The Kennebec Historical Society’s April Public Presentation: “Maine on Glass”

19 Apr 2017 6:30 PM | Anonymous member

Nineteenth-century Maine―famed for its lumbering, shipbuilding, and seafaring―has attracted copious attention from historians, but early twentieth-century Maine has not. Maine on Glass redresses this imbalance with 190 postcard photos and three of Maine’s foremost historians.

Postcards were the Instagrams of the early twentieth century. On one day in September 1906, 200,000 postcards were mailed from Coney Island. In 1913 some 968,000,000 postcards were sent in the U.S., more than seven per person. The majority of postcards made at the turn of the twentieth century were mass-produced lithograph or letterpress half-tones, but the Eastern Illustrating & Publishing Company produced “real photo postcards” in the form of silver gelatin prints made by exposing the negative onto photo paper card stock and developing it in a traditional wet darkroom.  Eastern was the largest U.S. manufacturer of what it called “genuine” photo postcards.  Images selected for the book were from 22,000 glass plate negatives created by the Eastern company between 1909 and World War II.  As an archive of early twentieth-century Maine architectural photography, the Eastern collection (now housed at the Penobscot Marine Museum) has no equal, and it gives us many unexpected glimpses of Maine life.  Maine residents, expatriates, and visitors will enjoy hours of pleasure in this journey through Maine’s countryside, villages, and towns, guided by three historians who can bring a vista to life with a few well-chosen comments.

Kevin Johnson received his bachelor’s degree from St. Joseph's University in 1989. He worked as a paralegal until 2003 when he decided to leave the “9 to 5” world to pursue a career in fine art photography.  He relocated from Vermont to Maine in August 2003 to attend the Maine Photographic Workshops in Rockport, where he earned a Professional Certificate in Photography.  It was at the Workshops that he first began working on the Eastern Illustrating Collection.  In 2007, he helped to rescue the collection when the pipes burst in Union Hall where it was stored which prompted its donation to the Penobscot Marine Museum.  He followed the collection to Searsport where he currently works as the Photography Archivist.  He was a founding member of Aarhus Gallery in Belfast, Maine and teaches photography courses at Maine Media College, Waterfall Arts and Unity College.  As museum Photo Archivist, Kevin has created numerous exhibits of historic photography, led student projects, and taught adult courses for the museum, as well as managing the museum’s 200,000+ piece photo archive.

A native of Portland, Maine, Earle G. Shettleworth, Jr., attended Deering High School, Colby College, and Boston University and was the recipient of honorary doctorates from Bowdoin College and the Maine College of Art.  At the age of thirteen, Shettleworth became interested in historic preservation through the destruction of Portland’s Union Station in 1961.  A year later he joined the Sills Committee which founded Greater Portland Landmarks in 1964.  In 1971 he was appointed by Governor Curtis to serve on the first board of the Maine Historic Preservation Commission, for which he became architectural historian in 1973 and director in 1976.  He retired from that position in 2015.  Mr. Shettleworth has lectured and written extensively on Maine history and architecture and served as State Historian since 2004.

Bill Bunting lives in Whitefield. When he came home from his first day in school his mother asked him how it had gone. Not well, he said. There was nothing about ships, nothing about olden days, and nothing about how things worked. He has been trying to fill that vacuum ever since.  W. H. “BILL” Bunting is the author of several critically acclaimed works of history including Portrait of a Port: Boston 1852-1914; Steamers, Schooners, Cutters, and Sloops: The Marine Photographs of N. L. Stebbins; and The Camera's Coast: Historic Images of Sea and Shore in New England; Live Yankees.  With Earle G. Shettleworth, Jr., he wrote An Eye for the Coast: The Monhegan and Maritime Photographs of Eric Hudson and Maine on Glass: The Early Twentieth Century in Glass Plate Photography.  Bill Bunting shipped as galley boy aboard the brigantine Yankee at age 13 and later completed a 25,000-mile world voyage as first mate of a 132-foot barkentine.

The Kennebec Historical Society April Presentation is free to the public (donations gladly accepted) and will take place on Wednesday, April 19, 2017, at 6:30 p.m. at the Maine State Library, located at 230 State Street in Augusta. ​  

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