Historic photos accompanied by fascinating stories of Maine between 1909 and 1950 kept me glued to this book for several evenings. Published by Tilbury House in partnership with the Penobscot Marine Museum, Maine on Glass features 200 black and white photos taken all over the state.
This wonderful contribution to Maine’s history was created by Earle G. Shettleworth, Jr., the Maine State Historian, Kevin Johnson, the Penobscot Marine Museum photo archivist, and Bill Bunting, Maine’s foremost interpreter of historical images. From resorts to hunting camps, farms to lobster shacks, huge historic homes to large steam ships, brass bands to village schools, they’re all here.
The photos were selected from tens of thousands of glass plate negatives created by the Eastern Illustrating Publishing Company of Belfast, a collection that is now located at the Penobscot Marine Museum. And trust me, the museum is now on our list for a visit sometime soon.
Many of the photos were taken for postcards, very popular at that time. Eastern was, in fact, the nation’s largest manufacturer of glass plate photo postcards.
Let’s take a brief walk through the book. Here’s a photo of the “State of Maine Camp” at Chimney Pond (now part of Baxter Park), and a few pages later, the “Triangle Filling Station” in Ellsworth. Remember filling stations?
Many of the astonishing old homes pictured here are long gone. Quite a few burned including the Mayor Hanson house in Belfast. But later on in the book, I recognized two historic Queen Anne homes in North Lubec, before I read the caption and story. Linda and I have driven by those homes many times on our way to two of our favorite hikes in the area.
I got a real kick out of how folks dressed in those days – very nicely, for sure. Three guys fishing at Kennebago Falls – one of my favorite fishing spots – are sure dressed a whole lot nicer than we do these days. I can’t imagine fishing in a dress coat!
And here is Monhegan, almost treeless, with the inn the only major building on the entire waterfront. Linda and I wrote a travel column about that inn just last year. The old steam ships and motor vehicles are impressive too. And I love the farm photos, particularly the old hayrack with the team of ox in Phippsburg.
Every story is so interesting. I read some of them several times, before moving on.
The story of the Farmington Canning Factory – with a photo of folks husking sweet corn – brought back memories of my grandmother packing sardines in Lubec. And then, on page 149, there was the North Lubec Sardine Camps, where seasonal workers lived. I loved this 1907 story, written by a state labor agent:
Children are employed more numerously in Lubec, including North Lubec, than in Eastport. Coming around the corner of a factory one day, I saw a little girl at a tub, washing her hands.
“The fish scales stick awfully,” she said.
“And what does a little girl like you do?” I asked.
“Oh, I’ve been cutting. I cut two boxes today,” displaying two checks for five cents each… she said she worked with her mother when she wanted to; was six years old; and her people came from one of the nearby towns and lived in a camp for the season.
These camps are owned by the proprietors of the factories and rented at a small amount… They are small buildings, close together on either side of a lane and with very primitive sanitary arrangements. The people live very simply. The families come in large numbers and their homes are closed.
I can only thank Earle, Kevin, and Bill for this wonderful book, which I am sure was a labor of love.