Among everything else, 2020 is a U.S. federal Census year. Have you completed the Census yet? It’s easy, safe, and important to be counted!
A census gathers information about a population. The United States Census, which has occurred every ten years since 1790, gathers information for the express purpose of calculating how a state is represented in the House of Representatives, and the proportion of federal tax income distributed to each state. At a local level, census data is used to plan for infrastructure and services like roads, hospitals, public assistance, schools, and libraries.
Federal law requires that all people living in the United States be counted. Fortunately, most people have been able to safely submit their information online this year. Those folks who haven’t yet completed the Census may have received a personal visit from a local enumerator, and they can expect repeated visits until their information is recorded.
When I spoke to a Bath enumerator, she explained how she no longer has access to the information her neighbors have provided after she has filled out and submitted the electronic census form through a secure iPhone. She commented that this year’s census questions are less invasive than some other years. For example, citizenship and immigration status are not part of the 2020 census.
The American Community Survey, also administered by the Census Bureau, supplements census data by asking more in-depth questions, chiefly about demographics, employment, and housing, and questions about place of birth and citizenship are included in the American Community Survey. The American Community survey has been distributed to 3.5 million randomly-selected addresses annually since 2010.
Aside from the immediate benefits of an accurate population count, census data is enormously helpful to students, researchers, and genealogists. It can be found in two of our favorite online databases: Ancestry Library Edition and Data.Census.gov (formerly American Fact Finder).
The Census Bureau has put together activities and lesson plans designed to teach kids about the Census through a variety of approaches. Find out more here.
In response to misinformation about the purpose and use of Census data, the American Library Association has provided the following facts about this year’s census:
Thirteen patrons joined us for History Room Live yesterday. It was a casual “Coffee Hour” session where we shared and discussed books we’ve been reading.
Our books weren’t limited to local history and genealogy topics, but certain themes emerged, including United States history, Black history, activisim, and maritime life.
Here are 21 books that came up in the course of discussion:
Union: The Struggle to Forge the Story of United States Nationhood by Colin Woodard, 2020
The Lobster Coast: Rebels, Rusticators, and the Struggle for a Forgotten Frontier by Colin Woodard, 2004
The Campaigns of the First Maine and First District of Columbia Cavalry by Samuel Hill Merrill, 1866
The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George, 2016
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer, 2009
84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff, 1990
The Blue Zones Solution: Eating and Living Like the World’s Healthiest People by Dan Buettner, 2015
The Alienist by Caleb Carr, 1994
Liberty’s Exiles by Maya Jasonoff, 2011
Jane Addams: Spirit in Action by Louise W. Knight, 2010
Related: Frances Perkins: The Life and Legacy of FDR’s Secretary of Labor & The Relevance of Her Work Today, Maine Calling, July 15, 2020.
The Sea Captain’s Wife: A True Story of Love, Race, and War in the Nineteenth Century by Martha Elizabeth Hodes, 2006
Black Jacks: African American Seamen in the Age of Sail by W. Jeffrey Bolster, 1997
The Mortal Sea: Fishing the Atlantic in the Age of Sail by W. Jeffrey Bolster, 2012
The Education of an Idealist: A Memoir by Samantha Power, 2019
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee, 2018
The Road to Down Street: The Story of North Bath by Nancy Dearborn Lovetere, 2011
The Human Shore: Seacoasts in History by John R. Gillis, 2012
The Library Book by Susan Orlean, 2018
Black Bangor: African Americans in a Maine Community, 1880-1950 by Maureen Elgersman Lee, 2005
Firsting and Lasting: Writing Indians Out of Existence in New England by Jean M. O’Brien, 2010
The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism by Edward E. Baptist, 2014
Shipmates: A Tale of the Seafaring Women of New England by Isabel Hopestill Carter, 1934
Frequent visitors to our Reading Room may have recognized the painting that was featured on Maine Public’s On This Day in Maine History series this Monday. Eagle-eyed patrons would have spotted some differences, as Maine Public’s image is a different version of the one that hangs on the East wall of the Reading Room. The painting of the South Church in flames is from one of at least six different sets created by artist John Hilling (1826-1894).
Hilling’s pair of oil-on-canvas paintings documents one of the most violent episodes in Bath history: the Know-Nothing Riot of July 6, 1854. The “naïve” or folk–art works illustrate different stages in the riots that led to the destruction of the South Meeting House, which had been rented to the local Catholic congregation. The larger painting captures the vandalism in full force as men ravaged the building after a political rally on the corner of Front and Centre Streets. The fire was just beginning and visible in a single window, while rioters threw shutters out windows and shouted from the tower, oblivious of the danger. The smaller painting shows the fire well advanced, consuming the building, while rioters and onlookers watched.
John Hilling, an English-born painter, was among the onlookers. As early as 1839, Hilling worked in Bath as a house, sign and “fancy painter.” His home at the time, with wife Nancy Jane Hayes and their children, was on Shepard Street, where the view of the fire would have been compelling—compelling enough to move Hilling up the hill to where the old meeting house stood burning. In May of 1855, the Weekly Mirror noted that “Mr. John Hilling of this city, has painted two representations of the old South, one as it was previous to the fire, and the other as it was at the time of the fire. They are perfect representations of the house and its destruction.”
These works are tremendously important as period accounts of the event. Hilling was there as an eyewitness (although that doesn’t mean that artistic license did not play its part). Other versions of the paintings can be found in important folk art collections. The National Gallery of Art published a reproduction of their painting in American Naïve Paintings, which explains that “Hilling appears to have painted at least six almost identical pairs of paintings, each consisting of one representation of the church under mob assault and the other with the building ablaze. The multiple versions suggest a lively market for this theme.”
The Know-Nothing Party sought to stifle Catholics, immigrants, and other American minority groups by infusing American politics with nativist and Protestant values. The Party had risen to national prominence by 1854. Earlier that year, the Know Nothings had swept elections across Massachusetts. Nationally, July 6, 1854 is known as the day the Republican Party was founded, a significant step toward the abolition of slavery. As the Known Nothing Party disintegrated over the question of slavery, its abolitionist members would join the newly formed Republican Party to elect Abraham Lincoln in 1860.
Adapted from: Haynes, Robin A.S. 2012 Art Inventory. Bath, Me. : Patten Free Library, 2012.
On June 19, 1852, local citizens gathered to bury celebrated statesman William King after his death from influenza on June 17. King is best known for taking on the role of Maine’s first governor in 1820. In Bath, King established the first bank, built and owned many merchant vessels, and amassed an impressive library now preserved in our special collections.
King’s obituary was printed in the June 25th issue of the Northern Tribune. In the same issue, the paper printed a decree from the city government celebrating King, and an account of the funeral: “It was fit that there should be general sorrow and public demonstration of grief,” the account reads. “Our citizens all appeared to feel that it was a time to mourn over the grave of the departed, a day when it was manliness to weep and be afflicted.”
Shortly after King’s death, George F. and John Patten presented King’s private library, for which they paid $300, to the Patten Library Association.
Read more about the King Collection here.
Even though King was not well educated, he valued education highly. Inspired by Thomas Jefferson,  King worked with others to draft Article VIII of the Maine Constitution, which empowered Maine towns to provide public education in support of democratic ideals.
Learn more about William King:
Check out Marion Jaques Smith’s biography of King, General William King: Merchant, Shipbuilder, and Maine’s First Governor.
Read about the William King Collection at Patten Free Library.
Visit our online exhibit, William King: Politician, Military Leader, and Entrepreneur
Search Maine Memory Network for other photographs and documents related to William King.
Search for William King’s grave in Maple Grove Cemetery.
Read the National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form for the William King House, also known as the Stone House, located in Bath’s north end.
Contact the History Room to purchase a copy of Bath Historical Society’s 2020 Calendar, which commemorates the bicentennial of the state of Maine (with many more stories about William King in Bath).
 Marion Jaques Smith, General William King: Merchant, Shipbuilder, and Maine’s First Governor, Camden, Me. : Downeast Books, 1980, 91.
May is Jewish American Heritage Month. Jewish history in Maine dates back to 1785; in Bath, to 1880. You can use resources in the History Room to learn about Bath’s Jewish community, or explore additional resources for the study of Jewish history in Maine and the United States. For a brief history of Bath’s Jewish history, read Part 1 of this blog post or visit BathJewishHistory.org.
Early Jewish Families of Bath by Alfred T. Holt
Povich Family Genealogy by Donald M. Povich
Beth Israel History Presentation (DVD)
Seven speakers present personal accounts and history of the Jewish community in Bath, Maine at Beth Israel Congregation synagogue upon the opening of an exhibit sponsored by Documenting Maine Jewry on July 14, 2014.
“The Jewish Synagogue” in The Edward Clarence Plummer History of Bath by Henry Wilson Owen, pages 431-432
Bath City Directories, 1867-2008
City directories list local people by surname. Older directories including occupation, place of business, and place of residence. Directories also include advertisements for local businesses.
Local Newspapers, 1820-present
Local newspapers cover local, national, and international events. They include social and political news, marriage announcements and obituaries, and advertisements for local businesses.
Judaica Collection, Jean Byers Sampson Center for Diversity in Maine, Special Collections, University of Southern Maine Libraries
Digital Maine Library Databases
Digital Maine Library provides access to academic and news databases covering a variety of research topics. Try searching these databases:
Search Tips for Books, Special Collections, and Digital Maine Library Databses
In Minerva, MaineCat, Maine Memory Network, and Digital Maine Library Databases, you can use the Subject Search to search for these subjects:
Lobster and Latkes: Jewish Life in Maine, Colby College Maine Jewish History Project, Online Exhibit
Were the House Still Standing, Holocaust & Human Rights Center of Maine, Ongoing Exhibit
Maine + Jewish: Two Centuries, Maine State Library, Past Exhibit, September 21, 2018 – October 25, 2019
Websites – Maine
Maine Jewish History Project at Colby College
Websites – National
May is Jewish American Heritage Month. Jewish history in Maine dates back to 1785; in Bath, to 1880. You can use resources in the History Room to learn about Bath’s Jewish community, or take a tour of the amazing online archive and museum at BathJewishHistory.org. There are many other resources available in Maine for the study of Jewish American history, which I will outline in Part 2 of this post.
First, what are some topics in local Jewish history?
• Local businesses
• Notable people
• Synagogues and places of worship
• Social organizations
• Ethnic relations
I learned a little bit about each of these topics when I spoke with Fred and Marilyn Weinberg of Beth Israel Congregation earlier this month. They gave me a tour of BathJewishHistory.org, a digital archive and museum. The website is hosted by the Beth Israel Congregation and tells the story of Bath’s Jewish people and families and their social, economic, and religious life in the area.
Jewish history in Bath goes back to at least the 1880s, when the first Jewish-owned businesses opened their doors. S. J. Goldstein’s clothing store was first, followed by S. A. Issacson, both at the Church Block on Front Street.  A few years later, William Filene, founder of the well-known Boston department store, chose Bath as a location for a branch, which was known as Boston Bargain Clothing Company and managed by his son, Bert Filene. Morris S. Povich’s store operated later, in the 20th century, first as a boot and shoe store at 155 Front Street, then as a clothing store at 143 Front Street (a Bath landmark). Other Jewish businesses included groceries, sandwich shops, furniture and appliance stores, and Mikelsky’s music store. Many of the original locations have been replaced by newer buildings, including Bath’s City Hall. Second-generation Jews in Bath pursued professional occupations including, doctor, educator, realtor, lawyer, and insurance agent. 
Some Bath residents are known for their work, like Sam Povich, credited with the invention of the lobster roll, or Ada Y. Greenblatt, a popular real estate agent. Others became well known through their good deeds. A plaque celebrating Donald Povich was created by the Bath Historical Society, and now hangs outside the History Room door. Minnie Brown’s bequests supported both Beth Israel’s Minnie Brown Center and the 1997 addition to the Patten Free Library, which includes the current History Room. 
Beth Israel Congregation celebrates the 100th anniversary of its formation this year, with additional celebrations to follow as they mark the developments which led to the creation of the synagogue on Washington Street. Until 1920, observers of the Jewish faith met in a variety of locations throughout town, where there were many public and private halls available for their use at the YMCA on Summer Street, the Fraternal Brothers of Eagles Hall (172 Front Street), the Red Men’s Hall of the Sasanoa Tribe No. 6 (100 Front Street), above A. Hallett & Co. (Sagadahoc Block), and at the former Music Hall once located at the corner of Centre and Washington Streets.  In 1919, when the Jewish population had grown, WWI had ended, and the shipbuilding industry was going strong, the community came together to raise funds for a Synagogue. Marilyn Weinberg noted the support of non-Jewish Bath residents, who gave a total of $2400 toward building the synagogue. Beth Israel was recognized as a congregation in 1920, the building opened in 1922, and it was completed in 1927.
There are many more facts and stories to explore at BathJewishHistory.org, including speeches and essays by community members, a comprehensive index to Bath’s Jewish business owners, the records of the B’nai B’rith and the Bath Hebrew Ladies Society, and newspaper articles about local social organizations and events.
Racial antisemitism grew sharply around the globe in the first part of the 20th century. How strongly was the impact of racism and antisemitism felt in our community? Primary sources indicate that Bath was never immune to hate and bias. Some actions by non-Jewish people could be considered relatively harmless: in 1921, a local Christian woman named Rose Billings recorded missionary activities aimed at the Jewish community in her diary, which is exhibited online at Colby’s Maine Jewish History Project. Other sources document more threatening activity, from an unsettling photograph of the Ku Klux Klan marching up Front Street on July 26, 1924, to a Bath Independent article reporting on vandalism against nine Bath businesses, published September 12, 1940.
However, the majority of documentary evidence shows that the Jewish community and the rest of the Bath community maintained a positive and cooperative relationship, working together to found the synagogue, participate in National Brotherhood Week, and contribute to relief efforts after World War II.
Genealogists interested in their local Jewish and Eastern European ancestors can refer to Alfred T. Holt’s Early Jewish Families of Bath, a handwritten genealogy available in the History Room. Holt’s work is based on a survey of the 1900, 1910, and 1920 federal census. He looked for Bath residents with a parent who had been born in Russia (at the time, Russia included Poland, Lithuania, Ukraine, and other countries). In his own words, “we cannot say that all these families were Jewish”—but we can be sure that Holt was a dedicated genealogist.
Documenting Maine Jewry is a statewide resource for the study of Jewish heritage in Maine, organized by community, with contributors across the state from Biddeford to Bangor. Some parts of the site are available to all; access to the extensive genealogical database requires registration.
Cyndi’s List is a comprehensive online resource guide for genealogists everywhere. The section on Jewish genealogy includes hundreds of resources from across the globe.
 Sandy Whiteley, “A Bath Family,” Bath Historical Society Newsletter 104 (2010)
Resources for Jewish American History – Part 2 will focus on additional local, national, and state resources, collections, and exhibits.
Many thanks for Fred and Marilyn Weinberg and BathJewishHistory.org for the crash course in Bath’s Jewish history!
Thank you for joining us in a journey through postcard history this past week. In my search for good blog posts and my research for yesterday’s History Room Live Presentation, I found so many more postcards that I wanted to share with you! I’ll have to keep them in mind for next May, when National Postcard Week comes around again.
We started the week with one image of our library, so it’s only fitting to end the week with another. When I saw this postcard, it quickly became my favorite, partly because I love the illustration, but moreso because of the reverse side.
Didn’t know if you had one of these, postally used! Might be a rarity some day (maybe in 2089) Got this yesterday in the library – 6 cards for $5.00 to support the library.
Let me count the ways I love this postcard:
I hope this DIY postcard inspires you to make your own card to send to a friend. Have a look at this DIY Postcard Instruction Sheet, which Amanda from the Children’s Room helped create.
Want to know more about the history of postcards? We recorded yesterday’s History Room Live presentation, “Postcards Past and Present,” and you can watch the recording on our YouTube channel or have a look at the presentation slides.
I can’t wait to share more postcards next year. Until then, consider sending your own postcards to the History Room for inclusion in the COVID-19 Story Archive.
Check the blog next week for information about studying Jewish American heritage in Maine.
“Well Frank, how’s the sap?” begins this postcard from Hattie to Frank Wells of Gardiner. It’s March 17, 1927, and the maple trees are waking up from winter.
“Lena said John out behind this building to get away from the teachers. John said he’d like to have you come down to see him.
The building John hid behind is Morse High School, as it stood before the catastrophic fire that ocurred just a year after this postcard was sent, on March 24, 1928. That year, Morse students experienced a disruption on par with the one they’re facing today, without even the chance to say goodbye to their beloved schoolhouse before moving into a new one the following fall.
This card is a good illustration of a postcard from the “White Border” era. The story of the white border goes like this: after World War I began, domestic printers replaced German printers in the US postcard market. In wartime, domestic printers saved on the cost of ink by leaving the edges of the postcard blank.
This card was printed by C. T. American Art, another name for the Curt Teich Company of Chicago. Curt Teich was a German immigrant and a promintent figure in postcard printing from 1908 through the 1970s. Some credit Teich with being the innovator behind the White Border, as well as the later Linen style. You can browse other postcards printed by the company online at the Curt Teich Postcard Archives Digital Collections website.
I chose the postcard for tomorrows post, which will conclude National Postcard Week, as soon as I laid eyes on it. It was a bit harder to choose which postcard to feature in this next-to-last blog post, but I think this one is a fitting tribute to today’s Morse students.
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.
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.
Do you recognize this part of Woolwich? Neither do I. This postcard is one of many mass-produced cards in our collection that make use of stock images and phrases.
It’s the perfect thing for a short note.
“The weather fine. Cold as the duce. Would like to see you before I decide about the pig.
Will write Sara soon.”
This postcard was sent in 1918, 11 years after the “divided-back” layout was authorized by an act of Congress in 1907. The divided back layout created more room for longer messages on the back of the card. Not everyone used the space to it’s fullest potential.