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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
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!
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.
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.
This year’s course selection is Elements of Sailing, taught by Geoff Kerr and Annie Nixon, which runs from July 1 to 7. 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, Anne Bray 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.
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.
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.”