What do Lizzie Borden  and the Galveston Flood  (Great Storm, Galveston Hurricane, and any other alternate title) have in common? Of all the things I could focus on this week, those are the two that stuck in my mind, and it wasn’t because of personal fascination. Collectors frequently look for things not readily available, and they request to be put on a “want” list. Sometimes we are waiting for a specific title and we contact them when one is in our possession. Other times they are looking for material related to a certain topic, which takes much more time. Ms. S will always buy things concerning South Carolina, and Mr. G is following threads of a story that spans our nation’s history. So, in every spare moment this week my desk was piled with huge volumes of pulpish papers from the year 1900. I was looking for the details as the story unfolded, and I read each in sequence in close to the way a contemporary of that disaster might have. I didn’t know much, and neither did the newspaper subscribers of the time. They, too, were scouring pages for updates, and recoiling in disgust at some of the pictures and descriptions. I read at least five portions aloud to anyone who would listen, because it seemed such a thing should not be kept to one’s self.
I’m not going to describe the bodies piled, and martial law decreed and then finally lifted. I loved reading the notices for benefits that went on for at least a full month in cities as far away as New York. There was also the funniest story about a pair of children under the age of ten who developed a racket going around posing as bedraggled twin refugees from the city of Galveston. It seems many a kindhearted housewife bathed and fed them before realizing herself to be the victim of a scam.
And Lizzie Borden’s story is not much like the Alfred Hitchcock  Presents version I was introduced to in midnight reruns during a childhood sleepover. Most people believed her innocent, according to news reports. The earliest police statements were adamant that there could not have been only one killer at work. There was also a credible confession of guilt by a male neighbor who turned himself in.
Often it is this way; complex pictures emerge as I pull reports to fill requests.
This week I learned to follow the sequence, uncovering a fuller story with each new dateline. There’s a moral in this aspect of things, if I can only pause long enough to ponder it…