Before the Hatchet Fell
You have to admire the energy and endurance of those Victorian ladies. Even in the sweltering heat of a July afternoon, corseted and wearing layers of clothing, they managed to look crisp and elegant. What’s more is that they managed also to have some fun while looking so well turned out.
It would be hard to believe that a person contemplating cold-blooded murder could have, a week before the crimes, presented such a fun-loving and carefree demeanor. It was common to get out of the big cities in the heat of summer while the men stayed behind laboring and making more money. Abby Borden herself had planned a little Swansea vacation with a lady friend to the Borden farm on Gardner’s Neck Road. If you have ever been, there is always a delightful breeze , good fishing, and beautiful scenery to be enjoyed. Abby’s companion had to cancel and so she contemplated a sojourn with a relative in nearby Warren instead.
Lizzie and Emma also decided to escape the city heat and take the train to New Bedford on July 21st. It must have been a great escape from the daily routine at #92 Second Street. Emma hurried off to Fairhaven to enjoy the cool breezes of Fort Phoenix with its bandstand and shoreline attractions and a long visit to the Brownells on Green St. while Lizzie trotted off to see the Pooles, mother and daughter, at a boarding house on Madison Street. Lizzie had thoughts of diversion in her mind: pleasurable shopping jaunts, chatting with the Pooles who had known Lizzie since girlhood, and thoughts of Marion nearby with its enchantments of fishing piers, beautiful homes, boating and fishing and good friends .
With all of this in mind, you can make a good case that this seems unlikely behavior for a would-be-murderess. Lizzie had a little shopping excursion on July 23rd, perusing dress fabrics and patterns and enjoying the shops of New Bedford. On July 25th a most amiable opportunity for a day trip to Marion presented itself. Lizzie was in the very distinguished company of Rev. Buck’s daughter Alice, Anna and Mary Holmes, Mabel and Louise Remington, Isabelle Fraser, Louise Handy, Annie Bush, Elizabeth Johnson, Mrs. James and Miss Edith Jackson, and Jennie Stowell.
(Converse Point, formerly Blakes Point)
Marion was a little “Newport North”with moorings for yachts, celebrities and artists, politicians and lawyers, doctors and the upper crust of society longing to get away from the heat and crowded cities. Charming cottages and stately waterfront homes dotted the shoreline. Tree-lined streets, a chapel, art studios, delightful quaint eateries and a music hall provided entertainment for the lucky residents and distinguished guests.
Lizzie’s lady friends were busily playing house at Dr. Handy’s cottage and relaxing, Bohemian- style with back hair down and corsets loosened . Lizzie was to join the band of merrymakers on August 8th for jolly hours at the fishing hole and some slapdash housekeeping and high jinx with “the girls”. Each lady had a little job to do which made the domestic chores seem so much more fun. It is said that Lizzie was to tend to chopping kindling for the cook stove and that when told the kitchen kindling hatchet was a “dull thing” remarked that she had a sharp one she would bring that would be just the ticket.
On the 25th of July, Lizzie left the Pooles and was at Blakes Point, which is now Converse Point, for a day trip. Over time, the name has changed to whoever lives on the point at the moment. A very snappy yacht was at the moorings, the MABEL F. SWIFT. She was a trim Fall River craft owned by Charles W. Anthony, and a familiar sight to the Newport Yachting community on regatta days. The Honorable Simeon Borden, the Honorable James Jackson, Holder W. Durfee, William Winslow, and R.W. Bassett were the gentleman aboard. Friends, fun and sun in the bloom of summer were the order of the day.
The next day, Tuesday, July 26th, Lizzie would travel by carriage with Mrs. Poole and her daughter Carrie out to Westport to visit her old childhood friend Augusta Poole who had married and lived in a Victorian farmhouse with husband, Cyrus Tripp. It was a bit of a journey out to the house by carriage and Lizzie spent most of the late morning and afternoon there visiting Augusta. The band of three ladies then departed for New Bedford where Lizzie parted company with the Pooles after a busy few days, taking the train to return home to Fall River.
It was probably a reluctant but dutiful Lizzie who decided to forsake the fun and friends to return home to obligations and household drudgery. Mrs. Borden would want to be going to the farm for a break, and someone needed to be at home to look after Mr. Borden, oversee his meals and well-being. There were minutes to take at one of her many charitable organization meetings and Lizzie was conscientious. But there was the happy prospect of returning soon to the cottage of Dr. Benjamin Handy and the vacationing ladies on a spree with fishing at the pier to come. Dr. Handy was born in Marion and was a surgeon and physician. Later on, Dr. Handy would report a “wild-eyed” man in front of the Borden house on Second St. around 10:30 on the day of the murders. His Marion cottage was much-desired by friends and family as a “getaway” in the summer months.
Thus was the story of Lizzie’s week leading up to the murders. On Tuesday night the Bordens would partake of swordfish steak for supper. The family was ill Tuesday night into the next day. Mrs. Borden was in no state of health to go visiting anyone and on Wednesday morning she crossed the street to see Dr. Bowen and pronounced she was probably poisoned and Mr. Borden was taken sick too. Later on, Dr. Bowen, much-concerned about his neighbors, crossed the street to call on the sickly Bordens only to be rebuffed by Andrew Borden for the house call and its possible expense. Lizzie, perhaps out of embarrassment at her father’s rude behavior, went promptly upstairs and Dr. Bowen went away. Abby suspected there was something wrong with the family store-bought bread as once she heard of someone being taken ill from spoiled cream cakes. Lizzie claimed to be ill herself that Wednesday, never leaving the house and resting in her room. Soon Uncle John would arrive, enjoy a late lunch at the Borden table, rent a carriage and go over the river to Swansea. The scene was set for the horrors to come the next day. Did Lizzie go to Smith’s pharmacy to try to procure Prussic acid from Mr. Bence that day? What was behind Lizzie’s proclamation to Alice Russell that Wednesday evening around 7 p.m. about “something is hanging over me. I am sleeping with one eye open”. What happened to that carefree young woman on vacation in Marion just a few days before? Those are the questions that haunt us. Still.
*References used in this article: Lizzie Borden Past and Present, Leonard Rebello, Al-Zach Press, 1999.
Parallel Lives: A Social History of Lizzie A. Borden and Her Fall River, Michael Martins & Dennis Binette, Fall River Historical Society, 2010.
Photo credits: The Sippican Historical Society, Marion MA., Historic New England, Shelley M. Dziedzic (all rights reserved).
New for your Dressing Miss Lizzie paper doll
Just in time for Christmas, Lizzie gets a new frock. This will fit your Lizzie paper doll. Be sure to print in color at 100% on matte photo paper or 28 pound copy paper for best results, portrait paper layout. I am sure you recognize the dress as do visitors to the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast Museum! Click on the following link to download a high resolution PDF file of the dress here > christmas-dress
Dressing Miss Lizzie paper doll gets a new ensemble
In honor of Lizzie’s birthday, one, in what will become a series of free downloads to augment your Dressing Miss Lizzie paper doll book is released today, Lizzie’s birthday. Here is an imagined walking suit for Lizzie to wear on her visit to Chicago during the Columbian Exposition in October, 1893. White matte photo paper, card stock or 28 lb. regular copy paper is suggested for printing out the pdf file on your home printer. Click on the link below to print out Lizzie’s new duds! Results, will of course vary from printer to printer.
Hollister Press launches Lizzie paper dolls
Dressing Miss Lizzie, which is a paper doll book featuring Lizzie’s garments described in newspapers of 1892 -1893 is now available through hollisterpress.com as well as at the Second St. Borden home and the Fall River Historical Society if you live near Fall River. The Fall River Herald News recently featured a story about the new publication.
A few changes for August 4th
The Pear Essential Productions’ annual August 4th dramatization at the Borden house will have a few new faces this year. Mike Shogi, from Cleveland will be directing this year for the first time as long-time producer-director and script writer Shelley Dziedzic steps down after a long run. She will still assist with ticket sales, script and costuming.
Mike is a familiar face at #92, having played Dr. Dolan in 2011 and Detective Seaver in 2012 as well as being one of the Second Street Irregulars “Muttoneaters” for many years.
There will be some big changes in casting this year as well as a few old familiar faces reprising their usual roles. Stay tuned for more cast announcements here.
Carol Ann Simone will be returning as Lizzie Borden this year, shown here in the famous pink and white striped wrapper which she designed and made herself.
Below: The cast from August 4, 2012.
And the results are in for August 4th
After the annual August 4th dramatization by the Pear Essential Players, visitors on tour at the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast Museum were asked to fill out an exit poll and give any comments they wished to leave. Some of the results were surprising and humorous.
Lizzie Guilty 55, Lizzie Innocent 11, Lizzie undecided or neutral 1, Uncle John Morse Guilty or Involved 24, Billy Borden, Guilty 1, Typhoid Mary 1, Emma Borden Guilty 1, Hired Professional Killer 1, Bridget Sullivan Guilty 6, Uncle John and Bridget together 1.
Motives ran the gamut: greed and hatred of stepmother, money and revenge, secret love affair between Lizzie and her Uncle John, mental instability, resentment, payback, anger, jealousy, incest, left out of will, freedom, and envy of her wealthy girlfriends on the Hill.
Other suspects considered were: an evicted tenant of Andrew Borden’s, and Lizzie and Bridget working together, Bridget aiding in the cover-up.
One very interesting motive for murder proposed was the effect that “overly busy patterns on the wall paper and carpeting brought on mental stress”, as did the killing of Lizzie’s “pet raven” which was probably confused with the pigeons Andrew Borden killed by wringing their necks.
Under the category of weapon, all agreed on HATCHET, with one writer filling in the word “Sufficient”!
For the most part all agreed that the murders would never be solved, with only two claiming confidence that they would be.
After the performances ended, there was a drawing for an overnight stay for two at the B&B. The Aruda family, who live in Fall River, won. The cast of 16 was the largest ever since the B&B opening in 1996. Carol Ann Simone debuted as Lizzie this year to an appreciative crowd. Tickets had sold out by lunch time.
On the beach Summer 1892
It’s hard to imagine Lizzie or Emma in these on Horseneck Beach or in the water at Fort Phoenix, Fairhaven. The fashions are from Godey’S Lady’s Book, August 1892 issue 746. Figure 12 is a “bathing dress of of red serge trimmed with rows of white braid. Vest of white serge trimed with red braid. Sailor collar of the same with anchors embroidered in the corners. A thick cord is passed under the collar and knotted in front.” Figure 13 “bathing shoe of checked flannel with golosh toe and heel.”
Especially interesting is the bathing cloak, Fig. 11; “These cloaks are always used abroad to conceal the bathing dress when walking down to the beach, and they are now appearing at many watering places, especially the quieter ones. This model is of bath toweling trimmed with a Greek key pattern of navy blue braid, collar of blue linen.” Naturally Lizzie or Emma would not dream of “mixed bathing” with rambunctious males but would keep to the appointed Ladies’ Hours at the beach.
Muttoneaters return to Fall River
This past weekend the cordial society of armchair sleuths returned to #92 Second Street for the annual flocking of the Second Street Irregulars (Muttoneaters) for a jam-packed tour of many Borden-related sites around the area. Friday morning the group of 16 visited the Fall River Historical Society to bestow the yearly awards upon the recent publication by Michael Martins and Dennis Binette, Parallel Lives. The flock enjoyed a coffee hour, tour and photo session in the beautiful Victorian garden before heading off to Fairhaven for a picnic at Fort Phoenix and a city tour given by Chris Richards who was dressed to impress!
Chris fired off a vintage rifle, explained how teeth were extracted, limbs were amputated and the life and activities of a wartime barber-dentist-surgeon, a role he re-enacts in costume with a local history group at Fort Phoenix annually. Afterward the Muttoneaters toured city hall and learned about Mark Twain’s dedication speech given on the stage there, visited the locales of the homes in which Helen Brownell stayed (Emma Borden’s alibi), and visited the beautiful Millicent Library where a letterbox was found in a very special place inside. (see Atlasquest.com for clues!) The group then returned to Fall River for a pizza party and presentations on the Villisca murders of 1912 and discussions on Andrew Jennings, one of the attorneys for Lizzie whose journals they saw at the historical society earlier.
Andrew Jennings’ journal and newspaper clipping collection
Saturday was a busy day which began with a trip to Oak Grove Cemetery to see the room in which the Bordens were autopsied on August 11, 1892, and to inspect the interior of the holding tomb used to house the coffins of the Bordens both before and after the heads were removed by Dr. Dolan.
The morning concluded with a very special visit to Maplecroft and a great tour by Mr. Bob Dube who conducted the group through every room of the three-storied home and explained what was original to Lizzie’s tenure there. This was a very special and much-appreciated opportunity as the house is currently for sale with the future owner still unknown.
On the “piazza” at Maplecroft in the spot where the recently published photo of Lizzie and her dog appeared in Parallel Lives.
After lunch the Muttoneaters visited the Animal Rescue League of Fall River, an annual stop, to bring dog and cat treats and a special 1927 newspaper detailing Lizzie and Emma Borden’s donation to this worthy cause, bequeathed in their wills.
The afternoon brought a real surprise when the group was invited to visit the cellar of the Lodowick Borden (also known as Dr. Kelly’s) home next door to the Borden house on Second Street to view the chimney and cellar where in 1848 Eliza Darling Borden threw three of her children in a cistern and then committed suicide behind the chimney. Beautiful cabinetry with little drawers and cupboards were added much later when the Kellys moved to the house in 1891 and are still intact. The room was most likely used then as Dr. Kelly’s home office.
Muttoneaters flocked to June Street to pose on the porch of Andrew J. Jennings house which must have one of the best views of the Taunton River in Fall River.
Saturday evening concluded with a visit from the “Women’s Christian Temperence Union” with Muttoneaters dressed as Mrs. Brayton, Carrie Nation and Mother Willard, followed by a Sunday-style chicken Gospel bird dinner and many hours of animated conversation about the famous Borden case. As always, nobody wanted to leave on Sunday morning and the planning begins again for next year’s adventures.
The Face of Lizzie Borden
The sweet-faced lady on the piazza holding her pet is a far cry from the caricature of the raging homicidal spinster so often portrayed as being Lizzie Borden. The bobbleheads, tee shirts, and cartoons may have to undergo a re-do. Parallel Lives, the long-awaited biography of Lizzie and her times has released this amazing photograph of Lizzie with one of her Boston bull terriers (Laddie Miller), said to be taken around 1916 on the back porch of her French St. home, Maplecroft.
Followers of the Borden case will be drinking in every detail of her dress, her furnishings, her expression. A picture is worth a thousand words. The thick volume, studded with over 500 photos may be pre-ordered from the Fall River Historical Society. For the full story and link to order click on this link http://www.heraldnews.com/features/x464394189/Historical-Society-announces-first-true-biography-of-Lizzie-Borden
So will this photo and new bio change your mind about Lizzie?
Lizzie’s Easter bonnet
Although Fall River may not have enjoyed the annual Easter Parade famous to Fifth Avenue, New York, Easter Sunday morning was a grand opportunity for ladies to promenade down the aisle in their new chapeau at church, and later in the many parks in the city. Hats were de rigeur during Lizzie’s entire lifetime and she no more would have left the house without a hat on, than have left uncorseted. Hats and gloves were the mark of a lady. Lizzie even mentions that on August 4th, the day of the murders, when she returned from the barn loft looking for lead to make sinkers, she put her hat down in the diningroom before discovering her father on the sofa.
Lizzie could easily afford a personal milliner when she moved to Maplecroft. Mr. Bump, accompanied by his little daughter, would visit Maplecroft with trims and hat forms when Lizzie needed something new and stylish. She may have subscribed to The Delineator to keep up with all the styles. Fun to think of Lizzie smiling over French ribbon, Italian straw boaters, felt cloches, and boxes of silk flowers and feathers in the comfort of her beautifully-appointed home on the Hill and making her choices for the season’s head adornments.
Debut of cover art for Parallel Lives
Today the Fall River Historical Society has released the working cover art for its long-awaited volume, Parallel Lives, a history of Lizzie Borden’s Fall River. The cover features an expanded view of the famous “pansy brooch” portrait of Lizzie, with her dress tinted in a rich shade of burgundy and was designed by Charles S. Medeiros of Burnt Toast Graphics. It is a rare treat to see colorized photographs of the well-known black and white images so familiar to students of the Borden case. The rich hue used for the dust jacket is one which perfectly reflects Victoriana. Lizzie truly comes to life. The photograph in black and white featured in the background is of the wedding day of the William Lawton Slade Braytons, June 18, 1913.
For all the latest on publication date, follow the historical society online at http://www.lizzieborden.org/ParallelLives.html and on Facebook. The volume is currently in final revision with a publication date soon to come- and not a minute too soon for the many eager enthusiasts and historians who are eager for the new photographs of the Bordens and more than 500 photographs in all.
Emma and her furs
Lizzie’s furs, her sealskin “sacques”. reputed to have required Prussic acid with which to remove moths in that testimony by pharmacist Eli Bence were a luxury garment. The furs were rumored to have been a 30th birthday gift for Lizzie prior to her trip to Europe on the Grand Tour with lady friends. Furs as a rule are put in cold storage in the Spring and removed later for winter wear. Apparently Emma Borden knew how to take care of her fur coats as this Portsmouth Herald newspaper reported on August 5, 1943, long after Emma’s death. Nice to know Emma had a few luxuries.
The text of the article:
” Miss Emma’s identity was kept secret by Miss Anne Connors with whom she lived in Newmarket and townspeople had no idea of the connection with the reknown Borden family until her death when she was buried beside her sister, mother, and her murdered father and stepmother. A quiet, elderly woman who was always dressed in rich mourning, she never visited neighbors and made two trips to Boston, one to put her fur coat in storage at the beginning of summer, and the other to take it out in the fall.
Miss Lizzie, on the other hand, lived in her new and modern home, attempted to resume her ardent church activities and made frequent trips to Boston where harrassed hotel managers tried to keep her presence a secret from other patrons and newspapermen.”
Fitchburg Sentinel Aug. 13, 1892
Yet another version of the “pansy brooch” photo with a reference to Lizzie’s BROWN hair and heavier figure. An interesting thought- did Andrew discourage gold digger suitors prospecting for his hard-earned dollars?
October Mutton Eaters is now Online
October seems the right time to publish
The Victorian Celebration of Death
The Borden Funerals
Those Victorians sure knew how to mourn and how to keep Loved Ones around for years after the funeral through Memento Mori. To find out more about the customs of the era, and the Borden funeral in particular, visit the link for October Mutton Eaters online. Why did Lizzie wish her grave “bricked over”. What is a mort-safe?
After the Axe
(photo by Beau Allulli) “Nance O’Neil”: Rachel Brown (standing) and Jonna McElrath in this play at Access Theater
Reviews still coming in for the new production by the Blue Coyote Group. Much praise has been lavished on the costume designer, and word has leaked that a “theory” about the crime is suggested in the production. The interaction between Lizzie and her sister Emma is praised by critics as a strong element in the play, and the play in general is receiving positive reviews. Get down to the Access theatre soon , for the play closes October 9th!
David Rooney’s review: http://theater.nytimes.com/2010/09/21/theater/reviews/21nance.html
Lizzie Borden: Now A Halloween Fixture
With Halloween soon upon us, haunted houses, haunted hayrides and other ghoulish attractions are busily preparing costumes and features. In recent years Lizzie Borden has become a fixture at many of these horror attractions. She is usually portrayed in black and red clothing with a large bloody axe swinging wildly, and covered in gore. Poor Lizzie. You can imagine what she would think of this portrayal. The Taunton Gazette, the publication from the city of her 10 month incarceration has published an article on Lakeville’s entry for Halloween 2010. http://www.tauntongazette.com/lifestyle/lifestyle_calendar/x861574152/Lakeville-Haunted-House-preparations-underway
Here are a few options available this year, this one titled a Lizzie Borden Wedding Dress from Amazon.com-and with a KNIFE.
Here’s a better -looking version available at http://www.retroscopefashions.com/lolita1.html
And here are a couple of Halloween Lizzies from 2009 (sorry the credits are unavailable)
To see this live-action Halloween prop, visit Dave and Tracy’s photobucket video of this tombstone’s “special feature”. http://smg.photobucket.com/albums/v630/DaveNTracy/Lizzie%20Borden%20Tombstone/?action=view¤t=012-1.flv
There will be more.
Who was new for August 4th ?
It was a big day at #92 for the cast of the Pear Essential Players as they turned in 10 performances of Lizzie Borden CSI. Tickets sold out and the gift shop was buzzing with activity from early morning until the end of the day when the evening check- ins arrived. All previous records were broken this year.
Rufus Hilliard Ray Mitchell
There were a few new faces this year in the cast including Ray Mitchell who portrayed city marshal Rufus Hilliard and bore an uncanny resemblance to his character! Michael Brooks took over the role of James Winward, Undertaker and was suitably grave and distinguished.
(photo courtesy of Lee Ann Wilber)
For the first time, the bed in the guest room was moved in order to reproduce a lesser-known photo of Abby Borden.
With a nod to Richard’s Behren’s new book, Lizzie Borden: Girl Detective, Kathryn Woods played Miss Nellie Drew, girl detective and interviewed Uncle John Morse.
Molly O’Brien took over as Miss Manning from the Fall River Herald and also had a few things to ask Uncle John.
photo courtesy of Lee Ann Wilber
The men in blue were out in force this year with Ben Rose reprising Detective Seaver, and new B&B museum employees Justin Dunne and Will Clawson playing Medley and Harrington. Mustaches were a key element in bringing the characters to life with Hilliard’s famous walrus mustache and Harrington’s “handlebar” stash adding much to the characterization.
Will Clawson Phil Harrington
Justin Dunne played a young officer William Medley. Medley would become Fall River’s first Chief of Police.
Justin Dunne Chief Medley
Many actors have played Andrew Borden over the years and this year B&B employee Logan Livesey had the tough task of staying perfectly still under the sheet.
Tomorrow: Set dressing the house, our cast regulars, and the cast trip to Maplecroft!
Richard Behrens at the Fall River Public Library
Richard Behrens,author of Lizzie Borden, Girl Detective gave a reading at the Fall River Public Library on August 3rd. Some of the character actors from the Borden house museum’s Pear Essential Players came dressed 1892 style for the occasion.
This year’s cast featured Kathryn Woods as Nellie Drew, budding girl detective and fan of Miss Lizzie’s sleuthing adventures!
Abby Borden (Shelley Dziedzic) on the arm of
Uncle John V. Morse (Joe Radza) at the library (photos by Jack Faria)
click on link to view video : Lizzie Borden, Girl Detective