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.


MHS 2014 Summer Reading Guide MHS 2014 Summer Reading Guide2


Growing the Collections–Online

High back hair comb, Portland, ca. 1810: a recent addition to Maine Memory Network.

52,200+ and counting.

That’s the total number of historic items currently searchable online via Maine Historical Society’s two ever-growing databases: our PastPerfect online catalog and Maine Memory Network.

In July, nearly 500 records and more than 1,200 images were added to PastPerfect online. The catalog now contains almost 32,000 searchable records and 23,500 images for museum objects, photographs, manuscript letters, architectural drawings, and newspapers.

An Electric Reflector Heater, ca. 1930, from MHS's Central Maine Power collection. View the CMP Collections, and much more, at

Among the additions, highlights include objects from our substantial Central Maine Power collection, images from the Portland Press Herald glass plate negative collection, panoramic photographs, and additional autograph letters from the voluminous Dr. John S. H. Fogg collection. (A Maine native, Fogg amassed the impressive collection over a six-year period later in life when he was confined to a wheelchair and forced to stop practicing medicine.)

Mary King Scrimgeour dress, Lewiston, ca. 1895. A recent addition to MMN, and featured in the current "Dressing Up" museum exhibit.

Over in Maine Memory Network, new items and exhibits are added constantly. To see the most recent contributions–both from MHS collections and those of our 200+ Contributing Partners–visit the New Additions page.

The current crop features many items recently digitized to support MHS’s new exhibit (Dressing Up, Standing Out, Fitting In), including several stunning hair combs, medals, and jewelry, among other accoutrements.

New exhibits include Cooks and Cookees: Lumber Camp Legends, “Twenty Nationalities, but All American,” and Practical Nursing in Waterville.

Check back in with both sites frequently: you never know what will show up next!

Bill’s Mythbusters: Portland Tunnels

Beginning in 1923 work began on a new intake and conduit system at Sebago Lake to convey water to the transmission mains, thereby increasing the amount of water available to Portland area residents.

The Portland tunnels myth is one of the most frequent inquiries we receive at the MHS Library, and cannot be easily answered.  Last month, we asked you to send us your stories of tunnels running beneath our beloved city streets to help us uncover the myth of the Portland tunnels once and for all! We received several myths from our readers and friends, who shared stories about alleged underground activity throughout the peninsula. Some of the stories were believable (such as passages used by shop owners whose buildings were across from one another on Congress St.) and others were fantastical (tunnels built “to the future”). Michelle Souliere, of Strange Maine, began researching the supposed tunnels in 2005, and gained great response to her October 26, 2005 blog post.

We thought if we started with the source for information about the city’s streets and utilities, Portland’s Department of Public Works GIS maps, we would get a quick and easy answer. We were proved wrong. A call to the Public Works Department informed us that the city’s archivist (and keeper of the GIS maps) has retired. In the interim, Michelle Sweeney at City Hall has assumed the task, and we connected with her. We e-mailed back and forth regarding an alleged subway system, hidden rooms, liquor passages and even the “tunnel to the future.” Sweeney confirmed the tunnel between the old Press Herald Building at 119 Exchange Street and its printing facility across Congress Street.

October 1966 Portland Press Herald article about their new tunnel

As we investigated tunnel myths, we opened a can of worms with yet another myth of an unfinished subway system. We heard from locals who went into the tunnels to see where the subway would have been. (I should point out that until I walk through a tunnel, I won’t believe or confirm it exists). Sweeney suggests that a 1904 city “Plan of Underground Structures” which shows the usual sewage and utility lines and vaults,  may be the genesis of the subway myth. Trolley tracks indicated on the surface may have been interpreted  by some as “underground structures” which they were not. There was never a subway in Portland. In the 1980s, Portland School of Art instructor Barbara Best drew up an elaborate set of blueprints for a mythical subway between the Mother of Victory and Longfellow Monuments which strengthened the legend.

While we would like to put a lid on this pandora’s box of tunnels, we can’t just yet. As mentioned in this blog, we are confirming one single tunnel at the old Portland Press Herald printing facility, and until I can walk through a tunnel myself, I won’t validate any of the claims made thus far. So, if you are a shop owner, or someone with secret building access, by all means invite me for a tour of your basements and tunnels. If you have blueprints or photos of substructures, feel free to swing by MHS and show us.

Unloading a cache of liquor from a ship in Portland during prohibition in 1920.

Can the utility passages be considered tunnels? I have to say not really, or at least in the way that our inquirers suggest, because the city installs these underground spaces for our sewers, power and gas lines, not for transporting booze from the wharfs into town during prohibition (or other non-utility activities). So, while you may see a vaulted door that seems perpetually locked in the basement of your building, it’s not necessarily a door to a tunnel that will reveal a bizarro Portland underground. A true tunnel would be one that was built with a purpose, such as to transport goods between buildings easily and with access to freight elevators. The Rines Family, who owned the Congress Building (State Theater) and the Eastland Park Hotel, reportedly had a tunnel for just those reasons. This is another tunnel that I’ve heard of and would like to believe existed (or exists) but until I walk through a tapestry of cobwebs and feel the cool, damp air that I imagine this sub-High street passage to have, I (as so many of us will) continue to spin yarns about tunnels in Portland.

-Bill Barry

William David Barry is an author, historian and MHS reference librarian. He can be reached at