Gardiner Public Library will be closed Thursday, November 23rd thru Sunday, November 26th. Enjoy Thanksgiving with your families and friends!

An Archival Vacation…

No matter what you have planned (or what may already be planned for you)  you can always take an armchair vacation in the Archives!

Here are some pleasure-seeking snaps from our collection, because wanting to savor every ounce of summer is not just a modern thing here in Maine….

Whether boating or swimming…

Among close friends or with a crowd…

At a lake or on the ocean…

With your special someone or the whole family…

Playing hard or taking it easy…

Catching up on reading or staying ahead of the traffic…

Hitting the open road or plying the open water…

Taking a tour or guiding yourself…

Visiting landmarks or discovering your own…

Creating whimsy or seeking it out…

Appreciating the man-made or Mother Nature’s wonders…

Eating well or feeding your mind…

For an afternoon or overnight…

Planning ahead or taking it as it comes…

Seeking rural outposts or exploring the towns…

Whether on the move or in the comfort of your own armchair…

Enjoy every bit of summer!

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An Archival Mystery… Solved in the Children’s Room!


Have you ever wondered about the large metal book press solidly fastened to the circulation desk in the Children’s Room? I hadn’t given it much thought, myself, long assuming that it was just a helpful fixture in the library. We use it to repair books and it couldn’t be handier.

The counter itself is a piece of Gardiner history. For many decades, it belonged to the Maxcy Insurance office on Water Street.

Working in the Community Archives Room (and relatively obsessed with all things historical in the library), I had read the plaque on the counter and knew that the desk had stood in a long-operating, family-owned insurance office here in Gardiner for many, many years. Somehow, however, I never paused to consider just why an insurance office would need a book press….

The counter was donated to the Library by the daughters of an employee who ultimately inherited the company.

In the 1830s, Smith Maxcy brought his growing family to Gardiner from Windsor, Maine, and operated a grist mill on Bridge Street.  He was widowed three times in his life, raising five sons and three daughters in Gardiner.  The eldest son, Josiah, married Eliza Jane Crane and remained in Gardiner, where they raised five sons of their own.  In 1853, Josiah established his own insurance agency, which, as several of his sons joined the business, ultimately became Josiah Maxcy & Sons Insurance.  It operated for over a century in the upper floors of where Ampersand Dance Studio is now located.

We were lucky to receive a donation of a large collection of Maxcy business and family materials in the Archives some years ago.  Josiah and his son William Everett Maxcy were significantly involved in Gardiner business, as well as many municipal and charitable activities and the collection provides amazing glimpses into our local history over many decades.

One item, in particular, has fascinated me for some time.  It is a book of numbered pages of the thinnest paper – it resembles onion or tracing paper, but even thinner. There is an index in the front of the volume and each of the tissue-thin pages bears a hand-written (or, occasionally, a type-written) letter.  All are dated about 1913. When a researching descendent stopped by some months ago, we were equally flummoxed by just what this book was and how it was created.  The pages were too thin to write on directly – they would tear too easily – and, clearly, the book contained “copies” of official correspondence sent out by the office.  These weren’t carbon sheets and they hadn’t been compiled and bound together after they were created.

Naturally, a Google search helped to deliver some additional evidence and we found both an answer AND a second mystery revealed and solved.  It turns out that this bound volume was a “letter book” or a “pressed letter book” and was a state-of-the-art method of copying outgoing correspondence in the mid- to late-19th century and early 20th century.

Much faster than re-writing a copy of a letter, these books required the use of a special copying ink in writing the initial letter and then quickly placing the letter beneath a moistened page of tissue paper in the letter book.  Then, with sheets of oil cloth inserted to protect the other pages,   the volume was slid into the press and the top was screwed down to tighten and impress the moist page against the freshly written letter.  What resulted was an inverse image of the letter on the back of a page of tissue paper thin enough to read properly from the front!

One of our Google search hits came in this illustrated chapter discussing various examples of “Business Practices and Technology” one might find in archival collections.

The process may not have required an advanced skill set to complete, but it did demand a bit of savvy in its operation.  The sloppy example below was found in our letter book and was likely an instance of too much moisture allowing the ink to bleed.

The explanation of this common technique of copying office papers was simultaneously informative and enlightening.  A-ha! Our book press in the Children’s Room had certainly come with the desk when it was donated and it’s long history had absolutely nothing to do with book repair.

Instead, it was likely one of the first and most used “copy machines” in town!

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Latest Additions to the Archives!

Recent donation by a life-long Gardiner, Maine resident to the Gardiner Public Library, Gardiner, Maine.

We have received an amazing donation of more than 50 historic, Gardiner-centric scrapbooks:

 

 

These gems were kept by a life-long Gardiner resident and encompass primarily local happenings (along with some regional and national highlights) from the early 1930s all the way through the 1990s & early 2000s.  The detail is impeccable and many of the clippings are entirely new to our collection.

They are a treasure that we are delighted to preserve and make accessible to researchers, generations to come, and anyone interested NOW!  They contain SO much that we have only just begun to fathom their depths — so, in the meantime, here’s a (tiny) sampling of highlights for your enjoyment:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We couldn’t be more delighted with this new donation of such an historic treasure.  These samples do not remotely represent the tip of the iceberg of just how much these scrapbooks contain…..  We invite and encourage you to stop by the Archives to pay this new collection a visit in person — and absolutely promise that you will not be disappointed!

– Dawn Thistle
Community Archives Room

New Year’s Resolutions – Archivally Inspired!

New Year’s Resolution to lose weight.

Whether or not you’re committing to New Year’s Resolutions (or Intentions) this year, here are some great photos from our Community Archives Room that might help inspire us all to stick to our ideals in 2017….

Lose Weight
Gardiner’s 1911 Police Force collectively weighed 2,800 pounds, winning a nationwide contest!
Save Money
Now Camden Savings Bank, Gardiner Savings Institution built their ultra-modern facility in the 1950s.

 

Eat Healthier
MacDonald’s Bakery opened in 1921 and operated for over 70 years where the Craft Beer Cellar is now.

 

Spend More Time Outdoors
Shown here in the 1920s, Spring Cove on the Brunswick Road was a summer hot spot for decades.
Read More
1947 Summer Reading participants at the Gardiner Public Library in what was then the Children’s Room and is now the Hazzard Reading Room.

 

Cut Down on Sweets
In 1923, Condos Candy Shop sold sweets where the Village Jeweler is now.

 

Carpool If You Can
This photo was taken in September 1940, just before the Sawyer Grain building (now Gardiner Feed) was built.

 

Get More Sleep
A young Gardiner man resting in his Bates College dormitory, c.1914.

 

Take a Class
The Kennebec School of Commerce operated in the upper floors of the bank building on the corner of Water and Church Streets from the mid-1930s through the 1940s and drew students from across the state.

 

Adopt a Pet
This 1920s cutie has ties to a Gardiner family and features prominently (along with many other dear pets) in their treasured scrapbook, which now lives in the Community Archives Room.
Make the Most of Less Than Perfect Situations
During the Flood of 1936 (just like those of 1896 and 1987), Gardiner folks temporarily adopted a Venetian lifestyle.
Shop Locally
Some of us still remember milk delivery from local farmers.  Today, this early 1900s Gardiner farmer could bring his wares to the Farmer’s Market or the Co-Op!

Start a Big Project You’ve Been Meaning to Do

Gardiner dug up and re-paved Water Street in the early 1980s.
 Keep a Journal / Learn a New Language
This 1896 journal was kept by a Gardiner man on River Avenue and donated by a later homeowner who discovered it — for the life of us, we have been unable to translate his unique shorthand.  Any ideas?
Stop and Smell the Roses (or Any Flowers)
This 1920s snapshot comes from a Gardiner family’s large collection of negatives, many of which we are seeing for the first time in all their glory  — thanks to our negative & slide scanner!
Exercise More
We have many old sports photos of Gardiner teams.  This one is simple titled “An Early Gardiner Baseball Nine” and is probably from the late 1800s.
Remember Important Dates
If you can’t get enough of historic Gardiner, you can enjoy even more beautiful photos AND stay on top of 2017 with a copy of our new calendar — still on sale at the library, Boys & Girls Club, and all around town for only $10.  All proceeds benefit the library and the Boys & Girls Club.
 
 
Happy New Year to All!!
 
– Dawn Thistle, Special Collections Librarian

 

Have you tried one of our Time Machines?

Gardiner was a robust printing center throughout the 19th century and into the 20th century, producing, in addition to books and pamphlets, several newspapers over the decades.  From the Eastern Chronicle (1824-1826) and Cold Water Fountain (1844-1848) to the Gardiner Home Journal (1858-1892) and Reporter Journal (1893-1913) (and many others in between and after), Gardiner steadily chronicled local goings on and kept up with the news of the state and nation.
We are incredibly lucky to have the majority of Gardiner’s historic periodicals preserved on over 100 reels of microfilm here in the library’s Community Archives Room and available for research.  We also have two microfilm readers, including a new digital unit.  Just this past week, some middle school students were enthralled by the older machine and, especially, the opportunity to read the old papers.  They promptly declared it a Time Machine and jockeyed for turns to travel through history!
In addition to our physical portals to the past, we also have a new and exciting third option.  We are delighted to introduce you to our digital newspaper collection!  Thanks to a generous donation, we were able to digitize 25 reels of our historic newspapers earlier this year and they are now available to anyone, from anywhere, and at any time.  The selected papers, the Gardiner Home Journal and Reporter Journal, cover the years 1858 to 1904.  Without further ado, here is a brief tutorial on how to access and use this magnificent time machine:
Head to our website: www.gpl.lib.me.us and click on the Historic Newspapers tab at the top:
The link will bring you to this search page:
From here, you have a few options.  You can type in a term or name to search (either search box will work) or you can browse individual titles or dates.
A search for the word library returns over 2,700 results:
From the results list, you can click on a selection to see the original page from the newspaper and the searched word(s) will be highlighted:
The control bar at the top allows you to zoom in or out, select a portion of the image to save, download the entire image as a PDF, move about the page or navigate to other pages of the selected issue, or return to the home/search page:
Searching for names works similarly:
The software will search for the names side-by-side:
Hint: You can also do the same with other words you would like to find together:
If you were to search for the words FIRE and DEPARTMENT in the keyword box, the results will include far more variety:
Another way to narrow results and search for specific phrases is to use quotation marks around the exact phrase you want:
Narrowing the search can be helpful, but sometimes keeping it broad may bring you even more successful hits (even if you have to sift through some weeds):
And, of course, you can always narrow your results by selecting specific years in which to focus:

 

There is much more that could be said about this wonderful addition to our historic collection, but I hope this brief introduction will entice you to step back in time and start exploring right away.  I’m happy to answer questions, show additional tips, or work one-on-one with folks any time.  We will offer a workshop later this fall on how to use this resource to its full potential – stay tuned for the date! Eventually, we hope to be able to digitize the rest of our microfilm reels.  In the meantime, enjoy these at your leisure and stop by or contact the library for access to the remaining 75+ reels and, of course, our other time machines!

One hundred years ago, a letter arrived in Gardiner….

Written from Columbia University, the letter congratulated a Gardiner author on winning the Pulitzer Prize for biography.  The author, who compiled scrapbooks of her family life and day-to-day goings on, dutifully pasted the letter on the next available page in her Family Log and moved right along….

Neither she nor the letter made note of the fact that that she and her sister were the first women to win a Pulitzer.  In fact, as 1917 was the inaugural year of the most celebrated prize for literature, the event made little more than a tiny ripple in Laura E. Richard’s daily life.  No one yet understood just how monumental a moment it was  — nor just how often Gardiner and the Kennebec Valley region would come to celebrate future prizes and commendations for authors who called it home.

 

This week, in honor of the 100th Anniversary of the Pulitzer Prize, we are proud to be kicking off a six-event program celebrating our place – in history, in geography, and (especially) in literature.

Join us in celebrating our region through the eyes of Pulitzer Prize winners Laura E. Richards, Edwin Arlington Robinson, and Robert P. Tristram Coffin.  Explore how history, family, and community stimulate great works of literature today.

Come hear the stories of how local authors — Pulitzer-Prize winner Barbara Walsh, Maine Literary Award winner Deborah Gould, and historical author, Representative Gay Grant — have come to create compelling works that transport readers through time and place.

See how place and history can enrich creative works.  Explore your own voice in putting words to the page at a full-day writing workshop and/or join us for the finale of our series.
See all the events explained below:

 

We look forward to welcoming you to any or all of the events.  Call us at 582-6890 if you have any questions.

We will also have some wonderful artifacts and photographs on display in the Hazzard Reading Room for the coming weeks — here’s are a few teasers:

L.E.R. compiled over a dozen Family/Home Logs covering half a century of life in Gardiner.  They include personal notes, local newspaper clippings, family photos, items of national relevance (e.g., a letter of congratulations from the Pulitzer Prize Commission, invitations to the White House from President Roosevelt, celebrations of Julia Ward Howe (L.E.R.’s mother)), and historical touchstones including WWI and Women’s Suffrage, among much else.
We will have some on display and others on hand for reference, research, and reverence.

 

 

Edwin Arlington Robinson (1869-1935) grew up and created his first poetical works in Gardiner, Maine.  He self-published his first work, The Torrent & The Night Before, in 1896 (an original is shown here and will be on display).  He went on to earn three Pulitzer Prizes in poetry.

 

Happy Birthday, Marjorie Standish!

Did you know that a Gardiner kitchen was once every Maine kitchen?  From Biddeford to Boothbay, Waterville to Washington County, I’ve never known a Maine home that didn’t contain one or both (or multiple copies of each) of Marjorie Standish’s classic cookbooks, Cooking Down East and Keep Cooking – The Maine Way.

It may be old news to many, but it came as quite a wonderful surprise to me (and to many of those with whom I’ve recently shared my enlightenment) that Marjorie Standish lived, cooked, and wrote most of her famous cooking columns and recipes right here in Gardiner!

Happy Birthday, Marjorie Standish!

As this past week brought us what would have been her 108th birthday, what better time to celebrate and get to know a little more about our celebrated citizen?

So, a little history….
Marjorie Holbrook was born in Brunswick on June 21, 1908.  She graduated from Farmington Normal School (later UMF) in 1931with a B.S. in Home Economics.  She taught the subject in various Maine high schools and eventually became home service advisor and coordinator for Central Maine Power Company.  In 1936, she married George A. Standish and moved to Gardiner where his family had lived and worked for two decades.

She and George soon set up their household on Chestnut Street where they remained for nearly 30 years.  Marjorie continued working for many years, including those when her husband served in WWII.  She began writing her popular cooking column, Cooking Down East, for the Portland Sunday Telegram in 1948.

Marjorie was an active member of the Gardiner community and served many years with the Gardiner General Hospital Women’s Board — work she continued even after she and George moved to Augusta in 1966.

 

She wrote her newspaper column for 25 years, 18 years of which were penned in Gardiner.  In 1969, she published her first volume of 350 compiled recipes, Cooking Down East, and followed it only four years later with Keep Cooking the Maine Way.  Both remain Maine kitchen staples and we are proud to keep autographed copies inscribed to the Gardiner Public Library in our archival collection.  This week you will find them, along with some additional Marjorie memorabilia, in our display case in the Hazzard Reading Room  — stop in and learn more about her, her recipes, and her ties with Gardiner.

Also this week, the Gardiner Farmer’s Market will host a Marjorie Standish-inspired Pot-Luck on the Common (Wednesday, June 29, 5PM).  Bring your favorite Standish dish (if by some chance you do not own one of her cookbooks, the library also has circulating copies — and they are well worth checking out!) or bring any home-cooked specialty.   Marjorie was inspired by local ingredients and long-standing family recipes.  We hope you will join us and your neighbors in celebrating one of our own home-town greats, as well as our many home-grown foods!  Happy Summer!  Happy Cooking!! and Happy Birthday, Marjorie Standish!!!

– Dawn Thistle, Special Collections Librarian
Community Archives Room

 

T.W. Dick Relics, Part 1

T.W. Dick, the company and the facilities, was a part of Gardiner’s historic tapestry for over 100 years.  As many of you know, the now vacant buildings are owned by the city and slated for removal for new projects.  As the Community Archives Room at the Gardiner Public Library is the repository for Gardiner’s history and artifacts I was able to visit the site and gather a few representative items to ensure that some part of this history is preserved.  The spaces were immense and patchworked with little details from many eras but, sadly, there was little tangible material left to preserve.  I’ll share with you some images of what is left to see and a bit of what I could carry away.
The fabrication shop was immense — and appeared even more vast in its emptiness.
It was in here that they manufactured, among much else, tanks – from 1 – 50,000 gallons!
We found and saved this wonderful promotional prototype from the salesroom —
I’m guessing it’s somewhere in the 5 gallon range…
The metalworking/blacksmith shop must have been an impressive sight when it was bustling!
This would likely have been made in the blacksmith shop, though we have no idea what is was intended to commemorate.  I found no patents from that date that seemed to offer any clues — but we welcome your insights!

 

 

The now abandoned salesroom, behind which were the offices.
This embosser was found clamped shut and stuck… but some masterful hands at Buildings & Grounds had it open in seconds — after giving it some drops of oil and the weekend to relax its shoulders!

 

Here’s the well-worn impression it still makes.
In the storage sheds we found some old nail barrels, which were likely made right down the street many moons ago and held bits of scrap metal across the ages.

 

A few of them cleaned up pretty nicely.
Sadly, this was the state of many of the old historic records of the company.

 

The visits were impressive and memorable and I am happy to had the opportunity to see the spaces and document even a tiny slice of this last chapter.  I also salvaged a small selection of some of the business records spanning the 1930s-1950s.  They still need cleaning and sorting, but when I’ve had a closer look and plucked out the gems (and I know there are some!) I’ll share them in Part 2.
I hope you’ll stay tuned as we all look back — and sail ahead!
This Made in the USA ship’s wheel thermometer hung in the office and lists T.W. Dick’s telephone number as 68.

 

– Dawn Thistle, Special Collections Librarian

 

A Most Welcome Surprise Package!

A box arrived in the mail on Friday, out of the blue and addressed as shown:

“Historical Papers Dept.” is a wonderful way of describing our Community Archives Room, which is where the box was swiftly taken and immediately given a new and permanent home.  As many of you know, the C.A.R. first opened in 1985, was renovated into a beautiful, climate controlled space last year, and was re-dedicated just last month.  It is home to a collection of unique and engaging local history materials and artifacts covering the historic past of Gardiner and its surrounding towns, as well as family histories and papers of those who lived here “way back when.”
Such personal collections really help bring our history to life and Friday’s package did not disappoint.  It contained dozens of letters, two diaries, and several receipts from a Gardiner family in the late 1880s into the early 1890s.  What’s more, they were an addition of newly found items that will round out a family collection that was donated to us nearly ten years ago.  It short, it was a most welcome surprise!
Of all the materials we keep in the archives, I most appreciate the opportunity to care for and preserve family papers.  They are so personal and, by far, the best way I know to step back in time and see history and daily life through the eyes of those who lived it.  Receipts, such as the one above (from a local shop in 1890), afford us a snapshot of home life — cooking and shopping habits — as well as business workings (prices, billing practices, inventory) over a century ago.  The diaries, shown below,    are an especially personal look at day-to-day — from descriptions of the weather to train rides and work life — and even marriage customs!

 

These two diary entries cover the mundane (work, haircut, finances) to the monumental (getting married!), as well as heading off on the Pullman for a rainy honeymoon in Passadumkeag.
And then there are the letters…  In this package they covered the courtship (leading up to the wedding above) and early years of marriage of a local couple.  Reading and organizing them carries one through the stories of life — at times tragic, but often delightful.  The young woman in this case lost her father when she was a child and her mother when she was a teen, leaving her to look after her younger sister and board with family and friends until her marriage in 1891.  Among the correspondence were also letters between mother and daughter, as well as one earlier gem (below) that was sent to her mother in 1862.  It includes brilliant fabric samples (and prices per yard) for a dress a friend was sewing; the samples are hand-sewn onto the letter itself.  It’s a lovely letter and a wonderful reminder that those dresses in black and white Civil War era photographs were rarely ever black or white!
So, what will we do with these new-to-us treasures?  They will be arranged and cataloged and join their compatriots in archival folders and boxes, housed in the Community Archives Room.  They will be available for reference and research (whether informal or scholarly) and will help future generations to form a truly compelling and detailed picture of our local history through primary sources.
And in the near future some of them just might find their way into a curated display in our new exhibit case in the Reading Room…

 

Stay tuned!

 

– Dawn Thistle, Special Collections Librarian

A new year, a new calendar — or…

If you never got around to using an old 1988 or have a favorite 1960 calendar, they are finally functional again!
How do I know this?  One of my favorite perpetual calendars tells me so.  Calendars can come in pretty handy when working with historic materials. For example, many newspapers published weekly editions and often referred only to the weekday an event occurred (so and so arrived Wednesday or such and such will be held on Monday) and today we must scurry to find a now ancient calendar to determine what date they were talking about.  Of course, a quick Google search can help bring up a calendar for any year — but a handy perpetual calendar can provide the answer just as quickly.
https://i1.wp.com/lcweb2.loc.gov/rbc/rbpe/rbpe19/rbpe199/1990170a/001dr.jpg?resize=236%2C320
This is one of my favorite perpetual calendars.  It’s from an 1848 broadside and is owned by the Library of Congress.  Click here for close-up views and more information.

Perpetual calendars may look intimidating at first, but once you get the hang of them they’re a breeze and can actually be a lot of fun (well, perhaps more fun to some folks than others, but I’m quite partial to them).  Some perpetual calendars are quite basic, while others (like the one shown above) are a bit more complex.  The gist of any perpetual calendar, however, is the simple fact that, because a year may only begin on one of seven weekdays, there are a finite number of configurations any year may have (14, total), but, due to leap years (like 2016), there are still more possibilities than cannot be quickly computed on the fly (although mathematicians, including Alice in Wonderland author, Lewis Carroll, have come up with some fantastic algorithms over the decades to do just that — but we won’t get into that today).

The calendar shown above offers an amazing amount of information on one sheet of paper. Printed in 1848, it includes the dates and days of the week for every year from 1775 to 2025, as well as, at a glance, all the leap years and all the years that share the same configuration within that 250 year time span.  How amazing is that?!

But we’re all tired from the holidays and maybe some of us aren’t ready to embrace perpetual calendars as a new hobby for 2016.  So, to elicit some calendar fascination for all, here are some interesting factoids about calendars that I find fascinating — and just might make for interesting conversation when you need it:

Did you know?

  • Most years begin and end on the same day of the week.  If January 1 falls on a Friday, December 31 will, as well.  (Leap years, including this year, are the exception.  In 2016, 1/1 was a Friday and 12/31 will be a Saturday.)
  • We have been using the Gregorian Calendar in the U.S. only since September 14, 1752.  The conversion from the Julian Calendar that year eliminated 11 days from our history, sort of — folks here in the Colonies went to bed on September 2, 1752, and woke the next morning on the 14th.  Basically, September 3 – 13, 1752, never happened in U.S. history!
  • We were late adopters of the Gregorian Calendar.  France and Spain made the change in 1582; Catholic states of the Holy Roman Empire did so in 1583, while Protestant states waited until 1700.  Sweden, however, was a year later than British Colonies and Russia did not adopt our current calendar until 1918.
  • Whatever day of the week is 4/4, so shall be 6/6, 8/8, 10/10, and 12/12.  The same is true for 2/2 when NOT a leap year.
That seems plenty to wrap one’s head around for now, but better get busy using your 2016 calendar immediately — it’s a unique year and won’t come in handy again until 2044!  2014s will work again 2025, and 2015s in 2016, so hang on to them accordingly.
That said, Happy New Year!  May 2016 bring you all the best!!
— Dawn Thistle, Community Archives Room