MHS Summer Reading Lists

Here are Melissa’s Picks for summer reading! You can find these books in two displays at the MHS Museum Store at 489 Congress Street in downtown Portland, and in our online store when you search by title. Adults and kids will enjoy these selections of fantastic titles that prompt the imagination and provide delicious historical details. Happy reading!


Summer Reading List for Adults:

mainehistorical_2266_106755271. The Republic of Pirates by Portland author Colin Woodard

Written in 2007, this book became the inspiration for the new NBC series Crossbones. The Portland Press Herald calls it “an entrancing tale of piracy colored with gold, treachery and double-dealing”. Perfect summer reading!

Paperback. 383 pages. $16.95.


the-allagash-42. The Allagash by Lew Dietz (Rockport, Maine 1906-1997)

Written in 1968, this book has been recently re-released through Down East Books. The author evokes the sights, sounds and smells of the river, the great stands of evergreens and the animals. With equal skill, Lew Dietz portrays the men who, for better or worse, make the Allagash what it is.

Paperback. 272 pages. $15.95.


mainehistorical_2267_54485563. Peyton Place by Grace Metalious (1924-1964) with an introduction by Ardis Cameron, ANES Professor at University of Southern Maine.

When it was first published in 1956, Grace Metalious’s book unbuttoned the straitlaced New England of the popular imagination, transformed the publishing industry and made her one of the most talked-about people in America. The popularity of the novel spawned a feature film (shot in Camden, Maine) and a long running TV series. A true classic!

Paperback. 372 pages. $17.95.


a-history-of-howard-johnson-s-4 the-saco-drive-in-44 & 5. For a bit of nostalgia, try these two new titles from History Press: The Saco Drive-In Cinema Under The Maine Sky by Camille M. Smalley, and A History of Howard Johnson’s: How a Massachusetts Soda Fountain Became an American Icon by Anthony M. Sammarco. An enjoyable trip down memory lane for folks “of a certain age”!

Paperback. 128 and 160 pages, respectively. $19.99 each.


august-gale-46. August Gale: A Father and Daughter’s Journey into the Storm by Maine author Barbara Walsh

This book takes the reader on two heart-rending odysseys: one into a deadly Newfoundland hurricane and the lives of schooner fishermen who relied on God and the wind to carry them home; and the other into a squall stirred by a man with many secrets-a grandfather who remained a mystery until long after his death.

Paperback. 260 pgs. $16.95.


boon-island-a-true-story-of-mutiny-shipwreck-and-cannibalism-47. Boon Island: A True Story of Mutiny, Shipwreck and Cannibalism by Stephen Erickson and Andrew Vietze

Shipwrecked on the notorious Boon Island just off the New England coast, Captain Deane offered one version of the events while his crew proposed another. In the hands of skilled storytellers Vietze and Erickson, this becomes an historical adventure that reveals mysteries that endure to this day.

Paperback. 217 pages. $16.95.


Young Readers Summer Guide:

mainehistorical_2269_8352143571. Sixteen Sails: A Mostly True Tale from 1908 Maine by Barbara Barry Smith

When 10-year-old George arrived to visit his sea captain grandfather on Mount Desert Island, only his friends in the Jolly Rogers Club had any idea of what amazing stories and adventures he expected to find. An engaging chapter book for young listeners or independent readers – and adults, too!

Paperback. 106 pages. $8.95.


mainehistorical_2269_7247402802. Across the Reach by Cynthia Furlong Reynolds

For Chicago born Elizabeth, being exiled to her grandparents’ house in South Portland, Maine for the entire summer vacation seemed about the worst thing that could happen. Soon she finds herself involved in solving a mystery with her summer neighbor, Chris, that leads them to the Longfellow House and the Research Library at the Maine Historical Society. Adventure abounds!

Hardcover. 269 pages. $16.95.


the-legend-of-burial-island-43. The Legend of Burial Island by David A. Crossman

“Spooky has gone missing on an uninhabited island off the coast of Maine!” So begins a new adventure for teen sleuths Bean Carver and Abigail “Ab” Peterson–with plenty of Native American legend thrown in!

Hardcover. 201 pages. $15.95.


charley-44. Charley by Donna Marie Seim.

Charley is based on the true story of a 12-year-old boy living in Boston in 1910. Abandoned by his down and out father, he winds up on the steps of an orphanage and soon finds himself singing in their traveling choir. He sings his way into a farming family in rural Maine, but now, Charley must face his ultimate challenge!

Paperback. 195 pages. $14.95.


like-the-willow-tree-45. Like the Willow Tree: The Diary of Lydia Amelia Pierce, Portland, Maine 1918 by Lois Lowry.

In 1918 as the Great War rages in Europe, the Spanish influenza tears a brutal path across the United States, leaving devastation in its wake. Suddenly, 11-year-old Lydia and her older brother, Daniel, find themselves orphans of the flu and are taken by their grieving uncle to be raised in the Shaker community at Sabbathday Lake. From the Dear America Series.

Hardcover. 219 pages. $12.99.

Potty Talk: Fragile Objects Found in a Privy

By Dani Fazio, MHS Creative Manager

Walking through the Maine Historical Society exhibition, Home: The Longfellow House and the Emergence of Portland, I am surrounded by beautiful objects that have been carefully preserved by MHS for centuries, each telling stories of how the Wadsworth-Longfellow House remained an anchor amidst the city’s unfolding drama. As I near the far end of the museum, I spot something out of place: a display of objects that do not seem to have been carefully preserved—there are cracked pieces of china, a mug with a hole in it, fragments of glass, mismatched buttons, a pipe that appears quite filthy, and an indiscernible object that I learn from the label is part of a man’s shoe.

photo 2

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What are these orphan objects and what do they have to do with each other or with the Wadsworth-Longfellow House? I read up on the display in the panel that is titled “The Privy.” Wait, isn’t a privy an outhouse?

The Brown Library at MHS was renovated a few years ago, and the adjacent Longfellow Garden had to be dismantled to allow for the crews and machines to access the building project. In 2008, workers who were rebuilding the garden wall noticed objects in the soil—broken glass and ceramics at first. This prompted an archaeological investigation by the Maine Historic Preservation Commission of the space and, according to the exhibition panel, “determined the ceramics had been thrown into a privy that was once used by residents who lived next door at 47 Brown Street.” So, these objects I’m looking at were in a latrine?

Reading on, I am relieved to learn that when Portland established a sewer system the privy was no longer needed and filled with debris—precisely the objects I see before me. These items serve as a humble reminder of how the immigrant and working class residents of the Brown Street apartments and boarding houses experienced urban living in the mid-19th century.

I am also relieved to see that, despite the fragile condition these former castaways were found in, MHS has dedicated itself to carefully preserving the privy artifacts for centuries to come.

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Home: The Longfellow House & the Emergence of Portland is open daily from 10am – 5pm and has an online component on the Maine Memory Network.

Notes from the Archives: Hiram Kelley Morrell’s Family Genealogical Records

By Tessa Surette, MHS library volunteer

In 1892, Hiram Kelley Morrell (1827-1911), of Gardiner, undertook the daunting task of tracing the descendants of both John Morrell of Kittery and Abraham Morrill of Salisbury, Massachusetts. This project spanned nearly 20 years and resulted in a remarkably detailed manuscript.

Coll. 2731 manuscript sample page (front)

While the manuscript is impressive for both its detail and organization, the process was laborious, and, at times, frustrating. Morrell’s primary means of collecting information was to mail blank genealogy questionnaires (approximately 1500 in all) to complete strangers. He hoped they fill them out and mail them back to him.


Unfortunately, most people did not take the time to respond. This lack of enthusiasm was not well received by Morell, who saw great value in a detailed family genealogy. On the last group of questionnaires he sent out he included the following excerpt:


“I am feeling that it is a hopeless, never ending thankless labor. Everyone who has had a pedigree blank which they have not filled and returned, (and there are about 9 out of 10) ought to be ashamed of themselves, and the time will come, when they or their posterity will be saddened that they have allowed themselves to die unknown, unhonored and unsung…”


For those who did participate, their genealogical information resides in Collection 2731 in the MHS Brown Library, along with Morrell’s correspondence relating to the project, completed genealogy questionnaires, photographs, newspaper clippings, and various notes and documents.

Donate to our Tag Sale!

Requesting Donations

The Maine Historical Society is having a Tag Sale fundraiser on Saturday, July 26, 2014, and we are looking for donated items. All donations to the Tag Sale are 100% tax deductible. Proceeds support education and public programs at MHS.


Drop off your donations July 21-23, 9:00am-5:00pm

at 1000 Riverside Street, Portland, ME 04103.

FMI: Elizabeth Nash @ MHS 207-774-1822 ext. 206.


Event Info:

Saturday, July 26, 2014

9:00am – 1:00pm

8:00am – 9:00am $5 Early Bird Preview Special

1000 Riverside Street, Portland, ME 04103

(Between the Riverside Golf Course and Transfer Station)


We are looking for anything new or gently used including:

  • Antiques & Art
  • Books
  • Music, DVDs, Games & Electronics
  • Home Furnishings
  • Small Appliances
  • Boats, Cars & Scooters
  • Bicycles
  • Sporting Goods
  • Adult & Children’s Clothing & Accessories
  • Toys
  • Plants and Garden Tools
  • Office Furniture & Supplies



New Exhibition Open!

June 27, 2014

HOME: The Longfellow House and the Emergence of Portland opened last night to a crowd of MHS members and friends, all eager to see the much-anticipated new show that explores the evolution of the Longfellow House and our beloved city.

This exhibition uses the House as a prism to explore how Portland has grown and changed over more than 230 years. When Peleg Wadsworth built the House on Back Street in 1785, it was on the rural outskirts of Portland. By the early 1800s, the House was at the center of a bustling, modern New England city. Since then, Portland has boomed, burned, boomed again, busted, and reemerged as a vibrant, forward-looking city. Through it all, the Wadsworth-Longfellow House has been a constant, and witness to the life of an emerging community.

Here are some images from the opening, taken by MHS Creative Manager Dani Fazio:

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Learn how you can participate in the display “Your Home, Past & Present” here.

Assassinations and Entanglements: Documents from the MHS First World War Collection

By Pamela Ruth Outwin, MLIS, Brown Library Intern

The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Serbia on June 28, 1914, was the trigger for one of the most deadly wars in human history, and a lynchpin for the massive worldwide societal and cultural changes that occurred in the 20th century. While, in hindsight, the beginning of the war seems like a matter that could have been easily settled between Austria-Hungary and Serbia without any outside involvement, such compartmentalization of conflict was not an option. Much of this was due to interconnected treaties and alliances that had been instituted in Europe over the hundred years leading up to World War 1. They had, for a time, served to keep the continent peaceful and avoid the smaller, petty conflicts that characterized much of the 18th and 19th centuries.

Image The death of the Archduke and his wife, however, changed everything. Austria-Hungary issued a formal letter of complaint to the government of Serbia, to which Serbia failed to respond in what Austria-Hungary considered a timely or sufficient manner. While, initially, there was a great deal of sympathy for the Austro-Hungarian position, that sentiment swiftly waned amongst the European powers as war became imminent. When hostilities commenced between the two countries, Germany, as Austria-Hungary’s ally, entered the war at the same time. France came in with Russia, as part of a different treaty, and the rest of Europe’s interlocking alliances were triggered in short order.

Image The given reasons for going to war were many and varied. Germany’s view of their role in the conflict was avenging sullied honor, as well as Europe’s general lack of respect for their nation and culture. Britain felt that they were defending the rest of the civilized world against German imperial ambitions. Many other European nations entered not out of any sense of outrage or indeed any strong opinion on the assassination, but simply because their alliances would not allow them to remain out of the fight. The United States’ declared neutrality seemed to be based entirely on the fact that they felt they had no business interfering on another continent. This sentiment lasted America until their entry into the conflict in April of 1917, by which time Europe had been devastated in a manner that no one could have foreseen, and that American forces could hardly believe.

Image The Maine Historical Society’s collection of First World War documents, many donated by Sir Gilbert Parker and Prof. W. Macneile Dixon, shed light on the many and varied viewpoints and narratives that shook the world between 1914 and 1918. The Maine Historical Society’s Brown Research Library is currently undertaking an extensive inventory and preservation project to prepare this collection for research, in time for the 2017 commemoration of the United States’ entry into the conflict. The collection materials cover the entire span of World War I, from works published at the very beginning that call it “The War of 1914” to documents produced at the end of the conflict that discuss the rebuilding of a devastated Europe. Moreover, the documents provide a varied viewpoint, from authors who praised America’s neutrality to those who condemned their lack of involvement; from the most anti-Prussian British propaganda, to German publications that rationalized their actions in combat and in conquered territory. Taken together, the MHS First World War Collection provides a balanced, nuanced, and revelatory view of the causes, events, and consequences of the global conflict.


NOTE: This collection is not yet available for research. For further information contact Jamie Kingman Rice, Director of Library Services at

Your Home, Past & Present

Participate in our exhibition and share your images with us!


Family Farm, Duck Pond Rd. in Westbrook, ca. 1895; 2012.

Gowen Family Farm, Duck Pond Rd. in Westbrook, ca. 1895; 2012.

We are interested in seeing what your home looked like in the past and how it appears today. Submit your images and we’ll install them in our exhibition Home: The Longfellow House & the Emergence of Portland and share them online. We welcome images from all towns and all states. Your childhood home, the residences of friends and family members, or intriguing houses in your area are all acceptable.

Where do I get the Past image?

You or a relative may have an old photo in personal collections. Maine residents may find images of homes Maine Memory Network, our statewide digital museum. Residents of Portland and the Casco Bay islands can find images from the 1924 tax assessment on Maine Memory Network.

Get the Past Image from Maine Memory Network:

Step 1. Search for your desired past image.

Step 2. Make note of the Item Number (e.g., Item 5417)

Step 3. Send an e-mail to and request a digital file by typing in the Item Number

Step 4. We will e-mail you a digital file that you can download and print at home. Use the paper copy to create your Past & Present image.

Get the Past Image from the 1924 Tax Assessment (Portland & Casco Bay islands)

Step 1. Search for a property on (Search tips)

Step 2. When you find your property, click “View & Download Record (PDF)”

Step 3. Download the PDF and print. The second page will include a large image of the property. Cut it out and use it in when creating your Past & Present image.


How do I make a Past & Present image?

Use a digital camera or smartphone to create your Past & Present image. There’s no “right way” to make an image–get creative! Here are some different ways to make your composition:

1. Hold up the printed Past picture in front of the home as it appears now. The images do not need to line up exactly, and you can see a side-by-side comparison within the frame. It’s okay if your hand is in the shot. (Submit one image)

2. Line up the printed Past image in perspective with the environment. Make a picture that is seamless between the two images. It’s okay if your hand is in the shot. (Submit one image)

3. Take a Present image of the home as it appears now, in similar perspective to the historical image. Do not include the printed historical image in your composition. (Submit two images: Past picture and Present picture)


How do I submit my Past & Present image?

Send an e-mail to with your digital image(s) attached. We accept files saved as JPG/JPEG, PNG, and PDF.

If you only took a Present picture and your Past picture is on Maine Memory Network, include the Item Number so we can print both images for your submission.

Please include your name, the location of the image, and a story you’d like to share about the image in the e-mail (optional). Please limit your caption to 50 words. Let us know what information you would and would not like shared.


What happens with my images?

Maine Historical Society staff will receive your submission by e-mail. Your image will be printed with or without a caption and added to the Your Home, Past & Present display in our museum exhibition. Please note that some low-resolution images may not be large enough to be made as prints. Images will rotate as new images are submitted.

Your image will also be shared on the Maine Historical Society Facebook album Your Home, Past & Present and in a slideshow on our website. MHS reserves the right to select which images will be displayed in the exhibition and when. Submissions may be removed at any time without notice.

Other Details:

1. Submissions begin on June 17, 2014 and will continue for one year.

2. You may submit as many images as you like.

3. Home images that show interiors and exteriors are welcome.

4. People can be in the pictures.

5. “Past” doesn’t mean 100 years old! You can determine what a historical image is.

6. Please make sure you have permission to use Past images if they are from personal collections or websites other than Maine Memory Network. If people are in your Present images, please make sure they are comfortable having their likeness on display.

7. If you do not want your images shared online, you must note that in your e-mail submission.


E-mail and an MHS staff member will reply shortly.

Thank you for participating in Home: The Longfellow House & the Emergence of Portland!