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Category Archives: Books – Good & Not So Good

Inside Lizzie Borden’s Renovated Maplecroft

Created by author Rebecca Pittman – The History & Haunting of Lizzie Borden.  Enjoy.

BTW, while I think Kristee Bates has done a very good job in renovating “Maplecroft”, I still do not think this is how Lizzie had it furnished and decorated in her day.  Lizzie selected only the very best of furnishings, fixtures and equipment because she could well afford it.  Her home, which she nurtured and lovingly maintained as if it were her child, had the very best appointments.  She bought only “the very best”.   Kristee worked on a budget and it does not escape the discerning eye.  Nonetheless, it is still beautiful and representative of Victorian homes of the 1890’s.  However, one only has to go to the Fall River Historical Society  or the Easton Tea Room (1870 Alexander Dorrance Easton residence also owned by the FRHS) to see the high quality wallpaper and exceptional quality furniture donated over the years.  The difference is remarkable and unmistakable.  There one will find furniture and fixtures inside these two establishments closer to what “Miss Lizbeth” would have had in her own home.

While the precise decade (1893 to 1927)  Maplecroft’s renovated interior  is reflecting is unclear, the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast Museum is furnished exactly as it would have been on August 4, 1892.  Aspiring and inspired detectives can play out what they know or suspect of the crimes with a full and thoroughly captivating  “stage”.   Kudos to the original “set decorators” and Kudos to General Manager Lee-ann Wilber  (since 2004)  and owner, Donald Woods,  who have not altered  its base authenticity.

And a special Kudo to Rebecca Pittman for providing us with the first ever video showing the interiors of both the Second Street and French Street homes in which Lizzie lived the entire first half and entire second half of her life, respectively.   Well done!

 

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New Book on Lizzie Borden Unlike Any Other

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Been reading Rebecca Pittman’new book which is unlike any other Lizzie book written to date. This 826 page marvel shows deep research, surprisingly probable speculations, and is an overwhelmingly thrilling read. There is a generous number of images – many never seen before in this stunning work. In the “A New Address” chapter readers will find exclusive post-renovation interior images of “Maplecroft“, the home Lizzie lived in the entire second half of her life.

In the “Interviews” section we find a “coming together” (inside joke) of the three major Borden Blogmasters,, i.e., Shelley Dziedzic, Stefani Koorey, and moi revealing our embryonic interest in the case, etc.

I’ll be doing an in depth review when I finish reading this book and after I return from an overseas vacation.  Meanwhile, don’t wait.  Buy it!  Available at Amazon.

 

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If You Could Have Only One Book on Fall River’s Lizzie Borden – This Would Be It.

Click HERE

 

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Prepare yourself – – this book is justly warranted, as well as worthy, of such a lengthy review.

Exquisitely produced, brilliantly structured, thrilling and groundbreaking in its content, Parallel Lives – A Social History of Lizzie A. Borden and Her Fall River is a seven pound, 1,179 page, ten-years- in-the-making epic that had it been written as a historical novel it would be right up there with Roots, The Secret Magdelene, and Gone With The Wind. It is a book of transformation and revelation – transforming in the way it compels readers to alter their mental landscape when thinking of Lizzie Borden, and filled with stunning revelations that meticulously dissect rumors and legend long thought to be truth. It is so rich and full it would constitute several Master’s Thesis, multiple biographies, and even a few individually published books based on its title. Indeed, it is so spectacular in scope and content, all future authors who write of Lizzie Borden must incorporate information from Parallel Lives or find their work irrelevant.

The book is a treasure trove of new information about Lizzie taken from the journals, letters, cards, photographs, artifacts and remembrances of those that knew her personally, much of which was coveted by their owners who were resolved in their belief that Lizzie “could not have committed those crimes.” Their beliefs and tangible mementos were passed down to third and fourth generation descendents who continued to keep them sequestered and private until trusted relationships were established between them and the authors.

Masterfully woven within the new information are expanded stories of known individuals and events (some prominent, some little or previously unknown) that had an impact on Fall River’s history and society.  The authors have beautifully crafted the world in which Lizzie Borden lived (from her birth in 1860 to her death in 1927). And while the crimes of August 4, 1892 are presented, allusions to or fresh insights on whether or not Lizzie was guilty are not presented. In fact, the murders and who did them become almost inconsequential to the broader tapestry presented throughout the chapters with its more than 500 photographs and other images, including 5 new images of Lizzie never seen before. Who committed the crimes or the case itself, are overshadowed by the depth and breadth of all that which deals with the people and stories within.

The book progresses almost chronologically in terms of events of each decade. People are often introduced in chapters with no mention of Lizzie but later re-introduced in the decade in which they factored into her life. The chapters are so beautifully written and the photographs so beautifully reproduced within the book that we can almost feel the silk and lace as we read their wonderfully detailed descriptions. We can rub our finger across the image of a pocket watch and feel the grooved indentations, or one of Lizzie’s traveling suitcases and feel the contrast of the brass to the leather. We can smell and see the wedding flowers and the sparkle of jewelry at the Assemblies and grand parties. The meticulous effort in the use of adjectives is remarkable. It is fairly obvious the authors wanted to be as accurate and precise as possible when applying descriptors to people, places and things.

The “reveals” of new information and closure of legends are bountiful and thoroughly engaging. We learn so much of Mary Ella Sheen (Mrs. George S. Brigham) and her sister, Anne Eliza Sheen (Mrs. William Lindsey, Jr.), two sisters whose lives took very different trajectories. Mary was Lizzie’s friend since girlhood and the future mother-in-law of Florence Cook Brigham, but Anne had been her friend as well for most of their lives. Anne was a “Grand Dame” and lived the kind of life that Lizzie most probably would have wanted for herself. We also learn that not only was Grace Hartley Howe such a close and devoted second cousin to Lizzie, we discover that Helen’s mother had a friendship that also was life lasting with Lizzie.The reveal of the true identity of “Todd Lunday” would have been anticlimactic had it not been for the intriguing story associated with it, or the story of Officer Phillip Harrington and police reporter Edwin Porter who penned the Fall River Tragedy and why Porter may have left Fall River so soon after its publication. Nor have we read anywhere the connection of reporter McHenry and City Marshall Hilliard. (I suspect that many “reveals” were derived from the so called “Hilliard Papers” which have been in the Society’s hands for 22 years).

We learn certain elitist members of the seven “first” families did a fine job in two-facing Lizzie after the Trial; they “cut” her quite severely and most obviously spoke of her “guilt”- handing down their opinions to their children who maintained those opinions and passed them down to their children. On the other hand, those that kept friendships and believed Lizzie was not and “could not” be guilty passed that info down to their children. The difference was that many of those who believed in her guilt spoke out, influenced by a biased press and the embryonic beginnings of misinformation that would grow with a sinister sustainability. Between those that “cut” (socially banished) her and the relentless and continuous newspaper coverage, the damage had been done. She endured that damage throughout her post-Trial life, and it subsequently served to give us a Lizzie Borden that is so grossly mis-characterized in contemporary pop culture.

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Mr. Martins and Mr. Binette have stated it was only when they explained the kind of book they were writing and, more importantly, after a solid basis of trust was established, that the possessions and remembrances were revealed. I strongly suspect much of what may have been was done so with soft-spoken caveats or perhaps some asserted caveats along the lines of:“Well, you may use these journals (or photos, or letters, or cards, or remembrances) but I trust you will present Auntie Borden (or Lizzie) in a good light because she never could have done those murders.”And/or:”I would consider it a great injustice to finally make this information known if it were used to give a poor impression of this wonderful woman or lend any credibility to the horrible reputation she endured during and after her life.”For decades, the curators of the FRHS have been meticulous in documenting the “drop in” visits or phone calls from people – many descendents of the principals – as to what they had to say and when. These “notes to file”, so to speak, have been preserved in their respective file folders and filed with the relative topics. These contain more of the “reveals”, some as surprising as finding out JR getting shot was only a dream, or Scarlett realizing she loved Rhett all along, or Edward glistening out of the cloud bank. As stated, the revelations are thrilling and and transforming.

The authors were literary craftsmen in the way they told these stories, presenting the information from the journals or letters, and in detailing information about the people involved without trumpeting a new path but sufficient to give you pause. The book is peppered with phrases such as: “Is it possible that…”, or “Although we can never know for certain, could it be that…”, or “Would it seem likely that…” and we pause on the page and hearing ourselves utter “hmmmm” and suddenly realize we are thinking things differently.

The End Notes are extraordinary and I found them thrilling to read. When reading, one says: “Where did they get that from?” and we go to the End Notes which are flush with information. Our eyes don’t just stay on the sight bite but naturally scroll downward until we know where most all the information for that chapter came from. The End Notes tell us more about relationships and just who had what information and for how long. The End Notes help us identify what came from FRHS “notes to file” as opposed to who held on to what for decades and allows us to identify from where the bulk of new information came.

Lizzie Borden has long been encapsulated in pop culture based on an inaccurate quatrain characterizing her as a one dimensional psychopath wielding a bloody axe. Parallel Lives has irrevocably transformed and revealed Lizzie Borden to be a three dimensional flesh and blood human being with heart, spirit and soul. Indisputably, this is the new “go to” book which researches and scholars studying the history of Fall River during its rise and decline, as well as the woman herself, will discover impossible to find anything more definitive or comprehensive, more exciting or enlightening.

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Parallel Lives is a monumental achievement and a body of work to make the entire Fall River Historical Society proud. It is representative of that level of excellence consistent in all endeavors of Messrs. Martins and Binette. It is truly a remarkable and unique work – the likes of which we shall not see again.

 
 

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Lizzie Borden Connection: The Cotton Web: Barnabas Olney & M.C.D. Borden – Fiction Based on Fact?

(Recycled post)

It’s a brand new year, so I’ve changed up my WordPress theme.  I may change it again.   🙂

(Originally posted on 2/26/2008)

Too lazy to create something new just yet so here’s a recycled post.

No, it’s not Elizabeth Taylor in this 1960 jacket cover designed by Ray Pollak, but it could have been since Liz looked like that in 1960. Rather the cover depicts the main character, Kitty McCarran, in Barbara Hunt’s 1958, 350 page fictional story centered in Fall River and based on historical fact. It’s basically the story of a poor, 20 year old Irish immigrant beauty who arrives on the steamship Priscilla the day before Christmas in 1901, to stay with relatives.

From the book jacket: “Barnabas Olney, the leading mill owner in Fall River, was a man of deep compassion with a rigid New England conscience that set him apart from the turbulent, grasping commercial world around him. But to Olney’s son, Lucian, sensual and cushioned from the realities of life by his father’s wealth and position, nothing mattered except money and his own pleasure. It was Lucian that Kitty determined to marry. Before long, she discovered that even her iron will was powerless against a code that regarded as unthinkable marriage between an Irish immigrant mill worker and the aristocratic son of a leading mill owning family.”

There are few fiction books on Fall River or the Lizzie Borden case that I would recommend, but I recommend this one. The Cotton Web is a good read because of its basis in fact and the sharp clarity with which Barbara contrasts the lives and lifestyles of these two classes. Anyone who has ever visited Fall River and gazed upon those 5-story granite or red brick mills with their towering chimineys and bell towers, or driven down Main Street, or seen the tenement houses and imagined the weary walk back from a 12 hour work day, cannot help but to relate to the accurate descriptions she so beautifully pens within its pages.

Miss Hunt goes to the heart of the difference between the mill owners/managers and the mill workers in the second and third paragraphs below.

I can’t help but be intrigued by Miss Hunt’s notation preceding the Contents page of her book: “Although the historical events used as the background of this novel are accurate and true, the characters, the plot, and the cotton mills principally concerned in the story are all fictitious. I’m deeply indebted to my Fall River friends for their long memories, their books which they lent me so freely, and their patience in answering my many questions.”

I find it intriguing because of the similarity to a true life scandal involving Matthew Chaloner Durfee Borden’s third son, Matthew S. Borden whose life ended tragically, and the fictional Barnabas Olney’s son Lucian, whose life ended…..well, you’ll have to read the book. But it occurred to me in reading that notation that perhaps Miss Hunt’s “friends”, with their long memories, told her the true story of another of Fall River’s private disgraces concerning a Borden.

MCD Borden was born July 18, 1842 in Fall River. He had one of the best pedigree’s of all Bordens. A contemporary of Andrew Borden (Lizzie’s father), MCD was the 6th of 7 children born to Colonel Richard Borden (1785-1874) and Abby W. Durfee. He married Harriet M. Durfee in 1865 and they had 7 children, including 3 sons. MCD was the driving force that set Fall River back on a path of upward expansion. He represented the Borden-Durfee interests in New York. With the Braytons he founded the BMC Durfee Trust Company, converted the Iron Works completely to textiles and built the largest textile corporation in the United States. He was a compassionate man regarding his employees and his mills were not struck by the labor unions when his relatives’ mills were. He died May 27, 1912 in Rumson, Monmouth, New Jersey.

But he had his own scandal. His son, Matthew, had fallen in love with the daughter of a Jewish tailor, one Mildred Negbauer. Not having the kind of pedigree for a Borden to marry into, this incurred MCD’s wrath. It turned into a scandal when it was found out the impetuous Matthew had actually secretly married the “low class” Mildred. MCD stepped in and persuaded her to accept payment to have the marriage dissolved. She accepted the payment, and the young Matthew went on to graduate from his father’s alma mater, Yale University. Matthew then went on to medical school and became a doctor. However, after which, he and Mildred renewed their torrid romance. About 4 years later, they re-wed, again without his father’s blessings and the angered MCD Borden actually disinherited this youngest son. In fact, it was reported that Matthew asccepted a million dollars not to contest his father’s will. In the summer of 1914, Dr. Matthew S. Borden, while driving in Cape May County, New Jersey, was racing a locomotive to a grade crossing. The train won. Matthew lost his life, taking the lives of three others with him.

So, did the parallels in The Cotton Web find some inspiration from the tragic true life events? Was MCD Borden Barbara Hunt’s inspiration for the character of Barnabas Olney? Were some of the characteristics and experiences of Lucian Olney meant to be partially based on Matthew S. Borden? Maybe. Maybe not. But the similarities are striking.

Sources:

Rumson, Shaping a Superlative Suburb (The Making of America Series), Randall Gabrielan, Arcadia Press, p41.

The Durfee-Borden Connection, Men in Business, Robert K. Lamb essay, edited by William Miller.

 

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KNOWLTON PAPERS & LIZZIE BORDEN PAST & PRESENT – FOR SALE HERE

Have you been wanting affordable copies of Len Rebello’s Lizzie Borden Past & Present? And have you been on the hunt for the Fall River Historical Society’s The Knowlton Papers? Well, you’ve landed in the right place.

Now – Are you looking for these?

Well, I’ve got several of each and the prices will be the best you can get. You can purchase  one (or both).  Simply email me at phaye@outlook.com

These are $145 each.  The Knowlton Papers are generally around $400 these days.  All have dust jackets.

Lizzie Borden Past & Present by Leonard Rebello are in vg condition with dust jackets.  Some of the Rebello’s are autographed by the author and come with mylar covers.  Again, only $145 each  or $165 for autographed copy.

These books are OOP and hard to find, especially at this price.

First person to email and send in payment, and payment clears, gets the books!

 

The Kelly House – Lizzie’s Next Door Neighbors

(This is a recycled post….originally created and posted on:   Published on: Jun 30, 2009 @ 16:24 Edit)

Lizzie Borden’s neighbor, Caroline Cantwell Kelley age 31, was the last person outside the family to see Andrew Borden alive.   She lived with her husband, Dr. Michael F. Kelly, age 36,  in the house just one door south of 92 Second Street – the house previously occupied by Alice Russell. It is from Mrs. Kelly’s third child, her daughter, pictured below, that we have learned some of the things said (and surely speculated upon)  about Andrew and the Borden family by those who did not refrain from discussing “that awful business.”

Eva Kelly Betz 1897-1968

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Caroline, pregnant with their first child (Christopher Cantwell Kelly, 1892-1919), was heading for a doctor’s appointment when she saw Andrew coming from the east side of the house to the front door.

It would only be about 20 minutes later that the first call for help would go out – Lizzie telling Bridget she must have a doctor and sending her across the street to Dr. Bowen’s.   She knew there was a doctor living next door but she didn’t send Bridget there to fetch him.  Like Bowen, Dr. Kelly may not have been at home either.

Second StreetThe Kelly house has had so many changes to the exterior over the past century that it’s hardly recognizable.   However, if you look through the front door as shown above you can see the original steps and front door to the Kelly house as it was in 1892.

Dr Kelly house sitePart of this structure was a Bed & Breakfast even before 92 Second Street became a Bed & Breakfast!  It most recently was a dwelling and hair salon with a paint shop adjacent.  The paint shop was an add-on in an “L” configuration, must like the Leary Press.

Kelly-RearThis is a view of the rear of the Kelly house as it is today with St. Mary’s in the background.

Rear Views Dr Kelly house wSt mary's

1977The so-called Kelly house has been on the market by an unmotivated seller for over a year.  The owners of the LBB&B next door have been inside and concur the old Paint shop business is laid out much like the old Leary Press.  As for what will happen to it, perhaps Bristol County will buy it, tear it down and use it for in-close parking for the new Court House – accommodation for the judges and attorneys.   Wouldn’t suprise me.

demilleBack to Eva Kelly Betz.  We first learn of her from Agnes DeMille’s highly collectible book above, published by Little, Brown & Co., 1968.   (Review of Dance of Death).  It was from Eva that Ms. DeMille obtained so much of the information she used in her book about the Borden family.  Eva remembered growing up there, and while the founding families didn’t talk about the infamous Borden case, the Irish Catholics certainly  did.

Agnes DeMille and Senator Joseph Welch ventured to Fall River in their research of the case, primarily for input for Agnes’ ballet, Fall River Legend, which still plays in New York every year.  While there, their chief hostess was Eva Kelly Betz.  They also met with the granddaughters of the Defense attorney Jennings and District Attorney Knowlton.  The first half of the book deals with the Borden case and the second half with planning and execution of the ballet.  Quite a wonderful book and another collectible.

Both Eva Kelly Betz and author Edward Radin (The Untold Story, Simon & Schuster, 1961 – he believed Bridget did the murders), were invited guests of DeMille’a at the premiere performance of the ballet.

(Click on images below for larger view).

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If, as Eva states above, Andrew had some of his first wife’s jewelry “but no one in the family knew about it”, it must have been a startling surprise to Lizzie and Emma.

Although Eva Caroline Kelly Betz was born 5 years after her brother, Christopher Cantwell Kelly, she lived until 1968, nearly 50 years more after his death at the age of 27  in 1919.  Her best known book, William Gaston:  Fighter for Justice was published in 1964, and is considered a collectible.    She mentions she taught school in Fall River and while there is an Eva Kelly in the 1921 FR Directory (she would have been 24), her mother, Caroline, is not listed.  I can’t help but feel sorry for Caroline, having lost first her husband and then two years later her son.

By her own accounts, the Kelly’s were readers and writers.  (You’ll note she does not mention in this piece that growing up she lived next door to the infamous Lizzie Borden).   She characterizes her parents as “intellectual” (unlike Ellen Egan – sorry, had to slip that in).

Michael F. Kelly, M.D., 1856-1916
His wife, Caroline Cantwell, 1861-1951
Their son, Christopher Cantwell Kelly, 1892-1919
Eva Kelly Betz, 1897-1968
Joseph P. Betz, 1895-1965
Peter Betz, 1924-1959

All of the above are buried at St. Patrick’s cemetery in Fall River.

 

The Fall River Tragedy – Rare Book FREE Online

(Recycled from March, 2009)

The first book to be published on the Lizzie Borden case was right after her Trial in 1893 by Edwin Porter, a reporter for the Fall River Globe and a chum of some of the police officers who provided some inside information.

BK-FRTragedy-multi pages

The first edition, the original, is not easily found and when it does appear, such as on eBay, usually sells for $300 or more.  Some antique book dealers list it as high as $2,000.  The book itself is really not all that rare.  I addressed this issue in detail in a previous blog which can be found by clicking HERE.

Lizzie’s lawyer, Andrew Jennings, on behalf of the Borden sisters and John Morse,  threatened Porter and the publisher with legal action if any pictures of “the family” appeared.  Well, pictures of the “dead family” appeared and no suit followed.

When the book was first published, it was sold on subscription, and one of the “Lizzie Legends” is that Lizzie bought out the printer and had the copies burned.  Not true.  A goodly number were purchased – and to some Fall River notables at that. The one found AT THIS SITE was owned by Charlotte Brayton and she donated it to the Harvard Library.   The Braytons were one of the prominent founding families of Fall River.

By clicking to advance the pages , you will immediately see the handwritten inscription on the inside cover:  “Israel Brayton”.  This particular Israel Brayton* was born in 1874 and died in 1961.  He married Ethel Moison Chace (1880-1960), and they had three children, including Charlotte Brayton (1913 to 1994).  Charlotte never married.  For whatever reasons, Charlotte preferred to donate her father’s copy of The Fall River Tragedy to Harvard rather than the Fall River Historical Society.  Lucky thing for us she did.

The book is rich in photos of key players not found in other books and includes the old “Ferry Street” homestead, the house Andrew deeded to the girls over the Whitehead fiasco.  Well, that house was practically a prototype of the home he purchased in 1872 at 92 Second Street.  Greek revival, two-family home.  Andrew was worth a small fortune by 1872 but he didn’t exactly move “up”.   Anyway, here’s a picture of both houses:

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Virtually, the same house.  Two stories and an attic built for 2 families with identical floor plans on the first and second floors.   Lizzie was 12 when they moved and she could not have been too impressed.  The only difference was after a short while they had “the whole house”.  So that was different.

Thanks to the Harvard Library, and thanks to Charlotte Brayton, you can now READ, AND PRINT OUT THE ENTIRE BOOK FOR FREE – AND AS IT WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED.   NO WORD DOCUMENT HERE.  HERE YOU CAN ENJOY IT JUST AS IT WAS LAID OUT – NOT RETYPED IN WORD FORMAT AND UPLOADED TO A FORUM SITE WITHOUT ANY IMAGES.  HERE YOU GET THE REAL DEAL.   ENJOY!  IT’S FREE!

CLICK HERE —>  FALL RIVER TRAGEDY

*Source: The Braytons of Somerset and Fall River by Roswell Brayton, page 34. (Note: Charlotte is pictured with several generations of Braytons in this book; also pictured are her father and mother.)