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Category Archives: Collectibles

Did Edmund Pearson Hasten the Death of Lizzie Borden?


(I originally wrote this post back in 2010)

Edmund Lester Pearson (1880-1937)

 

Edmund Lester Pearson

He was a noted librarian and prolific writer on true crime.  In 1924 he began a correspondence with Frank W. Knowlton, son of Hosea Knowlton, the district attorney who prosecuted Lizzie Borden in her 1893 trial.   Known as the “Knowlton-Pearson Correspondence” it is a remarkable assemblage – rich in content it clearly shows the eagerness with which Frank accommodated Edmund’s request.  They were contemporaries, and Frank provided the author with “open sesame” to Lizzie’s contemporaries and others still living who knew her and/or were involved in the case.   Pearson had access to all of Hosea Knowlton’s papers on the case, and also the preliminary hearing and Trial transcript. (Knowlton was unsuccessful, however, in tracking down Bridget Sullivan’s inquest testimony – a document still missing after all these decades).

In any event, Pearson’s investigative research resulted in Studies in Murder, first published in 1924, three years before Lizzie’s death.  The book was a series of essays on notable cases, the first and expanded essay was on the Borden case.  This would be the first of many writings in subsequent books by Pearson on Fall River’s most notorious citizen.  But this first book was published while Lizzie still lived.

It is fairly certain that Lizzie Borden had read the very first book on the case published in 1893:  Fall River Tragedy by Edward H. Porter.  I think it further fairly certain she had read Studies in Murder. In the twilight of her years she was at least relieved of the awful annual editorials in the Fall River Globe commemorating the infamous crimes with their consistent innuendos that she had gotten away with the double murders.

Her life had been lived quietly and with the refinement and deportment that were her hallmarks of character.  Her closest associates were her servants and a few loyal friends and relatives.  But now came this publication.  It must have been the talk of the town when it came out.  Knowledge of Pearson’s meetings and inquiries with Lizzie’s contemporaries had proceeded the book itself, and those that assisted Pearson must have discussed it with their own associates.  Perhaps it had been talked about in hushed circles long before its publication and perhaps Lizzie had heard as well through reports of who was talking to whom.  The long essay left no doubt in the minds of the reader that the deed must have been done by Lizzie and only Lizzie.

Think for a moment how this must have affected her.  Guilty or innocent, it must have been a devastating event to have this book circulating in Fall River, the region and all over the country, stirring up painful memories of a horrible time while also serving to provide  interest to a whole new generation.   Lizzie had been described as nervous and depressed, unhappy with her decision to have lived all the rest of her life in Fall River – and now, this.

Could the book have hastened her demise?  Stress, nervous anxiety, depression.  Lizzie had always wanted to be accepted by her peers.  She lived her life kind to others and animals, generously giving and always thoughtful of the needs of others.  And now, this.   It must have played upon her mind and heart, a heart already long burdened and weakened by worry.    Not long after the book’s success and wide readership, Lizzie would be hospitalized for gall bladder surgery and never fully recover.

Hosea Morrill Knowlton

Knowlton, Hosea M., white, b. May 1847, 53 yr., b. Maine
Sylvia B. Wife, Jan. 1850, b. Mass.
John W. son, March 1874, 26 b. Mass.
Abby A. dau, mar. 1876, 24, mass.
Frank W., son Aug 1878, 22, Mass.
Edward A., son April 1883, 17, b. mas.
Helen S., dau. Aug. 1884, 14, b. mass.
Sylvia P, dau. may 1890, 10, Mass.
Benjamin H., son, Jun 1892, 8 yr, b. mass.

SYLVIA BASSETT, b. New Bedford, MA, 20 Jan 1852; d. Watertown, MA, 31 Mar 1937; m. New Bedford, 22 May 1873, HOSEA MORRILL KNOWLTON, b. Durham, ME, 20 May 1847; d. Marion, MA, 18 Dec 1902; son of Isaac Case and Mary Smith (Wellington) Knowlton.

Their children, all born in New Bedford were:

John Wellington Knowlton born February 28, 1874.
Abby Almy Knowlton born March 30, 1876
Frank Warren Knowlton born August 1, 1878
Edward Allen Knowlton born April16, 1883

The younger siblings were:

Helen Sophia Knowlton; August 1, 1885
August I. Knowlton;
Sylvia Prescott Knowlton born Ma7 29, 1890
Benjamin Almy Knowlton born June 13, 1892

Frank Warren Knowlton


Attorney General Herbert Parker is not only included in this correspondence but was also one of Pearson’s primary sources for his last essay in his book, Studies in Murder, titled “The Hunting Knife” concerning Mabel Page.

Herbert Parker, a very handsome man

Frank Warren Knowlton, Jr. donated his grandfather’s papers to the Fall River Historical Society in 1989.  (He died in October 11, 2002).

 

It’s Lizzie Borden’s Hair Again – This Time Being Sold on eBay

UPDATE: Some fool paid $260! http://www.ebay.com/itm/291990475406?_trksid=p2060353.m1438.l2649&ssPageName=STRK%3AMEBIDX%3AIT

eb-notehair1a eb-hair

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Well, it’s been nearly 8 years but the scam has surfaced again – this time on eBay. 

Before you get too excited take note I was contacted via an email from one “Robert S——” on May 15, 2009, looking to sell the very same thing as evidenced below:

From: Robert S——
Sent: Friday, May 15, 2009 6:50 AM
To: Faye Musselman
Subject: Emma Borden Letter

Greetings from Baltimore.   I have a purported Emma Borden letter.  I am wondering if I sent you a scan of it, if you could just see  if it looks like it is real.  Nothing official, just an off the record opinion.  Thank you for your time.  Regards,

Robert S——

I replied and we communicated further – and I did a little investigation on this which supported my immediate skepticism.  Read all about here in this blog posting I did at the time.

 
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Posted by on January 9, 2017 in Collectibles, Just for Laughs

 

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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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NANCE O’NEIL MOVIES ON DVD – FOR SALE

RECYCLED POST  FROM FEBRUARY, 2014 – DVD’S STILL AVAILABLE.

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Nance O’Neil (October 8, 1874 – February 7, 1965) was an American actress of stage and cinema of the early 20th century.

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She transitioned successfully from the theatre to silent movies and on to sound movies into the early 1930’s.

Nance O’Neil was associated with Lizzie Borden from 1904-1905, and it is often asserted or speculated they were lovers although no credible evidence of any sort has ever surfaced to validate that claim.

She was featured in many films from 1913 to 1932    The two most referenced and easily available on VHS are Cimmaron  and The Royal Bed  both in made in1931.

The years 1930 and 1931 were very productive film years for Miss O’Neil.  She worked with some very well known, even legendary, actors, such as Barbara Stanwyck, Basil Rathbone, Anita Louise, Zasu Pitts and Edgar Kennedy.  She also acted with a young Lawrence Olivier in Westward Passage, one of her last films made in 1932.

It was quite unusual for a Broadway tragedienne of the early 1900’s to have such a long career in transitioning to movies.  O’Neil must have had a terrific agent or good connections.  Or perhaps, because she had been such a big star on the stage, producers thought her name would be an added draw to audiences.

I am offering here three films of Nance O’Neil from the 1930’s on DVD:

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The Secret Service (1931) with Richard Dix I just loved this movie.  It holds up after 80 years!  Think of Richard Dix as Agent 007.  Nance plays his mother in this exciting film full of dramatic tension and surprises!  Easy to see why Dix was such a popular actor aside from his Westerns.

Image1I must say she looks like a man wearing a wig in this film, particularly in this scene.

Ladies or Leisure (1930) directed by Frank Capra is a wonderfully engrossing drama starring Barbara Stanwyck.  Jerry Strong (Ralph Graves, Submarine) is the wealthy son of stuffy but permissive parents who allow Jerry to follow his ambition to be a painter. DSCN1672When he hires party girl Kay Arnold (Barbara Stanwyck, Double Indemnity) to be a model for one of his paintings, the two fall in love despite their obvious differences. But eventually, class distinctions push Kay away back toward her old life, one just shy of prostitution. Directed by Frank Capra (Mr. Smith Goes to Washington), LADIES OF LEISURE was also one of Stanwyck’s first roles and the one that made her a star. Newly remastered.

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Nance O’Neil plays the mother of Jerry Strong and has some terrific scenes with super closeups. In one she trys to convince “Kay” to let go of her love for the betterment of his life.  It is quite touching and highly dramatic.  One can easily see O’Neil’s acting chops in this film.

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Both Stanwyck and O’Neil have been perceived as lesbians.  It’s true Stanwyck had an abortion at 15, married two times.  Her second husband, actor Robert Taylor, was also rumored to be Gay.  That marriage was arranged by Louis B. Mayor of MGM when both were stars there.

In what seemed like an inappropriate  “thank you dear for seeing my point” kiss, Nance plants one smack on Barbara’s lips.  It almost looked like it to Babs unexpectedDSCN1685ly, and she gently seems to push O’Neil back.

As a loves story, this movie holds up, not corny at all.

 

 

Floradora Girl has a similar theme as Ladies of Leisure only this time the girl wants to get rich.  Here again, O’Neil plays the wise woman to set the girl on the moral high ground. This movie stars Marion Davies and was produced through her film company established by William Randolph Hearst to showcase her stardom.  Perhaps O’Neil met the august Hearst during this time.

DSCN1674  DSCN1675

Yep, the 1890’s and early 1900’s were the American Theater’s heyday, and the 1930’s were Hollywood’s Golden Years.  And Nance O’Neil rode the crest of the former and was still afloat for the latter.

EACH IS $20.00 OR $45.00 FOR ALL THREE!  IF INTERESTED, EMAIL ME AT:

phaye@outlook.com

POSTAGE WILL DEPEND UPON LOCATION AND BUYER’S PREFERENCE FOR DELIVERY.

13038635

 

Translation of Newly Found Letter Written by Lizzie Borden

Translation of Newly Found Letter Written by Lizzie Borden

Since improved images of a letter written to Frances Willard dated July 23, 1893, have been posted on the Frances Willard House Museum website, I can provide a translation.

frances

Frances Elizabeth Caroline Willard (1839-1898) was an American educator, temperance reformer, and women’s suffragist. Her influence was instrumental in the passage of the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.

My translation is as follows:

Fall River
July 23 – 1893

My Dear Friend

I can hardly
tell you how much
comfort and joy
your letter gave me.

Borden_letter1-compressed-

I thank you and
Lady Henry Somerset
from my heart for
the love and trust
you give me.
I appreciate it all

 

Borden_letter2-compressed

the more as you
did not know
me yet still had
faith in me.
We have again
offered a reward
but our senior

counsel Ex. Gov. Robinson
did not deem it
wise to increase
the amount.
We have little hope
of our finding the
guilty one after so
long a time has
elapsed.
I hope some time
you and Lady
Henry Somerset
may come to America
and that we may
visit face to face.
With sincere regards
to you both, I am
yours in loving hands

Lizzie A. Borden

 

a

Lady Henry Somerset

 

 
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Posted by on January 11, 2016 in Collectibles, lizzie borden

 

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New Letter Revealed Written by Lizzie Borden

Another letter written by Lizzie Borden was pictured and posted in the Frances Willard House and Museum website  today.  The letter is written to “Frances Willard and Lady Henry” according to the website.

Lizzie-Borden-Letter-656x324

The letter appears to be written July 23, 1893 (Lizzie was acquitted on June 20, 1893).

“Frances Willard was a radical social progressive who stood out against gender inequality and fought to give a voice to society’s disenfranchised.  She exposed the inherent hypocrisies of the status quo and forever changed accepted societal norms.

Willard forged a prototype for community organization and social reform that transformed our cultural landscape. The basis of our modern social welfare policies can be found in the initiatives fomented by Willard. Her life’s work is an example of what can be done when one is devoted to a cause.  Her ability to work hard and to mobilize others to work hard is a model of personal determination and amazing leadership skills.  To this day, Frances Willard continues to be “re-discovered” as the prototype of the modern, forward-thinking woman.”

This could be a letter expressing her gratitude for her  support.  It would seem Frances Willard may have championed Lizzie’s cause much as Mary A. Livermore, American journalist and womens’ rights advocate had done.  If simply a thank you letter, I find it interesting it is rather lengthy.

Four days earlier, Lizzie had turned 33 on July 19th, the same day the Fall River Weekly News reported Lizzie won a trip to the Chicago World’s Fair via a coupon write-in from the public.  (Lizzie kindly rejected the award.)   On the same date as the letter, July 23, 1893, and as reported in the Chicago Daily Tribune, Lizzie Borden was escorted to church by Dr. Bowen and Mrs. Holmes.

In any event, let us hope the Museum will sell – and the Fall River Historical Society will buy – this letter as they are the most logical and appropriate repository to archive this document with her other known letters.

 (Update 1/10/2016 – The following statement was included in the email I received

“As the letter is part of the very large “Papers of Frances E. Willard” collection, we have no intention of deaccessioning any part of the collection.”
Thank you,
Glen Madeja
Executive Director

 

 

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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!