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!

Recap: 2014 Contributing Partner Conference

By Kathy Amoroso, Director of Digital Engagement

On May 22, 2014, the Maine Historical Society’s division of Digital Engagement hosted a conference for Maine Memory Network contributing partners and those interested in participating in MMN. Twenty-six enthusiastic attendees heard from speakers including Tom Rieger, Director of Image Services at Northeast Document Conservation Center who talked about innovative audio digitizing and best practices for audio archives, and Charlie Bacall, partner at Verrill Dana who discussed copyright issues relating to publishing in books and online.

Several MMN contributors spoke about their community or society’s projects during the lunchtime “lightning talks,” giving all a flavor of the work that is being done around the state. Breakout sessions on digital photography and how to maintain an organizational website within the MMN site were offered as “how to” workshops. During the day, the MMN team was able to hear and capture valuable information from small focus groups about the MMN program and site; all reviews were very positive.

The day wrapped up with complimentary tours of the library and the Longfellow House. MHS hopes to put events like this on the calendar bi-annually.

Please enjoy this slideshow of images from the day, taken by Dani Fazio of MHS, and Nick Waugh of the Western Foothills RSU 10 Contributing Partner team.

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From the Collections: Trade Catalogs

By Holly Hurd-Forsyth, MHS Registrar/Collections Manager

Trade catalogs, due to their ephemeral, commonplace nature, are frequently overlooked as sources of information on American industrial, manufacturing, and merchandising history. Trade catalog scholar Lawrence Romaine asserts, “If a complete history of American manufacture is ever to be compiled, American trade catalogs will unquestionably be one of the most valuable sources of material available.” Maine Historical Society collects these publications and makes them available to researchers in the Brown Research Library.


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The catalogs date from the early 19th century to the present day and represent small town manufacturers long out of business, to large companies that continue to operate internationally, such as L. L. Bean & Thos. Moser. They provide an invaluable look into what was manufactured and sold in Maine and America at different time periods, and how those goods were advertised and priced. The variety of merchandise offered is impressive, including bicycles (1890), door locks and hardware (1868), automobile supplies (1908), vacation homes (1925), and teacher’s necessities, such as report cards, diplomas, awards of merit, and easy readers (1889). One catalog is dedicated to prefabricated silos (1913).


One of the earlier catalogs at MHS, dated 1862, is Pure Blood Devons for Sale by John F. Anderson Maplewood Farm, South Windham, Maine U.S.A, andf eatures pedigreed cattle. Then as now, free shipping sweetened the pot: “Animals sold will be delivered on board the boat or cars at Portland, free of charge, and hay provided.”


The H. S. Houghton & Co. Collection (Coll. 2749), is a recent gift to the MHS library, and contains many trade catalogs sent to Herman Stinson Houghton from manufacturers asking him to carry their products in his store. Houghton was a dealer in hardware, stoves, and tin goods in Wilton.