Tag Archives: Book reviews

New Book: In My Opinion, The Inquest Hearing of Lizzie Andrew Borden

….. Volume I  by Keith A. Buchanan


Just started reading this new publication written with a fresh , creative approach.  Mr. Buchanan actually puts us inside the room where the Coroner’s Inquest was held where we are silent observers to the excellent guide/narrator, “John”.   “John” begins with laying the foundation of the case and reveals Witness Interviews making us feel as if they are talking to us, and later, some giving inquest testimony, “John” makes them feel familiar to us.

So far I am thoroughly delighted with this approach – the most original I have come across in decades.  The book is flush with illustrations, some never seen before.  The author’s extensive and detailed research is without question.  Not only does he capture the full inquest testimonies of all those called (with the exception of Bridget Sullivan, of course) but he provides personal profile information on them.  However, I have noted a few errors – not many – and one photo illustration attributed to the wrong person.  But this is such a fun read that I will forego comment on those until a completed read when I can do a valid review of this 503 page gem.    Meantime, get this book!

In the Lizzie landscape of non-fiction, this book is akin to a new ride at Disneyland.

Parts can be read HERE.

P.S.   Author Keith A. Buchanan is life long resident of Fall River.

Also, off topic but related to disposition of “Maplecroft” – this is the one option that made the most sense.  Thank you, Donald Woods! :0 


Tags: , , , ,

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.


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.


Tags: , , , ,

The Rarity of Porter’s The Fall River Tragedy

I’m re-posting this blog entry from September 2007 because this evening I noted an eBay seller has an original Porter listed for a “Buy it Now” price of $6,000! (Note:  Seller dropped price to $3,000 on March 3rd) Only an idiot would pay that much given that antiquarian booksellers have a few available right now for less than a thousand bucks. An easy Google search will prove this out.

Check out the eBay Seller’s listing here.

More interesting to me, however, is that the Seller did a literal cut and paste from my words below. The whole point of my post is that the book is NOT AS RARE as it has been professed to be and thus, this may very well be the reason the eBay Seller did not cite my blog or provide the URL to this particular entry. Otherwise, the potential bidder/buyer would be well – less inclined to pay that much. “BUYER BEWARE!”. As a matter of fact, I’m going to offer up one of my four original Porters in my “Collectibles for Sale” page….so just be patient. 🙂

The more important books on the Borden case reveal an evolution of author-to-author citations as to the rarity of Edwin H. Porter’s book (the first edition), The Fall River Tragedy, Press of J. D. Munroe, 1893. It appears the legend begins in 1967 with Victoria Lincoln because even in his 1937 Trial Essay, Edmund Pearson’s “bible”, there is no mention. Since Pearson believed in Lizzie’s guilt I’d think he would have mentioned it. Edward D. Radin – who proposed that Bridget did it – made a point of NOT mentioning it.

William Masterton’s Lizzie Didn’t Do It, and Muriel Arnold’s Hands of Time had no reference to the rarity of Porter’s book. Nor did Angela Carter. (BTW, I think Muriel’s Ward 4 and Neighborhood sketches in the front of her book are far better and more encompassing than others that have been published). There are scads of reference to the “rarity”, i.e., “Lizzie bought out….” in numerous compendium books – too many to cite here. I didn’t bother with the fictional accounts of the Borden case (Hunter, Engstrom, Satterthwait) because golly gee, who the hell cares. So here are the more obvious citations to be found:

1967 – Private Disgrace – Victoria Lincoln p27 – “…bought off the printer had the books destroyed”

1967 – Private Disgrace – Lincoln p304 -“The town was further irked when Lizzie bought up The Fall River Tragedy and nobody had a chance to read it. Everyone wanted to. As I told you at the start of our story, I had to wait for the pleasure forty years before I found the first copy that I had ever seen, in the Library of Congress.”

1968 – Untold Story – Edward Radin p16The Fall River Tragedy, by Edwin H. Porter, a Fall River police reporter, who stoutly defended Fall River police for arresting Lizzie Borden. This book, published in Fall River, had a limited sale and circulation. ”

1974 – Goodbye Lizzie Borden – Sullivan p142 -“…virtually all copies were purchased and destroyed by Lizzie.”

1984 – Lizzie – Frank Spiering p36 – His footnote:”The Fall River Tragedy by Edwin H. Porter, printed privately in 1893, was the first book published about the murders. Only four copies are known to exist. A copy which was originally in the Library of Congress has vanished, one is kept at the State House in Boston, one is in the archives of the Fall River Historical Society and one is in my possession. Lizzie bought off the printer and had all the other copies destroyed before they reached the bookshops.”

1991 – Legend of Lizzie Borden – Arnold Brown p89-90 -“It is not known how many copies of The Fall River Tragedy were printed, but it had to be several hundred if not several thousand. Fifty years ago only two copies were known to exist, and one other copy was rumored. Mrs. Brigham at the Fall River Historical Society has reported that four copies are now held by the society, and she knows of one other held privately. Even the copy that should be held by the Library of Congress is missing. The overwhelming majority of the press run simply disappeared the day it was published. Miss Lizzie, the legend says, acting on the advice of Andrew Jennings, bought up and destroyed every copy she could. If Lizzie did not do that, someone did.”

1992 – Forty Whacks – David Kent xiv -“Knowledge of what Porter had done was unwittingly obscured when Lizzie, learning of the publication, was rumored to have bought up all but about 25 subscription copies and had them destroyed. Thus, only a few ever saw what Porter had written and were unaware of his distortions. But scholars ferreted out the half-dozen copies held in public libraries and other institutions and these became the sourcebooks for all research. Fortunately for historians, Porter’s book was rescued from limbo in 1985 and reprinted by King Philip Publishing Company of Portland, Maine. ”

At the 1992 Lizzie Borden Centennial Conference held at Bristol Community College in Fall River, Patterson Smith of New Jersey gave a presentation on this very topic. He stated that Porter’s book is not that “rare” after all, as many were sold on subscription – perhaps over 500. I, myself, have handled at least 20 of these first editions in the past 25 years and have 4 original Porters in my collection, but one of my collector associates actually has FIVE in his collection!

Of the four original Porters I have, one has hand-written notes from a minister who knew Lizzie and Emma and he wrote periodically about seeing them from time to time, i.e., at the Swansea farm with “the horses”, the rumors around town, when they parted, when Lizzie died, etc. His marginal notes and the two pages of typewritten notes inside the book, only enhance its value, IMHO. My fourth and most recent copy was purchased in Fall River just this past August from a private party to whom I was introduced.

In 1992, I took one of my Porters to the Conference and sold it for over $1,000 right there to an eager buyer, who I long have suspected was a shill for Patterson Smith because he was peeking around the corner of the building at the time. Too funny! Perhaps he “financed” the eager buyer?

In the last several years, I’ve noted at least 6 original Porter’s sold on eBay (not counting those I’ve sold on eBay myself). In addition, just this past year two of my close friends have obtained copies for less than $300 from booksellers, and another person I know traded several rare true crime books with a noted author for his copy of an original Porter.

Obviously, the dollar value of any book is only worth what a buyer is willing to pay. But as to the rarity of “an original Porter”, this long, literary legend of Lizzie (nice alliteration, eh?) is simply that – a legend. 🙂


Tags: , , , , , ,