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.
Video by George Kerper
The Anne Bray Memorial Sailing Fund is a scholarship set up by friends of Anne Bray, who died in March 2018. Anne was a tireless volunteer for Penobscot Marine Museum, and a passionate keeper of the flame of Maine’s Maritime History. She was the founding research director, and librarian, for the WoodenBoat library at WoodenBoat Publications in Brooklin, Maine.
The Anne Bray Memorial Sailing Fund will enable enrollment of a deserving young person between the ages of 16 and 21 in one of the WoodenBoat School’s one-week sailing courses. This will be offered annually for as many seasons as possible. Applicants will be reviewed, and one will be selected each year at least a month beforehand.
Donations in support of this endeavor may be mailed to: The Anne Bray Memorial Sailing Fund, Penobscot Marine Museum, P.O. Box 498, Searsport, ME 04974. Please make checks payable to Penobscot Marine Museum with a memo that the donation is for the Anne Bray Memorial Sailing Fund.
Interested applicants should contact Giffy Full, 99 Naskeag Pt. Rd., Brooklin, ME 04616 to express their interest and tell a bit about themselves. Giffy may also be reached at (207)-266-1243.
Penobscot Marine Museum presents Cooking with Sea Veggies with Micah Woodcock of Atlantic Holdfast Seaweed Company on Saturday, January 20, 2018, at 2:00 p.m. Attendees will explore the culinary possibilities of Maine’s native sea vegetables and will prepare several dishes using local seaweed. The program is free and open to the public. This free presentation will take place on the Penobscot Marine Museum campus.
Cooking with Sea Veggies continues the conversation begun last summer at Maine Marine Fare about what we take from and eat from the sea off the Maine coast. Woodcock will work with participants to distinguish different seaweed and to learn the uses of each as well as how the seaweeds are harvested, and their culinary, ecological, and economic importance.
Micah Woodcock is the owner/operator of Atlantic Holdfast Seaweed Company, a small business working to sustainably hand-harvest sea vegetables in Penobscot Bay since 2010. Woodcock’s harvesting operation is based on a remote island 7 miles off of Stonington, where the strong currents, active surf, and full exposure to the force of the open ocean have allowed these seaweeds to thrive for millennia.
For more information or to reserve your space, please call Penobscot Marine Museum at 207-548-2529.
by Deborah Nowers
This is my pitch for the library. We received a request for information on Joseph Blanchard Ames who was the grandfather or great-grandfather of the requester’s grandmother Marie Donaldson Ames. He requested genealogy of Joseph Blanchard Ames in order to determine how the family got from Marshfield, MA to Maine.
Using the FindAGrave website, one of my colleagues found that Joseph Blanchard Ames was the father of Marie Donaldson Ames. Joseph was born in Searsport on January 30, 1846–that was the Maine connection—and died in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1915. His parents were Elisha Ames born in Marshfield, Massachusetts and Orilla B. (Parker) Ames born 12 August 1823 in Maine (town unknown). He speculated that the parents had lived in Maine at some time and then moved to Massachusetts. That was as far as he got before he ran out of time.
The research question became, “Why was Joseph born in Searsport?” Information on the internet provided no help. Because I knew there was an Ames family on Islesboro, I looked there. First searching the library’s copy of John Pendleton Farrow’s History of Islesborough., Maine. The Ames family came from Marshfield, Massachusetts, so probably relatives, but Elisha was not included. Since Joseph was reportedly born in Searsport, I next checked the published vital records in the reading room. It did not include a record of his birth. I had reached a dead end on Ames.
I then decided to search for his mother, since she was the one born in Maine. I hoped her uncommon first name—Orilla—would help. I went back to Searsport. There was no listing for Orilla B. Parker in the index, but Orilla B. Park was there. There was just one entry, in the Church Members in Searsport, “Orilla B. Park Dist [dismissed] to Mt. Vernon Chh Boston Aug. 25, 1844.” Because Searsport was incorporated after Orilla’s birth, I then searched in Prospect, Searsport’s mother town. And there she was in the published Vital Records, “Orilla B. daughter of Mr. Joseph & Mrs. Catherine Park born Augt. 17th 1824.” The transcription on FindAGrave had a different last name and birth date, but with no photograph of the stone it is unclear where the error lies. Joseph and Catherine’s marriage record in Prospect gives her maiden name Griffin.
From the records, we can make a narrative. Orilla B. Park was born in Prospect to Joseph and Catherine (Griffin) Park. The family likely lived on the west side of Prospect that became part of Searsport. Orilla was a member of the Church in Searsport when she was dismissed to the Mt. Vernon Church in Boston in 1844. The next year on April 3, 1845, she married Elisha Ames in Boston. It is likely that she was with or went home to her mother to have her baby Joseph Blanchard in January 1846.
Although many genealogical records have been transcribed and digitized for the internet, many have not. Small towns in Maine will be low priority for these efforts for some time. The record you need, may well exist only in a book, likely in a library. The Collection in the Phillips Library, had all I needed to answer this query.
When the builders of the schooner Wandia launched her in Denmark in 1921, they couldn’t have imagined that she’d get a moment in the limelight. She was a workhorse for many years; she began by hauling cargo in the Baltic Sea for her original owner, a Captain Petersen. Later, she fished in Iceland for a short time before crossing the Atlantic and trying her hand again at cargo in Central America. This was an unprofitable venture, and her next owner was likely thinking outside the box when he purchased her.
R. Tucker Thompson quickly resold the coaster to American film producers the Mirisch Company in 1964, and like a dedicated actor who radically transforms herself for a part, Wandia was expertly refitted to resemble a 19th century New Bedford whaler for her role in the 1966 picture Hawaii, a screen version of the 1959 novel by James Michener. The new 3-masted bark was renamed Carthaginian.
When the film was complete, Thompson bought her back and for a short time shuffled his life to Hilo, HI, where he’d negotiated her sale to a non-profit and agreed to serve as her captain and the curator of the whaling museum she briefly housed. When this venture folded in 1968, Thompson left and the Carthaginian resumed her life as a working vessel for a time. She ran aground near Oahu in April 1973, where she was ultimately scuttled.
Photo by Les Hamm, 1966
By John Golden
Recently we received a request from a gentleman who is writing an article about the ST. FRANCES or ST. FRANCIS.
An initial search of an online local database of ships built in Maine didn’t reveal any record of a ship named ST. FRANCES or ST. FRANCIS.
Moving on to another resource, Merchant Sail, by William Armstrong Fairburn, there indeed was a ship named ST. FRANCES built in May of 1882 by John McDonald in Bath, Maine. The paragraph went on to explain that the ST. FRANCES was a wooden ship of 1,898 tons and three masts built for Flint and Co. (New York). The ship was sold in October 1899 to the city of San Francisco. It was resold to salmon packers in 1909 and finally wrecked in Alaska, while engaged in this trade on May 14, 1917 at the age of thirty-five.
Checking another resource, Record of American and Foreign Shipping, confirmed the basic information about the ship (owner and size and date built).
Merchant Sail, in a later volume had a biography of John McDonald which listed the ship as the ST. FRANCIS. The ship described was the same one as the specifications and date of construction matched. It appears that the spelling of the ship’s name was probably misspelled in some documentation.
George Mara, statistician for Coating Engineering Corporation, holds up 15 lb and 17 lb specimens caught near Corsair Canyon on the Eastern edge of Georges Bank.
No photographer attribution
Penobscot Marine museum is excited to announce the unveiling of another wave of 5,000 photographs from the noteworthy National Fisherman Collection. This collection was prepared a cadre of professionals and dogged volunteers. With minor exceptions, the group is complete.
This collection represents several decades of reporting by National Fisherman magazine, a subsidiary of Diversified Communications in Portland, ME. This is a journal with salt on the pages, its stories focused on the sea, the fish, and the characters who make commerce out of the two. It’s been a place for fishermen to learn about new gear and read about other boats and their captains; it has showcased small sailboats and other recreational watercraft; it has described emerging fisheries legislation borne of the best intentions and responses to it by the hardworking constituencies impacted by those policies.
In telling these stories—in pictures and in words—National Fisherman has collaterally mapped a rearward path of technological renaissance, boom economy, the inevitable decline which followed (devastating livelihoods and communities), and the long, varied, creative effort to solve an extremely complex problem.
The Penobscot Marine Museum web portal for the National Fisherman photographs makes it easy to peruse the collection. Sample images are grouped into major categories and numerous subcategories. To these latter, Menhaden, Weirs, and Boat Plans have been added. Many of these saved searches bring up dozens of digitized photos, some more engaging than others. Stay tuned for refinements—there’s a plan to sift through the images so that casual viewing will be more easily rewarded with the best content.
Take note of the Featured Image post; its updated weekly, and wherever possible tells the story behind the picture.
To jump straight to Penobscot Marine Museum’s online database and search the new group of National Fisherman photographs and their descriptions in their entirety, view here.