The murders of Andrew and Abby Borden occurred on August 4, 1892, before fingerprint technology became an established method of police investigation. By today’s standards of forensic science, the police work in the Borden murders seems crude, sloppy, and disorganized. The evidence that remains for us to examine comes from various sources—the primary source documents (Inquest, Preliminary, and Trial testimony) as well as collections of artifacts in private and non-profit sources.
The Fall River Historical Society has a large collection of resources from the case, including photographs, letters, personal papers, Abby’s hair swatch, the “handleless hatchet” (presented at trial as the possible murder weapon), and the bloody pillow shams from the guest room. Through the years, copies of most of the photographs have been available for armchair detectives to use in their own investigations.
The documents and photographs in this section of the Lizzie Andrew Borden Virtual Museum and Library comprise a large portion of what remains of the evidence in the Borden murders. Hopefully, some additional material will come to light in the future, documents and artifacts perhaps now hidden away in some attic or basement trunk, just waiting for someone to recognize their significance. Now is the time to look around your houses for these valuable lost items. If you find anything of import, we welcome the story of your discovery here.
According to CNN, Lizzie’s defense attorney, George Dexter Robinson’s file on the case is “probably the last great body of fresh historical evidence on one of the most sensational episodes in legal history. The papers are in a locked room inside a file cabinet on the 16th floor at the Springfield law firm founded by George Robinson.” Unfortunately, the law firm has successfully resisted all attempts, both legal and otherwise, to examine the contents of the files. While some enthusiasts feel that this is the last great hope of finding that smoking axe of Borden scholarship —a statement by Lizzie herself as to her guilt or innocence— the firm continues to cite attorney-client confidentiality in their refusal to turn over the documents to researchers and historians.
Instead, Borden scholars are relegated to examining the public material that has been in existence since the crimes occurred 110 years ago. Perhaps a fresh pair of eyes and a new examination of this collection of evidence will help solve the crime of the century (the 19th century that is).
By Kat Koorey
Preliminary Hearing in the Borden Case before Judge Blaisdell, August 25 through September 1, 1892. Fall River, MA: Fall River Historical Society.
pg. 186, Dr. Dolan talks about having the skulls photographed “Monday or Tuesday of this week”, which would be August 22 or 23, 1892.
pg. 196, Dr. Dolan specifies the photographs that were taken of the crime scenes, and describes the order in which they were taken:
#1 pic=Abby slightly moved
#2 pic=Abby with bed removed (side shot)
#3 pic= Abby with bed put back again
#4 pic= Abby downstairs
#5 pic=Andrew unmoved
The Trial of Lizzie A. Borden. Upon an indictment charging her with the murders of Abby Durfee Borden and Andrew Jackson Borden. Before the Superior Court for the County of Bristol. Presiding, C.J. Mason, J.J. Blodgett, and J.J. Dewey. Official stenographic report by Frank H. Burt (New Bedford, MA., 1893, 2 volumes).
The following articles which had been offered in evidence during the progress of the trial were selected from among the exhibits in the case by counsel and sent to the jury:
Plans and photographs marked as exhibits in the case.
Skulls of Mr. and Mrs. A. J. Borden.
Bedspread and pillow shams.
Handkerchief found by Mrs. Borden’s body.
Piece of doorframe taken from inside of dining room.
Piece of moulding taken from guest chamber west of dressing case.
Piece of plaster.
Hatchet with plain head.
Handleless hatchet and bit of wood.
Blue blouse and dress skirt.
1. Large plan, showing main street and other streets.
2. Plan of Borden premises, and surrounding estates.
3. Plan of Borden premises, including ground floor of house.
4. Plan of Borden premises, including second story.
5. Plan of sitting room.
6. Blue print of Exhibit 3.
7. Blue print of Exhibit 4.
8. Blue print of Borden premises and surrounding estates.
9. Plan of cellar.
10 – 14. Photographs of Borden house.
15 – 19. Photographs of bodies.
20 – 21. Carpets.
22. Tag attached to jar containing Mr. Borden’s stomach.
23. Tag attached to jar containing Mrs. Borden’s stomach.
24 – 43. Small photographs of Borden premises.
44. Pin produced by Mr. Adams for comparison, in connection with testimony of Professor Wood.
(All item numbers inclusive.)
Ashton, Barbara. “The Hip-Bath Collection.” Proceedings: Lizzie Borden Conference. Ed. Jules R. Ryckebusch. Portland, ME: King Philip Publishing Co., 1993. 211-214.
“What Andrew Jennings decided to sequester may turn out to be as important as what he decided to reveal.”
This collection was, in part, donated to the FRHS, in 1968, with some items requested returned to the (Waring) family. Ms. Ashton, author, had a look and made some notes:
Contents Of Collection:
1. Photographs: Yard, hall, entrance hall, north side of house, Second street looking north and south, backyard between house and barn, Mrs. Churchill’s front steps. guest chamber, Abby, sitting room, south side of house and south yard, Borden house (enlarged), side views of pool of blood, Mrs. Borden with feet showing, Mrs. Borden’s matted switch, Andrew Borden on the horsehair couch, Andrew naked on the floor, skulls–front with hatchet marks, Mrs. Borden with huge hole in side of head, courthouse.
2. Hatchet and Hood: This is the one that fit the wound and was found with a broken handle in the Borden cellar. It was never proved to be the murder weapon . . .
3. Tags from Trial Exhibits: They read, Stomach of Mrs. Andrew J. Borden; Stomach of Mr. Andrew J. Borden; Dried Blood, Mrs. A.J. Borden.
4. Hair Switch and Bloody Handkerchief: Worn by Mrs. Borden at the time of the murders.
5. Pillow shams and Bedspread: Taken from the bed Mrs. Borden was making when she was murdered.
6. Newspaper Clippings of the Case: In 3 scrapbooks, 2 large, 1 small.
7. Stenographer’s Minutes of the Preliminary Trial: Five books: Edward S. Wood, Abram G. Hart, Lizzie A. Borden (sic??) Bridget Sullivan, Dr. William A. Dolan. They are the only known copies of these minutes.
8. Blueprints of Floorplans of Borden House: Cellare, first floor, second floor.
9. Boston Globe: Day-to-Day Record.
10. Boston Herald: Account of the trial, brown and brittle.
11. Hair In Envelopes: Snips of hair from Mr. and Mrs. Borden.
12. Red Leather Notebooks: There were two, a thick one and a thin one. The thick one contains newspaper clippings of the case from August 4, 1892, to August 11, 1892. The thin one contains Andrew Jennings handwritten notes gathered on Lizzie’s behalf.”
please contact the FRHS for their latest list
27a. Murder scene, showing Mrs. Borden
27b. Murder scene, showing Mrs. Borden, side view
27c. Murder scene after removal of Mrs. Borden
27d. View of guest bedroom, Borden residence, taken from doorway
28a. Murder scene, showing Mr. Borden
28b. Murder scene after removal of Mr. Borden
29. Interior view of Borden residence showing locks on front door
30a. Floor plan of Borden residence, cellar level
30b. Floor plan of Borden residence, first floor
30c. Floor plan of Borden residence, first floor
30c. Floor plan, second floor
31a. Skull of Mrs. Borden
31b. Skull of Mr. Borden
33a. View showing front of Borden residence, right side yard and side of Dr. Kelly’s residence
33b. Same as 33a but slightly different angle
33c. View showing front of Borden residence, left side yard and side of Mrs. Churchill’s residence
33d. Same as 33c but slightly different angle
33e. View showing side of Borden barn, woodpile in backyard and rear of Dr. Chagnon’s residence
35f. Borden yard looking toward Second Street
36. The old well, barn and Mrs. Churchill’s house
37a. View of Second street looking North
37b. View of Second street looking South
38a. View showing Dr. Chagnon’s driveway and the Tripp residence
38b. Same as 38a but bearing written explanation
39. Dr. Chagnon’s yard showing rear of Borden barn and yard
40. Dr. Chagnon’s house and yard
41. View showing “Crowe’s Yard” with written explanation
42. Dr Kelly’s back yard
43. Mrs. Churchill’s front steps