The Fall River Historical Society will mark the 120th anniversary of the infamous Lizzie Borden murder mystery with an exhibit that will showcase new artifacts, as well as shed light on a part of her life never seen before.
The temporary exhibit, “Echoes of Lizzie,” is designed to tell the full story of the Borden family, and not just focus on the murders of Andrew and Abby Borden, Lizzie’s father and stepmother, who were found dead Aug. 4, 1892, with multiple lacerations from a hatchet.
“We came to realize the totally inane, sensational things that were actually all innuendo or gossip,” said Dennis Binette, assistant curator at the Historical Society. Binette wrote the book “Parallel Lives,” with fellow curator Michael Martins, about Lizzie Borden and life in Fall River at the turn of the 19th century.
Many artifacts are being shown for the first time, including personal journals from Borden’s defense attorney, Andrew Jackson Jennings, that were donated to the Historical Society by a Jennings descendant. Because of the fragility of the journals’ pages, they may not be exhibited again.
Borden, who was 32 years old when the killings occurred, was acquitted of the crime in June 1893. No one else was ever arrested in the case.
“It’s a very tragic story, not just because of the lives that were lost, but if Lizzie didn’t do it, her life was destroyed by the events on Aug. 4,” said Binette. “If she did it, she did serve a sentence, convicted by village gossip. Life was never the same.”
Visitors to the Historical Society will also get a chance to see a rare photograph of Borden when she was 56 years old, posed happily with her Boston terrier.
“It’s the first photo that has ever surfaced of her taken in her house; she was a great animal lover,” Binette said. “It’s an entirely different look at her.”
Also featured are multiple pieces of correspondence from Borden, as well as two post-mortem photographs of Abby and Andrew Borden, taken in the house after they had been placed on stretchers.
In the photograph of Abby, the viewer can see lacerations to her scalp, while Andrew’s photograph gives a detailed look at the wounds to his face and upper torso.
Binette also said the curators learned, from the Jennings journals, that Abby’s body was not found where it appears in the photographs, but was said to be partially under a bed in the Bordens’ home, showing more clearly that she was trying to escape from her attacker.
Hourly tours will be given by Binette and Martins from 12 to 4 p.m. Saturday. “Echoes of Lizzie” will be on exhibit until Sept. 30, at the historical society at 351 Rock St. in Fall River. For more information, call 508-679-1071.
Sarah N. Mattero
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