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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).

 

Alice Russell – Lizzie Borden’s “Turncoat” Friend.

Tattered Fabric: Fall River's Lizzie Borden

Alice Russell as depicted in newspaper sketches – 1893

Alice Russell at the Old Folks Home – 1931

The photo of Alice in old age is the only known photograph of her to date.  Here’s hoping Parallel Lives will have more.  The below article is from the Fall River Historical Society’s website, taken from their Summer 2002 newsletter, also posted online.  They are all worth reading so check them out.

“Lizzie’s Turncoat Friend”

“Frank B. Hadley has recently donated a rare and important photograph of Miss Alice M. Russell to the Fall River Historical Society. It is the only photograph of Miss Russell known to exist, depicting the subject as an elderly woman. Miss Russell was the first cousin of the donor’s grandmother, Ida Russell.

Ida’s husband, Dwight Minor, took the photograph at 3:46 pm on September 4, 1931, with the subject sitting in her comfortably furnished room at…

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Posted by on March 31, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

What Happened to Emma’s Stuff?

Last posted in 2011 – The Gardner connection is essential to understanding Lizzie and Emma.

Tattered Fabric: Fall River's Lizzie Borden

Recycled from 2011

Emma Borden, Lizzie’s sister, left most of her personal property to Orrin Gardner.  He, in turn, gave much to his nephew, Hamilton, son of Orrin’s brother.  Before we go further, please note I’ve written about the Gardners of Swansea many times and you should review these posts HERE and HERE.

Young Orrin Gardner

Young Hamilton Gardner, son of William Gardner

The following images of letters and notes gives us a glimpse of what happened.  Indeed, the recently discovered portraits of a young Andrew and young Sarah were donated to the Swansea Historical Society by Hamilton Gardner.   (You’ll remember those portraits, possibly done at the time they were married – a true love match.)

                 

You have to wonder if these portraits hung at Maplecroft and if Emma took them when she left Lizzie in 1905.  Anyway….as to her other…

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Posted by on March 20, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

In Lizzie’s Time….a key to Understanding

Originally posted in May, 2010

Tattered Fabric: Fall River's Lizzie Borden

Image ©Faye Musselman 2010

Lizzie Borden lived as many years before her Trial as she did after her Trial.  She was born the year the Pony Express started, Elizabeth Cady Stanton addressed the state’s legislature on the subject of women’s suffrage, and Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities was published.   There were only 33 states in the Union, and public conveyance was mostly by steamship and horse-drawn wagon.  She died the year two-way television was first demonstrated, “The Jazz Singer” premiered, and when the whole world was celebrating Lindberg’s solo flight across the Atlantic to Paris.

At the time of the murders Lizzie Borden was just on the cusp of the inner circle she so much wanted to penetrate. She longed to be accepted and a part of what author Victoria Lincoln referred to as “that highly stratified society.” She was a Borden with impeccable lineage and was acutely…

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Posted by on March 18, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

Lizzie Borden Ponderables

Originally posted August 24, 2012.

Tattered Fabric: Fall River's Lizzie Borden

Have you ever wondered why:

Winnie French was so adamant to testify on behalf of Grace Howe & Helen Leighton at the Probate Hearing against Charles Cook’s claim of ownership of the Henry House?

Orrin Gardner had so little tribute in ink when he died, although it was highly deserved?

What specifically Bailey Borden sold of Lizzie & Emma’s possession in his Fall River store acquired from Hamilton Gardner?

Why there was so little reporting of Lizzie writing a blank check to Ernest Terry as she lay dying on her last day of life?  (All those people at the bank knew.)

Why Charles Cook parked his car in Lizzie’s garage and then charged the heating to her estate?

Why Ernest Terry went to work for Charles Cook after Lizzie died?

Why Grace Howe, with a keen eye for antiques, left so much of it?

Why so many of Lizzie’s good…

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Posted by on March 12, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

Lizzie Borden’s Grand Tour Money Shortage

Tattered Fabric: Fall River's Lizzie Borden

Recycled Post – Another trunk – this one owned by Lizzie.  Maybe the hand of Helen Leighton once touched it.  😉

On June 21, 1890 Lizzie Borden embarked on a 19 week Grand Tour of Europe. A month and two days later, she would celebrate her 30th birthday while on that Tour. It must have been her best birthday ever. However, according to reports, she would also have to wire home for additional funds, a necessary appeal that must have been a source of great embarrassment to her considering her travel companions.

(Could this be the trunk or one of the trunks Lizzie took on the Tour? Note that no port labels are visible. -from The Spectator, January 22, 1997)

Lizzie was enjoying the thrilling sights of England, Scotland, France, and Italy with sisters Carrie Lindley Borden and Anna Howland Borden, daughters of Colonel Thomas J. Borden (of the…

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Posted by on March 6, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

Lysistrata – “Lizzie” to You –

(originally posted in 2008 – I’m adding new stuff at the end)

07Feb

Lizzie Borden, five years deceased, would have been appalled by the 1932 Carthay Circle Theater advertisement below.

Aristophane’s comedy Lysistrata (written in 411 BC) was performed at the Carthay Circle Theater in New York with Nance O’Neil in the lead role. The program ad below has “LIZZIE TO YOU” written below the title. One would think that a diminutive or nickname of Lysistrata was “Lizzie”, but Lysistrata really means “releaser of war” or “she who disbands armies”.

Lizzie might have even have found the play itself distasteful, classical Greek literature notwithstanding.

Anyway, 75+ years later, perhaps only those of us absorbed in all things Lizzie find the double entendre humor in this reference.

Here’s a brief synopsis of the play – hardly our “Lizzie” at all. Then again, in another life – she could have been. I can see that. Can you? 😉

“The women of Athens, led by Lysistrata and supported by female delegates from the other states of Hellas, determine to take matters into their own hands and force the men to stop the War. They meet in solemn conclave, and Lysistrata expounds her scheme, the rigorous application to husbands and lovers of a self-denying ordinance–“we must refrain from the male altogether.” Every wife and mistress is to refuse all sexual favours whatsoever, till the men have come to terms of peace. In cases where the women must yield ‘par force majeure,’ then it is to be with an ill grace and in such a way as to afford the minimum of gratification to their partner; they are to be passive and take no more part in the amorous game than they are absolutely obliged to. By these means Lysistrata assures them they will very soon gain their end. “If we sit indoors prettily dressed out in our best transparent silks and prettiest gewgaws, and all nicely depilated, they will be able to deny us nothing.” Such is the burden of her advice.

After no little demure, this plan of campaign is adopted, and the assembled women take a solemn oath to observe the compact faithfully. Meantime as a precautionary measure they seize the Acropolis, where the State treasure is kept; the old men of the city assault the doors, but are repulsed by “the terrible regiment” of women. Before long the device of the bold Lysistrata proves entirely effective, Peace is concluded, and the play ends with the hilarious festivities of the Athenian and Spartan plenipotentiaries in celebration of the event.” -Theater Database

 lysistrata-raid lysistrata-raid3lysistrata-raid2
lysistrarta-raid5
 
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Posted by on February 22, 2017 in Uncategorized