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Category Archives: Fall River History

CARA W. ROBERTSON – THE TRIAL OF LIZZIE BORDEN

Twenty years in the making, this promises to be the next best thing to the Fall River Historical Society’s Parallel Lives – A Social History of Lizzie Andrew Borden and Her Fall River.

Cara Warschaw Robertson

This book

You can pre-order (as I did weeks ago) on Amazon.   Cara has been a great and long-time contributor to the FRHS’s Borden collection.  Her background is absolutely stellar. She was admitted to the California Bar in 1997 – but here’s a brief recap:

“Ms. Robertson earned her B.A. from Harvard College (summa cum laude), her Ph.D. from Oxford University and her J.D. from Stanford Law School (with distinction). After law school, she clerked for the Honorable James R. Browning, United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and for the Honorable John Paul Stevens and the Honorable Byron White of the Supreme Court of the United States.

Ms. Robertson has been an associate legal officer for the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, a visiting scholar at Stanford Law School and a fellow at the National Humanities Center.”

I knew of Ms. Robertson because in my own research on the case  I had come across her  work published in the Yale Journal of Law & the Humanities (Summer 1996, Vol. 8, No. 2) entitled:  “Representing Miss Lizzie: Cultural Convictions in the Trial of Lizzie Borden”.

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However,  I actually met her during one of my twice annual visits to Fall River through an introduction by Curator Michael Martins.  It was in 2001, in the basement of the FRHS  where she was engaged in deep research for this book.  A few days later we chatted outdoors on the FRHS property (inside the gazebo) about all things Lizzie.  She struck me as a lovely person and a most serious scholar.  She also struck me as off-the-charts smart.  Thus, I have been awaiting this book ever since.

Here’s the promo text from the Amazon site – enough to get all Borden case enthusiasts salivating:

“The Trial of Lizzie Borden tells the true story of one of the most sensational murder trials in American history. When Andrew and Abby Borden were brutally hacked to death in Fall River, Massachusetts, in August 1892, the arrest of the couple’s younger daughter Lizzie turned the case into international news and her trial into a spectacle unparalleled in American history. Reporters flocked to the scene. Well-known columnists took up conspicuous seats in the courtroom. The defendant was relentlessly scrutinized for signs of guilt or innocence. Everyone—rich and poor, suffragists and social conservatives, legal scholars and laypeople—had an opinion about Lizzie Borden’s guilt or innocence. Was she a cold-blooded murderess or an unjustly persecuted lady? Did she or didn’t she?

The popular fascination with the Borden murders and its central enigmatic character has endured for more than one hundred years. Immortalized in rhyme, told and retold in every conceivable genre, the murders have secured a place in the American pantheon of mythic horror, but one typically wrenched from its historical moment. In contrast, Cara Robertson explores the stories Lizzie Borden’s culture wanted and expected to hear and how those stories influenced the debate inside and outside of the courtroom. Based on transcripts of the Borden legal proceedings, contemporary newspaper accounts, unpublished local accounts, and recently unearthed letters from Lizzie herself, The Trial of Lizzie Borden offers a window onto America in the Gilded Age, showcasing its most deeply held convictions and its most troubling social anxieties.”

Oh, goody, goody, goody.  New stuff.  New author.   BUT NOT A NEW RESEARCHER.  And there’s the difference my friends.  This woman knows her stuff inside and out.   I’m certain one will be hard pressed in the reading of her book to find misquotes or misinformation.

And don’t forget:  She’s smart – really, really smart.  And, oh, so nice.

Buy the book.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lizzie Borden – One Book, Lots of Good Reads

 

Lizzie Borden’s Meatloaf Recipe

This article in the Fall River Herald News today by Deborah Allard includes several informative links (see my Timeline) and gives us the super bland recipe for Lizzie Borden’s meatloaf.

 

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Could Edmund Pearson Have Hastened Lizzie Borden’s Death?

(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).

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FALL RIVER CITY HALL DISPLAY ON HISTORIC PHOTOS

Jai Sotomayer poses in front of special display

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Click   HERE  

for an awesome display.  And if you live in or near Fall River, MA, you should go to see it.

Kudos to Jai Sotomayer.   (I made the contributions on Lizzie Borden, of course).

 

 
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Posted by on February 23, 2018 in Fall River, Fall River History

 

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3D Tour of Maplecroft – Puts You Right Inside

 

From Sotheby’s International Realty’s listing of 306 French Street, aka “Maplecroft” here is a wonderful 3-D tour of the inside.  I especially like utilizing the blue circle to guide me up, down, sideways, close-up, around corners, through doorways, etc.,  to see virtually every bit of the home, –  its furnishings, paintings, portraits, photographs, ornamental items, original doors, doorknobs, tin ceilings, servant stairways, servants’ rooms, etc.

You can pause and zoom and take your time.  Making use of the blue circle – moving it to enlarge or reduce – really makes you feel you are walking around inside.  And truly gives you a better appreciation for the quality and detail Kristee Bates put into restoring this home.

Except for the stove and fire sprinklers – it is truly a turn-key operation for new owner, Donald Woods and his son, Ryan, who will be the Manager.  Huzzahs!

Click the link HERE and scroll down to the 2 images of Maplecroft and click the box on the right hand side to walk around inside Maplecroft.

Note:  The first time I was inside this home the dining room still had Lizzie’s original drapes.

 

 

 

 

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LIZZIE BORDEN POWER OF ATTORNEY ON AUCTION BLOCK

 

Break open your piggy bank.  LOL!

Click HERE.

Also to be auctioned, same day, same auction house, is a document signed by Emma Borden settling her 1/2 share of the 1917 sale of the Second Street home.