Help us celebrate National Poetry Month with a self-guided poetry walk inside the library! We have chosen 10 poems from the History Room collections and have posted them all around the inside of the library. The poems range from published works, unpublished poems in archival collections, and just-for-fun poems published local newspapers.
To join us in person, pick up a map on the History Room bulletin board from April 1 to April 30 and find all ten poems around the building. Read them in person or scan the QR code with your smart phone to listen to an audio recording.
To participate remotely, navigate through this blog post to read and hear each poem!
Did you know that Champions, Corporate Leaders, and Major Benefactors of Patten Free Library can request personalized research conducted by the Archivist & Special Collections Librarian? For this year of Now You’re Cooking‘s business sponsorship they requested a building history of the Bank Block (49 Front Street) and we were thrilled to dive into the archives!
Bath’s Bank Block was built in 1859 at Front and Lambard Streets. The brick, two-story Italianate structure was one of the many buildings on Front Street built by the Moses Family, including the Columbian House, the Granite Block, the Union Block, and the Church Block. According to Peter Goodwin and Robin Haynes’s “History of Bath Maine,” the Bank Block was most likely designed by famed Bath architect Francis Fassett. Fassett was a deeply influential architect who is credited with designing the Winter Street Church Parish Hall, the Church Block, the Sagadahoc Courthouse, the Hyde Block, and the Lincoln Block1.
According to a 1980 Sagadahoc Preservation Inc. survey of the building, by 1863 four banks occupied the second floor and Bath National Bank occupied the street floor2. In The Edward Clarence Plummer History of Bath, Maine by Henry Wilson Owen, Owen writes that Bath Bank was chartered in 1855 and reorganized as Bath National Bank under a federal charter in 1865. Among their many presidents were notable Bath residents Freeman Clark and William D. Sewall of Clark & Sewall shipbuilding fame. Bath National Bank called the Bank Block home until building its own structure across the street at 40-42 Front Street in 19103. In 2022, this is the present location of Key Bank
Another early banking occupant was First National Bank. Chartered in 1863, First National Bank was one of the first national banks established in the United States. Galen Moses was one of the banks many notable presidents. Many Bath residents know Galen Moses as the benefactor of the Patten Free Library who donated $10,000 for the construction of the Patten Free Library building. The first office of First National Bank was on the southeast corner of the second floor of the building. After several years upstairs, First National Bank moved to the south end of the street floor, becoming the neighbor to Bath National Bank in the next storefront north on the block4. This placement can be seen in figure 1, an 1890 Sanborn Fire Insurance map from the Library of Congress, and the interior can be seen in figure 2. By 1910, First National Bank left the Bank Block and settled into the former quarters of the Lincoln Bank at the corner of Front and Center Streets. In 2022, this building is presently occupied by Café Crème.
19th Century Neighbors
Soon the banks were not the only occupants of the block. An early rendering of the Bank Block can be seen in an 1873 Globe Insurance map in the Board Room of the Patten Free Library. In the detail of the map in figure 3, the street level tenants are shown as Books Bookbinds, Grn., Bank, and Bank, with offices upstairs for C.M. Plummer Insurance Agents. Contemporary city directories list other 19th century occupants as Thomas G. Knight and W. Scott Shorey, both book binders and manufacturers, Hyde & Gay Druggists & Apothecaries, Mrs. E. A. W. Rouse Fashionable Milliner and Dealer in Fancy Goods, Physician E.P. Roche, Counselors Tallman & Larrabee, and more. Advertisements for these businesses can be found splashed across the pages of the Bath city directories in the History Room. Shown below in figure 4 is an advertisement for Mrs. E. A. W. Rouse Fashionable Milliner and Dealer in Fancy Goods from the 1867-1868 Bath, Brunswick, and Richmond Directory5. Note that in both the 1873 Globe Insurance map (figure 3) and in the below advertisement (figure 4) the street numbers do not yet correspond to today’s numbers. It is not until the 1890 Sanborn map (figure 1) that the numbers begin to look more like today’s address – 45, 47, 49, 51, and 53.
Change in the 20th Century
The Bank Block ushered in the 20th century with Bath National Bank and First National Bank still on the street level but welcomed many other new occupants. The 1902 Bath city directory shows First National Bank now occupying the storefronts at 45 and 47 Front Street, Bath National Bank at 49 Front Street, and at 51 Front Street, the northernmost storefront on the block, is a passenger waiting room for the Lewiston Brunswick & Bath Street Railway Company6. According to Trolleys to Brunswick, Maine – 1896-1937 by Osmond Richard Cummings, the Lewiston Brunswick & Bath Street Railway Company opened for regular service in 1898, beginning its trip in Lewiston and then running along on Front Street in Bath7. Prior to the arrival of the Lewiston Brunswick & Bath Street Railway the Bath Street Railway provided local trolley service starting in 1893 but it did not leave the city8. The Lewiston Brunswick & Bath Street Railway was later succeeded by the Lewiston Augusta & Waterville Street Railway (1908), the Androscoggin & Kennebec Railway Co. (1919). These street railways were later replaced by buses in the late 1930s9.
Other 1902 occupants of the building include Macaulay Brothers lunch room sharing a storefront with the railway waiting room, and at 53 Front Street (presumably the offices on the second floor) were Worumbo Manufacturing Company, Galen C. Moses, Oliver Moses, attorneys Charles W. Larrabee, George E. Hughes, Edward C. Plummer, the Atlantic Carriers Association, insurance agent F.J. Hinckley, and George Fisher (profession not listed). By 1905, the Bath city directory lists many of the same occupants with the new addition of the Sagadahoc Real Estate Association, who came to own many of the buildings in Downtown Bath including the Bank Block10. By 1910 both Bath National Bank and First National Bank had moved to their new locations across Front Street and the primary occupant on the street level was the Woolworth Co. store and the passenger waiting room for the Lewiston Augusta & Waterville Street Railway.
Nearly ten years later in 1919, Woolworth Co. and the railway waiting room were joined by a 5 & 10 Cent store in between the two. Sharing 51 Front Street with the railway waiting room was The Swastika Exchange, a gift shop selling Quaker and Elyria specialty knit items11. Throughout the rest of the 1920s, the block remained unchanged but by the publication of the 1933-1934 city directory the railway waiting room had closed, signifying the fading of the street railway business, and had been replaced by Edmund M. Staples drugstore12. The 1930s saw very little change to the occupants of the block, possibly a result of the Great Depression.
According to a December 1955 Portland Press Herald article (figure 7),Woolworth Co. closed in 195513. By 1955 the lower floors had been replaced by Richards Restaurant at 45 Front Street, Shaw’s Bookstore at 49 Front Street, and Hilyards Drug Store at 51 Front Street14. Prior to moving to the Bank Block, Shaw’s Bookstore had been in business since 1865 across Front Street. In an unidentified September 1966 newspaper article found in the History Room’s Front Street subject file, Shaw’s Bookstore announced it would be taking over the space next door at Hilyards Drugstore. Hilyards would be merging with the well-known Hallet & Co. drugstore across Front Street. Shaw’s Bookstore now laid claim to the two northernmost store fronts. The renovations to combine the store fronts included lowering the floor at the old Hilyards to make them level with the floor in Shaw’s.
By 1967 Richards Restaurant had been replaced with the Royal Palm Restaurant, and Shaw’s Bookstore remained the other storefront on the block15. However, by the 1971 directory Shaw’s Bookstore was joined by quite a few new street level occupants including the Bath Area Chamber of Congress, the Bath Area United Fund Inc., and the Bath-Brunswick Times Record newspaper16. In 1991 a children’s clothing store called Animal Crackers took up residence at 51 Front Street17, but was replaced in 1997 by Bath Jewelry18. In 2001 long-time occupant Shaw’s closed their business for good and left the block19.
On May 10, 2000, a new occupant joined the block at 49 Front Street: Now You’re Cooking. Today, Now You’re Cooking occupies the entire street level of the Bank Block. Although the walls of the Bank Block have seen dozens of occupants since the 1860s, the building remains the same stately Italianate developed by the Moses family, upholding Bath’s cultural heritage along Front Street with its contemporaries.
by Jack Martin, Reference Librarian
Ever wondered just what it is we keep in all those boxes? The answer is a lot more interesting than you probably imagined.
Truthfully the History Room’s collections cover a lot of ground— most of it related to genealogy & local notables of ages past. There are a few pieces though that would leave you saying “Really? We have that?”
(Of course, I think it’s all interesting, but I know that’s probably definitely just me).
Without further ado though, let’s get into the four most fascinating items in our collection, at least one of which is guaranteed to grab your interest.
Stepping into the History Room, one of the first things to catch your eye would probably be a tall lump of straw. Festooned with vibrant tissue paper flowers and shimmering strands of silver, calling it “hard to miss” would be an understatement.
It would take a closer look though before you realized that the heavily decorated lump is actually a hat.
If you’re wondering why such an unusual accessory is in the archives of quiet little Bath, Maine, then we have to go back more than 130 years and halfway around the globe.
In 1889 a Bath-built ship owned by the Sewall family was caught in a typhoon off the coast of Japan. As the ship began to sink, villagers from the nearby town of Shariki braved the wind and rain to rescue the ships crew.
Stories of heroism abounded. Fishermen tied themselves to rocks so they could walk out and pull the drowning sailors from the sea. Two youths ran over 40 miles to summon help from the provincial capital. A woman held a freezing crewman to her bare body attempting to save his life.
Four of the twenty-three crew members were ultimately saved, but all surely would have drowned if not for the efforts of the villagers.
Even after the sailors were nursed back to health and returned to the United States they maintained a close bond with the citizens of Shariki.
In 1994 Bath and Shariki entered into an official sister-city relationship, a relationship still maintained with the city of Tsugaru which absorbed Shariki in 2005.
Part of this relationship includes an annual student exchange program held every summer. During the 2004 exchange some of the visiting students presented the hat as a gift to the library, which is how it ultimately wound up in the History Room’s collections.
Aside from just being a lot to look at in its own right, the Shariki Hat is a particularly fun reminder that history doesn’t have to be static. A legacy is a living thing which can bright, colorful, and constantly evolving (and sometimes covered in hot pink flowers).
Did you know that Maine’s very first governor was from Bath? Well, technically he was born in Scarborough, but he lived most of his adult life in Bath.
Before becoming governor he was State Representative when Maine was still part of Massachusetts. And then during the War of 1812 he was made a Major General in charge of state militia forces in Maine.
Most importantly though, King played a vital role in making Maine Maine. Starting in 1813 he spent seven years lobbying for Maine’s independence from Massachusetts. As reward for his efforts he won the governorship in 1820 with over 95% of the vote.
Befitting a man of his prominence, King had a handsome mansion in town. Though it was later moved once, covered into a tavern, and finally torn down to build the Carlton Bridge in the 1920s, the house originally sat where the Custom House is now.
The house had a commanding view of the river and Bath’s downtown from where it sat on the hilltop. Around it King had an elaborate garden planted with flowers and ornamental shrubs, as well an orchard of fruit trees the governor was particularly proud of.
Inside the manor was decorated in the best way money could buy. There were high ceilings and a sweeping staircase led up to the second floor. Canopy beds with fine draperies stood in all the bedrooms, while the downstairs parlor featured impressive furniture and large mirrors imported from France.
Governor King was also known to be fabulous entertainer. Bath’s high society regularly graced his parlor for dinner and card parties. Reportedly King was especially fond of whist.
As such we can only guess at who all might have sat in the dining chair we have. Almost certainly the Governor himself and his wife would have graced it at one point or another. But who else might have occupied the seat for a game of cards or a glass of wine?
In the interest of preservation we unfortunately can’t let you add your own name to the list of noteworthy posteriors that have perched on the chair, but coming in to admire the craftsmanship from afar is really almost as good.
Now, everyone already knows about Mark Twain, right? Or at least we all have some hazy memory of reading Huckleberry Finn back in school. And most people have probably heard of The Innocents Abroad before.
As a quick refresher, The Innocents Abroad was a travelogue Twain wrote early in his career as a writer. The book covers the voyage of a ship— the Quaker City to be precise— in the Victorian era on a pleasure cruise of the Mediterranean and the Holy Land.
Interestingly, it’s believed that this trip was actually the first ever commercial tourist cruise in history.
With all that out of the way now, I’m pretty confident I can say almost no one has ever heard of Charles Duncan. Technically his proper title would really Captain Charles Duncan. What was he the captain of, exactly? Why, the Quaker City of course.
While all (good) ship captains keep a logbook detailing things like weather conditions and wind direction and longitudinal bearings, Captain Duncan when one step further and kept a personal diary while on the voyage.
Captain Duncan’s diary covers the whole of his experiences from the trip, as well as those of his wife and children who accompanied him. He wrote about everything from the grimy merchants of Gibraltar to meeting with a Russian Grand Duke in Sebastopol.
He also discussed life aboard the ship including a mock court trial the passengers held to entertain themselves.
There are also a significant number of references to Mark Twain himself, though Captain Duncan uses the author’s real name— Samuel Clemens. From these it seems the Captain’s impression of Twain was… not exactly a positive one.
And this went both ways. Several years after the Quaker City voyage Captain Duncan was serving as shipping commissioner in New York— responsible for hiring and paying sailors for the port. Duncan was accused of using his position to enrich himself and his family by hiring and then seriously overpaying his own sons.
When a New York Times reporter began looking into the issue, he interviewed Mark Twain who proceeded to absolutely roast Captain Duncan. Twain insulted everything from Duncan’s morality to his basic competence as a sailor.
If reading about the actual voyage of the Quaker City isn’t really thing, Captain Duncan’s journal is worth seeing just for all the deliciously messy drama.
This is probably the most traditional kind of archival item on this list, but don’t think that means it’s at all boring.
You’ve likely heard or read that Victorians were taken with all sort of bizarre fads at various points. These ranged from fairly benign activities, such as the then-new novelty of bike riding, to the truly bizarre, like drinking potions made of mummies.
One of the more whimsical activities people were taken with for a time was ballooning.
Of course nowadays riding in a hot air balloon seems fairly quaint— possibly a good idea for a unique date night— but in the middle of the 19th century it was practically a revolution.
Imagine the world before airplanes and helicopters, when air travel was still considered science fiction and the only way to see something from high-up was to climb a ladder. Of course there were also no satellites, which meant no Google Maps either.
Bearing all that in mind you can begin to understand why hot air balloons were such a sensation. It was really the first time people were able to see the world from above.
Aside from recreational activities or the odd 80-day circumnavigation of the globe this technology also opened up new possibilities to map makers. Suddenly they could depict cities not just as plain, 2D street layouts with a handful of supplemental illustrations, but really capture the look of a skyline and render every building three dimensionally.
It became a sort of craze where every truly fashionable city was clamoring to have a birdseye map made from a hot air balloon and cartographers opened special practices to handle the sheer volume of requests.
In the 1870s Bath was beginning to emerge as a localized industrial center as Bath Iron Works was established and ship building continued to expand. Or at least that’s how they wanted to present themselves in the birdseye map the city had done.
The map shows a river full of steamships and schooners. There are factories belching smoke from their smokestacks. A locomotive can be seen chugging along the tracks coming into town. There are ships at the end of every pier and on the ways at every shipyard.
Is this an idealized version of the city? Absolutely. But while some artistic liberties were taken in order to show the city firing on all cylinders, the level of realistic detail is something to behold.
Almost the whole of the city from Weeks Street in the south to Winship in the north is shown and every house is depicted accurately from the style of the roof to the number of windows.
If you happen to live in one of Bath’s many old homes it can be a fun game to see if you can spot your house. Even if you don’t though, whether your house is newer or because you’re just passing through on visit, it’s fascinating to see the city as it looked in 1878.
Which one was your favorite?
I hope this post brought to your attention some of the fascinating (and some of the rather odd) items the History Room has in our collections.
Which one are you going to come see first? Leave us a comment a let us know.
If you have any questions about any of the items discussed here (or any entirely unrelated questions on Bath history for that matter) please email as at firstname.lastname@example.org or give us a call at (207) 443-5141 x 18.
How to Use NewspaperArchive’s Free Resources
Have you ever noticed that search results from NewspaperArchive.com appear in Google searches, but you can’t access them without a subscription? It’s frustrating to researchers—but it’s also a useful feature! Our newest How-To Guide explains…
Click here to download How to Use NewspaperArchive’s Free Resources [PDF]
Newspapers on Microfilm at Patten Free Library
Did you know that the History Room has a microfilmed newspaper collection spanning 200 years? Only about one quarter of what we have is available online through paid sites like NewspaperArchive and free sites like Chronicling America from the Library of Congress.
We recently created a visual guide to the newspaper collection which shows exactly how much our collection has to offer.
Click here to download Patten Free Library Newspapers on Microfilm, 1820-2020 [PDF]
Our search for John Hayden material has been thorough (but not exhaustive). Here are a few of the tools and sources we checked:
In our collections:
In other collections:
We found two promising resources by doing an LC Subject search in MaineCat.
While archivists and catalogers do their best to help researchers find the materials they need by indexing as many names and subjects as possible, there are hordes of collections—here and elsewhere—that remain uncatalogued, minimally cataloged, or too large to catalog comprehensively. It is frequently up to the researcher to page through manuscript collections if they want to be sure they’re not missing something.
During his education as a librarian and archivist, reference librarian Jack Martin researched the existence of Queer history (or LGBTQIA+ history) in archives and collecting institutions like the History Room. We like to share items from our collections that relate to current events and national observances, but we found ourselves coming up short for Pride Month this June. Below, Jack reflects on why Queer history seems to be missing, and how we might make it more visible.
Why Isn’t There More Queer History in Archives?
It’s a question that has often been asked in recent years, both within the archival community and from outside it, and the answer is a fairly complicated one. The first part, which is perhaps the most obvious, is that, for the longest time, queer history simply wasn’t well documented, which poses a challenge to archives that work mainly to collect and preserve various kinds of documents. While there have always been queer individuals, historically many would have been reluctant to commit their identities to words for fear of persecution (or prosecution). There’s also the matter of items like marriage records, which attest to the legal marriage of a couple, but offer no indication of whether or not the match was actually a kind of lavender marriage (with the uncertainty having been the entire point). Additionally, the documentation of queer history that does exist tends to be of a negative, institutionalized slant. Some of the most abundant records concerning queer identities in previous centuries are arrest records from police raids on clubs and bathhouses. These records do little to tell us about the lives of the individuals or how they really expressed themselves, and instead document the history of prejudice more than anything else.
There also aspects of the problem that are more specific to archival practice though. Effective archiving requires effective cataloging, and effective cataloging requires the use of a controlled vocabulary. A ‘controlled vocabulary’ is a bit of library science jargon that essentially means a list of words members of the profession have agreed have specific meanings in the context of their work. If you remember old card catalogs, think of what a nightmare it would be if books on “vernal pools” and books on “swimming pools” were filed together under “pools”! While there have been some attempts to establish a reliable controlled vocabulary for terms related to LGBTQIA+ identities (such as the Homosaurus) these still present challenges. A significant aspect of celebrating LGBTQIA+ Pride is celebrating individual identities, and there are many individuals who reject or are opposed to certain labels. Even the use of ‘queer’ as an umbrella term for the whole spectrum of LGBTQIA+ identities is a bit of a contentious issue outside of academia.
We also run into issues with retroactively applying labels to individuals who did not or often could not have identified with a given term, and coupled with a lack of concrete documentation, we are often working off little more than hearsay anyway. This is an especially problematic issue for archives as institutions, as according to professional standards, the job of archivists is to preserve and provide access to materials, not to interpret them. Of course, ‘interpret’ is a pretty vague term and the line is often hazy. If we receive a letter wherein a man seems to be refer to another man as a romantic partner, but doesn’t explicitly refer to their relationship as being romantic, should we include a subject tag about homosexuality or queer identities in the catalog? Conventional ‘best practice’ for archiving would say that we shouldn’t, but there has been increasing pushback against these ideas. If we refuse to engage in any level of interpretation where minority identities are concerned, are we facilitating or participating in the erasure of queer history? Unfortunately, it’s a question that has no easy answer because it must always be followed up with, ‘How far would be too far?’
The purpose of sharing these challenges isn’t to try and make excuses for why our current resources concerning LGBTQIA+ history are rather lacking. Rather, we want to be open and honest about the challenges we’re facing in bringing this history to light and some of the questions we’re grappling with. It’s also something of an invitation to the community to offer input in the process. What are the best ways to handle this material sensitively? Is there a general consensus around what terms we should use or avoid? Are there materials documenting local queer history they’d be willing to share or like to see preserved? We would appreciate any input that could help us to make archives a more welcoming, inclusive space that document the full breadth of the human experience, rather than just what might be called the norm.
Thoughts? Questions? You can reach Jack through the History Room email, email@example.com.
Irene Drago, local author and a trustee of Sagadahoc Preservation Inc., asked us to share this message about the third and final virtual tour offered by SPI this spring.
Dear Supporters of SPI,
Sagadahoc Preservation Inc. is delighted to offer Tour #3 of Opening Doors in Historic Bath for a $10 donation. We’re able to extend this offer because our previous tours have exceeded our expectations and one donor in particular was especially giving. In the throes of COVID-19, our online tours have kept us connected, and they’ve kept historic preservation moving forward. Thank you for supporting SPI! We sincerely hope you’ll join us for the last tour of the series on April 23–25.
For Alicia, Annie, and me, this has been an adventure to remember. We visited eleven homes, including a downtown loft, and two iconic buildings; and we captured a bit of history on film with the cooperation of their owners. Please join us online for our grand finale. Tour #3 will take you inside a Victorian home with a stunning view of the Sagadahoc Bridge, a Federal-style colonial that once belonged to John Patten, and a storied Italianate—built around an eighteenth-century home—made famous by Benjamin Packard, the renowned shipbuilder and founder of Bath Savings. And for our capstone tour, the president of SPI, Tim Brosnihan, takes us inside the rarely seen sanctuary of the Winter Street Church, including the bell tower. Tim will share the story of the Winter Street Center—its past, present, and future!
Visit https://www.sagadahocpreservation.org/opening-doors-in-historic-bath and request the link for Tour #3, April 23–25. You’ll receive the link via email on April 22.
Yours in preservation,
March is Women’s History Month! We shared items and collections from the History Room that illuminate women’s history in our communities in each issue of the library’s email newsletter (sign up here). See each week’s story below!