The Phillips Collection consists of more than 30 original maps of regions of Maine and some 600 original postcards as well as the original 35mm slides used to create them. These materials were created by brothers, Augustus “Gus” and Luther Phillips and were the basis of a business, State O’Maine Post Cards and The Phillips Maps of Maine.
It has been said that every camp in Maine had a Phillips map tacked to the wall. The collection was donated in 2016 by Gus’s daughter Mary Jane “MJ” Phillips Smith of Ellsworth. The maps have been digitized with the help of Peter Mallow at the Maine State Archives. The postcard portion of the collection is being processed by PMM volunteers Cathy Jewitt (Gus’s granddaughter & MJ’s niece) of New Harbor and Ben Meader (cartographer) of South Bristol.
The Phillips brothers’ story is a fascinating one. Cathy Jewitt wrote the following summary of their lives and work.
Augustus D. Phillips and Luther S. Phillips State O’Maine Post Cards and The Phillips Maps of Maine
Augustus “Gus” Phillips first helped with, and eventually took over, his older brother Luther’s map and postcard businesses when Luther died in 1960. Both men, born seven years apart in Northeast Harbor, Maine (Luther in 1891 and Gus in 1898), worked several jobs-both prior to and during the time that they created maps and photographed views.
Growing up, both boys helped their father harvest and sell ice, farm and deliver vegetables and dairy products to summer visitors on Mount Desert Island, and maintain a boat rental business that included 26 rowboats, each named for a letter of the alphabet. After graduating from Phillips Andover and MIT, Luther spent several years in the U.S. Navy, farmed in Ellsworth, and worked on the Alcan Highway project. In 1935, Luther stated his occupations for the U.S. Census as architect, photographer, postcard publisher, and mapmaker. After graduating from Hebron Academy and attending the University of Maine for a short while, Gus became a Maine Guide and operated his own small sporting camp, worked as a draftsman and carpenter in South Portland and Boothbay Harbor ship and boat yards, and helped his cousin Charles Savage with projects involving cabinetry and carpentry as Charles worked to make his vision for Northeast Harbor’s Asticou Azalea Garden and Thuya Garden a reality. The brothers spent time together when they could, often taking trips into Maine’s interior. They climbed Katahdin together in the fall of 1929.
Luther’s gift for pictorial cartography and photography was integral to Gus’s learning all aspects of the map and postcard businesses that he inherited when his brother died. Gus enjoyed painting, and his passion for landscapes influenced the evolution of his own map style. As Gus expanded The Phillips Maps of Maine, he updated several of Luther’s maps and published new editions. He drafted new maps of his own through 1975, the year that he died. He also traveled the state photographing views that enlarged the selection of color postcards that State O’ Maine Post Cards had for sale. Luther and Gus explored the length and breadth of Maine during their lifetimes. Their artistic talent drew them to make maps and postcards. The Phillips brothers’ ability to capture and preserve the unique identity of Maine still speaks to those who view their work today.
Cathy Jewitt and Ben Meader have been volunteering on the Phillips collection for several years now. Cathy is a granddaughter of Gus and has a personal interest in the collection. Ben is a cartographer and former student of Cathy’s. His interest in maps old and new led him to the project. They both live more than an hour away but make the trek whenever they can fit it in their busy lives. They presently are working on a book about the Phillips maps but took a detour recently and started a blog about the postcard images. They have teamed up with Ben’s father John Meader, a photographer, to take “now” photos of some of the Phillips postcard images taken in the 1950s into the 70s. The blog goes beyond Then & Now photographs by exploring each place as a travelog. Follow along!
Postcards from Gus: A modern travelogue through Maine’s past.
George Smith of the Bangor Daily News gave it a nod recently. See his blurb here.