Preston Williams

Downtown Bangor and its waterfront around the turn of the 20th century are captured in this collection of 184 images. It is believed that a man named Preston Williams took the majority of the photographs contained in this group. Williams was an amateur photographer who was an active member of the Bangor Foto-Craft Club, according to the January, 1914, issue of American Photography. He worked as a mail clerk at the Bangor Post Office during a time of enormous transformation in the city. He was probably at work on April 30, 1911, when fire began to consume the city center. In nine hours it burned 55 acres, destroyed 267 buildings, and left 75 families homeless. Williams’ photographs document the tragic aftermath.

Williams photographed Bangor before the after the fire, capturing the vitality of a thriving business center and port where 2,000 vessels called each year. His images reveal the working city and the working waterfront: delivery wagons, outdoor markets, crowded downtown sidewalks and trolleys, ice harvesting, log jams, steamboats, schooners, wharves, marine businesses, and manufacturers. Williams continued to document life and events in the city into the 1920s.

The collection contains glass plate and film negatives, as well as a handful of prints. In addition to the negatives and photographs made by Mr. Williams, the collection also contains many copy negatives of images of Bangor taken by other photographers, among them Leyland Whipple, a well-known Bangor photographer from the 1890s to 1945. The museum purchased the collection from Andrew MacEwen, whose father had acquired it in the 1950s.