The Gulf of Maine Resources

May 27-October 16, 2022

The Gulf of Maine exhibit, created by the Searsport District High School Fall 2021 Marine Science Students, complements the artifacts and stories of the Gone Fishing exhibit in Old Town Hall. It identifies six current issues in the Gulf of Maine, including bycatch, sharks, green crabs, and the impact of warming waters.

Photography Collection Overview

May 27-October 16, 2022

The foyer of the Stephen Phillips Memorial Library offers an overview of the major photography collections and photographers with biographies, examples of work, and related ephemera. A large digital display features a rotating slideshow showing highlights from the archive. On weekdays, visitors are welcomed into the photo archives where there are additional displays, and they can observe and interact with staff and volunteers.

At Home, At Sea: Searsport’s Maritime Stories

New Permanent Exhibit

At Home, At Sea: Searsport’s Maritime Stories is a new permanent exhibit opening in 2022. The exhibit explores the many ways Searsport families connected with the sea—including those who maintained Searsport as their homeport, those engaged in the shipping industry, and those who took their families to sea. It shows how families at sea remained connected to loved ones back home, how the Searsport community experienced loss and misfortune as well as miraculous rescues, and how the crew aboard ship lived and worked. The exhibit uses objects, photographs, archives, and family stories from the Museum’s collection to tell these stories. At Home, At Sea has been funded in part by grants from the Morton Kelly Charitable Trust, Margaret E. Burnham Charitable Trust, and Frances R. Dewing Foundation, and through gifts from the many Searsport sea captains’ descendants committed to telling this story.

Picturing Penobscot Bay

May 27-October 16, 2022

Blue Bottom, oil on canvas by Colin Page

Picturing Penobscot Bay, guest curated by Carl Little, will feature around 40 works of art that share a strong connection to — and/or vision of — Penobscot Bay. Featured artists are Nancy Morgan Barnes, M. J. Bronstein, Molly Brown, David Dewey, Gregory Dunham, Sarah Faragher, Anina Porter Fuller, Brita Holmquist, Eric Hopkins, Jill Hoy, Scott Moore, Colin Page, Stefan Pastuhov, and Robert Pollien. Along with contemporary works, Picturing Penobscot Bay will also include a selection of historical paintings related to Penobscot Bay from the Museum’s collection. Historical artists include Waldo Peirce, Percy Sanborn, Dolly Smith, William Pierce Stubbs, Paul Stubing, and George Wasson.

Kosti Ruohomaa: The Maine Assignments

May 27-October 16, 2022

An LL Bean worker trims a hunting boot under the watchful eyes of a moose mount. 1952 LB2017.19.41330. Photo by Kosti Ruohomaa, Black Star©

Kosti Ruohomaa: The Maine Assignments explores the ways that Mainers lived, celebrated, made their livings, recreated, and communicated. While many of Ruohomaa’s most iconic images stand on their own, he approached his assignments with a photo essay in mind – telling the story through a series of photographs. This exhibit embraces that approach and presents his assignments through the eye of a magazine editor. It allows a deeper look at Ruohomaa’s work and technique and helps viewers gain more insight into the man and his photographs. Kosti Ruohomaa: The Maine Assignments has been funded in part by generous support from lead sponsor L.L. Bean, and Camden National Wealth Management and Allen Insurance and Financial.

Up River: Selections from the Captain Bill Abbott Collection

May 27-October 16, 2022

Crews of Ross tugboats BISMARCK and WALTER ROSS on Lobster Claw Wharf at Fort Point, Stockton Springs. Captain William Abbott Collection, LB2014.7.33

Capt. Abbott was an avid collector of photographs; PMM’s new exhibit, Up River: Selections from the Captain Bill Abbott Collection picks out some highlights from this archive. When Capt. Abbott passed away in 2014, he left Penobscot Marine Museum his treasured collection, where it is being digitized and preserved.

This exhibit was generously funded by lead donor Wayne Hamilton, as well as Mr. and Mrs. E. Vance Bunker, Captain Almer and Linda Dinsmore, Captain David Gelinas, Penobscot Bay & River Pilots Association, Penobscot Bay Tractor Tug Company, Captain Prentice Strong, and Captain Duke Tomlin.

Everything old is new again…

By Cipperly Good, the Richard Saltonstall Jr. Curator of Maritime History

The sea chantey is the moment’s hottest fad on TikTok, a social media platform dedicated to song and dance. The chantey is meant to be bellowed six feet apart and to bring disparate work crews from many different nationalities, ethnicities, and socio-economic backgrounds into alignment to “pull together” towards a common purpose. In the nineteenth century, it got sailing, fishing, and railroad crews to act as a unified force of effort. Today, the chantey allows us to raucously sing together in call and response, albeit remotely, into the isolation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, a tense presidential transfer of power, a racial reckoning, and seasonal affective disorder.

Although sea chanteys are an oral tradition that allowed the chanteyman to adapt the words to include inside jokes only the crew understood and pointed references to the bully mate or captain in coded language, some intrepid collectors copied down their favorite versions. Luckily for us at Penobscot Marine Museum (PMM), our very own Joanna Carver Colcord (1882-1960), a Searsport Sea Captain’s daughter and founding member of PMM, was one such compiler. In her foreword to Roll and Go: Songs of American Sailormen, written in 1924, she writes:

The following examples of these work-songs of the sea are drawn in part from my own memories of years spent on blue water under sail from 1890 to 1899, mostly on voyages between New York and various ports in the China Sea. In part, they are songs learned from my father, who loved them and sang them well, and whose seagoing began about the year 1874. This makes my versions of the songs later than the “classical” period of shanty-singing, which extended from about 1840 to the time of the Civil War. I also owe grateful acknowledgement to many shanty-singers still alive…

Shanties naturally fall into three main divisions on a scale of occupational classification: short-drag shanties [i.e. hauling sail onto top of yard], halyard shanties [i.e. raising sail], and windlass or capstan shanties [i.e.hauling up anchor]. The form of the shanty for each of these three divisions is quite different, since it is fitted to an altogether different job aboard ship. I have used this natural classification in the following pages as a means of dividing the collection into readable lengths, and also as an aid to the general reader in forming a clear conception of what the shanty stood for and how it was used.

Of course, when setting out to be the expert on a topic, there is always push back. Colcord lays out two pages of debate on the spelling of shanty versus chantey in her foreword. In our collection, we have correspondence between Colcord and Gershom Bradford on whether the song “Shenandoah” could be a halyard or capstan shanty:

PMM 29-1062, Colcord Collection

October 30, 1936
My dear Miss Colcord,
In my copy of your Roll and Go, Shenandoah is classed as a capstan shanty. I would like to ask if you ever heard it used in hoisting topsails or do you think it was ever used in that operation?
The reason I ask this is that my uncle who sailed in the Ocean Pearl in the 50’s as a seaman (later a captain in the Coast Survey) once told me the grandest music he ever heard was Shenandoah sung in gale when reefing topsails. He, or I, may not have been correct in our memories.
Just what constitutes a Sou’ Spainer? South of Spain or a real deepwaterman from around the “Capes”?I enjoyed your article in Yachting some months back.
Gershom Bradford

PMM 29-1062, Colcord Collection

November 13, 1936
My dear Mr. Bradford
I have no doubt that Shenandoah was sometimes used as a topsail halyard shanty—indeed, its form, like that of Sally Brown and Goodbye, Fare Ye Well, indicates that it probably started life in that fashion. Some chance would seem to have led these songs being more frequently used, in later years, as capstan shanties.
The term ”Sou’Spainer” was not used in American sea-jargon, at least in my day. I have run across it in Masefield, and believe it must have been a British expression. the Yankee expression for a Mediterranean voyage was ”up the Straits”; I knew of no term by which the vessel or the seaman habitually in that trade was described….
Sincerely yours

Gershom Bradford III (1879-1978), who wrote the letter of inquiry to Joanna Colcord, was no stranger to the sea. He trained at the forerunner of the Massachusetts Maritime Academy to be a merchant marine captain, served as a bridge officer for the East Coast steamers used by the US Coast and Geodetic Survey, rose to the rank of lieutenant as a navigator in the Navy Hydrographic Office, and trained the next generation of navigators at the US Shipping Board School in Boston. Bradford was in charge of writing the Notice to Mariners, put out by the Naval Hydrographic Office to correct errors or changes on nautical charts. In his private time, Bradford published books and articles on sailing and navigation, and like Joanna, wrote about sea terms. His book was titled: The Mariner’s Dictionary: A Glossary of Sea Terms, whereas Joanna’s was Sea Language Comes Ashore. Both also published articles in The American Neptune.

His uncle, and namesake, Gershom Bradford II (1838-1918), as noted in the letter, served as a seaman on the OCEAN PEARL in the 1850s, and later as a nautical surveyor and captain in the US Coast Survey. The US Coast Survey, which was renamed the Coast and Geodetic Survey in 1878, and finally became part of NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) in 1970, surveyed and created maps for mariners. Bradford’s name shows up as the Hydrographic Inspector on nautical charts. At the time of his 1871 marriage in San Francisco to fellow Duxbury, Massachusetts native Minnie Winsor, Bradford was an assistant on the US Coast Survey schooner MARCY surveying the shoals and coastlines of the United States. Minnie joined him on the surveys aboard the MARCY and later the YUKON and PALINURUS. While government ships are not known for their sea chanteys, Bradford definitely used the work songs in his time in the merchant marine. The OCEAN PEARL mentioned in the letter could possibly be the ship built in Charlestown, Massachusetts by T. McGowan in 1853.

An Outdoor Living


It’s November, and we’re in the later part of deer hunting season in Maine. Here’s a tip of the hat to those who hunt and fish. The sporting industry is vibrant in our state, and given the millions of acres of pristine ponds, lakes, and woods here, and the endless miles of rivers and streams, it was inevitable that people with expert knowledge of these environs would create an economic niche for themselves: the Maine Guides. While people have hired these services out for two hundred years or more, Maine didn’t formalize the practice until a piece of 1897 legislation began to require registration. The first registered Maine Guide was a woman: Cornilia Thurza Crosby, known colloquially as Fly Rod, was also an early popularizer of sporting in Maine. (Wikipedia, “Maine Guides”, n.d.)


When homegrown talent Kosti Ruohomaa, who exalted Maine folk life throughout his career as a photojournalist, visited Maine Guide Ed DeMar in 1958, DeMar was an elder statesman of the profession. A native of the Rangeley Lakes region, he was intimately familiar with the woods and waters there and a born steward of wild places. As expected, he knew where to find salmon and deer, was a wily storyteller, a friend to his fellow guides and clients but also to the wardens and state wildlife professionals who sustained the regulatory boundaries he operated within.


DeMar was a longtime officer in the Rangeley Lakes Guide Association, a sort of local workers’ union for old fashioned New England conservatives. The Association established pay ranges for guides and outlined standards for working conditions. At the time, they represented around 130 guides.


His propensity for the outdoors apparently dominated his character: in the off season, he sometimes signed on with logging companies and spent his winters at lumber camps in Maine’s north woods.


Guiding almost always selected for competence. Then as now, the job required not only expertise in the wilderness, but a strong moral backbone, a quick head, a radar for danger, confidence in one’s leadership, charisma, and an unflappable sense of humor.

Their excellence garnered benefits. Their clients, known in the trade as “sports”, customarily returned to the same guide year after year, cementing long and friendly connections. They often sent gifts to their guides from back at home. They tended to be successful professionals, who didn’t mind paying $150 a day to be shown to hunting and fishing grounds or to pay the equivalent of $180 per pound for fish they caught themselves.

To all who are hunting this season: keep safe, enjoy the woods, and have fun.