Lizzie Borden, the Girl Detective of Fall River sends her holiday greetings:
“Thanksgiving is upon us again, and the Borden family is preparing for its annual feast. Grandfather Abraham will lord over our table, bestowing bounty in the form of a plump turkey carved with excellent cutlery and accompanied by sweet pies and smashed potatoes, cranberries and sweetcorn, buttered biscuits and sausage stuffing.
“Everyone will be happy except my father, Andrew Jackson Borden, who loathes the holiday and would prefer to keep to his room if we did not insist he be present. For it is upon this day of thanks and forgiveness that a strange and disfigured army of ragamuffins appears in the streets, children sporting false faces of a terrifying aspect, and clothed in shabby habiliments to mimic the poverty-stricken classes of tramps that have terrified the streets of our nation since the great war.
“This army of grotesque celebrants masquerade as Mephistos with sneering moustaches and red linen horns, Uncle Sams on tottering stilts, John Bulls with stuffed bellies, bandits with toy pistols, pirates with eye patches and stuffed birds upon their shoulders, sailors dancing frantic horn pipes, hobos with busted hats and flapping shoes, and ruffians with cloth cudgels and mocking sneers. Noses and ears are artificially enlarged through the use of waxen gee-gaws, enhancing the distortions of the children’s faces.
“Costumes portraying historical figures from our national past are popular. Last year, as I recall, there were a few Abe Lincolns with absurdly tall hats and pasted fur beards. They lacked only that height unobtainable by those children not yet into their growing years. I also witnessed a mite-sized George Washington, brandishing a gold-plaited hatchet and searching for the elusive cherry tree which would have been, without intervention, a member of our backyard pear tree orchard.
“With the crafty use of burnt cork and mohair wigs, they have perfected their appearances and roam from door to door in their haunting masks, blowing tin trumpets and tossing confetti, demanding treats, spiced jelly gums, opera drops and hard candies from the fearful inhabitants of the houses they have targeted for extortion. They threaten invasion and sabotage if we do not supply them with the desired bounty.
“Worst of all, the more pecuniary of them ask for money, often in the form of coined specie. This is what irks my father the most, being that he is not inclined to hand out alms to the most dire of the hungry or the homeless, far less greedy children from the Highlands parading in garish costumes.
“’I must talk to the city council about this nonsense,’ he complains. ‘They must have the decency to move this practice into October so as not to stain the solemnity of our Founders’ Harvest Festival.’
“He talks of handing out tainted hard candies laced with rat poison, but I temper him and convince him that murdering children is not in the holiday spirit.
“So if you have a Ragamuffin Day in your neighborhood, barricade your doors, close your window shades, and enjoy your Thanksgiving meal in peace. Think on our ancestors huddled on that rugged shore of New England and what they endured for our benefit. Do not let an army of hoodlums invade your domestic peace and tranquility.
“Happy Holiday from the Borden Family!”
Grand Old Fall River, 1876.