Category Archives: Mills and Factories




Unlike certain TV documentaries, this one has an expanded cast including Uncle John Morse and Nance O’Neil – real life characters.  This “Spindle City.…” musical takes into account the mill workers – something most often ignored in prior plays and T.V. documentaries on the case itself.  This is the second musical I’ve heard, the first being “LIzzie Borden the Rock Musical” which has enjoyed a good measure of success.

JohnMorse-olderUncle John Morse

Nance O'Neil

Nance O’Neil

Judging by this casting call, artistic license once again will run rampant.  As with so many TV depictions of the case, there are many fictional characters  However,  I’m looking forward to the singing and dancing.  It is, after all, a musical – –  not some 10 part PBS Documentary by Ken Burns or a major theatrical release directed by Martin Scorcese.   (sigh)

I’ve been to the Secret Rose Theater in North Hollywood before.  Its very small.  Can’t imagine the dancing on that small stage but we’ll see.  Maybe they go into the audience.

I still maintain that the VERY  BEST PLAY on Lizzie Borden is “Lizzie Borden Took An Axe” by Garrett A. Heater, which premiered at the Covey Theate Company in Syracuse, NY, played at BMC Durfee H.S., and continues to be produced in New England.  But that was a drama with age appropriate actors.


Blood Relations by Sharon Pollock continues to be the most produced of all Borden-related plays.

I’ll write a review in after seeing Katrina Wood’s production.

Meanwhile, I await Rebecca Pittman’s new book.






Images of Old Fall River

Here’s more old pictures of Fall River first posted here in 2008 and then Recycled again in August of 2009.  Time to “revisit”.  😉  If you have trouble reading the colored type, just highlight over it and it turns black.  🙂

More images –

Notre Dame Church

Bank Street (north side)

Prospect and Highland

McWhirr’s on South Main

Belmont Street

Belmont looking West

Back of Durfee Mill 1911

1911 Flint Mill

1911 King Mill spinners

1911 Postal Messengers

1916 Chace Mill

1916 King Philip carding room

1916 Merhants Mill

I’ve added more old photos of Fall River. These mostly have to do with the mills and the child labor used to profit the owners…not often addressed but fortunately preserved by noted photographers.

Boys Club on Anawan Street – 1916

I love old photos of Fall River – some found on the internet, some sold on eBay, some from archival institutions and private collections.  Here are some random photos of Fall River and some of its people in the past:

SladeFerryBridge1905 Slade Ferry Bridge 1905

BordenFamCar “Borden” family in 1911 Cotton Centennial Parade

Dr.Dubois office 1908Dr. Dubois office – 1908.

1916millGirlsSewingMaplewood Mills – girls packing – 1916.

O'Neil's SpaO’Neil’s spa

LaFleurs pool room 1910LeFleuers pool room – 1910

Durfee1929-1973Durfee Theatre lobby (1929-1973)

Durfee-StageDurfee Theatre Stage

Library WomenLibrary women at a gathering.

Diving at Globe WharfDiving at Globe Wharf

TemperanceBarTemperance Bar

MainLookingNorthSouth Main – Globe Corners


PianoTeacherPiano teacher

Azab Grotto Band Azab Grotto Band

buffingtonMayor Buffinton

HouseFireSceneHouse fire scene.

RockStRock Street

Truesdale Hospitl 1905Truesdale Hospital – 1905

130 Rock Street130 Rock Street

1915-EaglePool-318NoMainEagle pool room 318 N. Main – 1915

Alderman-SleighAlderman’s sleigh

Attorney BlinnAttorney Blinn

HorseBuggy1808Horse and buggy – 1908

LincolnAveLincoln Avenue 1900’s

City Hall after fire of 1886City Hall – after fire of 1886

drugstoreDrug Store

MillBoys1912Mill boys – 1910

SteepBrook school 1910Steep Brook school – 1910

clerkClerk – unknown date

Hotel WilburHotel Wilbur

1stCottonMill1st Cotton mill – 1811





The “Welcome” (also called “Victory”) Arch erected on South Main Street between the City Hall and the Granite Block for the July 4th, 1919 celebration welcoming home veterans returning from service during World War 1.


From a real photo post card found in an old Highland Avenue home which, according to the back, shows “The Holmes sisters in their father’s new Reo machine Aug. 1907.” Also written on the back is “Ella- 21 Hanover St. F. R.”


Another real photo post card from an old Highland Avenue estate. Labeled on back- “N.Y. & Boston Express Co. last money wagon in Fall River. 1910 driven by Thomas Fitzpatrick.”  Although likely not armored, the wagon appears to have been made of metal with a rear opening door. It was used to transport currency from the railroad station and steamship wharves to local banks and to provide security for weekly payrolls going to the many city mills.


Durfee Theatre exterior – 1960’s

Ariel view 1960'sAerial view – 1960’s – during construction of Braga Bridge



Tags: , , ,



From my eBay post this evening – runs for 7 days.


Tags: , , ,

Lizzie Borden & Fall River Collectibles for Sale

(Reposted from February 2011)

Here are some Fall River history and Lizzie Borden collectibles in various groupings.  Serious Bordenia collectors will recognize all, if not most all, of the items shown.

I have been collecting for nearly 45 years, and now wish to rid myself of what I have in duplicate or have used for research and no longer need.  I’ve already sent boxes of collectibles and rare items to the Fall River Historical Society over the past few years.

I’m too lazy to give full detail information on these items, but you can Google the titles.  I guarantee you won’t find these assortments at these prices.  🙂  Note:  To order, email me at: stating which numbered grouping(s) you want and I will give you mailing address..  All prices include media mail shipment.  If you want priority, price will be higher.  Personal checks or money orders only.

#1:  $45.00

(1a) Below the Hill is a 1963 movie filmed entirely in Fall River, telling the story of  an unemployed mill worker, a sexually frustrated wife, and their neighbors.  Those who live in or have been to Fall River will recognize many of the sites.  Includes program  from a special showing through the Fall River Historical Society.  (1b)  History of the First Congregational Church of Fall River, MA, edited by Kenneth H. Champlin and published by Dr. Ira H. Rex.  The book is autographed by both. 2003. (1c) Scrabbletown by Alice Brayton, gives a history of early Swansea focusing on the Brayton family. (1d) September 1938 Hurricane Pictures of Greater Fall River, published by the Fall River Herald News.

#2:   $36.00

(2a)  Central Congregational Church, Fall River, MA. published 1905 and the church to which Lizzie Borden belonged..  One of the writer/compilers of this 331 page book was Mrs.. Charles J. Holmes, a strong supporter of Lizzie during “the ordeal” of 1892-93.  (2b)  New England Sampler by Eleanor Early, 1940.  Contains true murder and mystery stories of New England, including the Borden case.   (2c) Lizzie Borden: Girl Detective by Richard Behrens, 2010.  Well written fictional stories of Lizzie being a young sleuth in Fall River.  Autographed.  (2d)  Lizbeth of Maplecroft, a play in two acts by Nick Pelino, Jr.  This award winning play is quite imaginative and one of the better plays, IMHO, on the Borden case.  1996.  (2e)  Blood Relations and other plays by Sharon Pollock.  This play received Literary Award for Drama in 1981 and is the play most produced.

#3:  $38.00

Rare Fall River City Directories.  From left to right:  1861, 1926, 1927, 1932, and 1864.  Also includes The Fifty Most Amazing Crimes of the Last 100 Years, published 1936.  Spines are loose on 2 of these books and completely separated on the 1861 directory.

#4:  $43.00

(4a, b, c)  Spinner, People and Culture in Southeastern, Ma.  Volumes, I, II and V.  (4d)  Constant TurmoilThe Politics of Industrial Life in Nineteenth Century New England by Mary H. Blewett, 2000.  A most excellent research tool, this book has an extensive section on the Bordens and the Borden case.

(5)  $32.00

(5a)  American Heritage, February/March 1978, includes 14 page article on the Borden case by Kathryn Allamong Jacob, with several photos, some half page in size.  (5b, c, d, e, f) Five graphic novel books by premiere graphic artist Rick Geary:  Jack the Ripper, The Mystery of Mary Rogers, The Bloody Benders, and Famous Players-Mysterious Death of William Desmond Taylor. 5g) The World’s Greatest Unsolved Crimes, compendium book.

#6:  $27.00

(6a)  The Justice Story – Murder, Mystery, Mayhem, edited by Joseph McNamara. includes chapter on Lizzie Borden. (6b) Solved and Unsolved Classic True Murder Cases, edited by Richard Glyn Jones, 1987.  (6c) The Logic of Women on Trial-Case Studies of Popular American Trials, by Janice Schuetz, 1994.  (6d) The Cases that Haunt Us, by John Douglas, 2000.

7:  $73.00

(7a)  The Fine Art of Murder by Walter B. Gibson, contains chapter, The End of the Borden Case by Edmund Pearson. 236 pp, 1963.  (7b)  The Legend 100 Years After the Crime-A Conference on the Lizzie Borden Case – Proceedings, edited by Jules R. Ryckebusch, 1993.  This book contains most all of the presentations given at the Conference held in Fall River, MA, August 3-5, 1992, including yours truly. (7c) New England Remembers Lizzie Borden by Karen Elizabeth Cheney, 80 pgs, 2003.  (7d) What We Had, James Chace, 187 pgs, 1990.  Author is descendent of one of the founding families of Fall River.

8: $62.00

(8a)  Working Class Community in Industrial America-Work, Leisure, and Struggle in Two Industrial Cities, 1880-1930, John T. Cumbler.  275 pgs, 1976.  Excellent work gives the reader a real sense of the working class and conditions in Lynn and Fall River, MA.  The bottom right of cover was due to my dog.  Sorry.  (8b)  Gentleman of the Press-The Life and Times of an Early Reporter, Julian Ralph of the Sun, Paul Lancaster, 290 pgs, 1992.  Julian Ralph was a popular reporter at the Borden Trial, favoring her.  He had a remarkable career.   (8c)  Priscilla of Fall River, Roger Williams McAdam. 215 pgs, 1947.  The Priscilla was one of the beautiful steamships that wen from Fall River to New York City. A lovely book, photos. (8d)  Probably the best book on the death of Sarah Cornell is David Richard Kasserman’s Fall River Outrage-Life, Murder, and Justice in Early Industrial New England.  Digs deep into the circumstances and evidence leading to the trial of the Reverend Avery.  260 pgs, 1986.  (8e)  The Lowell Offering, Benita Eisler, 218 pgs, 1977.  Wonderful little book giving great insight into the women who worked the mills in Lowell, Mass., illustrated.  (8f)  The Cotton Industry, Chris Aspin, 32 pgs.  This little booklet gives a general overview of the cotton industry – its rise and fall – as related to New England mills.

#9: $45.00  (four images)

Massachusetts of Today-A Memorial of the State, 1892.  This is an historical and biographical book prepared especially for the World’s Columbian Exposition at Chicago, i.e. the 1983 World’s Fair.  This book was sold at the Massachusetts Building at the Fair.  It features prominent men from Fall River, some shown in these images (Mayor John Couglin & banker Charles Holmes).  The front cover is completely separated from the spine and that’s why this highly coveted collectible is priced so low.

10:  $18.00

The Preliminary Hearing in the Lizzie Borden Case.  Typed/created by yours truly.  Comes in a 3-ring binder.  You can also read this on my blog.

11:  $33.00

(11a) True Detective Cases from Police Files, June 1964.  Contains 5 page article on Borden case, illustrated.   (11b) Fall 1972 Liberty Magazine with the “Puritan Girl” article by Sidney Sutherland, illustrated.  (11c)  DVD – The History Channel’s The Strange Case of Lizzie Borden, new, still in wraps.  (11d) DVD – New Faces of 1954 features Ronny Graham, Mel Brooks, Eartha Kit, Paul Lynde, etc.  98 mins. (11d) CD – Morton Gould’s Fall River Legend by the National Philharmonic Orchestra.   New, still in wraps.



The Dinner Pail

(Recycled from 2007)

Fall River’s industrial greatness was once measured by the total number of spindles it had, and was known as the “Spindle City”. It was also known as the “City of the Dinner Pail”, the title of Jonathan Thayer Lincoln’s 1909 book exploring the dichotomy of mill owners and mill workers and the need for management and labor to better understand each other. If the towering smokestacks were the iconic symbol of the power and prosperity of their owners, the dinner pail was the iconic symbol of that class of poor men, women, and children who labored long and hard within those mills. What follows beautifully captures the era and importance of “the dinner pail”. Kudos to you, Alice. :)

THE DINNER PAIL —Alice Grinnell Killam (American Heritage Magazine)

“In the years since I have had to use the services of a baby-sitter, inflation has hit this little business. I was amazed to find that the rate per hour has more than doubled. My grandchildren are baby-sitters, and they make a lot of money. Listening to one of their conversations, I discovered that accompanying fringe benefits are important to them and are carefully considered before they accept jobs: large color televisions, for instance, and families that leave out lots of snacks.

I couldn’t resist a lecture on how tough things were when I was young and how lucky they were to be able to earn money so easily. I had a different way of earning money, and memory came flooding back as I described it.

I was born in Fall River, Massachusetts, a hilltop city overlooking Mount Hope Bay, an arm of Narragansett Bay. These deep blue waterways were carved out by the same glacial activity that forged a chain of long, narrow lakes east of the hill, which funnel into the Quequechan River. With the force of the lakes behind it, the river descends rapidly with a fall of 130 feet in one half mile before it joins the waters of the bay.

As early as 1700, gristmills and iron-works were standing along its banks, and when a few decades later the spinning jenny made such improvements in the weaving of cloth that what had been a cottage industry moved into mills, the swift Quequechan proved an ideal site for them. Eleven mills were strung along the banks of the lakes in 1872, and there were forty-three by 1876. By 1900 Fall River was largely given over to the weaving of cotton cloth.

The mills were enormous affairs, three stories high, built of the granite that was abundant in the area. They were insatiable in their demand for workers. Sometimes whole families labored in them, and what long hours they worked! The starting whistle summoned them to the job at seven o’clock and, except for a toot at noon, didn’t blow again until five-thirty, with no coffee breaks and only a half-hour for lunch. The short lunch break posed a problem in getting these hardworking people fed. It was before the days of company cafeterias, and there wasn’t time enough to go home. This is how my friends and I earned our spending money. We carried dinners to the mills, either for our parents and relatives or for families whose children were grown.

Fall River has been called the City of the Dinner Pail. Although I haven’t seen a dinner pail in many years, I remember it well. It was made of galvanized tin, had three nesting compartments, and a bail handle. A hot drink in the bottom compartment kept meat and potatoes warm in the smaller compartment above. A still smaller compartment on top held dessert, and a tight-fitting lid covered the whole thing. Thus this ingenious pail carried a whole dinner. The meals were prepared at home and carried by us children to the mills. The school day was broken up into two sessions, with a two-hour break in between, so at eleven-thirty hundreds of school children poured out of my school, rushed home to pick up the dinners, then set off for the mills, hurrying to get there before the noon whistle blew. There was no lingering to talk with friends on the way, but coming back I could saunter along if it was warm. If it was cold, I wasted no time getting back to my own warm dinner. I remember walking through snow up to my hips and through drenching rainstorms that made it feel as though my journey was a long one. But it couldn’t have been very far if I walked to the mill and back, ate my own dinner, and got back to school by one-thirty.

So it was that I began my working life at the age of seven. We were very poor but weren’t aware of it since all the families we knew were poor too. There was nothing unusual in women going to work as soon as the youngest child was in school. So when my younger sister started school, my mother went back to her old job as a weaver, and I was considered old enough to bring her lunch. After all, my grandmother, who had been born during the Industrial Revolution in England, had actually worked in a mill from dawn to dusk when she was just a year older than I. All I was asked to do was carry a pail. I felt capable of it and proud to be “carrying dinners” along with my friends.

The weavers worked in a downstairs room. To get to it, I opened a heavy door at the top of a flight of brass-bound stairs that led to another heavy door at the bottom. I was so short that the bottom of the pail bumped on the steps as I went down. The handle was not rigid, and the pail tipped perilously at each bump. The brass bindings were loose, and I was terrified that I would trip on the step and spill the dinner pail’s contents. Each trip down was a nightmare as I made my way, step by step, until I reached the bottom and struggled to open the other heavy door. Only then could I relax my viselike grip on the pail and breathe a little more easily as I crossed the spinning room: rows and rows of spindles where that marvelous spinning jenny quietly twisted the yarn into thread.

On the other side of this room was the door to the weaving room. I always hesitated before opening this door; the noise from the clattering looms, combined with the hot, oily smell, was a blow in the face, and I hated to go in. Hundreds of looms were lined up here, each working away with a life of its own. I would watch fascinated as the shuttle carrying the warp flew back and forth between the two rows of thread, while the heavy harness banged each row taut. It always looked as though the harness was trying to catch the shuttle in mid-flight, and I would wait nervously for the disaster to happen. But in spite of appearances, the looms were well under the control of the workers, who paced back and forth between the rows, changing bobbins and watching for imperfections in the woven cloth, each one tending from two to six looms. Spoken communication was impossible, but the workers became adept at carrying on long conversations in sign language. I couldn’t understand all of it, but I watched with admiration as they talked. A woman told my mother of a telephone call she had had, and the motions of her hands described the conversation perfectly.

The end of my journey came as I delivered the pail to my mother, its contents intact. At twelve o’clock the looms stopped, and the weavers were free to enjoy their lunches in the deafening silence.

We were paid twenty-five cents a week for this work. It doesn’t sound like a demanding job; the pain was in the doing of it every day. Many children carried two pails in each hand, and I remember one enterprising boy who used to load six or eight pails into a wagon. For a while I carried dinner to a supervisor who thought it beneath his dignity to be seen carrying a pail home at night. He paid me an extra ten cents a week to carry the pail home for him.

The job began to seem to be beneath my dignity, too, as I neared the end of grammar school. After struggling through a particularly heavy snow-storm, I told my employer not to expect me if we had another one. My days as a dinner carrier came to an inglorious end when I didn’t appear after the next storm and was abruptly dismissed. I can’t believe my own callousness in not thinking of the poor soul who missed his dinner!

Naturally, my grandchildren thought this was a pretty hard way to earn twenty-five cents. Looking back on it now, I can see benefits other than the money. The walk to the mills in all kinds of weather strengthened our legs, and the fresh air sharpened our appetites. It isn’t the long walk that I remember most when I think of those days. Rather, it is the rattling of loose brass as I crept down the steps toward the pandemonium and my mother’s smiling face.”


Lizzie Borden’s Fall River – in 1811, 1911 & 2011


Cotton mills of fall river from Keeley Library.

The first cotton mill was built.


The great Cotton Centennial celebrating 100 years.

From the Fall River Herald News:

“A celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Cotton Centennial is the theme of this year’s Fall River calendar. Sponsored by the Fall River Scholarship Foundation, the calendar features scenes from the weeklong 1911 festivities that attracted elected officials, including former President William Howard Taft.

James Rogers, editor of the calendar, said the dates of the Centennial were June 19 to 24, 1911.

The daily events attracted thousands of people to the parades, carnivals, Ringling Bros. Circus, and especially to the crowning of the Queen of the Carnival. That event was held in front of the City Hall, and 4,000 people saw Miss Marion Pierce Hills win the title.

One of the major events was a horse show that was held at North Park. A highlight of this was a showing of prized Arabian and Morgan horses that were bred by Spenser Borden Sr.

An automobile parade began at the south end of Highland Avenue, wented its way through the side streets to Bedford Street, and then proceeded on Main Street to South Park. Nearly all vehicles were decorated with flowers and ribbons and were occupied by well-dressed women prominent in the social circles of the time.

Exhibits at the armory featured a local trade show that highlighted the latest manufacturing equipment. The library sponsored an exhibit of artwork from the famous Fall River School artists. Prominent among them was Robert Spears Dunning.

The appearance of President Taft was recognition of the important role that Fall River played in the country. Taft arrived in a private yacht at the pier, walked along Water Street to his car and then proceeded to tour the city before riding in the large parade that was held on Friday that week.

“Victorian Vistas: Fall River 1901-1911,” by Dr. Philip Silvia Jr., provided the background information for the calendar. Pictures came from the private collections of Arthur Silvia, Patrick Cookson and James Rogers.

Calendars are available at Silvia’s Florist, 515 Broadway; New Boston Bakery, 279 New Boston Road; K & G Crafts, 260 New Boston Road; Cafe Arpeggio, 139 S. Main St.; Standard Pharmacy, 246 E. Main St.; or by calling Rogers at 507-675-0800.

Calendars will also be sold at the Christmas craft fair at Durfee High School on Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 4 and 5.”


One hundred years later – a whole different story.

Former residents tell why they left Fall River in this Fall River Herald News article.

The declining population of Fall River can be attributed to many causes but clearly residents are heading for the exits as expressed in this article.

A failing school system close to being taken over by the State

So where’s the big civic celebration of 200 years?  Where’s the parade with its VFW and Gay Pride contingent?  Where’s the Indigenous Paranormal Investigator All Brass Band?  Where have all the flowers gone – gone and died everyone?

What will it be like in 2111?   I guarantee one thing:  We’ll still be asking “Did She or Didn’t She?:”  Some things just endure and endure, transcending social and economic change throughout the ages.


Tags: , , , ,

The John Mann Murals – a Hidden Treasure in Fall River

(Recycled from February 2010)
I’ve written before about one of Fall River’s hidden secrets, namely the John Mann murals in the former Matthew J. Kuss Middle School at 217 Rock Street.  John Mann was commissioned under the Works Progress Administration “Federal Art in New England” project in 1936.  He painted a history of Fall River in a series of murals all along the walls of the auditorium of what was then BMC Durfee’s Technical Building.

These incredible murals are comprised in 3 sets depicting a different era.  The first set is 6 panels of Fall River’s Indian history.  Every figure in each of the panels was posed for by a live model.

The “Freeman’s Purchase” which, in terms of the Founding Families, started it all.

The death of Weetamoe.

The Revolutionary and Civil War days are featured in the second set of panels along the north wall and again models posed for each figure.  Supposedly, the Civil War dresses were obtained from Fall River families.

The murals along the rear wall of the auditorium bring the story up to the (1936) “present” as they delineate modern cotton mills of the city.

Spinners originally worked in their homes.

The Battle of Fall River.

Bordens and Durfees are depicted here.

Recruitment for the Civil War.

I first viewed these in the spring of 2007, and again in 2008 and 2009.  I’m grateful to Nancy Mullen, Principal of Kuss Middle School for her continued accommodations to my unannounced requests.

A pamphlet published in 1940 describes the Mann murals in detail and contains brief information on the city’s history.

What is noticeably absent in Mann’s murals is the “golden period” of Fall River – the 1870’s to 1890’s.   No drawings of the huge and profitable granite and red brick mills  and its culturally diverse working class, the town’s growth, the steamships or railways, and the further enrichment of the founding families.   However, by the mid-1930’s, when this wonderful work was done, Fall River had been on the decline for more than two decades.  Had there been a continuation of these murals depicting Fall River to the present day, they surely would be viewed with sad eyes and sorrowful hearts for a city of once what had been as contrasted to now what is.

Nonetheless these are remarkable murals and of significant value to Fall River’s history.   The structure on Rock Street was abandoned and left in “sleep mode” in June of 2009 when Kuss Middle School moved into new quarters.

In a conversation with Tom Coogan, Chief Operating Officer, Fall River Public Schools, he told me that the School Committee is securing funding from the State for the Morton School but those students may be relocated back to 217 Rock Street depending upon what the Committee decides.  If they decide not to keep it, the structure will revert to city ownership and become the city’s responsibility, but that decision is “4 years down the road”.  Meanwhile “old Kuss” remains in the custody of Fall River Schools.  I was pleased to hear him speak of what cold weather does to interior paint and that there is sufficient heat in the auditorium to protect those murals.  Tom was also nice enough to send me a 6 page document describing in detail each mural itself as well as how the entire project developed.

So what will the future hold for this hidden treasure?  It is possible the structure could be demolished or converted to office space (the courthouse is just across the street).  Whatever the future disposition of the Mann  Murals, one can only hope they will not only be preserved but given public access so residents and visitors alike can marvel at this wonderful and historic epic work of art.


Tags: , , , , ,