Drugs, armed conflict, and free trade. Sound familiar? The First Opium War of the early 1840s, with British and Chinese fighting over the opium trade and Chinese sovereignty, opened up Chinese ports to the world. Maine’s merchant mariners aboard Maine-built ships soon thereafter entered the Chinese import and export trade. The trade aboard Maine-built ships lasted into the turn of the 20th Century. In the meantime, Maine sea captains and their families brought back souvenirs, stories, and an economic understanding of China. Presented on Thursday, May 30, 2019 by Cipperly Good, Curator of the Penobscot Marine Museum.
Thanks to a grant from the Maine Historical Records Advisory Board (MHRAB), Penobscot Marine Museum has rehoused and cataloged four collections documenting quintessential nineteenth and twentieth century Maine industries. The collections document the shipping of Maine’s natural resources, the use of Maine built ships in the global trading routes, and the evolution of Maine’s lobster boats.
The Gillchrest Collection consists of over 3,000 family letters, ship documents, and business correspondence of Captain Levi Gillchrest, a Thomaston, Maine merchant mariner, spanning from 1826 to 1877, involving the shipping of Maine lime and timber around the globe. The Gillchrest Collection is a gift of Renny and Julie Stackpole.
The Richard Lunt Collection documents the lobster boat builders in Mount Desert and Jonesport/Beals, from 1880-1989, and explores the regional origins and early evolution of the Maine lobster boat that led to the design differences between the Jonesport-style, Mount Desert Island, and Casco Bay lobster boats of today. The Richard Lunt Collections is a gift of Richard Lunt.
The Whitcomb, Haynes & Whitney Business Records provide insight into the day to day business of an Ellsworth, Maine lumber and shipping business from 1873-1929. The Whitcomb, Haynes, & Whitney Business Records are a gift from Marc S. Blanchette.
The Samuel F. Manning Illustration Collection archives the illustrations of Camden, Maine illustrator Samuel F. Manning, from 1970 to 2017, on subjects ranging from ship and boat building, to coastal and deep sea shipping, to Maine town histories. The Samuel F. Manning Illustration Collection is a gift of Samuel F. Manning.
To access these collections, and the rest of the maritime history and genealogical archival records of the Penobscot Marine Museum, please contact Cipperly Good, Curator/Collections Manager at email@example.com or 207-548-2529×212.
About Penobscot Marine Museum
Penobscot Marine Museum brings Maine’s maritime history to life on a campus of beautiful historic buildings in the charming seacoast village of Searsport, Maine. Exhibits include hands-on activities for children and adults, as well as a ship captain’s house, marine paintings, scrimshaw, 19th century Chinese and Japanese pottery, boat models, historic Maine boats, a fisheries exhibit, and an heirloom garden. The Museum has over 200,000 historic photographs, and a maritime history research library. Museum offices and research library are open year round. Exhibits are open seven days a week, Memorial Day weekend through the third Sunday in October. PMM’s Visitors Center is located at 40 E. Main Street, Searsport, Maine. For more information call 207-548-2529.
By David Ruberti
I have just finished another one of our small photo collections to add to our on-line database. Not only does this chronicle the photographer’s family but his home, the town of Searsport, where I work and many of you live, and its sea-going families. This is a collection of 400 images by amateur photographer Frederick Ross Sweetser who was born in Searsport, Maine on May 15, 1853, the son of Capt. Jeremiah and Susan (French) Sweetser. In his youth he accompanied his father on long sea voyages. His first music lessons were in Holland and very early in his life he showed a very decided talent for music and it became his life’s work. For 44 years he taught at Boxwood Manor, a school for young ladies in Old Lyme, Conn.
He accompanied innumerable church and concert singers. He numbered among his friends many of the high-ups in musical, literary and theatrical circles. He enjoyed a lifelong friendship with the famous opera star Anna Louise Cary.
He was exceedingly fond of his native town and when vacation time came, he never failed to come back to Searsport, where he spent many happy summers at the old homestead, a dignified old Colonial brick house set picturesquely on a hill back from Main Street.
When at home in the summer he took an active part in the musical life of the town and often put on operas and other musical entertainments for the benefit of various organizations. In 1918 he retired to spend the remainder of his life in Searsport. He organized a large piano class in Belfast, where he had a studio, usually returning to Searsport on the weekends.
His sister, Jane “Jennie” Sweetser married the noted merchant ship captain Lincoln Alden Colcord, who sailed from Searsport on numerous ships over his lifetime of going to sea. Capt. Colcord and his wife Jane embarked on a three-year voyage aboard the sailing vessel Charlotte A. Littlefield on their wedding night, June 4, 1881.
They were the parents of noted writer and journalist Lincoln Ross Colcord, and pioneering social worker and writer Joanna Carver Colcord, both of which were born at sea aboard the Charlotte Littlefield.
It is assumed that “Frank” Sweetser’s niece, Joanna acquired her love of photography from her uncle. The Joanna Colcord collection at the museum consists of 700 glass plate negatives, an annotated scrapbook of her own photos, and postcards of the places she visited in her travels.
Sweetser died on April 15, 1924 and his funeral was held at the First Congregational Church here in Searsport.
Penobscot Marine Museum has teamed up with the Belfast Free Library to answer this year’s Camden Conference question: “Is This China’s Century”. The Camden Conference is an annual conference that fosters “informed discourse on world issues” and this year it runs from February 22-24, 2019. As a lead-up to the main event, the Camden Conference sponsors satellite events around the state of Maine. In December, PMM Curator Cipperly Good gave a talk to audiences at Belfast Free Library arguing that the Nineteenth Century was in fact China’s Century. Our second collaboration with the Library is an exhibit of color prints depicting Chinese daily life from the early 1900s. The exhibit is on view now until the end of February, 2019.
These prints made from color transparencies, provide a glimpse into the lives of the Chinese aboard watercraft, a means for fishing, transportation, and housing. By 1900, China had transitioned from a feudal agrarian economy that resisted foreign commerce to one that embraced the global economy of imports and exports. A society kept hidden by centralized government with strict laws against foreign visitation was now open to the overtly pointed lens of the camera.
So how did Maine and China interact in the Nineteenth Century? Penobscot Bay captains entered the China Trade in the 1840s. The First Opium War of 1844 opened up five treaty ports in China to foreign trade. The Second Opium War of 1858 cracked open more coastal treaty ports and the inland rivers. The sailing ship captains of Maine engaged in the trade until the first decade of the 1900s. The American sailing cargo ship trade failed as foreign steamships took control from the American Merchant Marine, which failed to make the transition to steam early enough to remain competitive.
Captain Brown acquired these color transparencies of Hong Kong and Mainland China and gave them to Joanna Carver Colcord. Joanna, born at sea and raised on her father’s merchant marine ships, came from a long line of Searsport sea captains. The family made three voyages to Hong Kong, in 1890, 1892, and 1899.
By PMM Volunteer David Ruberti
Sometimes one of our small collections can be one of our most interesting. We have recently added one of those to our on-line database. The photographs were donated by the great-grandchildren of the man from Belfast who is the subject of the collection:
He was born in Lincoln in 1853 and as a young man he farmed, went to sea and was a general laborer on the railroad after moving to Belfast. With his savings, he started a company to manufacture carriages where he was manufacturing as many as 300 carriages per year and doing $36,000 a year in business, a remarkable amount in a small town. With the money he made on that enterprise, he invested in Dana’s Sarsaparilla as one of the owners and the manager. Later he managed the Nutriola Co. of Chicago and was indicted in the US courts on several counts for sending obscene matter through the mails, and was sentenced to one year in Joliet penitentiary and fined $5000. The conviction was later overturned as having no merit by The U. S. Circuit court of Appeals in Chicago.
He was the director of People’s National Bank and president of the Belfast & Moosehead Lake Railroad. As a man who was always on the hunt for financial advance he invested in the Eastern Importing & Breeding Company which imported Belgian hares and was also an investor in the Petit Manan Island land development company.
In politics, he was a lifelong Democrat and, as such, served 10 terms as Belfast’s mayor as well as a state senator. Also, as a democrat he was diametrically opposed to Charles Pilsbury and his “Republican Journal” which encouraged him to found the “Waldo County Herald” which was to have been more politically neutral but quickly devolved into partisan politics with a decidedly Democratic bent.
He brought Herman Cassens to Belfast to take a job with his Cream Publishing Co. that published the magazine “Cream”, which was published from 1897 to 1898. Cassens eventually married his daughter Lillian. With his financial aid, Cassens founded, the Eastern Illustrating & Publishing Co. in 1909, and later worked at the Waldo County Herald where his father-in-law was editor and publisher.
He was a principal shareholder at Maple Grove Campmeeting on Cain’s Pond in Searsport where he was also a frequent preacher. For the first 23 years of his life Edgar attended numerous Spiritualist meetings but later, he had an epiphany, in which he saw Spiritualism as the Devil’s trickery and published Demonology or Spiritualism.
He retired to Florida but soon became a land developer as the Square Deal & Development Company and became the owner and developer of the largest avocado grove in the world. It was a square mile in size and located west of Miami. It was destroyed in two separate hurricanes in 1926 and 1928. He passed away in 1933 at the age of 80 and is now a permanent resident of the Smart Cemetery in East Belfast.
He was Edgar Filmore Hanson aka The “Man from Maine”!
Visit our on-line database and see this fascinating local character through the photographs from his family albums. A big thanks to Edgar’s great grandson Mike Hanson or sharing this wonderful collection!
Gene Dalrymple would probably not be considered a native by some people’s reckoning, but his 97-year association with Marshall Point in Port Clyde, Maine, makes him a local by ours. Dalrymple grew up outside of Boston, but his maternal grandfather was the last keeper at Marshall Point Light during the US Lighthouse Service era; his tenure there (July 1874 to May 1919) was the longest in the history of the Service. Dalrymple’s mother was born in the lighthouse; his family were at home when the original mortared stone keeper’s house was struck by lightning in 1895 (there were no casualties but the building itself, which had to be replaced).
Gene himself was born in the cottage pictured above, which was built on land his grandfather bought on the Point. He travelled with his mother by steamer from Boston each summer to spend the warm months at Port Clyde. A historian by nature, Gene has an ear for stories and a keen interest in the people around him. Throughout his adulthood, as a dentist whose primary residence was in Camden, Dalrymple continued to return to this peninsula, a working port and a summer haunt for many, including luminaries such as the three generations of painterly Wyeths. Dave Lowell, a former Tenants Harbor resident and a friend of PMM’s, made Gene’s acquaintance over a period of years; he encouraged a meeting, knowing that our photography holdings included a generous lode of old Port Clyde images. Since many of our images are undescribed, we jumped at the chance to hear more about this richly-storied place. Starting in 2013, with Gene’s guidance and with the enthusiastic participation of several other local elders, we began to piece together a narrative.
The effort has brought us to the point of planning a Port Clyde photo book. The book will include wide views of the harbor with labels identifying historic homes and businesses, street scenes, photos of local buildings—homes, hotels, businesses which are local landmarks or are no longer standing—and waterfront views. Its captions will recall a thriving center of commerce and the characters who made the place lively and memorable. There’s still a lot of work to do, including further interviews with additional sources. As Gene exhorts us, “This thing has got to be 110% right”. We agree. The prospect of revealing this world before it succumbs to the blurring of time excites us. Stay tuned.
Kosti Comes Home is on exhibit at Penobscot Marine Museum May 26 to October 21, 2018. This exhibit is part of our regular admission and is available Monday through Friday 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, except for holidays. Please call 207-545-2529 for weekend and holiday hours.
The archive of negatives, contact sheets, and prints of Rockland, Maine photographer, Kosti Ruohomaa, have come home to Maine as the newest addition to the photography holdings of the Penobscot Marine Museum. The collection was recently donated to the PMM by Black Star of New York, Ruohomaa’s photography agency, and consists of thousands of medium and large format negatives, 35 mm negatives and slides, as well as contact sheets and vintage prints.
During the age of the photo magazine, Kosti was a rock star in the photography world. His photographs graced the cover of Life Magazine numerous times. Other major magazines such as Look, National Geographic, and Life used his photos regularly. He moved to Dodge Mountain in Rockland at the age of 13, where his family had a blueberry farm. He discovered his love for photography in the 1930s while working as a cartoonist for Disney. During the 1940s and 50s, his career blossomed. While he photographed around the world, Maine was his favorite subject, both the people and land. He died prematurely in 1961 at the age of 47.
Kosti was a storyteller with a camera. He captured the spirit and culture of Maine through its people and landscape like few other photographers have ever done. Howard Chapnick, who headed the Black Star photo agency for which Ruohomaa shot many of his images, once said, “The word [‘artist’] is thrown around with gay abandon in photography: ‘This picture looks like a Rembrandt, this one like a Renoir.’ Kosti’s photographs do not have to be compared to the work of painters. A Ruohomaa picture looks like a Ruohomaa!” His work has been the subject of exhibits at the Farnsworth and the Maine State museum. A biography, Kosti Ruohomaa: The Photograher Poet, by Deanna Bonner-Ganter was published by Downeast Books in 2016 and a portfolio of his work, Night Train at Wiscasset Station by Lew Dietz came out in 1977. His photographs are iconic and familiar, especially in Maine.
The Kosti collection is a remarkable resource on several levels. While his published work is fairly well known, it represents less than 10% of the photographs he made. The rest of his photographs have never been seen by the general public. He worked on hundreds of assignments, and each is represented in the collection in separate envelopes which contain the negatives, Kosti’s write-ups on the shoot, and contact sheets with selected images marked with wax pencil. It’s an amazing backstage look at the photo magazine work process. Kosti was vocal in his write-ups as to his opinion on selects and cropping. He had clear ideas of what he was going for in a shoot, and a study of the contact sheets shows how he went about realizing his vision and his method of approaching a photo story. More than a third of his assignments were Maine-based.
The Penobscot Marine Museum is thrilled to be entrusted with this Maine treasure. We will begin a search for funding that will cover the costs to catalog, re-house and digitize the collection. It will be ultimately be made available to browse for free in the museum’s online database. Kosti’s cousin, Janice Lachance, said “Kosti would be very happy to know his photographs have returned to Maine.”
What inspires model makers to create miniature versions of watercraft? Penobscot Marine Museum will explore this question through the 2018 exhibit Sailing Small: Small Boats, Big Ideas. Using objects, photographs, and primary source audio, visual, and written accounts, the exhibit will spotlight Maine model makers.
Models, and the inspiration to build them, range from the practical to the whimsical. Sailing Small: Small Boats, Big Ideas will showcase key models from the Museum’s collection. Master shipbuilders and designers create models to test design theories, test out buoyancy and load limits, and to build the full-size watercraft. Prisoners of war with no other outlet for their creativity built models from any materials at hand, including soup bones as in the case of French prisoners-of-war during the 1810s. Nostalgia and pride for a beloved watercraft led many sea captains or ship owner to build or commission the building of a ship model long after the original craft met its end. Models inspire great thinkers, like Buckminster Fuller, to ponder how we humans design functional objects to harness the power of nature to our advantage.
The exhibit’s model-making shop, filled with Burt Libby’s tools and his series of canoes showing the progression of model-making steps and interviews with other model makers, provides visitors with a look into the craft of model-making. The photographs and rowboat models of Elmer Montgomery of Rockland, Maine document the working waterfront of the 1940s that is slowly fading from view with the advent of gasoline and diesel engines. Elmer Montgomery’s models inspired Harold “Dynamite” Payson of South Thomaston, Maine to build his own models, that eventually became a business with model-making books, plans, patterns and model components that have in turn inspired this generation of model-makers. An accompanying speaker’s series will invite current model-makers to share what inspires them to build in miniature.
Daily and special programming will allow the visitor to transition from an observer of inspiration to becoming the source of inspiration. Visitors will have the opportunity to build a model, test it out in our model pond, and take it home. In addition to testing out their own models, visitors can test out remote control boats and race our fleet of sailboats.
Sailing Small: Small Boats, Big Ideas runs May 26 through October 21, 2018 throughout the Penobscot Marine Museum campus.
American Marine Model Gallery
Bank of America
Cold Mountain Builders
Hewes & Company, Inc.
Fiddleheads Artisan Supply
Front Street Shipyard
Otis Enterprises Marine
Rockland Post and Beam
Seaworthy Small Ships
Town of Searsport
Our May 2018 newsletter is online. Read it here.
Penobscot Marine Museum, a history and arts museum with nationally-recognized collections, announced today that the Board of Trustees elected Karen E. Smith, Ph.D., as Executive Director effective April 19, 2018. Smith will join the Museum from the Cedar Falls Historical Society, where she served as Executive Director for six years.
“After a thorough and deliberate national search process, the Board of Trustees is delighted that Karen will lead our cherished Museum as we adapt to changing interests and needs of our visitors, and to rapid advancements in technology that can enhance public access to our nationally-recognized collections,” said Stephen J. Tall, President of the Board of Trustees. “Karen brings many years’ experience successfully growing the Cedar Falls Historical Society, when it had opportunities and challenges similar to ours. I am confident Karen is the right person at the right time to take the helm and lead our crew.”
While at the Cedar Falls Historical Society, Smith led work to define the society’s strategic vision, developed new public programs, built partnerships with other community organizations, created more hands-on opportunities, and refreshed their brand and marketing. As a result, visitorship increased from 6,400 in 2012 to over 14,400 in 2017.
“I am excited about this opportunity to lead the Penobscot Marine Museum and to further its dynamic, interdisciplinary approach,” said Karen Smith. “I am impressed by the many different ways the Museum preserves and interprets the Penobscot Bay region’s rich marine history throughout its campus and beyond—from its maritime painting and photography collections to its historic sea captain’s house and hands-on learning for all ages. I look forward to working with Stephen and the entire Board, the Museum staff and volunteers, and to becoming a part of the community in the coming months.”
Prior to joining the Historical Society, Smith worked at the Iowa Governor’s Residence as a curatorial research assistant, and the Old Capitol Museum and the Obermann Center, also in Iowa. She previously was a college instructor in writing and rhetoric, and was a volunteer manager and coordinator for a large social services agency. Smith obtained her doctorate in American Studies from the University of Iowa in 2011. She has a B.A. in English from Earlham College in Indiana. Smith grew up in Marion, MA and has family in Maine and New England.
“After considering dozens of candidates from across the country, and giving careful thought to the needs of the Museum, we interviewed and vetted seven highly qualified museum professionals,” said Dianne Smith, trustee and chair of the search committee. “We were fortunate to have a very strong pool of candidates, a testament to the appeal of the region and Searsport, and the significant potential of the Museum to be a world-class institution.”
Penobscot Marine Museum is the oldest maritime museum in Maine. With twelve historic buildings, including a ship captain’s home, housed on its Searsport campus, Penobscot Marine brings Maine maritime history to life. Exhibits include hands-on activities for children and adults, marine paintings, scrimshaw, 19th century Chinese and Japanese pottery, paintings and textiles, historic Maine boats, a fisheries exhibit, and an heirloom vegetable garden. The Museum has over 200,000 historic photographs, and a maritime history research library. This summer’s exhibit will focus on ship models and their uses. A model pond will provide opportunities to sail and race models. Check the website for daily activities and events. The Museum is open seven days a week, Memorial Day weekend through the third weekend in October. PMM’s Visitor Center is located at 2 Church Street in Searsport, Maine. For more information call the Visitors Center 207-548-0334 or Administrative Offices at 207-548-2529.