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

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!

Do you recognize any of these faces?

Woman, unknown year, Gardiner, Maine.
October is American Archives Month, so it couldn’t be more exciting or appropriate that we finally completed renovations of our Community Archives Room and moved back in last week!  We’re still shuffling some things around, settling into the space, and waiting for some furnishings – so, stay tuned for more!
In the meantime, some things never change.  As thorough as we try to be with documenting and recording information about historic items and photographs, mysteries will always exist. We have many unidentified portrait photographs in our collection and most offer very few clues as to who the subject is.
Children photographed by S.C. Stinson, a Gardiner Photographer who worked with the ambrotype process in the 1860s.
Most photographs, such as the cartes de visite and cabinet cards included here, include the name of the photographer and location of his or her studio.  These photographs were all taken (or reproduced) here in Gardiner, each by a different photographer. Although Gardiner had many photography studios over the years, we can identify a time frame in which images were produced by knowing when the photographers worked in town.  Newspapers and directory listings have helped us build such a timeline, but some photographers left and came back, others worked steadily for decades, and still more names keep coming out of the woodwork (like Hamlin, above).
Man, “Photographed by Clark,” 1860s.
Man, 1880; “Photographic Studio of Mrs. J.K. Barker.”
Fashions of clothing or hair, styles of furniture and set pieces, and also the format and design of the photograph itself provide additional clues.  Women’s hairstyles and men’s facial hair followed distinct trends through the years and clothing and props can indicate time frames, ethnicity, wealth, career, interests and more. 
 
Woman, early 1890s; J.S. Variel, photographer.
Child, early 1890s; A.W. Kimball, photographer.
Similarly, as photographic processing improved and changed, styles emerged to distinguish one print from another.  Colored borders became popular in the late 1880s and fancy edges emerged in the 1890s. Even the thickness of card stock can help determine the age of a photograph, as materials changed and advanced over the years. Coupling these details with our timeline of photographers working in Gardiner really helps in narrowing down years.  
 
Pup, 1890s; G.F. McIntosh, photographer.
 
Some photo albums or batches of images provide contextual clues, such as family resemblances or classmate connections. Unfortunately, without any contextual clues, we’re left only with facial recognition.  So, unless someone out there sees someone they “know” from the past, these folks and four-legged friends will remain mysteries for the ages.  
 
We hope you’ll tell us if you happen to recognize anyone above — and we have many more where these came from!  But the moral of the story is: be a part of history,
Label Your Photos (in pencilNO pens, post-its, or adhesives) Today!  
Happy American Archives Month!

Historic Photo Mystery – Solved in the Archives!

Of all the wonderful reference questions we field in the Community Archives Room, some of the most engaging involve identifying photographs and their subjects, relative to Gardiner history.  Often people bring in photos of family members or local buildings and want to know just where or when or why a photo may have been taken.  We have wonderful historic maps and directories, as well as many already-identified photos that help with picking out clues to solve the mystery.  And, inevitably, every “solve” brings out new and enlightening details of our richly historic town.

Recently, a  mystery came our way electronically.  Someone had noticed an image for sale by auction on eBay and it struck up lively conversation on Facebook, with folks wondering just where in Gardiner the photograph had been taken.  The auction has since ended, but the image is still view-able online (simply Google: Gardiner bridge 1904 eBay, or click this link: http://goo.gl/dazhU8). The photo shows a young woman standing on a bridge, alongside intricate metal balustrades and a tall railing, with many wooden buildings on the waterfront behind her; writing on the back noted that it was taken September 1904 on the Gardner [sic] Bridge in Maine.

The photo offers some wonderful close-up details, but was taken from a perspective rarely seen in our collection and was not instantly identifiable.  It was not surprising that questions and discussions arose about the location, as Gardiner has at had least four to six bridges that have changed architecturally over time (Gardiner-Randolph, Bridge Street, Winter Street, New Mills, as well as those on Maine Avenue crossing both the Cobbossee and the Causeway).  Only by following each clue and connecting the right dots, could the location be pinpointed.

Many still recall the old Gardiner-Randolph Bridge (c.1933) with concrete railings and balustrades at either end.

 

New Mills Bridge (with trolley arriving, c.1910) was one of Gardiner’s metal bridges for decades, but also lacked the intricate details shown in the mystery photo.

 

Commonwealth Shoe factory, along the Kennebec, c. 1910.  The Causeway bridge in the foreground has the same metalwork and balustrades as in the mystery photo, but has different buildings in its vicinity.

Close inspection of the mystery photo shows small rosettes in the ironwork.  Many will recall similar rosettes that were removed and sold as souvenirs when the old Gardiner-Randolph Bridge was dismantled in 1980.  According to the details in the photo above (if you really zoom in), they also ran along Maine Avenue.

 

Sometimes it takes finding just the right image, taken at the right time of year (e.g., after the protective wooden sidings of winter are taken down) and, of course, in the right year (e.g., after 1896 when the 1850s bridge washed and was replaced, but before the concrete sidings were changed in the late 1920s-early 1930s) to make the solve. The image below was contemporary with the mystery photo and it showed ironwork matching the 1904 railings.

An older photo of the Gardiner-Randolph Bridge, c.1905, showing the metal balustrades and railing that match those in the photo, as well as background buildings that appear to be on the Randolph side of the bridge.

The final clue came by matching the above photo with a period map of Randolph.  The buildings on the north side of the bridge match those in the background of the mystery photo.  By 1910 (not shown), some of the buildings in question were already gone.

1903 Sanborn Map detail of Randolph, including the wooden buildings on the north side of the bridge, matching the those in the mystery photo.

At last, it was safe to conclude, without a doubt, that the mystery photo was taken on the northern Randolph side of the Gardiner-Randolph Bridge.  Although the process sounds a little tedious and drawn out, our marvelous collection led to an answer in under 15 minutes!

Of course, in true form to all our research discoveries here in the Archives, no sooner is a mystery solved than a new and exciting detail — or further mystery — crops up!  A few days later, when browsing microfilm of Gardiner newspapers to pursue a completely different question, a note about the Gardiner-Randolph bridge caught my eye in the July 20, 1906, Weekly Reporter Journal caught my eye:

Apparently some of those small details were not so small after all!

Of course, we still don’t know who the lady is.  If you have any idea — or if you have more Gardiner photos (mysterious or otherwise) — please share them with us!!  We love a good Gardiner mystery!

Help Preserve Your Class History!

 
Class of 1963 Candids

Just as quickly as the flurry of graduations subsides, we are hit with Reunion Season – time to pull out the old yearbook and take a stroll with your high school buddies!  Over the years, Gardiner Public Library has made a point of collecting annual copies of Gardiner High School’s yearbook, the Quill.  Many of you may recall when they resided in the Hazzard Reading Room and wondered what became of them.  Having outgrown that roost, the collection is now lovingly cared for in our Community Archives Room.
Our collection spans from 1919 (when the Quill was more of a periodical school newsletter) all the way to today – with only a few gaps along the way, but that’s where you come in! 
We would love to complete our collection (which, we gather, is even more complete than that of the Kennebec Historical Society’s collection of Cony’s yearbook, Coniad – so, if ever there was a good cause for rivalry, here it is!)  
 
 We are missing the following years of the Quill: 1923, 1925, 1927, 1930, 1936 (that is Class of 1936; we have the 1936-37 issue), 1974, 1978, 1983, 1984, 1990, 1996, 2002, and 2003.
Should you come across one of these missing years (whether cleaning out the attic, hitting lawn sales, or dusting it off your own shelf) we would happily accept a donation toward completing our collection.  
Of course, even if you don’t have one of the missing copies – or are missing one yourself – you are more than welcome to stop in and walk down memory lane here at the library!  
The Community Archives Room is open during regular library hours on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays; and from 10:30 to 1:30 on Wednesdays.   Stop in and step back in time!