Saturday, March 23, 2013

Extracting Wealth, Part One, Granite

Merrill Quarry, Crotch Island, Stonington  - click to enlarge
Photo: Maine Granite Industry Historical Society via
  When you might look at the Senate Office Building, The National Archives, Washington Monument or your local cemetery you are looking at Maine Granite.  An industry that started in the early days of our Country and is still going.  Big city skyscrapers, Civil War Forts; there's a long list of buildings, monuments and gravestones that originated on the rocky coast of Maine.
  It's hard and dangerous work cutting down a mountain (albeit small ones) that's how you get to quarry granite.  Granite itself is hard igneous rock (formed by fire) and on the Maine coast scraped bare by the glaciers that pushed through here about 10,000 years ago.  Granite comes in many colors, the most familiar being gray and pink from Maine; other colors come from different continents or parts or North America.
Immigrant workers, Hall Quarry, Mount Desert Island c1905 click to enlarge
Maine Granite Industry Historical Society via
Maine industries "imported" a lot of people in it's early days.  People came from Italy, Sweden, Finland, England and Scotland.  Even in those years the annual income from granite was over two million dollars (that would have been a lot).
Cutting sheds, Benvenue Granite, Stonington c1912 - click to enlarge
Photo: Maine Historical Society via


Friday, March 22, 2013

Eastern Fine Paper Company, Brewer, Maine

A drawing of the mill c1921 - click to enlarge
Photo: Maine Folklife Center, Univ of Maine via
  When I went to work in Brewer it was 1988 and the mill was humming along.  When the first Gulf War was on the mill was even busier.  That mill was where the Army got paper for maps, it was also where National Geographic bought a lot of paper - that contract was lost.
  What started as a saw-mill in the early 1800s suddenly found itself out of customers.  People didn't use paper maps much any more, and paper from elsewhere was cheaper.  The mill had to close, hundreds of people, some who had worked for over 20 or 30 years were now unemployed.  The City had to act quickly to absorb to extra expense - Eastern Fine had funded one half of the Waste Water Treatment programs, and paid roughly half of the bills.  The taxes were but a fraction of what they once were.
  Now Cianbro Pittsfield Maine construction company owns the property, most of the buildings have been demolished to make was for a huge work yard to assemble modules for all sort of projects.  That building in the far upper right still stands, it was the administrative offices of Eastern Fine all of those years.
Looking upriver in 1930 an aerial view - click to enlarge
Photo: Maine Folklife Center, Univ of Maine via
The present day.  The admin building and modules under construction - click to enlarge

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Don't swim in the river

Logs waiting at the Ambajejus c1950 - click to enlarge
Photo: Ambajejus Boom House via
  There's a very large pile of logs waiting to enter the Penobscot River waterways in 1950.  But the piles left every spring for a hundred years before and a number of years after.  Logs were marked by the destination mill and removed from the river at sites strung along the river.  The Penobscot, Kennebec and Androscogin Rivers all had log drives.
  Drivers, as they were called, were in one of the most dangerous occupations I can think of.   Standing on top of a raft of logs loosely tied and making sure the logs stayed moving.  They used Pike Poles to guide the logs and themselves, and Peaveys to sort the logs later.  It's even hard to think of harder work, but I'm biased because I live here.
  In Bangor near the Library there is a Memorial Statue of the River Driver, a lone man riding on a small group of logs.  River drives polluted the rivers and the work stopped after the Clean Water Act.

Skowhegan Falls, year unknown - click to enlarge
Photo: Skowhegan Historical Society via
  The photo was probably taken in the spring as logs wait to clear the rocks and round a curve just below the falls.  No men rode over the falls.
Work starts on the West Branch of the Penobscot c1900 - click to enlarge
Photo: Patten Lumberman's Museum via

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Cooks for the Axe Men

A fully equipped lumber camp kitchen - click to enlarge
Photo: Patten Lumberman's Museum via
  In the Maine woods in bygone eras woodcutters lived in camps for the whole season.  A good cook was just about equal with the pay when a woodcutter decided where to work.  There were cooks, and cooks assistants called cookies.
  The cooks were very good making do; they could cook meat if they acted quickly to cook it before it spoiled, or thawed in winter.  The staples were pork and beans, molasses, gingerbread, bread, pastries and pies.  It was said that what made a camp cook good was cooking one thing in a lot of different ways.
  A camp kitchen was about 20 by 30 feet and was used as the kitchen, dining room and living quarters for the cook and cookies.  Meals were served in the work area too - carried by a cookie with a yoke and two buckets, coffee was made on the spot so hopefully a water source was nearby.
Coffee made in a work area, notice the "cup tree". - click to enlarge
Photo: Patten Lumberman's Museum via
Temporary kitchen during a river drive(see note below) - click to enlarge
Photo: Patten Lumberman's Museum via
  Logs were sent to mills downstream in streams and rivers, groups of men would "ride to float" and set up camp wherever they could.  I'll try to find enough to do a whole piece on them.  The rectangular "hood" in front of the hanging kettles is an oven - ask a boy scout.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Chinese in Maine

A very early ad for a Chinese owned business - click to enlarge
Photo: Maine Historical Society via
    People of Chinese ancestry or from China have lived in Maine for many years.  The early population reach 160 before 1920 when many left Maine for larger cities, because; mechanical and technological changes eliminated the need for hand laundries.
   The ad above was for a Tea Store owned by Mr. Foo.  Mr. Foo had worked for the George C. Shaw Company in Portland and left to open his own store.
Chinese Sunday School class picnic c1890, in Augusta - click to enlarge
Photo: Maine Historical Society via
  Many of the early Chinese people in Maine joined Churches and participated in Sunday Schools in order to learn English and for the social activities.  I can find no record of whether or not they were or became a part of the Christian Religion.
Charlie Goon ran this Chinese Laundry - click to enlarge
Photo: Maine Historical Society via
  Mr. Goon had his business on Washington Street in Sanford, Maine.  My parents rented for a short time on this street after moving back from Ohio, the building looks familiar, maybe it's still there.
Main Street Lewiston 1920 - click to enlarge
Photo: Maine Historical Society
  There is a Chinese Restaurant in this photo; it advertised Chop Suey and "regular American food".

Monday, March 18, 2013

Can it!

An early Winslow Company Label - click to enlarge
Photo: Maine Historical Society via
  In the mid 1800s canning was a big industry in Maine, some canning continues but is dwarfed by past activity.  Companies canned all kinds of vegetables, including Fiddle Heads, meat and seafood.  With the addition of the Blueberry crop things rounded out nicely.
  George Jewett was an important figure in Maine canning.  He worked at, or with, the Winslow's canning corn, then moved on to Norridgewock to become superintendent of Burnham and Morrill Company there.  Burnham and Morrill is still active in Maine but have stayed with B&M baked beans and brownbread, I'd suggest you try some.
Burnham and Morrill number 9, Norridgewock, Maine c1886 - click to enlarge
Photo: Maine Historical Society via
Corn knives c1858 - click to enlarge
Photo: Maine Historical Society via
A Burnham and Morrill Label of unknown vintage. - click to enlarge
Photo: Maine Historical Society via

Sunday, March 17, 2013

And you had to go to school

East Grand School c1900 - click to enlarge
Photo: East Grand School via
By the end of the nineteenth century school attendance was mandatory.  The East Grand School is a good example of schools in small towns.  Wooden floors, wood stoves (notice the stove pipe ran all the across the ceiling (danger)), children of different ages used the same room and teacher.
Chemistry at Fryeburg Academy c1906 - click to enlarge
Photo: Fryeburg Academy Archives via
Academies came to Maine too, most were private boarding schools with agreements to let local children attend too; there are still quite a few here with students from many countries and states.
The boys in the photo are wearing coats because there was no central heating.
Woodworking class at Portland High School c1920-click to enlarge
Maine Historical Society via
In the cities "Mechanical Arts" were taught; woodworking, metal work, automobile mechanics were among the subjects. Now days "shop" classes are in centralized locations, for instance Bangor has a school with students from the surrounding area and classes are half day at United Technology and a half day at the students regular school - the subjects are the same as in the photo with a lot more.
Horse drawn "school sleds", Caribou c1928 - click to enlarge
Photo: Caribou Public Library via
Horse drawn sleds or wagons depending on season were used in some locations.  These sleds had benches on both sides and were heating with small wood stoves.  The stoves were placed on a gravel bed to prevent tipping over.  And there you have it: Education in Maine.