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Lizzie Borden: Ax Her No Questions, She’ll Chop You No Suey

July 20, 2012

A belated happy birthday to Lizzie Borden (1860-1927), born on July 19th. As usual,
I’m a day late and a head short.

Lizzie was tried for killing her father and stepmother with a hatchet. She was acquitted. Here’s the final:

birthday caricature illustration of notorious possible ax murderer Lizzie Borden born July 19th and suspected of killing her parents with a hatchet or ax in Fall River, Massachusetts in 1892

Here’s a detail image. It appears her parents’ birthday greeting was, uh, cut short. It’s also apparent that someone doesn’t know how to spell “acquitted.” Isn’t that embarrassing… : (detail image of birthday caricature illustration of notorious possible ax murderer Lizzie Borden born July 19th and suspected of killing her parents with a hatchet or ax in Fall River, Massachusetts in 1892

This is part of my ongoing “birthday clock” caricature series. Lizzie’s blood splatter clock shows some of the main points of the case:

Her father was struck 11 times, possibly 12. (Her stepmother was struck 18 or 19 times.) The murders took place in Fall River, Massachusetts, on August 4, 1892. Lizzie claimed she was in the barn behind the house, eating pears in the hayloft, at the time of the murders. Lizzie burned a dress in the kitchen stove a few days after the murders. She claimed she had brushed up against some fresh paint. Lizzie was indicted and tried for the murders, but acquited. I mean, acquitted. The jury only took an hour and a half to reach its verdict.

detail image of birthday clock for Lizzie Borden with axes for clock hands and showing Fall River, MA, date of the ax murders, a pear, and fact that Lizzie Borden was indicted for murder but acquited

A couple of photographs of Lizzie. She had light brown hair and very pale grey eyes.two photographs of Lizzie Borden suspected of killing her parents with an ax in Fall River, Massachusetts, on August 4, 1892

Andrew Borden was a furniture maker. He was well-off financially, thrifty by nature. Some would say stingy. (His house lacked many of the modern conveniences enjoyed by his neighbors.)

Borden was widowed in 1863. He married Abby Durfee Gray in 1865. Some accounts say Lizzie disliked her stepmother, other accounts dispute this. It seems likely the truth has become distorted over the years, colored by the murders and subsequent speculation.

Below: Andrew Borden, Lizzie’s stepmother Abby Borden, and the Borden House as it looked at the time of the murders in 1892. (Today, it’s a bed & breakfast, complete with museum and Gift Shop Of Horrors.)

photos of Lizzie Borden's parents, her father Andrew Borden and her stepmother Abby Borden and photo of Borden House at 92 Second Street in year 1892

I found the following photo on Tattered Fabric, a blog devoted to All Things Lizzie. According to the post, the photo was taken by a guest at the Lizzie Borden B & B.

That’s Lizzie Borden’s actual “footstone.” The entire Borden Family is buried together in Oak Grove Cemetery in Fall River, MA. Lizzie began calling herself Lizbeth later in life. According to Lizzie Borden: Warps & Wefts, another Lizzie blog, the doll itself was purchased on eBay by a “Lizziana” collector.

gag photo showing a little Lizzie Borden doll with an ax standing next to Lizzie Borden's grave in Fall River, Massachusetts

The Lizzie Borden Case confirms a sad truth we all know and fear: once you’re accused of a lurid crime and become a cause célèbre, it doesn’t matter whether you’re guilty or innocent. You will be convicted by the press and the court of public opinion. Your life will never be the same.

The Chad Mitchell Trio was one of the very best folk groups of the early 60s. They never received the acclaim they deserved. Lizzie Borden was one of their funniest songs. I’ll leave you with this YouTube clip which features their live recording, along with some very droll homemade visuals.blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

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What do you think?  Were you familiar with Lizzie Borden? Ever used that old “I was eating pears at the time” excuse? Is getting caricatured by Mark Armstrong the unkindest cut of all?? Hope you’ll leave a comment.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to subscribe. You can leave a comment and click the box that says Notify me of new posts via email, click the Subscribe button below the Portfolio Thumbnails, or just click + Follow in the blog menu bar.blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

Other Posts You Might Enjoy:

Leaves Of Grass, A Fistful Of Dollars & Do You Feel Lucky, Punk??

How Honey Ryder And The Prisoner Wound Up In Wyatt Earp’s Mustache

Birthday Tribute: Monkee Meets Blonde, Gets Vertigo, Goes Gothicfooter for all future blog posts showing picture of blog author Mark Armstrong, along with short bio and contact information

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17 Comments leave one →
  1. July 20, 2012 4:11 PM

    You offer some compelling information, Mark. But, you forgot the most telling fact of that day: Dad was heard saying, just before the slaying, “Now, Lizzie, cut that out.” (As always, love your cartoons. Also the Lizzie doll and the song.)


    • July 23, 2012 10:05 AM

      Poor Dad! An unfortunate choice of words. There’s a lesson there: we should all think twice before making, er, cutting remarks… : P

      Ha! Thanks so much, Judy. I always appreciate your sharp wit, honed to a fine edge. Glad you enjoyed the post, and I sincerely appreciate your kind comment and support! : )


  2. July 20, 2012 5:28 PM

    Great song Mark. Being an Aussie this story is known to me/us, however I’ve never heard an Aussie remark “I was eating pears at the time”… or maybe I just haven’t travelled in those circles… (Must add: Haven’t heard ‘anyone’ use that phrase!)

    Regardless though; I agree. Seems the mud sticks whether or not!!!

    Love your caricatures Mark; you are so very talented…


    • July 23, 2012 10:19 AM

      Hi, Carolyn! I’ve never heard anyone use the “eating pears” alibi, either. However, I plan to start using it myself. I’m a guy who always needs an alibi, and “I was up in the hayloft eating pears” sounds so plausible, really… right!! : )

      Always delightful to see you here, and thanks so much for throwing that very complimentary mud my way– SPLAT! Gee, I hope it sticks!! : )


  3. July 21, 2012 1:22 PM

    Sir, that you are a talented illustrator is not in dispute. But a burr crawls up my butt every time I read an article or blog or illustration of our infamous Lizzie Borden referencing the axe. It was not an axe, good Sir, it was a hatchet. Perhaps this blog post might help:

    -Faye Musselman
    Tattered Fabric blogger and Borden case scholar


    • July 23, 2012 10:52 AM

      Hi Faye, many thanks for your comment, very glad to have your input. Sorry about that burr– it sounds like a very uncomfortable situation… : )

      True, I did use the word ax (both ax and axe are correct spellings) so I could make a cheap pun– guilty as charged! : (

      However, it’s interesting: based on everything I read about the case, one can’t say for sure whether the murder weapon was an ax or a hatchet. Why? Because during Lizzie’s trial, the prosecution failed to prove that the police had found the actual murder weapon. They apparently found the head of either an ax or hatchet, but most of the handle was missing. There was no blood on the piece they did find, and there was conflicting testimony about its discovery.

      I’ll admit that a hatchet (short handle) seems more likely than an ax (long handle) as the murder weapon, but it appears we can only speculate on that point.

      Many thanks for stopping by!


  4. July 23, 2012 12:08 PM

    Mark, great work, the drawing and the writing. I hope to see more posts and pics of infamous folks.

    I have never heard anyone use the eating pears excuse, but I will steal it from you and use it myself now when I get caught burning a dress in my stove.

    I have a small library of books on evildoers, and get really annoyed when people don’t know the difference between a “serial killer” or a “spree killer.” Maybe I should just find a less macabre hobby. Liking blogging maybe!

    Anyhoo, enjoyed the read. You have a new follower.


    • July 24, 2012 9:29 AM

      Thanks Julie, your very witty comment really made me laugh. Delighted to have you as a follower– welcome!

      Don’t think I know anyone else with an evildoers hobby, but if you’re looking for the macabre and the infamous, you couldn’t have signed on to a better blog… : P

      Agreed: the eating pears excuse is too good not to use. And I think the stains on my shirt would give it extra credibility… : (

      Very happy you enjoyed the post, great to have you here! : )


  5. July 23, 2012 3:19 PM

    To me the fact that it was in Fall River causes it to make sense. Fall River is part of the Bridgewater Triangle and more awful things have happened there than anywhere else I know of!


    • July 24, 2012 9:37 AM

      Good Heavens! I’d never heard of the Bridgewater Triangle. As usual, Amelie, you are a font of information!!

      I just googled the BT, and I see that its attractions include UFOs, Bigfoot, pterodactyls with 8-12 foot wingspans, mysterious lights, murders, tombs, satanic rituals, Indian curses, and ghosts. That does it– I’m definitely going there for my next vacation!! : P

      Many thanks for the very intriguing feedback! : )


      • July 24, 2012 10:30 AM

        There’s also a pet cemetery and disappearing hitchhikers. Stephen King would be proud.


  6. August 9, 2012 7:51 PM

    WOW! What a story, Mark! I didn’t know her and never heard about her. Thanks for sharing it and the links of the story.

    I wonder why didn’t you use a pear shape for the birthday cake? 😀


    • August 10, 2012 6:34 PM

      A pear-shaped cake– of course!!! Arrgghh! Why didn’t I think of that?? Then I could have included one of your great pear recipes!!

      Oh, well. I’ll try to be more imaginative the next time I do a post about hatchet murders… : P

      Thanks, Inge! : )


      • August 10, 2012 7:36 PM

        WOW! It’s an honour to me if you’d like to use one my photos. You are free and welcome to use it!

        Yes, you should use my baked pear recipe for this cartoon, LOL.


  7. November 6, 2012 3:07 PM

    I wonder what really happened. . . I see that Lizzie only has one footstone, I wonder if that means her father and mother have 20 each? I didn’t realize Lizzie’s alibi was that she was eating pears. Well, apparently that’s as good of an alibi as any. Thought she might have seem more wholesome if she would have been eating apples. But then, she got off so I guess it doesn’t really matter now. How interesting the Lizzie’s stepmother looked just like she did! And I think you really cut Lizzie some slack on this one, Mark! 😀


    • November 8, 2012 2:27 PM

      20 footstones each– woof! There’s a great cartoon in there somewhere– maybe a tour guide in the Fall River Cemetery, saying: “And Lizzie’s father is buried here… and here… and here… and…” Poor guy!– he just went all to pieces on that fateful day… : P

      Yes, that whole pear business seems absolutely ludicrous, doesn’t it?? Apparently (ap-pear-ently??), there’s a local theater troupe called the Pear Essential Players that reenacts the crime every year at the Lizzie Borden B&B on August 4th. And I really don’t wanna know what they serve there for breakfast that morning!! : P

      Your quip about Lizzie appearing more wholesome if she’d thought to go with an “apple alibi” was very funny!!

      Thanks for hacking your way thru the post and leaving such a nice corpse– I mean, comment– on the couch! : )


      • November 9, 2012 1:48 PM

        Oh I love that tour guide idea! Yes, poor Lizzie’s dad, going all to pieces like that. I’ll bet he was totally beside himself! HA!

        The Pear Essential Players! LOL! That makes me want to plan my next vacation there just so I can see them. And what do they serve for breakfast I wonder? Anyway it sounds like a lot of fun anyway you slice it. 😀


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