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Author Archives: phayemuss

About phayemuss

If you've stumbled across this blog, I hope you will enjoy in the musings, images, and perspectives as much as I enjoy sharing them. As a writer, scholar and collector of the infamous Lizzie Borden case of Fall River, MA (1892), I have spent over 40 years collecting rare books, journals, letters, photographs and memorabilia on this most compelling case. I like to say: "Some people play golf - I do Lizzie." My first read on the case was Victoria Lincoln's A Private Disgrace, and my first visit inside 92 Second Street(when it was numbered 230)was in 1978. For the next 15 years, I traveled to Fall River doing research and meeting with long time residents. In 1992, I was a presenter at the Lizzie Borden Centennial Conference in Fall River. Since 1998, I have stayed at the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast two to three times a year, often serving as tour guide and night manager. I've lectured at University campuses, women's groups, genealogical societies, civic clubs and fraternal organizations, and libraries conducting multi-media presentations on Lizzie Borden and Fall River's history. I am the creator of the Lizzie Borden board game: "Journey to Maplecroft" and have produced several research and reference materials in both print and CD formats, some of which are available at the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast. My personal images are copyrighted and not intended for other blogs or internet sites or print publications or any commercial use without permission, however, please feel free to copy them for your own personal collection. Also, feel free to email email me at phaye@npgcable.com. -Faye Musselman Cypress, California

“We Love You, Lizzie – Oh, Yes We Do!”

(Originally posted in 2006)

(Think “We Love You, Conrad” from the movie Bye Bye Birdie.)

There was a great deal of sympathy and support for Lizzie Borden from the time of the murders to the time of her Trial – particularly during the time she was incarcerated at the ivy-covered Taunton Jail until June 3, 1893, when she was transfered to the New Bedford Jail.

While at the Taunton Jail, she gained sympathy from the “sob sister” style reporting of her jailhouse interview with Mrs. McGuire which appeared in print on September 20, 1892. In that interview Lizzie tells her of the flood of letters she has received from kind supporters. (Where ARE they? And who has any she may have written back to?)

Then on October 10th, the “Trickey-McHenry” journalistic fiasco by the Boston Globe so promptly retracted with apologies to Lizzie (and John Morse) garnered her more of the “that poor girl” image.

The papers reported the Government had a weak case but the critical revelation of the dress burning incident told by Alice Russell when the Grand Jury reconvened on December 1, 1893, was not published.

By April 1st, 1893, Lizzie was already a popular icon regardless of one’s belief in her guilt or innocence. Her popularity was evidenced by her name receiving the most write-ins for the below contest. The contest was for 5 tickets to the Chicago World’s Fair in 5 specific categories: (1) School Teacher, (2) Policeman, Letter Carrier or Fireman, (3) Mechanic or Gentleman Clerk, (4) Mill Hand, and (5) Lady Clerk – all to be residents of New Bedford. One simply had to cut out the coupon and write the name of the person they felt the most popular and designate which occupation.

Lizzie, a Fall River resident, won hands down for most popular “School Teacher”. Lizzie courteously rejected hers suggesting it be given to another, as it was. (It is believed, however, Lizzie subsequently attended the Columbian Exhibition towards its end run after her acquittal.)

How Lizzie must have relished in the glow of all this popularity. She had never been popular in school and so much wanted to be accepted among her peers. She played her “awful confinement” to the hilt.

Then, exactly one month later, on May 1st, 1893, there was the trumpeting of an “outraged” Mary Livermore at the police for their abuse and sheer adacity to even suspect this virginal Sunday school teacher who was the younger daughter of her long deceased friend, Sarah Morse Borden. And in this same article (below) we learn that even Emma received many letters of sympathy and support.

Lizzie’s Trial would begin on June 5th. She was still perceived as a victim. Her Inquest Testimony was disallowed. Her attempt to buy prussic acid was disallowed. She was acquitted. She was loved. “We love you, Lizzie Borden.”

Well, maybe not so much later.

By the way, just WHERE ARE all those letters Emma and Lizzie received, let alone those constituting their responses if they did correspond back? Emma, I would think, would have disposed of them. They certainly haven’t surfaced in the personal possessions she left Orrin Gardner. Lizzie, on the other hand, may have kept hers. If she did keep them, I have an idea where they might be. She was odd like that. For example, she had no fondness for Abby but she held on to that silver cup Abby gave her all her life.

I think Lizzie would have held on to the mementos that validated her popularity or when she felt loved.

So….

altogether now: “We Love You, Lizzie – Oh, Yes We Do!”

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New Books on Lizzie Borden Coming This Summer

Coming this summer – new books on Lizzie!  We recently had Christine Verstraete’s Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter, and Rebecca Pittman’s The History and Haunting of Lizzie Borden.     The former is fiction horror and the latter is non-fiction.  Christine’s book has been well received and highly praised in reviews by those of its genre, and Rebecca’s book reflects a rare discipline to combine in-depth research with a totally captivating narrative.

But now we will be treated with a few more before the end of the year and I point out the two below worthy of attention.

Sarah Schmidt’s See What I Have Done is a gothic thriller described below.

                                                                                                      Sarah Schmidt

From the May 12, 2017 Critical Eye book reviews in The Guardian:

“Sarah Schmidt’s debut novel See What I Have Done takes a new look at the case of Lizzie Borden, who in 1892 was charged with the brutal murders of her father and stepmother. “A disquieting read,” wrote Antonia Senior in the Times. “There is an ambiguity here that reflects the endless, unanswerable speculation about what really happened that day. This open-endedness will irritate some readers; I loved it.” Jake Kerridge in the Sunday Express found it “dignified and sensual, as though Henry James had decided to tell the tale.  There are multiple well-characterised narrators and a dreamlike quality to the prose that enhances rather than detracts from the horror at the heart of the story.” For the Observer’s Hannah Beckerman, “Schmidt’s portrayal of Lizzie is haunting and complex, a deeply psychological portrait that forces the reader to question their preconceptions about what women are capable of – for better and worse. Both disturbing and gripping, it is an outstanding debut novel about love, death and the lifelong repercussions of unresolved grief.”

Another book to watch for is from an excellent writer who is to be commended for her equally excellent research abilities, Erika Mailman’s The Murderer’s Maid.  Here’s the cover art for that book.

                                                                   Erika Mailman

Erika has written several books:

Check out her website HERE. 

 

 

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McWHIRR’S DEPT. STORE – WHERE LIZZIE WENT A-THIEVING

RECYCLED FROM JULY 27, 2014  and FROM ORIGINAL IN 2008

Mea Culpa Notice:  I was in error. McWhirr’s Dept Store, as shown here was not inside the Cherry & Webb Building.   It was a separate structure subsequently torn down and another building in its place.  The Cherry & Webb building, however still stands as indicated below.

In Lizzie’s day this was McWhirr’s Department Store, an upscale department store where anybody who was anybody shopped. Shown in this photograph, the name “McWhirr” can be made out on the top of the white building in the background.

The Cherry and Webb Building (so stated on the front of the building) is located at 139 South Main and is now the UMASS-Dartmouth Professional and Continuing Education Center a learning center for professionals, night students and other students. On the ground floor is the Café Arpeggio. Bristol Community College has recently leased space for special courses for special needs. Baker Books, once there on the ground floor in April 2007, gone by August 2007. Darnit.

Previously “one of the city’s most underutilized downtown structures”, Mayor Lambert is credited with its current public use.When I spoke to security, building maintenance technicians, administrators and students, one of the things I learned is that this facility is being used to assist with GED education for a number of the nearly 900 employees who lost their jobs by the closing of Quaker Fabric. I also learned that the only interior “original” to this building is the grand staircase shown below.

There was a time when the building was known to all Fall Riverites as “McWhirr’s”. Imagine Lizzie in her blue India silk bengaline inside this store moving about amongst the crowd. Imagine Lizzie taking a five fingered discount of oh, say, a pansy broach and sliding it up inside her so conveniently fitted gloved hand. Then, with a casual grace and the deportment of “a Borden” strolling towards this staircase and ascending to the second floor.

Without batting an eye nor turning her head to see if she’s being followed, she would maintain a steady but lady-like gait as she faked interest in nearby displays of hats, porcelain figurines, and petite carved bottles of French perfume. With a skill only acquired from experience, she would be diligently aware of any store employee watching her from a near distance.

Her heart beating to the exhiliarating thrill of this familiar challenge and satisfied no one was following, she would turn back to the stairway and begin her descent, one lady-like step at a time. Below her she would survey the vast array of glass table top and standing shelved display cases, filled with products from near and abroad. Men, women and children busy shopping, strolling and admiring all the goods. Busy store clerks packaging purchases and preparing sales slips. Busy, busy, busy. She would survey it all, calmly determined in her objective.

One gloved hand on the railing, the other modestly angled upright, her fashionable cloth purse looped over it. Posture perfect, a lady of some stature, she would have looked straight ahead, a seemingly blank stare masking a steeled will. She would descend, slowly, each step measured with her resolve and comforted in the fact her broach not the least bit detected as it nestled securely inside her modestly priced but exquisitely stitched leather glove.

Pausing at the bottom step, brazenly she would hold up that gloved hand with its secret deposit and there she would act as if only adjusting the fitting. Only a moment, but pause enough to quickly ascertain once more with a quick scan if any authoritative and watchful eyes were upon her. They are not. Only a fresh-face counter girl who looks directly at her and says: “Good morning, Miss Borden”. She would respond with a tilt of the head, a forced, kindly smile, and she would begin her walk towards the front door. A slight turn to the left and she would be on her path, curving here, curving there passing the cases, dodging a small child, brushing skirts against other ladies. Closer, each step closer. The front door now in sight.

Only 32 paces,…. now 20, and the heartbeat accelerates,….. now 12, and the breathing more pronounced…..now 9, and a slightly fevered brow…..now 7 and a quivering chin….the uniformed doorman sees her approach… now 2 steps, two steps only as the doorman pulls upon the door and tips his hat…the step across the threshold…, now daylight. No arm upon hers. No hand upon her shoulder. Big exhale. The quivering chin ceases to quiver, the pulse rate subsides, the fevered brow cools in the bright sun. A liberating wave of relief engulfs her. She feels…. a profound sense of…..special achievement by way of genetic entitlement.

Actually, considering the fashions of the day, forget the broach. She could have concealed a Virginia ham under those skirts. And many of the “ladies who went a-thieving”, in fact, did just that. But not at McWhirr’s.

 

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Lizzie Borden Link to JFK and Harry Truman

(Originally posted, May 3, 2011)

 

And there she is, the link – well, sort of a link:   Grace Hartley Howe, cousin to Lizzie Borden, sitting behind John F. Kennedy and Harry S. Truman.   1st Row: Governor Paul Dever, JFK, Truman, Eddie Doolan; 2nd Row: Tom Kitchen, Mary Kane, Grace, City Councilor John Arruda, and David Talbot.  This photograph was taken in Fall River in 1952 during JFK’s campaign for the Senate and is on display in the dining room cabinet at the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast/Museum.  Grace died in 1955, three years after this photograph was taken.

Grace lived her last years at this cottage on Martha Street in Fall River.

It has a lovely view of the Taunton River, which would have been even more exposed in her time there.

When a boy, Fall River author Leonard Rebello (Lizzie Borden Past & Present) used to deliver papers to Grace here.  He never knew her connection to Lizzie Borden until he was doing research for his book.

Oak Grove Cemetery grave site of Cook and Mary Borden – Grace Borden Hartley Howe’s maternal grandparents.  (Right click for larger image)

Grace’s grandfather, Cook Borden, was a brother of Abraham Borden – Andrew Borden’s father.  Grace’s mother, Mary Borden Hartley, was named after Grace’s grandmother (Cook Borden’s wife).  Grace’s own daughter, Mary Hartley Baker, who died many years before Grace, was also named after *her* grandmother.  Mary’s son, (Grace’s grandson) Robert Baker, inherited family property in Westport and also much of Lizzie’s personal property – as did Grace’s own son, Hartley, which Grace had inherited from Lizzie.  When Hartley died in 1996, some of what *he* had was left to his wife, Rosella Hartley Howe.

Grace is buried in Oak Grove Cemetery with her husband, Louis McHenry Howe (d.1936

 
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Posted by on May 3, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

The Impact of “The Greater and Lesser Bordens” on Andrew and Lizzie

RECYCLED

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AbrahamBordenAbraham Borden – first born son of Richard Borden and Patty Bowen Borden
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“In 1860, Colonel Richard Borden was deemed the richest man in town, worth $375,000, (the equivalent of $8,122,011 in 2006). His wife was head of Central Congregational Church sewing circle.” -Spinner Magazine
Just pause and think about that fact for a moment (which most people won’t get).  It’s the year Lizzie is born, 1860.    Andrew is still living on Ferry Street in one half of that double house his father owns.  His own sister and her husband live there too,  And he has this relative…this uncle of his own father.  The man who persuaded his paternal grandmother to give up her water rights and that mill…the man who influenced the court – the man who got her to settle for much less.  Consider that Andrew, at age 38, living next to his father, HAD to know the story and was keenly aware.  So keenly aware he had already vowed he would not be a poor relation as his father was.  So keenly aware he was already well on his path of accumulating money. 
Andrew was only 2 years old when his grandfather, Richard, died, but he must have smarted in his early years growing up, reading, seeing, hearing about all his wealthier relatives and how some of them got that way.  Bitter?  I think so.  .  Determined.  You bet.
ajbframe     sarahframe
Young Andrew Borden fell in love with Sarah Anthony Morse of Swansea and they married on Christmas Day, 1845.  Before he began to make money in his later partnership with William Almy, Andrew worked as a carpenter.  At the age of 23, he helped Southard Miller build the Charles Trafton House located at 92 Second Street.  Twenty seven years later, in 1872, Andrew would buy that house for $10,000 and move in with his two daughters and second wife, Abby.
andrewyoungfix
Main-Almy-BordenBorden and Almy furniture business on Main Street near Anawan.

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And Emma surely knew and if Andrew didn’t pass the knowledge on to her then Emma did.  But they knew.  They knew what it meant to be a Borden and that they should have been a RICH Borden.  And then to know they WERE rich but didn’t LIVE rich.  Lizzie bitter?  You bet.  Yeah, that Colonel Richard Borden…he was something all right, and yet he is written in the annals of Fall River history as  a glorified kingpin of its mercantile growth and prominence.
Oh yes, how Andrew must have smarted.  And THAT attribute WAS passed on to his youngest daughter.
 

“What Is That Thing?” A Lizzie Borden Querry

Who knows what this is?

It is still inside the closet in “Bridget Sullivan’s bedroom” at the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast Museum.

Tim Weisberg‘s  Spooky Southcoast podcast episode entitled: “The Real Lizzie Borden” was broadcast shortly after the publishing of  Parallel Lives.  The featured guests on that episode were Michael Martins and Dennis Binette (curator and assistant curator of the Fall River Historical Society).  They help identify just what this is.

Advance to 46.10 to the relevant call in.

Here’s the link.

 

 

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The House That Lizzie Owned – 328 French Street

Next door to “Maplecroft” this house was  once owned by Lizzie Borden. This Victorian  is and always has been a three family home but was once known as the James Davenport House and was built in 1879 by the ninth mayor of Fall River.

Painted last summer with lovely new landscaping and planters added – among other improvements –  it  was listed for $315,000 last August but sold just before Christmas last year for $282,000.

See full information HERE.

Michael Thomas Brimbau

 I wrote about this last October but had wrong information.  Michael Brimbau, the owner since 1992 (and author of The Girl With The Pansy Pin) moved out to work on the charming fixer-upper he purchased on Charlotte White Road in Westport.   Stefani Koorey remained until it was sold.

 

One of those very old homes built with one bathroom on first floor but second bedroom on the second floor.  Improvements have been made.

Mr. Brimbau has also written a clever comedy By the Naked Pear Tree: The Trial of Lizzie Borden, actually a play in which two of the scenes had been performed at the Somerset Library by the Pleasure of Poetry Club .

And yes, that’s Stefani Koorey in the front.  The one with the moustache.   Judging by the photos on the link above, looks like this group had a lot of fun.  By the way, I highly recommend Mr. Brimbau’s book.  It is quite funny and very well written.

 

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