A Cordial Invitation

In October, 1909, two enterprising women sent out an advertising postcard for their new business partnership—a millinery shop, or ladies’ hat shop. The Barker & Young millinery shop was located in the Sagadahoc Block at 72 Front Street, where shoppers could also visit A.G. Page Co. jewelers, David T. Percy & Sons department store, and other downtown shops. You can see the Sagadahoc Block as it stood in 1910 on Maine Memory Network.

2010.8.2.81, “Mrs. E. L. Barker and Mrs. Frank Young,” from the Oscar R. Marsh Postcard Collection

Who were Mrs. E. L. Barker and Mrs. Frank Young? From home, my resources for Bath history research are limited: I have The Edward Clarence Plummer History of Bath by Henry Owen, and access to Ancesty Library Edition through Digital Maine Library. Owen’s history of Bath is a great resource for learning about militias, mills, and ministers, but it’s distincly lacking when it comes to information about milliners—even though there were at least a half-dozen milliners in Bath when Barker & Young opened up shop.

Owen’s history does indicate how the two women may have known each other: the Barker and Young families attended the People’s Baptist Church, Owen says, and both Mr. Barker and Mr. Young worked together on the board of trustees. Other information gleaned from the census and city directories suggests that Mrs. Barker and Mrs. Young came from different backgrounds, despite their shared interests.

Mary A. Young, seventeen years younger than her business partner, lived with her parents, husband, and two children in an upstairs apartment on Center Street. The family had come from New York sometime before 1900. Frank Young, Mary’s husband, was variously employed as a machinist, miller, and meat cutter. Her father, William Bull, worked as a bookkeeper for Torrey Roller Brushing Works. Whether out of necessity or plain industriousness, Mrs. Young also worked throughout her life, as a salesperson before the millinery parntership, and as a corset-fitter after.

The senior partner, Antionette F. Barker, lived in a pretty Queen Anne house on High Street with her husband and grown son. Mrs. Barker and her husband, ship carpenter Edwin L. Barker, were native to nearby Bristol. Mrs. Barker’s father had been a sea captain, and her husband would become superintendent of the Kelly Spear shipyard not long after the millinery’s grand opening. Perhaps beholden to old-fashioned notions about working women, Mrs. Barker never reported her occupation as a businesswoman on the federal census.

Each woman brought somethng special to the millinery partnership, which continued for more than a decade on Front Street.

In addition to being a hardworking businesswoman, Mary A. Young was the grandmother of Frances “Chee-Chee” Young Kakos, a devoted History Room volunteer and passionate genealogist who generouly left her research papers to the History Room. If there’s more to know about Barker & Young, we may find it there.

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