Memorial Shadows: Photographs on Baxter Boulevard

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By H.H. Price

The early morning sunlight freshened over Back Cove onto Baxter Boulevard as I walked along it in mid-May, 2013. Back Cove is the large salt-water inlet in the middle of Portland, Maine, sometimes called Back Bay, rimmed by a three and a half-mile recreational trail. The Boulevard hugs the trail for one and one-half miles on its western side and until May 2007 was part of U.S. Route 1.

2-HHPIn good weather my husband and I walk daily. We fall out of our third floor apartment to the Boulevard before breakfast and hoof the trail to and fro. Sometimes we walk together, sometimes separately. For a series of May mornings in 2013, I walked alone. It was the sixth month of the Boulevard’s closure to vehicular traffic because of a large federally mandated wastewater project.

Cyclists, runners, and we walkers had been enjoying the road closure to no end. In fact, it led to an ad hoc petition to the city, to close this part of the Boulevard every Sunday afternoon from May to October after the construction was finished so the public from all around could use it as we had. The City Council approved the move, and now we have our own little “Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte,” like the painting by George Seurat.

28HHPThe morning I snapped to and did what I had been thinking of for many days was like all the others, basking in the beauty of the path of old linden trees, the view of the city on its hill, and the special peacefulness as I swung my arms and headed home. I had taken to walking in the middle of the Boulevard without traffic, except occasional trucks with sand or stones and machinery on tractor-trailers. Gradually I paid more attention to the tree shadows on the embankments. Without the hillsides topped by Boulevard houses there would be no “standing” shadows. Wouldn’t they make good pictures? I thought those mornings. But who would care?

32HHP“I care, “ must have been the answer to my interior dialogue that morning, because I pulled out my cell phone and took the first of 50 or so photographs, half that day, moving south; half the next day, moving north. My impulse to start photographing almost exactly half way in the half mile of ideal embankments, backdrops for the shadows, was a surge of living in the moment. If not now, when? If not me, who? I stood in the Boulevard roadway (something no one could have done for any length of time before the closure) with the rising sun behind me and only the shadows in my camera lens. The trees were just beginning to leaf out so their trunks and limbs were perfectly etched against the Irish green hillsides.

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Lindens are not the only variety that flank the Boulevard roadway like silent sentries.  Some are maple or birch. I photographed only the trees on the hilly westerly side of the Boulevard between Dartmouth Street and almost to Chevrus High School. The criteria were that the shadows had to “stand up,” which required a hillside behind them. None of this was calculated on my part.  I was just documenting images –- a place in time — when one could linger and look because there was no traffic. I thought in the future an arborist or Olmsted devotee might take my little album with them as they checked on the historic trees’ development. After all, it had been nearly 100 years since many, if not most, had been planted.

“How do Portland’s tree gardens grow?” one might ask in 20 years.

The European linden trees were first planted on nearby Forest Avenue, Memorial Day, 1920, and then transplanted along with others the next Memorial Day to honor Portland’s veterans who died in World War I. Each tree is dedicated to an individual.  There is a little quarter-sized metal tag with a number corresponding to the veteran’s name struck into each linden tree at varying heights, on the oldest trees now slightly above where if one were installing them they would be hammered in at eye level.

33HHPThe history of these trees is fraught with meaning and memory, not only for the veterans’ families but  for everyone. They stand as tributes to men who fought in good faith in the First World War, the one to end all wars. Peace, or peace education, is frequently on my mind, and the linden trees are friends to the cause.

James Phinney Baxter, several times Mayor of Portland in the late 1800s and early 1900s, had the vision of linked parks for the city, including the creation of the Back Cove Park we have now. The Cove was grossly polluted and stinky from toxic, industrial run-off.   Portland had the same sanitation and health issues as Boston, with its swamped Back Bay Fens and rivers oozing into the Charles River tidal basin. Baxter visited Boston and the renowned landscape designer Frederick Law Olmsted who created green spaces for urban dwellers in many places and a long-term solution for Boston. Olmsted put his son, John Charles Olmsted, and Charles Eliot onto the task of studying what would work in Portland, both to solve the functional problems and eventually to attract a stronger tax base of residences and businesses. It would be twenty years for Baxter’s vision to take root because of politics: when elected he led on the idea; when not in office the plan was shelved.

“All’s well that ends well,” however. Many people with expertise and hard work created the Boulevard, shored up the Cove, planted the memorial trees, made a recreational path, and, finally, a posthumous naming of Back Cove Boulevard in the memory of the man who saw its possibilities: Baxter Boulevard, indeed.

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Thor Nilsen of the city’s Parks & Recreation Department cares for linden trees along Baxter Boulevard in 2017. Nilsen first tended to these trees 50 years ago as a college student.

In 2009, the City of Portland estimated that 250,000 people used the Boulevard’s recreational trail. That number does not begin to reflect how many vehicles drive along the road. One does not have to be a commuter to enjoy the Boulevard. There is a host of cars carrying plain, old-fashioned people who appreciate beauty and a magnificent view.

At night, before the 2008 economic downturn and therefore the reduction of streetlights, the Boulevard wore a necklace of diamond lights that held a great cluster of sparkling gems atop the city’s skyline. The necklace rested on the midnight-blue gown of Cove and sky, nothing quite like it in other cities because this necklace has a clasp. We used to take our grandchildren out as the sun set to get ice cream cones and then parked our car to face and view Portland’s “necklace.”

40HHPMy maternal grandmother, a Vermonter born in 1874, came to Maine the last few summers of her life when she was widowed. She and my aunt, Gramma’s oldest child of her eight children, divided their year between Southeastern Vermont in the winter and Bowdoinham, Maine in the summer, both areas where my aunt was employed.  What Gramma liked best in Maine was Baxter Boulevard. On a summer’s day-off in the late 1940s and early 1950s  my aunt would drive her to see the Boulevard. I imagine they stopped at the brick bridge with built-in seats and outgoing water rushing beneath them. Since Gramma had lived through two World Wars, the deaths of three of her children, and my mother’s debilitating illness, I also imagine she appreciated the meaning of the growing, thriving linden trees.

The linden trees offer beauty with their white flowers, scented essence and busy bees in early summer. Why were lindens chosen? At least two theories have surfaced over the years: linden trees grew all over France and the French people paid dearly with their lives in WWI; and, the Baxter Boulevard designers wished to copy the Unter den Linden in Berlin, a famous city park of the time.

After the linden trees were first planted, veterans looked after replacing them when needed. Now, the trees suffer from automobiles crashing into them, diseases, and for the young ones a mowing too close to the bark and roots like shaving a man’s face by the lips or ears. It appears that more trees on the eastern side of the Boulevard, next to the trail, are either damaged, need care or replacement, or are replaced. I might think that, because I walk on the trail and not the road. That is why I took the photographs May 13 and 14, 2013: The road was there for the standing, the early morning sunshine was a gigantic search-light, and the city engineers and designers  had chosen to build an embankment, or used an already existing hillside, as a fertile green backdrop for the memorial shadows a century later as we remember the Veterans of WWI.

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[H.H. Price has donated the full album of photographs to the collections of Maine Historical Society.]

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Notes from the Archives: The Gould Family

By Tessa Surette, MHS Volunteer

Another family’s story has emerged from the unprocessed collections: the Gould family. The collection consists primarily of three generations: Theodore Gould (1873-1966), his son Charles Edwin Gould Sr. (1909-1990), and Charles’s son Charles Gould Jr. (1944-).

Coll. 2880 letter from Susan to Theodore Dec. 9th, 1907

Letter from Susan to Theodore, dated December 9, 1907. This is the first letter from Susan that is not addressed to “Mr. Gould” but is addressed to “Theodore.” She writes, “My dear ‘Theodore’: Is this the way in which you would like to have me accept your new way of addressing me?”

Theodore Gould was born in Portland, Maine to Amelia (Twitchell) and John Mead Gould. He married Susan Francis Hill (“Daisy”) in North Berwick in 1908. Theodore and Susan had two children, Charles Edwin Gould Sr. and Althea Chase Gould. Of note in this collection are letters written by Susan to Theodore before and during their marriage. These letters offer detailed and interesting insight into the evolution of their relationship.

Coll. 2880 Charles E. Gould and Althea Chase Gould as children

Photograph of “Charles Edwin Gould, Age 7 years, 5 months – and Althea Chase Gould, Age 1 year, 11 months. Portland, Maine, May, 1917

Charles Edwin Gould Sr., son of Theodore and Susan, attended Bowdoin College but transferred to Lowell Textile Institute to learn the mill business. However, his family’s mill, the North Berwick Company, was later sold and Charles went into banking at the First National Bank of Biddeford. He married Elizabeth Prince (1915-1987) in 1941 and they had two children, Charles Edwin Gould Jr. and Susan Kennison Gould, later Hennessey. Charles’s letters to Elizabeth during his service in World War II are preserved in this collection, as well as correspondence with his children.

Coll. 2880 Charles E. Gould as a young man

Charles Edwin Gould Sr. as a young man. On verso of photograph: “Charles & the Green P., March 1930

Charles Edwin Gould Jr. grew up in Kennebunkport. He is a collector, dealer and authority of the author P.G. Wodehouse. He attended Phillips Exeter and Hebron Academy and graduated from Bowdoin College in 1967. He married Carolyn (Skidmore) Mayhew (1944-1986) in 1968. He went on to a career teaching English at Hebron Academy and Kent School. In addition to correspondence with his parents, there are also thirty years’ worth of Charles’ elaborate rhyming Christmas cards in this collection.

The heart of this collection is correspondence. However, this collection also includes diaries, photographs, notes and drawings from Lowell Textile Institute, documents regarding North Berwick Company, newspaper clippings and legal documents among others.

Coll. 2880 Christmas letter from Charles Gould Jr. inside

The Lomax Folk Project

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Join us Tuesday, June 13 for an evening of live music from the Lomax Folk Project, a five-piece band performing songs collected and archived by John and Alan Lomax for the American Archive of Folk Music. This evening’s performance will highlight music gathered in Maine.

John and Alan Lomax pioneered recording folklore by traveling across the United States. The father-son duo interviewed, recorded and learned from artists such as Leadbelly, Jean Ritchie and Muddy Waters. Together, they helped shape American music by influencing such artists as Jeff Buckley, Mumford and Sons, and Ed Sherran; all of whom have recorded folk classics from the Lomax collection. Hannah Grantham and Amanda Ekery created the Lomax Folk Project to commemorate the 150th anniversary of John Lomax in 2017 and celebrate American Folk Music with audiences. The Project’s mission is to inform audiences of the vibrant music history in their own backyards.

The Lomax Folk Project explores the vast repertoire recorded by the Lomaxes for the American Archive of Folk Music, located at the Library of Congress. This five-piece band—Amanda Ekery, voice, piano, arranger; Hannah Grantham, voice, musicologist; Daniel Raney, bass; Sam Talmadge, guitar; and Julian Loida, percussion—recreates these classics and invites audiences to learn about the artists, history and stories behind the music, and even join in! Ekery has arranged each of the songs, some being performed in an authentic way and some being reimagined with new harmony and melodic figures. Grantham, a musicologist, has researched the history of each song and spent years compiling stories about the artists, instrumentation, and time periods.

“What’s cool about the Lomax Folk Project is we not only share the musical aspect of American Folk but also share the stories about the songs and how this music is relevant now,” says Ekery. “We get the audience involved teaching them parts to sing along and clap with throughout the show, so they are involved in making music as well.”

Event is free for MHS Members; $8 general admission. Visit mainehistory.org/programs to register.

3rd annual Magical History Tour is One for the Ages!

Thank you to all of the venues, volunteers, sponsors – and especially our guests – for making the 3rd annual Magical History Tour one for the ages!

This year we explored The American Legion Andrews Post 17, Chapman National Bank / Time & Temperature Building, Church of the Sacred Heart, Circus Maine / Thompson’s Point, Cross Jewelers, Forest City Boxing Gym / Fork Food Lab, Longfellow Rolls Royce, State Theatre, Waynflete School, and the winner of our People’s Choice site from the past two years, the City Hall Clock Tower. For those who weren’t able to join us or didn’t get to visit all the locations, see below for historical information on each site.

And don’t forget to keep sharing your awesome photos from the Tour with us on social media using #MHSTour. Below are some from our Communications Manager throughout the day – he wasn’t able to visit all the sites so help us collect ’em all with images of your own!

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The American Legion, Andrews Post 17

History of the Structure:

23 Deering Street, designed by renowned Portland architect John Calvin Stevens was built for Fred E. Allen in 1898. Originally designed as a double house (although built as a single family), the two and half story Colonial Revival home was occupied by the Allen’s until the death of Mrs. Harriet Allen in 1925. Mrs. Allen’s executor sold the home to Karl Seaholm, who in turn sold it to The American Legion Harold T. Andrews Post, 17, in 1926 for the sum of $1 and other considerations. Mr. Seaholm never occupied the home, making the Post the second occupant.

While designed as a double house, or two-family home, there is no evidence of residents other than Fred Allen and his wife Harriet. The couple did not have children, and there appears to be no evidence of renters or other use.

The Dining Room: In 1996, the major Hollywood film, was made here. “The Preacher’s Wife”–a romantic comedy directed by Penny Marshall, starred Denzel Washington and Whitney Houston.  They filmed a skating scene in Deering Oaks Park, but due to warm weather than year, had to make snow for the scene. This building’s dining room (on the tour) was used as the preacher’s office in the film.

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Hit The Ground Bidding!

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It’s that time of year! The Magical History Tour—the biggest and most fantastic of Maine Historical Society events—is taking place Saturday, May 13 from 10am-4pm. This year’s exploration of historical gems that are usually closed to the public will celebrate Portland’s creative legacy—a rich history of art, entertainment, and architecture. The locations are kept top secret until the night before as they’re revealed at Mr. Longfellow’s Cocktail Party on Friday, May 12 at the State Theatre.

During the party, auctioneer Tom Saturley, President of Tranzon Auction Properties, will preside over a dazzling live auction—consult the list below and get your bids in a row! Check back for updates as the list grows. Guests at the Party will also enjoy a silent auction featuring food, travel, games, and adventures, scrumptious light fare including a complimentary signature cocktail, and a full cash bar available throughout the evening. Mr. Longfellow’s Cocktail Party promises to be a night to remember.

13rollsl__mediumLongfellow 1913 Rolls Royce Car Ride & Museum Membership

Enjoy a ride in Maine history! This 1913 Rolls Royce was originally owned by Alice Mary Longfellow, daughter of poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. She is known as “grave Alice” from her father’s poem “The Children’s Hour.” This fabulous vehicle is now in the collections of the Owl’s Head Transportation Museum—and you have a chance to ride in it! Bring three friends and let the OHTM staff take you for a ride around Portland on May 13, or make an appointment to visit Owl’s Head one day this summer for a ride along the coast!

DoIExclusive MHS Artifact Viewing and Dinner Party for 10

Enjoy a rare opportunity to see first-hand and up close historic collections of national significance, as well as iconic Maine collections. The exhibited items are rarely seen in public, and demonstrate the richness of MHS’s 200-year collecting history. Items will include our rare copy of the Declaration of Independence, a lock of George Washington’s hair, and the famous Richmond Island coins. The intimate event includes a private viewing in the Society’s Brown Library hosted by Jamie Rice, MHS Director of Library Services and followed by a full-course candlelight dinner in the Longfellow Garden that is custom designed by Dandelion Catering with wine donated from Old Port Wine & Cigar. Get your history-loving friends together for an experience guaranteed to amaze! 

Curate Your Own Exhibition at MHS

Working with Chef Curator Kate McBrien, you will curate a small museum exhibition on a topic of your choice. The exhibition will be on view to the public for the months of February and March 2018 in our Showcase Gallery, with an Opening Reception for family and friends. Have a collection or an interest in history that you’ve always wanted to share? Now’s your chance!

Chebeague Island Inn

Enjoy a Weekend Getaway at Chebeague Island Inn, one of the few remaining inns that once dotted the Maine coast. A two-night stay for two this summer in an Ocean View room (with a private bath), complimentary gourmet breakfast, afternoon tea & house made pastries, (and daily turndown service). Step back in time, unplug (there are absolutely no TVs or phones) and unwind: read in our Great Room, sip cocktails on the Inn’s wrap around porch, enjoy the 9-hole course at the Great Chebeague Golf Club, explore the island on bicycle. Chebeague Island Inn, with its ocean views and spectacular sunsets, offers a magical, elegant, and uniquely Maine setting for your weekend getaway.

screen-shot-2016-05-18-at-11-33-57-amSugarloaf Summer Vacation

Sugarloaf may be renowned for its winter adventures, but the splendor of Carrabassett Valley in summer is no less stunning. Included in this package is two nights in a condo on the mountain (sleeps 6), a round of golf for two people, and a half-hour scenic flight from Sugarloaf Aviation offering unmatched perspectives of this gorgeously rugged part of Maine.

Bromage Family Camp

Enjoy a weeklong stay at the beautiful lakeside camp of MHS Executive Director Steve Bromage, located in Winthrop. The experience includes a one-week stay (camp sleeps 8) with access to two kayaks and a canoe for enjoying fishing or just the relaxing sights and sounds of nature.

1103px-Portland_Sea_Dogs.svgSea Dogs First Pitch & 1/2 Inning on the Radio

Throw out a ceremonial first pitch at a Sea Dogs game of your choice, and then spend an inning in the radio broadcast booth, helping announce the game! The package includes four Box Seat tickets.

Silent Auction Items include:

Fun and Adventure in Portland

  • Sea kayak tour to Fort Gorges with Portland Paddle ($104)
  • Maine Brew Bus adventure ($150)
  • Maine Escape Games gift certificate ($50)

Wine & Dine

  • Private wine tasting ($200)
  • Cellardoor wine pairing ($300)
  • Dinner for four with personal chef Sue Ellen Sevigny ($300)

Home & Garden

  • Two L.L.Bean Adirondack Chairs ($600)Screen Shot 2017-04-24 at 3.52.42 PM
  • Longfellow Lilacs (3) ($100 each)
  • Skillins gift certificate ($50)
  • Fogg Lighting gift card ($150)
  • Cross Jewelers ($450)
  • Portrait photo shoot with Dan D’Ippolito ($250)

Mind, Body & Soul

  • Personal trainer sessions with Susan Naber ($300)
  • Float Harder sensory deprivation relaxation experience ($65)
  • Maine Center for Acupuncture gift certificates (3) ($50 each)

Take Me…

  • To the Circus: One-week summer camp experience at Circus Maine for kids ($350)
  • Out to the Ballgame: Sea Dogs Skybox ($640)
  • Outside: Maine Huts & Trails Family Membership ($100)

That’s Entertainment

  • Tickets (2) to a show of your choice at the State Theatre ($75)
  • Tickets (2) to Portland Stage ($86)
  • Tickets (2) to Aura to see Trombone Shorty on June 17 ($80)

Weekend Getaways

  • Sugarloaf Ski Vacation – enjoy Maine’s premier ski resort for four days and three nights during Maine’s February school vacation week ($1,500)
  • Press Hotel two-night stay and breakfast for two at Union ($850)
  • Luggage from TripQuipment ($550)
  • Stay at Claybrook Mountain Lodge ($220)

Creative Portlanders

  • Custom-made “Maine History” porcelain cups (2) by internationally celebrated potter Ayumi Horie ($225 & $150)
  • Custom-made bag by Margaret Hourigan ($100)

Love in the Archives

wedding-photos

By Nancy Noble, MHS Archivist/Cataloger

coll-2941-valentineI recently processed a collection which warmed my heart on a cold winter’s day: Alice Gehring’s diaries. Alice, and her physician husband Edwin, lived on Ocean Avenue in Portland, and had three children: Marcia (born in 1906), John (born 1908), and Jane (born 1915). As with many of our family collections, the love shines through the pages of these diaries, tenderly kept by Alice over the years, with some additions by Edwin.

coll-2941-letter-to-alice-from-her-mother-in-lawI love the sweet note written by Edwin’s mother Catharine upon their engagement in 1901:

“Dear Miss Chamberlin,

Words can hardly express the joy and satisfaction that thrilled my heart, upon learning that yours and Edwin’s first and only real and sincere love for one another, had after years of suspence and agony, taken its natural and legitimate course, and ripened into an engagement. Ever since I met you for the first time, I have always admired you, and wished that your affections for one another might have been uninterrupted. Although the course of true love never did run smooth, all’s well that ends well. I am very happy over Edwin’s good fortune in winning such a pure and lovely girl, as a companion for life, and very grateful to your parents and yourself, that you have all forgiven and accepted him, into your heart and home again. May our heavenly Father protect, guide and bless you both, is the sincere wish of Edwin’s mother. In extending you a most hearty welcome into our family, I am sincerely yours

Sept 18/01                            Mrs. Catharine Gehring”

In one volume, Alice talks about her wedding presents, including a gift from “Dear Edwin” who gave her an “exquisite crescent pin, with a diamond in the center and pearls graduating to the tip ends.” (The donor, Alice’s granddaughter, still has this pin). Thecoll-2941-jane-and-john-bouker-wedding-photo wedding on September 10, 1904, after a long courtship, was captured not only in Alice’s diaries, but in newspaper clippings and photographs.

The love between Alice and Edwin continued over the years. In 1908, as Alice celebrated her 30th birthday, she notes: “Marcia was excitedly amused on my birthday when Edwin kissed me 30 times, adding he wished I was 50 yrs. old, that he might add 20 more kisses (decided to anyway).”

coll-2941-nancy-smith-weddingLove continues into the next generation, as the Gehring daughters marry. A photo of beaming Jane and her new husband John Griswold Bouker is accompanied by a newspaper clipping with the headline “Miss Jane Gehring will be wed Friday in navy and white dress.” This simple wedding in 1938 is in contrast to Nancy Smith’s wedding (Marcia’s daughter) – Nancy married Donald Durkee at a candlelight service in a Unitarian Church in Lynn, Massachusetts. Nancy’s gown was “ivory candlelight faille taffeta with butterfly bustle back cap sleeves, and long matching mitts.” Nancy and Donald were happily married for 62 years until her death in 2011.

Maine Historical Society has many family collections full of love – not only romantic love, but love of family. Click here for more on this collection.

Notes from the Archives: Calendars in the Collection

By Nancy Noble, MHS Archivist/Cataloger

yurt-foundation-calendar

Yurt Foundation calendar featuring artwork by Barbara Cooney, children’s book author and illustrator.

Maine Historical Society now has over 50 calendars in our library collection, thanks in part to a recent donation from Earle G. Shettleworth Jr. Many were created by local historical societies, often in celebration of the town’s bicentennial. These include Bangor, Bath, Bethel, Bucksport, East Machias, Fort Kent, Guilford, Oakfield, Orono, Somerville, Topsham, Whitefield, and Yarmouth. Others were created by libraries, businesses, churches, and civic organizations. Most of these history-oriented calendars include historic photos.

Other are more artistic in nature, such as the photography-oriented scenic calendars produced by Down East, and art calendars, including those created by Ann Kilham and Kate Libby.

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Stearns Hill Farm calendar

Some of the more unusual examples include “A year in the life of Zoe: A Monhegan Island, Maine lobster boat captain,” bachelor lobstermen and women, and a nude calendar created by the McLaughlin Foundation featuring black and white portraits of McLaughlin Garden members and staff in the garden—whoever said calendars were boring? Other subjects include patriotism, wedding dresses, yurts, and agricultural fairs.

swifts-premium-calendar-1911

Swift’s Premium Calendar

One of my favorite calendars was created to raise money to repair a circa 1820 barn at the Stearns Hill Farm in West Paris, the home to the Stearns family for seven generations. This lovely calendar features artwork by Jane Porter Gibson and Mary Gibson Williams, and includes excerpts from the diary of Will Stearns (1867-1945) who spent his life on the farm.

Our oldest calendar is the Swift’s Premium Calendar from 1911 that has lithographs of scenes from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow poems. The largest calendars are probably our Canal National Bank calendars from the 1940s, which include Portland scenes, and measure as large as 60 x 38 cm.

Click here to see the catalog records for these calendars.

mhs-2017-calendar-coverDon’t miss the 2017 Maine Historical Society calendar! This custom-designed 12-month calendar features beautiful images from the MHS collections, historical dates, holidays, and interesting facts about Maine’s history. Buy online or at the MHS Museum Store.