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The Fall River Tragedy

Edwin H. Porter

Book Overview: 

The story of how Lizzie Borden supposedly murdered her parents has passed into American folklore, partly thanks to the albeit inaccurate playground rhyme, "Lizzie Borden took an axe, and gave her mother 40 whacks. When she saw what she had done, she gave her father 41." Here we have the 'true' story, as reported by the local police reporter who attended the trial and lived only streets away from the Borden home with his young wife. After the trial, Porter 'disappeared' and it was widely speculated he had either been murdered or bribed to disappear in order to suppress the book. His reappearance some time later put paid to the first theory. After his death at age 39 from tuberculosis, a new theory emerged, that he had been away for treatment while keeping his illness secret. Meanwhile, the trial itself was noteworthy for several reasons: it was one of the first to be followed by nationwide press, providing a template for today's tabloid and cable coverage of major trials; it also had some distinguished personnel: one of the prosecutors, Frank Moody, later became the attorney general of the United States and was appointed to the Supreme Court by President Theodore Roosevelt; and Borden’s defense attorney, George Robinson, was the former governor of Massachusetts. The appearance of Professor Wood of Harvard University was an early use of an expert witness at trial.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .Borden premises,—his attention was attracted to a pedestrian walking slowly along the sidewalk near the Borden house. Ordinarily the face of a stranger would not excite much interest in the mind of Dr. Handy, inasmuch as he was continually passing the streets of the city on his professional calls. In this case, however, he looked twice at the passerby, and even turned in his carriage to inspect him more closely. Just what caused him to do this the doctor did not definitely explain. There was a peculiarity about the man which he could not exactly describe. The individual was about 30 years of age, five feet five inches in height, weight perhaps about 125 or 130 pounds. His clothes were of light gray of just what cut and texture the doctor could not positively state; nor could he tell whether the man’s hat was of felt or straw. It was not the dress which attracted Dr. Handy, it was the man’s features, which he saw. He was pale, almost white; not with the g. . . Read More

Community Reviews

Just a little too dry for what I was hoping to read.

Interesting but tedious

This is a bare bones chronicle of the events following the murders of Andrew and Abby Borden. It reads like A dry police report on the facts of the case and never drifts into speculation on the guilt or innocence of the accused Lizzie Borden. It presents all the facts that wer

I thought the author did a good job describing in a lively engaging style the events surrounding the murder of Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Bordon. Some of the minutia describing the newspaper investigation and court trial gets a little detailed to the point of stretching one's interest thin, but mostly a ve

Probably one of the worst-written books I've ever read. There were points where there weren't even any complete sentences used. I don't know if he was just using transcribed testimony or what. There are so many other better-written books on the Borden murders out there. The only thing that is 'speci

An over comprehensive blow by blow account but an excellent historical record.

I finished it... but it was a push. As several other people have noted, there was a lot of "answers" from "witnesses" but you don't know the questions asked. So it became harder to follow the deeper in you got. As a technical, research item it would work for research purposes. You could use it as a

An Historical Curiosity
This is the first book published about the infamous Lizzie Borden case, published shortly after her 1893 trial. The writer, Edwin Porter, was a newspaper reporter from Boston covering the case. It reads as pretty florid in style and is full of the author's opinions. The book p

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