newport than in the Perry House?
A. No Sir.
Q. And you were at work all the time while you were in Newport. While you lived there, in the Perry House?
A. I was a little while with my friends before I went to work. I was twelve months in Newport before I left it.
Q. Friends where?
A. In Newport.
Q. Who were they?
Q. What Sullivan is it, what is the first name?
Q. Mr. Dennis Sullivan; does he live there now?
A. I do not know.
Q. Was he a relative of yours?
A. A friend.
Q. A married man?
On September 17, 1971, the Baker Street Irregulars, that distinguished club of Sherlockians, held a special race at New York’s Belmont Racetrack. Called the “Silver Blaze” race, after the Sherlock Holmes story of the same name which involved a racehorse, the Irregulars were anxiously inspecting the racing form for a horse to bet on. The race for fillies included a snappy nag called Swinging Lizzie in the lineup. Swinging Lizzie was sired by- Axe II– naturally. Did she win the race?
Read all about the outcome in the pdf file clipping at this link! SwingingLizzie
Thanks to our Baker Street Irregular correspondent, and BSI archivist for sending along this charming tidbit!
Graphology, the “pseudo-science” of deciphering personality attributes by analyzing handwriting samples provokes mixed opinions as to the validity of these observations. The formation of letters, the slant of the writing, the way a “t” is crossed- and many other points come under the lens in formulating possible characteristics of the writer.
Janice Warren, master certified handwriting analyst, will present “You Are What You Write,” on Friday, June 18, at 6:30 p.m. at Christ Church, 57 Main St. in Swansea. The owner of “Different Strokes” in Fall River, Ms. Warren gives workshops for teachers and lectures for civic groups and cruise ships.
The program will feature discussion on various traits revealed in handwriting, samples of the rich, famous and infamous, including Lizzie Borden, and will include audience participation by helping to analyze their personal handwriting samples. This is far from the first time that Lizzie’s handwriting has been examined. It will be interesting to see if Ms. Warren agrees with other graphologists.
Refreshments will be served after the program, and tickets may be purchased at the door or by calling Marsha at 508-678-6486. The fundraiser will benefit Christ Church outreach projects.
Over the decades since Lizzie Borden’s death in 1927, the pansy has become the flower associated with her. She herself never claimed that this was her favorite, and we have only the well-known photograph of her wearing the pansy brooch at her throat as any indication that she liked the flower. Whether it was a favorite of Lizzie’s or merely a favorite blossom of the era cannot be known with any certainty. Postcards, other ephemera, jewelry, household decorations, needlework, painted china, and such are all lavished with pansies. It was a sentimental favorite, probably second only to blue forget-me-nots. Violets, which signify faithfulness, and rosebuds of varying colors were other flowers most often seen. The Language of Flowers was a popular code of the times, of which most ladies were very knowledgeable. Pansies, from the French “pensees” means “thoughts”. Naturally this was an ideal flower to associate with card sending and gift-giving. There is a very good possibility that Lizzie’s pansy brooch was a gift given to her by a lady friend of close acquaintance. Lizzie seemed to have a great many dresses in her closet which featured blue, so perhaps the blue-violet shades of pansies appealed to her for that reason. Another well-know name for the tiny johnny-jump up, a diminuative pansy cousin, was “heart-ease”. The motif was very popular in handwork for ladies of the time. A lady reporter who wrote about Lizzie’s neat bedroom mentions a pale blue coverlet worked in embroidered flowers by Lizzie. Too bad she did not mention what kind of flowers! Today a vase of silk pansies is kept in Lizzie’s bedroom on Second Street, a Victorian oil painting of pansies hangs above her bed and pansies are always planted in the garden at #92.
Here is a poem by Louisa Don Carlos, born in 1874, one of many Victorian verses about the beloved pansy.
O give me not red roses,
That early dews have wet!
They speak to me of kisses
That are remembered yet.
O bring me not white roses,
That summer winds have drest!
For once I placed white roses
Upon a quiet breast.
But bring me purple pansies
If so you wish to please,
For them I have affection;
For pansies are “heart’s ease”.
Recently a letter surfaced in England written by Lizzie to a friend living there. The woman now owning the letter in the television programme that aired last week in Britain had the letter written to her grandmother by “L. A. Borden,” signed thus, over three pages, that was very conversational and ordinary in tone, being pre-murders. It was valued, very conservatively, at £600-800 or $1,200 to $1,600.
With the upcoming publication of the Fall River Historical Society’s Parallel Lives, (now delayed until late March -early Spring), Lizzie letters are much on the minds of Borden enthusiasts everywhere.
If a Lizzie Borden signature is out of your wallet range, many Lizzie-affiliated signatures can still be had for a bargain. The signatures of the Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts in 1892-96 and the former Governor, George Dexter Robinson, also better known as Lizzie’s head defense attorney, were bought recently for $30 on Ebay. Another former Governor’s autograph (John Davis Long 1880-1883) was thrown in as a bonus.
Roger Wolcott (1847-1900) was Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts from 1892-1896 and Governor from 1896-1900.
Governor of Massachusetts 1880-1883, Secretary of the Navy 1897-1902
The Navy destroyer USS Long (DD-209) was named after him.
These high quality, full-color calendars are spiral bound and printed on heavy cardstock
Our calendars feature photographic contributions by Mary Beth Rigby and William Moniz as well as historic images donated from private collections
Layout by Ann Keane
Additionally, the birth dates of notable historical figures are observed throughout
Limited quantities of our calendars are available for $15 and make a wonderful holiday gift
Shipping is an additional $1 per calendar. Those in the Fall River area may arrange for pickup. Please call or email to reserve your copy or to arrange for pickup
Payment may be mailed to:
The friends of oak grove cemetery
96 colfax street
Fall river, MA 02720
Sung by Vida Turner at Lizzie’s private wake, many seem to find meaning in Lizzie’s requested and favorite hymn. Rev. Cleveland from the Church of the Ascension on Rock St. gave the prayers to a select few employees. Miss Turner received a check for her services and was told not to repeat where she had been. This version is from a period hymnal and the text is the text Lizzie would have known. Do you see any hidden significance? Try it at home on your piano.
‘Who, in the “Lily” under Belasco’s management has demonstrated her right to be considered the great actress the admirers of her earlier work prophesied. (from American Magazine August, 1911)’
Nance is shown with a come-hither look all decked out in Titanic-era cartwheel hat with feathers. At this point Lizzie Borden was a long-gone memory as Nance advanced with her stage and film career. Nance, always somewhat of a spendthrift, sold her large estate in Tyngsboro, MA (where Lizzie once visited) with 250 acres of it purchased by the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur in 1907. It is now the site for Notre Dame Academy, a co-ed Catholic school.
Rick Geary has spent a good many years as illustrator and cartoonist, capturing on paper some pretty grisly tales from the corridors of dark history. The Borden case caught his fancy and was immortalized as a graphic book, some years ago. It is a must-have for fans of the case and is available on Amazon for as little as five dollars.
Mr. Geary also produced a charming paper cutout sheet of the house on Second Street, which was, for a time available for sale at #92. It is not now so readily available. Once selling for $1.95, the cardstock cutout, which when colored and assembled is a strikingly good facsimile of the house, is now sought after by Bordenites. If readers know where it might be purchased- send us a comment!
Visit Rick Geary’s website at http://www.rickgeary.com/
After the success of the 1992 conference at BCC, some of the organizers including Jules Rykebusch and Ken Souza wanted to repeat a smaller version of the gathering every year on the first weekend in August. So the Lizzie Expos were conceived and sponsored by the Down Under Cafe. The image above is from the 1994 Expo and details some of the events. This was also the year the mannequin of Lizzie (which held a pear and was in the entry of the Down Under) was kidnapped. A reward was offered and she returned mysteriously by the second day. The Herald featured the tale on the front page. She is shown below with Ed Thibault.
Carriage rides and city tours were part of the fun. Here are some of the city guides in costume and in character as 1892 Fall Riverites on the way to Maplecroft.
The Sweet Nightingales sang songs of the 1890’s at the old Central Congregational Church. This stage area in the photo below is now part of the Abbey Grille restaurant downstairs. The song being performed here is You Can’t Chop Your Pappa Up in Massachusetts! By 1996 #92 Second Street had opened, and the Expos were no more-but they were fun while they lasted!